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Top Chef

Following last week’s dramatic finale, the Top Chef All Stars reunion airs tonight on Bravo at 10/9c.

On the reunion special hosted Andy Cohen, we will get to see all of the all-star food fighters dish on their raw antics and well-done dramas of Season 8. Show host Padma Lakshmi and judges Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons will appear on the show. All week, the network has teased a clip showing Tom and Elia Aboumrad, first contestant to be eliminated this season who might or might not still be bitter, having some words of exchange. That preview clip is below.

It seems Elia’s beef with Tom (pun intended) stems from the comments she made back in December following her elimination from the show. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Elia accused Tom of selling out due to fame. “He has become a very different person. He has become someone who is not all about the food anymore,” said Elia. “He’s not all about supporting farmers markets. He’s all about high-fructose corn syrup and there’s only corn-fed beef on all of his menus now.”

Tom however denied Elia’s claims stating that his ad for Coca Cola was for Diet Coke (which has no high-fructose corn syrup) and that he does buy food from local farmers. “I would say I’m probably buying more local produce at all of my restaurants, especially in Vegas. We get a truckload of stuff that comes from the Santa Monica market and from California farmers three times a week,” said Tom.

Meanwhile, runner-up Mike Isabella opens up about losing out to Richard Blais in an interview with TV Giude. “I thought I won. I’ve never gotten comments like that before in both seasons,” Mike reveals. “Regardless, I did win. … It was a personal victory. To be on All-Stars and to make it that far,” added Mike. Below are some excerpts from Mike’s interview -

Everyone said you were a different chef in the Bahamas. What kind of training did you do during the three-month break?
Mike:
I knew that I barely got out of New York. I kept saying to myself, “Push through, push through. Let’s go back and keep training.” … When I went back home, I started eating differently, I started seeing a trainer, I started working out to get my mental [health] stronger. I was fortunate that I was opening a restaurant and didn’t have to work every day, so I was working in different chefs’ restaurants throughout D.C. … I was really fired up. I was changing things up.

You talk a lot of smack and some fans thought you were dismissive of female chefs. What do you have to say about that?
Mike:
A chef is a chef. When I say, like, “Michelle Bernstein is one of the best female chefs,” I was just giving an explanation. I wasn’t saying she’s not as good as males. She’s one of the best chefs in the country. Period. She’s an icon to me. It has nothing to do with being a guy or a girl. I joke a lot. People take it the way they want. What they don’t see is the whole conversation. … If you talk to anyone — people from my season to this season — they [will tell you] I’m very sarcastic. I thought going into the competition that Blais was the best chef there and I wanted to compete against him. … If he was a girl, I would’ve still wanted to compete against him.

What’s the latest on Graffiato?
Mike:
We should hopefully open up in the next few weeks — late spring. You’ll see some similarities with some of the dishes you saw in the finale. It’s going to be a great restaurant. It’s right in the heart of D.C. It’s Italian-inspired dishes, with home touches, wood-oven cooking. We’re just so excited to get it going.

Mike also revealed that Bryan Voltaggio, season 6 runner-up is an investor in his new restaurant. Interesting that Mike was asked about being dismissive towards female chefs as some fans of the show have criticized it for being “anti-female.”

And finally, Top Chef Masters will be making it’s debut tonight following the reunion show with new host Curtis Stone.

 

TELL US – THOUGHTS ON ELIA’S COMMENTS? SOUR GRAPES? PLUS THOUGHTS ON MIKE’S INTERVIEW & TONIGHT’S REUNION? IS TOP CHEF ANTI-FEMALE?

A day after his big win on Top Chef: All Stars, 39-year-old chef Richard Blais is speaking out via a new interview with Entertainment Weekly. In excerpts below, Richard explains why he always appeared insecure about his dishes, his feelings on chicken oyster-gate today plus his next plans.

How He Chose His Final Dishes – “Most of it is on the fly, like, here are the ingredients you’re given. I tried to focus on picking out my favorite ingredients. Hamachi is a fish I really love. The black cod has such a beautiful fat content that it’s easy to cook, especially for a lot of people.”

