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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Top Chef: All-Stars, Week 11: Deep-Fried Paula

Posted By on Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 8:04 AM

click to enlarge It's Paula! - BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY & DRAGWAY/FLICKR

Last night's Top Chef: All-Stars was deep ― like, deep-fryer and Deep South deep. Paula Deen, in full hair and cackle, was the guest judge, and the Quickfire Challenge was to create a deep-fried dish. According to Paula, "If you can eat it, you can fry it!" She then went down her hefty resume of fried-up macaroni and cheese, lasagna, and goodness-gracious great balls of fried butter. She had one warning for the chefs: no calamari on top of salad. Wimpy.

It was a simple challenge but things got supercomplicated with the cheftestants. Paula's favorite dish was Antonia's fried avocado, shrimp, and jalapeño over grilled corn, tomato, and fried herbs. However, that dish couldn't be the winner because Antonia made a huge mistake and only plated one dish instead of two, and was disqualified. The runners-up who were suddenly back in the running for winner were Richard and Mike, although if you asked Richard he'd say he was competing with his own dish.

Allow us to explain: Richard ― aka Mr. Nitrogen, the molecular gastronomy madman ― has notebooks filled with his wild culinary plans, dishes detailed with pictures and ingredients. For this challenge, Richard created fried bacon with fried mayonnaise over tomato and cucumber, while Mike made fried chicken "oysters" with mustard gravy and oyster liquor. The "oysters" (nuggets of flesh that attach the thigh to the chicken body) were fried and placed inside oyster shells.

Richard called culinary plagiarism, since he'd jotted down the same dish in his notebook, which Mike had looked at. No offense to Jersey Mike, but this dish was way too high concept. it had "Richard" written all over it.

Despite all that, Mike won the challenge, saying he'd give Richard a big fat thank-you for the inspiration, then added, "It's not your dish, it's my dish, because I won the five Gs."

Whoa ― we were scared to see what the Elimination Challenge had in store. John Besh joined Paula for this Southern-themed episode. The Challenge was to make Gulf Coast seafood for 300 people at a charity event. Recently eliminated chefs were brought back to play sous chefs.

Tiffany got stuck with the white shrimp (we were going to say she got stuck with Marcel, too, but that would be redundant). Carla picked Tre, then realized he's a city boy who knows nothing about Southern cuisine.

The top three from the Quickfire were the top three in the Elimination, but this time Richard properly won for a variation on surf and turf: crispy Gulf snapper with pulled pork and citrus grits.

Dale, who was Mr. Confident last week, had to pack up his knives. His potatoes were raw and his amberjack was as undetectable in his stew as it was scarce after the Gulf oil spill. Last week he spewed, "Who ever said losing is okay? In what country is that cool?" Last night he was reduced to tears.

Summing up in our best Paula Deen accent: Well, throw a ham at us, it's just another week in Top Chef viewin'.

Read more from Carina Ost at Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

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Carina Ost


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