Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Top Chef All-Stars Finale: Who will be crowned "Top Chef?"

Top Chef, Mike Isabella, Richard-Blais
Mike Isabella and Richard Blais headed into the Top Chef: All-Stars finale with grills blazing and blenders whirring, knowing that $200,000 and the title that had eluded them both in previous seasons was on the line.

Their mission if they chose to accept it: Create a four-course tasting menu for the restaurant of their dreams.

So, did Richard find sweet redemption with foie gras ice cream after coming up short in season four? Or did season-six also-ran Mike and his pepperoni sauce finally end up with a real reason to brag?

Who will be crowned "Top Chef?"
Padma and Tom tell Mike and Richard that they will be creating the restaurant of their dreams with a four-course tasting menu. Of course, the voted-off chefs are back as sous chefs (AKA I get to see Angelo)! The chefs have 30 minutes to cook an amuse-bouche for Richard and Mike to taste. Twist! They are blind-folded, so can't tell who made what! Mike admits if he had a choice he would take his friend Jen (no surprise) and no one in their right mind would choose Jamie. Or Marcel. Richard wants Dale, Angelo or Jen.

In the end, Mike picks Tiffani, Jamie (ahh!) and Carla while Richard picks Spike, Angelo and Antonia. Mike acts happy to work with them, but come on. Jamie? Really? Anyway, it seems like they both are very set on what they want and very driven. Mike's obviously going Italian and Richard is doing more of a surf and turf theme. They have five hours before they open! Everything seems to be going great, but I can't even tell what they're cooking because it's all so rushed! This should have been a two-hour finale if you ask me.

Anyway, the judges start filing into the restaurants. Richard's restaurant is called "Tongue & Cheek" while Mike's is called "Restaurant Iz." The first round of judges include Padma, Lidia Bastianich, Alfred Portale and Hurbert Keller. They go to Richard's place first. He starts off with an oyster amuse-bouche, which is well-received. I love Spike. He's creeping on the judges. First course is raw Hamachi, which is also liked by all. His second course is pork belly and black cod, which they love. The third course is a beef short rib. They don't love the creativity, but they love the execution. Richard is crazy and looking at the chefs' leftovers! Richard's last dish is his foie gratis ice cream. "It's a controversial dish," says Spike. Haha!

Tom, Gail, Curtis Stone and Art Smith hit up Mike's restaurant first. Mike's first course is a spiced beet salad and they love it. Uh oh. It takes a little long to get the second course out. He serves Halibut and Tom says it's the best-cooked fish he's had on the show! Wow. His third course is braised ribs, which he calls his "Tom dish" and he's right. They really like it. Mike's last dish, rosemary custard, was the only one they weren't thrilled about it. Still good though.

The other chefs are also dining. The judges then switch and go to the other restaurant. Richard is trying to change his last dish to make it better for the second round of judges. At this point, it's so close. Who knows what will happen?!? The second set of judges really love Mike's dishes. But wait, they love Richard's too! He fixed his dessert too. Yay! I can't stop using exclamation points. Hah. The one thing I will say is that this is the first time there were no sous chef issues. Everyone seemed to pull their weight -- even Jamie!

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