Fri. Jul 10th, 2020

TV Recap: Top Chef All-Stars LA Episode 5 “Bring Your Loved One to Work”

Welcome to another recap of “Top Chef: All-Stars L.A.,” or as we’ve begun to refer to it “Nini turning looks week after week.”

I’m Sam Stone and although I’ve never seen a season of “Top Chef” before, I can confidently say that I have once peeled an onion, and therefore do consider myself a culinary expert.

I’m Daniel Trainor, and “Top Chef” is the only good thing in my life since my dog divorced me. Just kidding. It was a common law situation, and it ended amicably.

SS: The episode begins exactly where we last left our contestants – Malarkey apologizing to Lee Anne for fucking up her hummus with too much seasoning (relatable).

DT: Unlike the 2010 Angelina Jolie espionage thriller, there was no Salt crisis. 

SS: Amazing job with that topical joke, Daniel! Malarkey and Lee Anne hug it out, proving once and for all that she did come to make friends, and winning is maybe secondary. 

DT: Once we put a beautiful bow on that storyline, it’s time for this week’s Quickfire Challenge. And…surprise! YOUR LOVED ONES ARE BEING HELD IN A WEIRD ROOM SOMEWHERE ELSE IN THE CITY!

SS: Everyone gets a quick call in with their assorted loved ones before Padma enters and forces them to hang up the phone and listen to her, which actually I respect.

DT: So, as Padma explains, the chefs are forced to replicate one of three restaurant dishes (yellowtail collar (?!), a pork chop, or a hanger steak) guided only by the words of their designated loved one over the phone.

SS: This was, for me, the most difficult challenge so far – what a nightmare trying to have your family be good at anything publicly.

DT: The most iconic moment of this episode, for me, was Lee Anne’s legendary mother simply setting her phone down and enjoying her dinner. SHE DESERVED IT.

SS: For me the most striking and culturally important bit of this challenge was when Jen’s sister abandons forks, knives, and modern table manners in favor of picking through her dish with her gross little raccoon fingers. 

DT: Nini, who to be clear does not recognize her own mother’s voice at the start of the challenge, really gives the whole thing a “who gives a fuck?” and starts blatantly copying Gregory next to her. I think it was smart and Nini is resourceful.

SS: I think legally it’s actually classified as a victory for feminism? Not sure about the technicalities here. 

DT: Voltaggio, whose sister has apparently never been forced to articulate what food is, finds himself alone in the bottom after cooking branzino instead of yellowtail.  

SS: Melissa, Lee Anne, and Kevin are in the top three. It’s Kevin who takes home the win and the $10,000 which we can only assume he will spend on more tattoos and black t-shirts.

DT: With the victory, I think Kevin positions himself as the front-runner. Thoughts?

SS: Haven’t had one since the 90’s!

DT: Cool! It’s time for the Elimination Challenge. The chefs are tasked with creating a signature product and a dish revolving around it. We find out that our chefs’ friends and family members are sticking around to help! 

SS: It’s here that I’m gonna slam the brakes on this recap in order to pay our respects to look-queen Nini’s incredible jumpsuits. Another absolute fashionista momentina that we, Daniel, Sam, and in fact the world, are forced to reckon with. Daniel, I personally feel changed. Thoughts?

DT: I liked it. We get back to the kitchen, where our esteemed guests are waiting to help the chefs prep for their challenge. Eric brings his wife a bouquet of flowers and they are seconds away from making love on a pile of yellow bell peppers. 

SS: I wish I loved any two things as much as Eric loves both his wife and yellow bell peppers.

DT: Malarkey’s wife Chantelle, meanwhile, sneaks a Jim Halpert camera stare that screams “you see what I have to deal with?”

SS: Lee Anne’s mom is one hundred years old, yet Lee Anne, ever the task master, has forced her to roll out dumpling dough until her fingers bleed. The heat of the lights and Lee Anne’s passion for dumplings overwhelms her, though, and she FAINTS (thank god SOMEone knows how to create drama on reality TV).

DT: Lee Anne hasn’t been faring very well thus far. Are we ready to discuss whether or not this was a conspiracy?

SS: Amazing point – did Lee Anne’s mom faint for the screen time? Who can ever be sure, but I think it’s safe to say that yes she definitely did. We love you Lee Anne’s mom! Please let us interview you over Zoom!

DT: Whatever the case, Stephanie’s husband helps Lee Anne with the rest of her dumpling dough. Eric kisses Lee Anne on the head. It’s all very, shall I say, erotic?

SS: I was gonna say Biden-esque.

DT: Speaking of men who have brain worms, Voltaggio decides to put calamari in a jar.

SS: Voltaggio’s product and dish were confusing and upsetting, but I was fixated on Kevin’s product “Hotlanta Hot Salt” which sounds like the street name for bath salts.

DT: Should white people be saying “Hotlanta?”

SS: Is now a good time to mention that we are both white?

DT: As good a time as ever! Speaking of being white, Karen is wearing earrings that say “BITCH.” 

SS: I, unfortunately, am forced to stan. Those earrings deserve their own storyline. 

DT: Eric and his smoking hot wife make something called “a double.” Sam, I have a very important question for you: WHAT IS A DOUBLE?

SS: Daniel, as anyone who knows shit about fuck will tell you, a double is Trinidadian streetfood that is based in chickpeas. It’s delicious, and it’s sad that you haven’t had one before, you neanderthal. 

DT: Did you just Google that?

SS: No, I am a generous and beautiful genius.

DT: Malarkey makes something called “S’miles Fennel, Tomato, Chili and Citrus Relish” which, unfortunately, made the judges F’rown.

SS: The judges thought it was b’ad. But not as bad as Jen’s “gritty” Sunny-Lemon Ginger “Love” sauce which was deemed “off putting in the mouth.” Stephanie also kind of makes a snore of a sauce.

DT: A SNORE OF A VEGETARIAN CHILI BASE, YOU NEANDERTHAL. SEE HOW IT FEELS?

SS: Daniel? You’re shouting, but your feelings are valid and I respect you as a person and a recapper or whatever, and I promise it won’t happen again.

DT: In the end, Melissa sells the most product, but it’s Gregory who wins the challenge with his Haitian-inspired pickles and chicken dish. The bottom three are Malarkey, Jennifer and Stephanie.

SS: Malarkey is SHOCKED to find himself in the bottom again, but this time he doesn’t have a weak hummus to throw under the bus.

DT: Much like myself and my best girl friends in elementary school when discussing our performance of “Wannabe” at the talent show, Jen and Tom have a disagreement about Ginger.

SS: As it turns out, Jen’s sun-love-ginger-sunlight sauce just wasn’t sunny enough and she’s asked to pack up her knives and “get off my turf” as Padma so aggressively puts it.

DT: As somebody who quite literally just watched the episode, I do not remember Padma saying that.

SS: She said it with her eyes, her face, her WHOLE BODY, you complete and utter neanderthal

DT: You’re making me f’rown.


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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