On Why He Always Doubted Himself - “On Top Chef, we’re getting reviewed every single Wednesday night, and in reality, every day. So you’re just seeing a little bit more intense version of that. But I think all good chefs do that. They analyze and maybe over-analyze the tiniest details.”

On Being A Favorite To Win It All – “There was definitely a tremendous amount of support on social media. It’s such an honor to have people root and cheer for you, and to walk down the street and have people say, “Oh you should’ve won your first season,” and “We’re rooting for you this time.” I definitely got the sense that maybe everybody else thought I was a favorite, but internally I never bought into it.”

When asked about oyster-gate, Richard states it is completely “squashed” and that while Mike might have been influenced by his idea, he did not steal his recipe. For the time being, Richard is still a partner at Flip Burger but reveals he has some new projects ahead that he can’t discuss just yet.

Meanwhile, it seems the folks behind Top Chef can breathe a sigh of relief today as some fans of the show actually threatened to stop watching if Blais did not win. In fact, one fan tweeted to judge Tom Colicchio before the finale aired and stated that all faith would be lost in Tom and the show if Richard lost. Tom replied, “if Richard doesn’t win perhaps you should loose faith in Richard.”

As we all saw, Richard did indeed win which however brings us to an interesting question. If Richard, who appeared to be a much better competitor than Mike Isabella based on wins (9 wins to Mike’s 4), had lost the final challenge hence the competition, would that have been fair? This also seems to be the criticism with contestant Tiffany Derry making it to the final 4 over other competitors such as Dale Talde, who won way more challenges than she did.

Let’s compare the two contestants shall we -

Tiffany – Won 2 quickfires and zero elimination challenges. In the bottom 7 times.

Dale T. – Won 4 quickfires and 3 eliminations challenges. In the bottom twice.

Dale came in 6th while Tiffany made it to the final 4. And oh yeah, both of Tiffany’s wins came in group challenges. Numbers don’t lie and from looking at the above stats, it seems absurd that Dale was sent packing first. This isn’t to criticize Tiffany or put down her culinary talents, but once again, numbers don’t lie.

In Tiffany’s defense, she doesn’t make the rules which leads us to believe it might be time for the show to make some rule changes, taking into consideration the overall season performance, and not just one challenge when it comes to the elimination rounds. The ‘Top Chef‘ title shouldn’t go to someone who got hot in the final challenges, or someone who was mediocre all season long and managed to hide in the middle of the pack.

The Top Chef title should go to the contestant who excelled consistently over a season’s entirety, like Richard Blais. We can’t help but sit and imagine a finale battle between Richard and Dale. Now that would have been something to watch. Fans of the show also seemed to believe Mike was no competition for Richard as our poll question of who deserved to win before the finale aired garnered Richard 84% of the votes. A similar poll from UsWeekly gave Richard 86% of the votes. Something tells us those poll numbers would have been much different had Dale been in Mike’s shoes.

While Mike did end up giving Richard a run for his money, sorta, on the finale, fans of the show still overwhelmingly believed Richard deserved the title. A PEOPLE.com poll had 86% of the viewers agreeing with the show’s end results.

And though the finale showdown between Richard and Mike appeared extremely close on television, Melissa Maerz of the LA Times disagrees. The reason? Maerz was one of the lucky few who actually got to taste the finale dishes during Bravo’s finale party on Wednesday.

According to Maerz, it was not a close call at all. Maerz states all of Richard’s dishes were superb, describing his hamachi dish as “astoundingly delicious and clean-tasting, it was like a magical fish that’s spent its whole life swimming upstream into a Brita water filter.”

As for Mike, his halibut “was the worst dish by far, flavorless and cold, with a slightly sweaty texture, and the overly sweet kumquats lent it an aftertaste of jelly doughnut.” His pork shoulder with pepperoni sauce was “as if someone had nursed a tender baby pig from a bottle of liquid pizza.” Ouch. Maerz however adds that the dishes were not prepared by the all-stars themselves, but rather by a team of chefs.

