Bravo is the best TV network ― every show manages some kind of family reunion. Whether that means Uncle Bravo Andy hosting a reunion show for the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, or Isaac Mizrahi, host of The Fashion Show, judging the Quickfire on last night's Top Chef: All-Stars, it's all a family affair.
Speaking of relations, Isaac introduced the challenge by explaining that he starts with textiles in the same way chefs began with going to the market. Padma continued this dumb metaphor: "Just as a runway show is used to attract the buyer, a plate's presentation is used to attract the palate." Do you follow? Neither did we. Quickfire Challenge: Make a plate that will be judged on presentation and aesthetics only.
The plates were the biggest loads of bullshit. Fabio's concept was a beautiful woman trying to stay composed after being stuck in the rain. There were tuna ladies, mushroom umbrellas, and acid (lemon juice) rain. Angelo produced a head-scratcher by writing "crocadile" (yes, he spelled it wrong) on the table and talking about his love for Cavalli (a no-no in front of a competing designer). He attempted to make croc skin using pineapple peels, curry salted egg, and dill. There were also The Giving Tree- and graffiti-inspired plates. The winner was Richard for his black chocolate ice cream with menthol crystals, herbal salad, and mint ice cream dots.
The Elimination Challenge was just as puzzling. The cheftestants drew knives for three different teams with the names Frankie No, Junior, and Dino the Chef. Resident Italian import Fabio said it was like a scene from The Godfather and set viewers straight on who these three goodfellas were and what the teams meant. Frank "Frank No" Pellegrino is the co-owner of Rao's, his son, Frankie Pellegrino Jr. ("Junior") is co-owner of Rao's Las Vegas, and "Dino the Chef" is, well, the executive chef at Rao's.
To quote Fabio, "Get your guns ready, it's an Italian challenge."
Elimination Challenge: Create a dish inspired by the Rao family. The Dino folks had to make an antipasto, the Juniors made a primo, and the Frankie No group had to make a secondo. The pressure on the three Italian cheftestants rose as Fabio, Antonia, and Mike felt the heat.
Just when we were getting nostalgic for Artie Bucco, everyone's favorite Italian psychiatrist, Lorraine Bracco arrived for dinner. She rehashed her first time at Rao's with Joe Pesci and Ray Liota when they were filming Goodfellas.
The girls all presented antipasti that were praised, the pasta/primi group were all panned, and the secondi guys killed. That mobster language was all over dinner, from jokes about getting the food in the witness protection program to risotto that was presented like it was trying to conceal a body. "Frankie No" loved being near Colicchio and Bourdain and across from Bracco. Each Italian last name was over-pronounced like crazy.
The winner was Antonia for her steamed mussels with white wine, fennel, and garlic bread. Fabio was annoyed; he called it French. He thought his chicken dish was far more authentically Italian.
The entire primo-course cast was at the bottom, which killed Jersey Italian Mike, who served his rigatoni far too al dente. Tre, the black Italian, got whacked for risotto that was too stiff and too garnished. He left vowing that the next time he serves risotto it'll spread as soon as it hits the plate.
Lessons learned from last night's episode: Blood is thicker than al dente rigatoni, and stiff risotto sleeps with the fishes.