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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Top Chef: All-Stars, Week 12: Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Muddled Dishes...

Posted By on Thu, Mar 3, 2011 at 8:26 AM

click to enlarge TURKINATOR/FLICKR

Last night's episode of Top Chef: All-Stars marked the end of the New York challenges. Why not leave New York the same way so many came in? We're talking Ellis Island. For the Quickfire Challenge, the cheftestants had to make a dish from ingredients in a ferry's snack bar. Time limit: the ferry ride from Manhattan to Ellis Island, foghorn to foghorn.

The guest judge was Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of Blue Hill. That's right, the man known for local and organic would be tasting creations based on processed snack-bar food. Richard had these military MRE bags to cook his hot dogs and turned them into banh mi, complete with beef jerky, jalapenos (from the nacho station!), pork rinds, lettuce, and apple. Damn, that guy is clever. He mocked Carla for slicing oranges and Antonia for switching the bread and cheese from two pre-packaged sandwiches and then ― wait for it ― toasting it. Too bad life, like Top Chef, just isn't fair. Carla's sliced oranges won the challenge for their carrot and rosemary juice. We're just glad it wasn't Mike's disgusting hot-dog-bun-and-sour-cream soup that he said he wouldn't even feed to his cat.

The Elimination Challenge yanked on every heartstring, as the cheftestants created a dish based on their ancestry. Cue Ellis Island in the background, a leather-bound book with each chef's family history compiled by a genealogist, and a visit from the tired cheftestants' families. Add your own waterworks, and voila. (Sshhh, don't tell, but we heard it made SFoodie's favorite punk domestic, Sean Timberlake, cry.)

Richard found out that his family is from Worcestershire, and he loves Worcestershire sauce. His conclusion: It's in his DNA. He, the molecular gastronomist and pork fiend, also found out he has chemists and meat-market workers in his blood.

Antonia and Mike discovered they might be related, which, according to them, explains their karma. They went from archnemeses to Mike saying, "Me and my cousin being in the finals, how cool is that?"

The judges' table dinner was awkward, since no one seemed to want to say anything bad about the food in the presence of the cheftestants' families. Tiffany used okra to embrace her Southern heritage, even though she knew Tom hates okra. Luckily, she made him an okra convert. Richard was nervous to serve his ultracompetitive wife (she shot Tom "the look" when he said Richard's dish was alright...)

In fact, there wasn't really a black-sheep dish in the flock. The only tears were Mike's, after he explained he hadn't cooked his grandmother's gnocchi and gravy since she died.

Antonia's risotto was the winner ― she has a place in the finale, which will be in the Bahamas! Her new-found cousin Mike made it as well. Richard was given more wordage problems from the judges. Padma's monotone voice said, "Richard, please pack your knives," and then after what felt like a million beats she added, "You are going to the Bahamas!"

The other girls, Tiffany and Carla, are also in the finale. So who went home? No one. Letdown? Ya mon!

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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