TELL US – SHOULD TOP CHEF CHANGE THE WAY CONTESTANTS ARE JUDGED? OR IS THE CURRENT FORMULA IDEAL?

After falling short on his original season of Top Chef, all star Richard Blais finally tasted redemption when he was crowned the winner of Top Chef: All Stars.

Richard walked away with the $200,000 cash prize, beating out pal and fellow chef Mike Isabella for the title that has eluded them both in previous seasons.

However winning the big prize did not come easy as Richard and Mike had to create a four-course tasting menu for the restaurant of their dreams… in just five hours…. with the help of their previously eliminated contestants who might or might not have had their sights sets on more important things such as jet skiing in the Bahamas.

The judges had a difficult task ahead of them as both Richard and Mike gave them some superb dishes. In the end, Blais, who had won the most competitions during the season, came out on top with his “Tongue and Cheek” restaurant offerings.

“I didn’t think I could do it,” said an emotional Richard after being declared the winner. “You just don’t know. I don’t want to be cliché, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. I willed this.”

A teary eyed Richard then called his wife who couldn’t be there due to her late pregnancy. “Jazmin, I won Top Chef… I won Top Chef,” he said. Jazmin and Richard welcomed second daughter Embry Lotus Blais on Feb 5. A photo of Richard and his family is below via the Ourlaboroflove blog, plus another photo of Jazmin and baby Embry as tweeted by Richard two days ago.

As for runner-up Mike, he expressed his disappointment in losing to Blais. “It hurts, 32 challenges, to come in second. It’s tough,” said Mike. “I feel like I beat him. I just didn’t get the prize.”

Richard’s prize also comes with a showcase at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic and a spread in Food & Wine magazine, but most importantly, the title of ‘Top Chef.’ Airing next week will be the reunion show.

TELL US – THOUGHTS ON THE TOP CHEF FINALE? IS WINNING ALL STARS SWEETER THAN WINNING A REGULAR SEASON?

It’s Blais vs Mike on tonight’s finale of Top Chef All Stars!

Following a season of shocking eliminations and chicken oyster-gate, it all comes down to a final cooking battle between Mike Isabella and Richard Blais after beating out 16 other all star contestants.

Blais, season 4 runner-up, is arguably the favorite to win, even pointing out on the last episode that he had won 8 competitions in comparison to Mike’s 3 wins. However Mike, a season 6 competitor, has been on a hot streak in recent weeks, garnering some major wins with his confidence at an all-time high.

There is a lot on the line as the winner of this season will get a cool $200,000! The finale will air tonight on Bravo at 10/9c.

Watch What Happens Live – Right after the finale episode, a new episode of WWHL with Andy Cohen will air with the winner, runner-up and fan favorite.

Meanwhile, following a tough elimination last week, Antonia Lofaso, who was also eliminated right before the finale on her previous stint on season 4, expressed her disappointment. “Its just like having your stomach just drop,” Antonia said after her elimination. “It feels worse this time. So much work to get so close and just have it go away. It’s so hard.”

Antonia is however handling the loss much better today, revealing she is okay with losing to her cousin Mike. “He didn’t have it out for me in a mean way. I think he just wanted to stick it to me for whatever reason. It’s all playful. You have to remember in those moments, you’re not given a lot of time to decide,” said Antonia to TV Guide. “We’re asked to choose and he chooses. If I had to choose first, I probably would’ve given him canned foods [in the Quickfire]. We had a very playful rivalry through the show where we liked to nudge each other. By no means was it disrespectful or hurtful.”

TV Guide also reports they were on the set for the showdown between Antonia and Mike on the most recent episode, and that it almost went Antonia’s way. Apparently, the vote was 4 – 3 in Antonia’s favor but following an off camera convo with judge Tom Colicchio, guest judge Wolfgang Puck had a change of heart thus Antonia and her knives were sent packing.

And finally, Bravo is currently airing a marathon of the show for those who want to catch up.

