Top Chef 808: An Offer They Can’t Refuse

Written by  //  February 18, 2011  //  Televised Entertainment in Review  //  No comments

First of all I’d like to thank the producers of Top Chef for opening this episode with a fantastic recapping of Marcelverine’s epic failure and expulsion from the competition. I could say elimination, I know, don’t get your panties in a twist, or if you’re like me your lack of panties in a twist – expulsion just sound’s better. He was a cancerous lesion on the face of a fantastic season, now lanced, drained, and healed over – never to be spoken of again, all photos of said lesion now burned, eliminating all evidence. See, there, now you can have your word, you vocab Nazis.

I’ve been in the process of travelling around the globe, which is of course always stressful, having to manage an entire staff all by myself to ensure that my bags, and most especially Little Fauntleroy’s bags, are never misplaced – he goes absolutely ballistic if he doesn’t have his wee pad and his baby wipes so Consuela can make sure he’s thoroughly clean after what I call his “twosies.” He’s horribly particular about his elimination habits. Ha! I said it again. And this time, still totally apropos.

Now that Marcel’s officially OUT, the cheftestant’s need a new person to hate, and it gets quickly established that person is going to be Mike Isabella. I personally back this decision, not because I have any actual opinion of Mike, but more because I hate anyone with a name that remotely resembles my own – THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE! Suck it Isabella!

When the chef’s arrive for the day, Padma is standing in the kitchen with none other than Isaac Mizrahi himself. I personally can’t stand this man, or any head of a fashion house that dares to bring their designs to the peasant masses by creating a line sold exclusively at chain department stores. In my opinion those sort of designers are just creating a giant Target on their backs for my ridicule.

The two announce what we all of course already know; it’s Fashion Week in New York! My favorite time of year second to sweeps week. And Christmas. And when Mumsy goes to the “spa” that we all know is really Promises. To celebrate the week, the Quickfire challenge will be based on aesthetics only – the judges will not taste any of the dishes, the chef’s are to be as creative as possible with no regard to flavor. Most of them have a difficult time grasping this concept – Antonia especially, she creates this weird food diorama in homage to Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” that’s just a hot mess:

Angelo also has a hard time, in oh so many ways – first he tells the guest judge that his favorite designer is Roberto Cavalli, which I have to admit I would’ve done too – suck it Mizrahi for Target! Then he let us know that his dish was going to be modeled after the crocodile, and to highlight this he felt the need to write “crocadile” on the table in front of the plate, misspelling it as he did so. It was actually a good thing he did this, as I wouldn’t have gotten “crocodile” out of this bag of vomit:

But it was Richard once again who had a stroke of genius and played to the fashion world’s love for all things black with his black deconstructed ice cream dish:

I have to admit, this picture isn’t doing this dish justice. When I saw the show I agreed with Isaac that Richard had the most visually appealing dish that you wanted to eat immediately. This photo looks like I mistook the men’s room for the ladies, yet again, and the janitors now need to clean out the present I left for them in the privacy urinal. It’s not an eating disorder it’s just a 25 year bout of food poisoning, okay? Get off my back already Dr. Drew!

Anyway, Isaac is shuffled away somewhere and the chopping block comes out. Each chef draws a knife with one of three names, and in come three fantastically dressed Italian men – the owners and head chef at Rao’s (okay, two are fantastically dressed, the other is just in his usual work attire, however he’s a chef, which means he cooks, which I don’t do, so I’m going with three impeccable men), one of New York’s most exclusive dining establishments – tables aren’t really “reserved” they’re owned and passed down through generations, much like our house-servants here at the estate. With only ten tables and one seating per night, it’s one of the most sought after dining experiences in New York.

They all inform the cheftestant’s that the challenge will be to split into teams by the name they’ve drawn and then cook one of three traditional Italian dinner courses: Antipasti (the appetizer), Primo (second course, usually pasta, soup, or risotto) and Secondo (second or main course, usually meat, poultry or fish). Each of the gentlemen from Rao’s meets with one of the teams to discuss the menu. This is important because the challenge isn’t to reinterpret classic dishes it’s to stick to the classics and honor Rao’s way of preparing food. On the Antipasti team are Carla, Antonia, and Tiffany. Primo team is Mike, Tre, and Dale, and lastly the Secondo team is Richard, Angelo, and Fabio.

Right off the bat it’s clear that this is Antonia, Fabio and Mike’s challenge to lose. Being the three Italian chef’s (and coincidentally all on separate teams) each of them feel the pressure to succeed. Cooking and stressful montages ensue before we can jump to the actual dinner presentation.

When the judges arrive at Rao’s they have the whole family there with them and Lorraine Bracco from Soprano’s and Goodfella’s fame. She worked with Frankie No, the owner of Rao’s, in Goodfella’s and she instantly adds warmth and laughter to what could have been a boring dinner service watching all these suits eat pasta with Padma. If I wanted to be the one woman sitting at a table of men who engage in questionable business practices I’d acknowledge my father’s invitations to dinner. When he’s in the country. And not with his second family. Or his mistress. Or his other mistress.

The ladies start the evening off right with their antipasti courses. The judges felt each dish was even better than the last:

That euphoria quickly fades when the Primo team steps up to serve their food. Dale starts off by telling everyone that this is a dish he makes his girlfriend – bad move. Tom takes a few bites and turns to Lorraine – “I think it’s safe to say if this were your boyfriend cooking for you, you’d probably leave him.” And she quickly shoots back while nodding, “He’s definitely not getting laid tonight.” I heart her. I really do.

All three of them, Tre, Mike, and Dale, delivered horrible dishes – Bourdain puts it best: “How could three culinary professionals fuck up a pasta dish? This looks like stuff you’d find in the steam tank at your worst enemy’s wedding.” I think I heart him too. It doesn’t get much better for the next team, Richard, Angelo, and Fabio – the judges hated everyone’s but Fabio’s – Bourdain compared his dish to a light at the end of a dark abyss.

At the judges table, Fabio and the ladies of the Antipasti team are called in and told they’re the favorite dishes. Antonia brings it home for not only the ladies, but the Italian’s too, and Fabio is left grumbling his beautiful face about Antonia winning an Italian challenge with a French dish.

As we all expected, the Primo team is called in as the bottom – they get totally reamed by the judges for serving such total crap, and Tre is given the boot for his craptacular risotto.

About the Author

Alistair Blake Arabella

“Alistair Blake Arabella” is the brainchild of entertainment writer and managing editor Vanessa “2 Fingers” Berben . If you’re missing the latest refill of your Dexedrine prescription, there’s a good a chance Alistair’s in your bathroom and has already crushed it up and snorted it. Now be a good little kitten and fetch her drink. If you’d like to receive the hallowed word of Alistair drop a line to – you just may be in the next episode of “Ask Alistar” if you’re very, very lucky.

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