All season long, the two finalists of Top Chef: All-Stars have suffered and gained from nearly oppositional twitches. From the start, Blais has been a Citizen of Blais’ Head. As talented as he is, he’s always on the brink of crying/throwing up/wishing he’d never been born. Mike Isabella, on the other hand, is fairly confident that he’s the greatest human ever. Even his former difficulties are wonderful in his mind, because they symbolize how far he’s come. As a result, he doesn’t exercise any restraint over himself, and ends up doing things like flicking boogers at the people around him. Heeheehee, he says afterward.
Luckily, the judges never seemed to take into account Mike’s boorishness, and last night came off as an objective fight, dish against dish, personalities be damned. Which means Blais won fair and square, the neurotic mess. And it just felt right.
The episode started with the perfect challenge. Each chef had to create and execute a four-course menu for the restaurant of his dreams, the game’s end goal. They’d have five hours and the help of three sous chefs, chosen via a blind taste test. Fifteen of the former competitors gathered in the kitchen to compete for the job. Marcel wore BluBlocker sunglasses for no apparent reason. Maybe it’s a side effect of working in his own Quantum Kitchen (Side note: I’m slightly obsessed with that show. Marcel is hilarious on it. Just very…Marcel. One time he made a party planner almost cry by undermining her silverware plans.) The idea was for each former contestant to produce an amuse-bouche. Mike and Blais would choose the three they liked best without knowing to whom they belonged, and take on the corresponding chefs. Pretty sneaky. Mike wanted Jen Carroll, and did not want either Marcel or Jamie, who still frowns a lot, in case you were worried she’d changed. He ended up scoring Tiffani F., Carla, and – whoa! – Jamie. There was some poetic justice-y stuff in Mike choosing all women, seeing as he’s quick to qualify compliments for “female” chefs. Not ready to treat them like equals exactly, he went instead for “famous sex symbols.” “Having these three awesome ladies is like having the Angels,” he said. “My Angels.”
Blais hit close to jackpot with his team: Antonia, crazypants Angelo, and Spike, who murmured that “some people have Jet Ski reservations.” Blais had his own reservations: that Antonia and Spike might not try their hardest – Antonia since she was so freshly eliminated, and Spike because of his Jet Ski reservations. Only one of these reasons was stupid. (Hint: It rhymes with Jet Li Preservation.)
The crews gathered to sort out the restos. Mike’s was called Restaurant Iz because of his nickname (Isabella → Izzie). This was about as damning a logic sequence as the one that led to Restaurant Etch. AS IN IT WAS TERRIBLE. Restaurant Iz sounds like a hangout for Lolcats. The food was to be Italian. Jamie offered something called “a parmesan mousse that I do,” but Mike demanded no creativity from his sous chefs, only strict obedience. They were his Angels after all. Over in the Blais arena, the talk was more clever. For his title, he refashioned the phrase “tongue-in-cheek” into Tongue & Cheek, so as to imply whimsy and double entendres. No doubt he chose it for all the offal pun possibilities. Blais encouraged his sous chefs to collaborate and improve on his dishes. Could these two BE any different? the producers seemed to be asking us.
NEXT: Captain Crunch or foie gras?