[polldaddy poll=4816307]

TELL US – WHO DESERVES TO WIN TONIGHT? WERE THE JUDGES RIGHT IN ELIMINATING ANTONIA? PLUS THOUGHTS ON TONIGHT’S FINALE?

Following a so-so season on Top Chef All Stars, Tiffany Derry was eliminated on the most recent episode of the show.

In a new interview with TV Guide, Tiffany talks getting booted, why she thought her dish was great, and touches on that whole Black Hammer curse. Excerpts are below -

Did you have any feeling that you were getting booted?
Tiffany Derry:
It was such a mixed thing. I didn’t know who it would be. I definitely knew the issue of cold and hot. When they straight-out asked me, “Was it supposed to be cold?” I was like, “No, not cold. Please don’t say it was cold.” At least say it was lukewarm. Sometimes there’s a little exaggeration between cold and warm, so you never really know, but I was like, “No!” And there are other issues [for Richard and Antonia]. When someone says something is raw or undercooked, then it’s like, [the elimination] could be based on a technical issue or a [temperature] issue. You never really know. … I didn’t know how to read the whole thing. I felt like my dish was good. I really enjoyed it and I think I said that. To go home on a dish that you like is better than going home on a dish that you know you could’ve done better on.

After the weather this week and the fire last week, do you think you guys should have the best equipment at your disposal in the finals?
Tiffany:
I don’t know. I think this made it much more interesting. We cook with great tools in our restaurants every day; that’s the norm. To put us outside of our comfort zone with different machines and all of that is kind of cool.

You and Antonia won the Quickfire and then you got eliminated. Do you believe in the Black Hammer curse?
Tiffany:
[Laughs] I know! But see, the Black Hammer is supposed to [strike] when you’re cooking with her, when you’re on the same team. So I don’t know what happened. [It took effect] on the next challenge. You know what’s weird about this challenge too? I was going to make the dish Antonia ended up making. We’re on the same wavelength sometimes. It’s kind of crazy. I was going to do a pan-seared fish and the conch ceviche on the top. My other idea was to wrap the fish in banana leaves and still do the conch ceviche. I found out Mike was doing banana leaves, so I’m like, “Freak!” I was freaking out! Then I heard Antonia describe her dish and I was like, “Oh my God! I’m doing the same dish everyone’s doing!” So [my soup] was the third option.

What are you up to now?
Tiffany:
I am building a restaurant in Dallas. It’s called Private Social. Traveling a little bit, doing a lot of cooking demonstrations.

In other Top Chef news, judge Tom Colicchio and wife Lori Silverbush welcomed baby boy Mateo Lev Colicchio on Tuesday at 12:11PM in New York City.

According to a rep for the couple, both mother and baby are doing well. Mateo is Tom’s third son, as he also has a 19-month old son, Luka Bodhi, with Lori and 17-year-old Dante from a previous relationship.

And finally, it’s one week before the finale and on tonight’s new episode, the three remaining chefs fashion a challenge for their fellow contestants in Season 8′s final Quickfire. Then, they dish up a “last supper” for celebrity chefs Masaharu Morimoto, Wolfgang Puck and Michelle Bernstein. It airs tonight on Bravo at 10/9c.

TELL US – THOUGHTS ON TIFFANY’S INTERVIEW AND TONIGHT’S NEW EPISODE?

Top Chef All Star favorite Carla Hall was sent packing on the last episode of the show after coming up short in the elimination and quick fire challenges.

In a new interview with TV Guide, Carla talks being eliminated and admits she would have sent herself packing too. Carla also discusses why she lost focus, what she’s up to today and why she didn’t give us any “hootie-hoo”s this season. Excerpts from her interview below -

Could you have left the rice off since it was “undone-te”?
Carla:
[Laughs] Exactly, it was “undone-te”! I could’ve left it off. As soon as I poured that rice into that pot, I turned to Hosea and said, “I just gave you $10,000.” Tom said, “I can’t get past rice that’s not cooked properly.” Me either. No argument there. … My frame of mind wasn’t there. It’s also hard stopping the competition [in September], coming back to your regular life and then going back in [for the finals in January]. I didn’t have the same focus.

