On last night’s episode of Top Chef: All-Stars, the cheftestants had to cook Italian food for some illustrious Italians, including the team behind New York’s legendary Rao’s restaurant and Sopranos star Lorraine Bracco. But among the polenta, pasta, and pork chops, there was one offer the judges could refuse. SPOILER ALERT! Click ahead to find out whose dish it was and what the eliminated cheftestant has to say.
Despite making a winning risotto in season 3, Tre Wilcox was sent to the chopping block last night for — shockingly — a nearly identical risotto. But it wasn’t just the Elimination challenge that wasn’t in Wilcox’s favor. His performance got off to a shaky start with a too-simple Quickfire meal, in which the cheftestants had to create a meal based solely on presentation. For Fabio, it meant depicting fashionable women via chunks of tuna; for Tre it meant an array of colorful dots… and little else. Here, the 34-year-old Dallas resident dishes about what went wrong, his All-Stars experience, and who he thinks will win.
The Quickfire conundrum: “I wasn’t so concerned with the taste. I tried to do too many things that I couldn’t get done and it took a toll on my overall presentation. My thought process was to have a lot of different colors, contrasts, and shapes, but when it came down to making the curry chip with the nitrogen, it just didn’t pan out for me, and I think it took a toll on my presentation. Instead of doing pools of sauce maybe I could’ve done streaks of sauce. Putting something out there that you know doesn’t taste good, that was a challenge in and of itself.”
His take on Fabio’s tuna “women”: “What everyone did was their own take with what they could do within the given time. I think it was clever that he had the little note that he wrote. Everybody has their own unique mind and different ideas that they come to, none wrong, none right — just different perspectives.”
The return of the risotto: “It’s something I’ve been making for a long time in my career. I’ve enjoyed making it and have been for 15 years, so it was the thing to go to. Dale and Mike were doing pasta so I wanted to do something different. I would’ve put another couple ladles of stock in it. I think the overall thing was it wasn’t loose enough, and they wanted it to spread when it hit the plate. I would’ve changed it if I knew it’d get me to the next round. If I wanted to go further, sure, but honestly, how I’ve been trained and if I put into perspective my original competition of Top Chef, the first challenge, I put risotto on the plate and three of the four judges said it was great and I won that challenge. I really think the judges should get it together. Which one is it? I made it the same way as I did in season 3 as I did in All -Stars. But you know what? It’s all good. When you make something true to how you’ve made it, how you’ve been trained, and how you serve it in the city you come from and people love it, then I feel like that’s a difference of opinions. I can’t disagree with someone who is truly Italian, like Tom Colicchio — but I do stand beside my product as this is how I do it. And that’s probably why there’s no such thing as ‘black Italian,’ because we do things our own way!”
The less than enthusiastic response to Antonia’s Elimination win: “I just think we were expecting a dish to be a little more authentic Italian. The mussels seemed to go down a French-moules frites way. We didn’t know if it was something she’d get tagged on.”
His All-Stars experience: “It was really awesome because it was a lot of different perspectives on food and a lot of different techniques. My season, originally season 3, maybe I was little reserved, quiet, and didn’t fully know what was going on. I didn’t really want to let go and have a good time and take it all in. But this time around, it’s 17 of the best chefs who’ve been on Top Chef and all of them are bad-ass cooks. I’m the guy who came in humble enough to take something from everyone and was able to listen to the judges when I was on top and when I was on the bottom, and take that in as something that sends me to Dallas as a better chef. Top Chef was a great training exercise for me the second time around. I think that in season 3, I really didn’t let people know who I was. I think I did a tremendous turn around on opening up. For that I can say, ‘Hey, come to Dallas, have my risotto and you be the judge.'”
Where you can find him now: “I threw in the towel on Loft 610, but Marquee Grill opens in Highland Park Village, Texas, on March 14. I’m going to do new American with Italian and French influences. I’ll put my risotto out there, and it won’t be watery. That risotto won’t spread!”
And the winner will be…: “Richard Blais is the man. I’m not rooting for him in the sense of a fan. I was there. I was there six weeks, four weeks of those was competing with him. He’s got so much technical training, it’s ridiculous. I think that’s what makes any chef as great as they can be. Ingredients are what we all need to be great chefs, but if you don’t the techniques needed to make those ingredients shine, then you can’t be as great of a chef. This kid has it all. He’s got any kind of technical training you can think of. He’s pretty brilliant.”
Were you guys upset to see Tre go? Do you agree that Blais will take it home? Pack your knives and sound off below!
More Top Chef: All-Stars from EW:
Photo: David Giesbrecht/Bravo