By Liane Bonin of HitFix.com
I love it when “Top Chef: All Stars” kicks things off by showing that, as much as we hope it’s just one big happy family of chefs on this show, some of the culinary divas kind of quietly hate one another. Case in point: Mike and Antonia. Mike can’t bring himself to congratulate Antonia on winning last week’s challenge with mussels. It’s a French dish! Well, French or not, the judges clearly liked it a whole lot more than Mike’s underdone pasta. Mike, clearly, is a sore, pouty loser. So we get to see Antonia and Mike quietly snipe at one another while Fabio tries to lighten the mood in his distinctly happy, Fabio way. It’s kind of like sitting down at another family’s uncomfortable Thanksgiving dinner or watching “The Real Housewives of Something or Other.” Except I don’t think those women can cook. They’re too flammable.
Anyway, time for the Quickfire Challenge! Richard walks into the kitchen and sees fondue pots. He immediately starts thinking ‘70s bellbottoms, chunky soled shoes and nudity. Richard is sure his parents went to a nude fondue party. I’m hoping they didn’t, because fondue is made up of cheese or hot oil and it can splatter. A party just isn’t fun with second and third degree burns on your private parts, no matter what decade it takes place in. The chefs must make a modern fondue. And judge one another. No immunity, but they can win a three day trip to the Napa Valley. S’alright.
We watch the chefs whirl around the kitchen and occasionally explain their inspirations to the camera. Mike wants to tell us that he doesn’t remember no gay fondue parties from the ‘70s. Mike finds new and exciting ways to make himself more unlikable every week. Dale is making pho-ndue. Get it? Pho-ndue? That Dale! Richard is deconstructing the one thing Padma said not to do – chocolate dipped bananas. If anyone can get away with it, it’s Richard. But still, not a great idea, Richard. She isn’t judging, but you still might incur the wrath of Padma. Which sounds like a really fun comic book title.
The chefs slug back some white wine and taste away. Padma announces the losers first. The worst are Fabio (billini with caviar, crème fraiche, fromage blanc and bourdain wine), Tiffany (clunky apple ricotta fritters with chocolate) and Mike (icky spiced lamb kabobs with mint, chili and feta). On the top, Antonia (smoked salmon on toast, fromage blanc and crème fraiche fondue), Dale (pho with beef, bread, charred ginger, lime, Sriracha and broth) and Angelo (walnuts, endive with goat cheese fondue & beet juice shooter). No love for Richard? He says he scared his fellow chefs. He may be right.
The winner is… Dale. Because of his pho-ndue. It looked pretty good, but it looked like pho. Still, there must be something more exciting going on in there to get the win.