You agreed with the judges’ decision. Did you think you were going home?
Carla:
Yeah, in the stew room, Antonia thought she was going. I said, “No, I’m going.” It wasn’t until Judges’ Table that I realized how underdone the pork was. As soon as I heard that, I knew. I would’ve sent myself home too. I won’t fight for a bad dish. … I said this on the show: I would’ve rather gone home knowing I did a really great dish, even in New York at Ellis Island. I loved that dish. I would’ve preferred to go home then because I would’ve been out-cooked. I didn’t want to go home with a dish that had technical flaws and one where I didn’t push the envelope.

I was disappointed we didn’t hear any “hootie-hoo”s this season. What happened?
Carla: We did them. They just didn’t show them. I know, with Matthew, people were saying, “Why didn’t you ‘hootie-hoo’ each other?” Well, I knew where he was. He was right at the table!

As for what she’s up to today, Carla reveals she’s transitioning from catering into doing a line of cookies. “I changed the name from Alchemy Caterers to Alchemy by Carla Hall. It’ll be a line of seasonal products until I eventually hopefully open up a café,” she said.

In other Carla news, she has talked on the show about being a former model in the early 90s, and now we have a number of her photos from her modelings days courtesy of ivillage. Carla was a high fashion model for a few years strutting her stuff on the runways of London, Paris and Milan. Those photos are below!

Moving on to tonight’s new episode as the four remaining All-Stars are left standing and it’s a fight to the finish to claim the coveted title of ‘Top Chef.’ But it won’t be an easy road to the finale as the chef’testants have to face the high stakes in the Bahamas. First roadblock? What happens when the chef’testants must physically fish for local Bahamian protein? And for the elimination round, the chef’testants must pair up to deliver a winning meal. When the pairs end up as girls vs. guys, it becomes one last battle-of-the-sexes before the Finale.

TELL US – THOUGHTS ON CARLA’S INTERVIEW, PHOTOS & TONIGHT’S EPISODE OF TOP CHEF?

Top Chef Masters 3

After not sending any chefs packing last week, Top Chef All Stars returns tonight with an all new episode.

On the 13th episode this season titled “Fit for a King,” the chefs set sail for the Bahamas, and each participates in a culinary duel against the person who was crowned the winner during their first stint on the show. Later, they create meals for Bahamian royalty, but it’s a royal pain with limited cooking equipment.

And back to last week’s episode as show judge Gail Simmons revealed this week in her Entertainment Weekly blog that the show’s producers were not too happy with the judges decision to not eliminate anyone. Below is an excerpt -

“When we got to Judges’ Table, we realized there was no way to penalize any of them for what they had made. We, for the first time, were at a stalemate. We just couldn’t think of a legitimate reason to get rid of anyone. But I don’t want anyone to think that this is setting a precedent. This is not the point of the show. It took probably an hour of begging our producers to let us do it. They kept us there for a while, saying “Guys, deal with it. Make a decision.” Then finally, after a long time of hashing it out and none of us feeling comfortable, we decided to bring everyone to the finale. Rest assured, we will be eliminating every single person except one in the finale.”

The new episode airs on Bravo at 10/9c. A preview clip is below.

Meanwhile, Bravo announced this week that Top Chef Masters will return next month with a brand new format and 12 new award-winning chefs hungry to compete for the title of “Top Chef Master” and win $100,000 for their charity.

On the new season, the masters will no longer be judged on a scale, but in elimination style challenges similar to the format of the original Top Chef. In each episode, money will be at stake, with the winners of every quickfire challenge winning $5,000 and elimination challenges winning $10,000 for their designated charities.

