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Sun. May 31st, 2020

TV Recap: Top Chef All-Stars LA Episode 3 – “Strokes of Genius”

Another beautiful and thrilling week of quarantine, another gorgeous and shocking episode of “Top Chef: All-Stars LA.” Like sands in the hourglass these are the days of our lives.

My name is Daniel Trainor and, for those of you joining us for the first time, Top Chef is sorta my thing. 

Yikes! I’m Sam Stone, and while I’ve never seen a season of Top Chef, I do have other hobbies that are equally valid!

DT: Whatever you say. Let’s get into the episode! Before we talk about the challenges, though, there’s something I think we need to address.

SS: Daniel, this is a safe space for you to address whatever’s in your heart.  

DT: It’s the question everyone’s asking: 

DID! NINI! FART!

SS: Nini, girl, did you go ahead and fart? Please respond. 

DT: It was a really bizarre sequence of events in the Top Chef household: Nini, Stephanie and Karen were sitting around (a sisterhood I love, by the way, America Ferrera is shaking) and there was an “aural disturbance” that can only be described as fart-like. 

SS: Certainly fart-adjacent, experts (me) agree. Really ramped up the drama of the moment. Nini, we, as avid farters, would like to say welcome, we love you, and there’s nothing to feel ashamed of.

DT: I do find that Nini is really the only contestant that I’m actively rooting for. It’s unclear if this is related to her gastrointestinal issues. 

SS: Fart queen Nini, and the rest of the less interesting contestants head into the Quickfire Challenge.

DT: Ali Wong and Randall Park are our guest judges. The producers, when made aware of this, looked around at each other and said, “I don’t know, rice????”

SS: Felt weird! 

DT: The contestants are forced to absolutely SPRINT to grab ingredients that they must use, which I’m sure thrilled you.

SS: I do love to see grown adults sprinting towards a table of food, but more than that, I love to see those adults absolutely destroy that table like a rebel army toppling a monument to a recently executed despot.

DT: The chefs are tasked with creating a fried rice dish that involves a unique ingredient from a table curated by Ali and Randall.

SS: Bryan somberly announces his respect for fried rice, while Lee Anne sounds more confident in her fried rice abilities than anything we’ve seen from her so far. 

DT: Kevin gets started on his hot dog, Hot Cheetos and whiskey fried rice, but is mostly excited about the fact that he gets to say “weiners” on national television. 

SS: I feel like if Nini can fart on TV, Kevin can say weiner as many times as he wants regardless of context, no?

DT: Absolutely. Jamie and Nini (nooooooo!) end up in the bottom, while Kevin, Eric and Karen comprise the top three. Ultimately, the win goes to Kevin and his weiners. 

SS: You cannot stop this guy and his weiners!!! (We’re trying to see how many times we can say it, too).

DT: It’s time for the Elimination Challenge! Padma tells our chefs that they’re off to the Getty Museum, where they will use the paintings as inspiration for their dishes. They are broken off into four groups, each assigned their own period of art: Neoclassicism, Baroque, Renaissance and Rococo. Weiners.

SS: The chefs seem nervous about having to look at art, be at a museum, and also to cook food? Malarkey says he doesn’t get art, and Jen can’t pronounce the word neoclassicism – all in all it’s shaping up to be a wild ride.

DT: My dear, sweet Nini is from New Orleans, and while browsing the gallery, she finds a work that she loves and remarks, “Our football team is the Saints, so this painting is just screaming at me to make gumbo!” Whatever works for you, Nini! 

SS: Nini’s jump from renaissance paintings to a pot of gumbo is quite honestly a feat of mental acrobatics so impressive it deserves to be in the now cancelled Summer Olympics.

DT: Lee Anne has the truly bizarre idea to create a dish based on a painting of Jesus Christ being breastfed. This ultimately translates to…Jesus, but make it duck! Her mind….

SS: Feeling inspired, the chefs head to Whole Foods where they all separately antagonize the people working behind the butcher counter, and Karen accidentally tosses her chicken thighs on the floor. 

DT: The most relatable part of the Whole Foods trip, the entire episode and perhaps in all of Top Chef history is when Stephanie is browsing rutabagas or whatever and screams “THERE’S A PUPPY, I’M DISTRACTED.”

SS: Most relatable? Daniel, are you forgetting, perhaps, about Nini’s flatulence from earlier?

DT: Speaking of, once we’re inside the Getty Museum kitchen, my girl Lisa has the absolute gall to talk about the prunes in her dish by exclaiming “helps you poop!” Are these chefs okay…?

SS: Are any of us? Is this the human condition?

DT: You raise an excellent point. So, the chefs roll out their food. One of the judges is wearing a newsboy cap.

SS: Another judge has a nose ring which I think is cool, and Dan thinks is NOT cool. We’ll leave it to the readers to determine who’s right (me).

DT: Most of the food, to be honest, felt pretty uninspired. Even the stuff that looked impressive felt strangely boring. Except for maybe Melissa’s lobster wontons, which our idiotic nose ring judge said he’d put on his menu. 

SS: Padma panned Lee Anne’s dish calling it “just a collection of ingredients” which, I will be honest, I thought was the case for every dish ever made… Will be spending some time reflecting on that one.

DT: Lee Anne finds herself in the bottom four, alongside Stephanie, Jamie and Karen. Padma, never one to resist DRAMA, tells Kevin that he would have been in the bottom instead of Karen if he didn’t have immunity. 

SS: Stephanie undercooked her pasta, Karen’s dish was…how do you say…bad?, Lee Anne just plated “ingredients” (still trying to mine the meaning out of that critique), but ultimately it’s Jamie and his lack of jus that leaves the Top Chef kitchen this week. 

DT: On his way out, Jamie says that he wishes he “had delivered better cookery,” which actually IS a word if you Google it.

SS: Jamie leaves the kitchen clicking his heels, which is, coincidentally, how I also leave all social engagements.
DT: And with that, dear reader, another episode ends, and we eagerly await next week’s drama, cookery, and mispronounced words from Jen.

SS: Weiners.


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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