Fri. Jul 3rd, 2020

TV Recap: Top Chef All-Stars LA – Episode 11 “Michael’s Santa Monica”

Welcome to another recap of “Top Chef: All Stars L.A.,” or as it has become known in our households “The Brian Malarkey Power Hour!”

My name is Daniel Trainor, and I just realized why they call it “All Stars”; it’s because they’re all…stars. All the chefs are stars. Wow.

I’m Sam Stone, and I will be honest, I did not know a television program could go on for this many weeks in a row! 

What an episode!

DT: We start with with a quick flashback to Last Chance Kitchen, where Kevin has slayed the competition, and now finds himself back in the game.

SS: Based on the enormous wink Kevin gave us during our interview, I was pretty confident we’d be seeing him again soon.

DT: Kevin’s accomplishments are quickly eclipsed, though, when the chefs enter the kitchen to discover Champagne Padma, as Stephanie is quick to title her.

SS: Champagne Padma, in practice, is Padma drinking a glass of champagne, but in theory, Champagne Padma is so much more. Champagne Padma is a state of mind. Champagne Padma is quitting your job in order to devote more time to gossiping about your friends. Champagne Padma is leaving your husband to go live on a beach somewhere. Champagne Padma is slapping the waiter when he offers you tap instead of sparkling. Champagne Padma is who we all aspire to, but can never be.

DT: Champagne Padma is accompanied by this week’s guest judge Jonathan Waxman, who, among other notable accomplishments, is Padma’s personal friend. Jonathan, girlfriend, please slip in a good word for me.

SS: This week’s Quickfire Challenge is airplane-themed! The chefs must create an appetizer and an entree following airline restrictions, which I guess means it can’t be above a certain size? Every time I ask for food on an airplane the flight attendant slaps me and tells me to go home to my mama if I’m going to complain, so I was shocked to find out that other people eat meals in the sky.

DT: “Airline restrictions,” in fact, means that dishes can’t exceed a certain height, and that the ingredients must be available year-round, and also that they can’t contain a knife or firearm.

SS: Before we even get into the food, Kevin reveals that he’s been flying first class for his entire life and he declares himself an “airplane diva” in what I might go so far as to call the Most Yas Thing of the Show or whatever it was Daniel made up as a joke that we’ve used too many times. 

DT: For the last time it’s The Most Iconic Moment of the Episode™, and it actually will be awarded to a moment just seconds later, when the camera cuts to Malarkey furiously pounding a cut of pork flat with a sauce pan. 

SS: To be caught on camera pounding your pork…what would Champagne Padma think?

DT: Voltaggio decides to try to make something “simple” which would be a first for him in this competition, and Stephanie bravely decided to create a dish which is, if I’m understanding it correctly, a fish wrapped in paper?

SS: Paper wrapped fish seems ambitious for airline food, but Kevin’s meatball dish, and Melissa’s curry seem more appropriate to be served at 10,000 feet. 

DT: In the judging, Stephanie’s impossible to eat origami fish, and Malarkey’s pounded pork land them in the bottom two.

SS: Melissa’s curry dish, and Kevin’s meatball situation are the top two dishes, but I personally have a bone to pick with “Top Chef.”

DT: Uh oh, everyone FASTEN YOUR SEATBELTS, HE’S GOT A BONE TO PICK.

SS: The rules specifically state that food couldn’t be higher than the dishes they were cooked in, and Kevin’s meatballs were too tall! They were too tall, and best friends Jonathan and Padma squished them down so they fit, and didn’t penalize Kevin for breaking the rule! 

DT: I think everyone had had a few glasses of bubbly, they were feeling loosey goosey, and Champagne Padma had taken the reins. 

SS: I demand justice!

DT: Let’s put a pin in that. Melissa wins the Quickfire Challenge, and we learn that next episode we’re going to TUSCANY!

SS: The chefs understandably lose their minds — who wouldn’t dream of a free trip to Italy with Champagne Padma and the gang!

DT: God, I remember traveling. 

SS: Our Elimination Challenge this week will be to create a dish based on Michael’s Santa Monica, where owner and newest guest judge Michael McCarty will be celebrating 40 years of culinary excellence.


DT: The chefs head to Michael’s to taste some of the most iconic dishes from it’s storied 40 years, each created by one of the many famous chefs that have worked there throughout the decades.

SS: Melissa, as Quickfire winner, gets to choose which dish she’d like to work with, and after she chooses the quail dish, the rest of the chefs pick the dishes they’ll be working with, as well.

DT: And with that, we’re off to Whole Foods! I remember when these Whole Foods trips used to be filled with sprinting, cursing, and Lee Anne arguing over vegetables with Malarkey. Those were the days.

SS: Now it’s just Malarkey calling Kevin “cowboy” as Kevin climbs completely into a freezer to get some heavy cream.

DT: The chefs arrive at Michael’s Santa Monica’s to find that the kitchen is for some reason the size of a studio apartment? Everyone is all over each other, and there are a lot of aggressive “behind!”s.

SS: A lot of aggressive behinds? Sounds like my Friday night!!!!!!! I have nothing, my life is a black void. I will see myself out.

DT: Love that! 

SS: As is often the case this season, these All-Stars cook some pretty stellar food, and there aren’t many slip-ups. Gregory forgets to plate the prosciutto on his dish, which was pretty essential, and one of Malarkey’s plates of veals are, for some reason, sent to another table? 

DT: Kevin’s duck balls or whatever are received well, and Stephanie and Melissa also create dishes that the judges absolutely die for. 

SS: Our judges use the phrase “California cuisine” so many times, you’d think that phrase was a sponsor of the show, and before you know it we’re ready for final judging!

DT: Melissa wins this challenge, too, with Stephanie in a close second. Voltaggio and Kevin are told they’re also safe this week.

SS: Malarkey and Gregory are in the bottom, and Malarkey has a bit of a moment here. Nothing went his way, no one ate his duo correctly and one of his plates disappeared! Honestly, you have to feel for the guy. Unfortunately, despite Gregory’s huge prosciutto problem, it’s Malarkey’s time to go.

DT: We will miss you, hat king. I’m putting together a video montage of all your hats/ice cream attempts as we speak.

SS: We need to shout out Melissa, here. My humble queen won both challenges this week. I think I smell our new front runner.

DT: I think I smell burning toast. Should I call an ambulance?

SS: No, Daniel, stop being dramatic.

DT: See you in Italy!

Daniel Trainor is writer, podcaster, son and friend from Los Angeles, California. Originally from Michigan, his love for all things pop culture started early, once using pancakes to bribe his way onto the Oscars red carpet bleachers with his mother. In addition to writing for AwardsWatch, he is an huge sports fan and hosts the LGBTQ sports podcast “Same Team.” One day, he hopes Jane Krakowski will win an Emmy.


Sam Stone is a writer and actor based in Brooklyn, New York. He writes humor, culture, and travel among other things, and spends his free time reading about all those things. You can find him on twitter @sam_the_stone or on Instagram @samstone000.


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