As previously announced, celebrity chef Curtis Stone will serve as the newly appointed host of the series along with returning judge and culinary expert, James Oseland, and new series judge, the legendary food critic and author, Ruth Reichl. Season three of Top Chef Masters will premiere Wednesday, April 6 at 11 p.m. ET/PT and will move to its regular time period on April 13 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

A preview clip of tonight’s Top Chef episode is below -

TELL US – THOUGHTS ON TONIGHT’S NEW EPISODE PLUS ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT THE RETURN OF TOP CHEF MASTERS? DO YOU AGREE WITH THE JUDGE’S DECISION TO NOT ELIMINATE ANYONE LAST WEEK?

While this season of Top Chef All Stars had brought us some surprising eliminations (Fabio, Angelo anyone?), the elimination of Dale Talde however seemed to be the most surprising yet as he had performed solidly all season, and won a number of competitions.

In a new interview with TV Guide, the Season 4 alum talks the potato dish that got him eliminated, whether Angelo Sosa was really of help to him, his newer calmer self, plus his opinion on Chicken Oyster-gate.

Excerpts from Dale’s interview below -

Did you think you were getting cut after Judges’ Table?
Dale:
I wasn’t confident about my dish. When you don’t feel good about your dish, you feel like you have a chance to go home. … I should’ve asked the judges to wait [for service]. If I literally had five more minutes, [the potatoes] would’ve been cooked through.

So what happened? You put in a new batch of potatoes?
Dale:
I did. We were going to cook à la minute with them, and they came on us a little faster than we thought. I ended up kind of freaking out and serving. … I never thought [about not serving the potatoes]. It was part of the dish. And the croutons were just too mustard-y. Paula Deen is a mayonnaise girl. If you watch her show, she just puts mayonnaise on everything.

How much did Angelo help? It didn’t seem to be an advantage to get him since he was just eliminated and is coming off back-to-back seasons.
Dale:
He helped me a lot, but I mean, put yourself in his position. Fifty-two straight challenges for that guy. That’s crazy. Crazy! I mean, really, it’s masochistic. It’s like, why put yourself through that again? But he did. Sometimes you have no more gas in tank. … He did [try to talk me up]. He saw me with my head down and he was like, “Dude, you’ve got to get your head up. Keep your head up, man.” He’s a buddy of mine. He’s my merman. He’s helped here at [Buddakan]. He opened the restaurant.

You’ve been open about taking anger-management classes after Season 4. How important was it for you to come back and show everyone you’ve changed?
Dale:
I came back to compete! [Laughs] One, I love to cook, and two, I love competition. I’m one of those failed athletes by genetics. I’m not an athlete because I’m 5-foot-5 and I’m flat-footed and my ankles are terrible. If I could’ve been an athlete, I would’ve tried to, but I love to compete. A lot of it was trying to show people I’m a lot more mature this time around. I didn’t like who I was. I didn’t like seeing myself like that. You really see yourself in a different light when you’re put in front of millions of people. Some people dig it and some are like, “You’re kind of a jerk.” When your mom is embarrassed of your behavior, it says something. I don’t ever want to put my parents in a position where they’re embarrassed to see me. … The [fan reaction] has been unbelievable. [The show] really showed me in a great light and I appreciate that.

What’s your take on Chicken Oyster-gate?
Dale:
You can’t patent food, but you also can’t straight-up tell people that you ripped this dude’s dish off and you won $5,000 and shove it in his face. That sucks. Mike should’ve told [Richard], “You gave me some inspiration.” To be honest, we all [get inspired]. That’s why we go out to eat. That’s our job. I have to. My owner says, “Dale, you have to eat out twice a week and tell me where you’re eating, and it has to be food that’s relevant to New York City.” I have to take inspiration from that.

Dale also adds that he is currently looking for investors regarding two of his concepts — a Thai/seafood restaurant and a Bodega. As of the moment, he just took a position with a company with Stephen Starr, the culinary director of Buddakan.

Moving on to tonight’s all new episode, the five remaining chefs will create food fare on the open water. Later, they will take a journey to Ellis Island to whip up dishes based on their family tree. The new super-sized episode airs on Bravo at 10/9c. A preview clip is below -

TELL – THOUGHTS ON DALE’S INTERVIEW & TONIGHT’S EPISODE OF TOP CHEF?

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