Welcome to another “Top Chef: All-Stars L.A.” recap by your favorite boys Daniel and Sam. We’ve really been enjoying the latest weeks of quarantine: baking bread, drowning in existential dread, and toeing the line between appropriate alcohol consumption and something darker! This week’s episode was just the cherry on top.
I’m Sam Stone and while “Top Chef” remains a mystery to me, one thing I am sure of is that Padma is a light in this world that we do not deserve.
Hello, I’m Daniel Trainor and, while I’m not sure why Sam is having such a difficult time grasping the elimination/immunity situation which is a pretty straightforward reality-competition show concept, I could not agree more about Padma and, to a lesser extent, Gail.
DT: Let’s get into this week’s episode. Sam, we both know where we must start.
SS: Thank you for allowing me to bring this up, Daniel. Yes, the rumors are true. We learn that Malarkey and Nini are obsessed with crystals, which makes sense for both of their personalities in completely opposite ways.
DT: Please don’t forget about Melissa, who barges in on our crystal odd couple and is very excited to share that she has a jade necklace from her mom!
SS: We’ve all gotten jade necklaces from our moms, Melissa. In the words of Shania Twain, that does not impress me in the least.
DT: Once those three are done casting their spells or whatever, we head into the Quickfire Challenge. The chefs are tasked with creating a dish using a non-wheat flour. It’s…more exciting than it sounds.
SS: What I personally love about non-wheat flours is that they all taste bad which can actually be incredible.
DT: It also felt like a challenge to see how many times each chef could say “elasticity!” Dough you know what I mean?
SS: Daniel, like Padma and our guest judge “pizza master” (erotic title) Chris Bianco, has chosen to employ a labored gluten pun and I for one will not stand for it. I’ve begun a letter to my congressman to put a stop to this, and I recommend you do the same.
DT: Anyway, we get into the challenge. Dumpling Queen Lee Anne chooses to make dumplings, of all things. She’s unpredictable, she’s new, she’s fresh, she can make dumplings and nothing else. You love to see it.
SS: Malarkey makes some kind of ice cream and doughnut situation, but finds himself so engrossed in his ice cream that the doughnut never comes to fruition and he doesn’t use any kind of flour in his dish. Classic Malarkey.
DT: Malarkey really seems to struggle with the whole “making ice cream” thing and listen, I don’t work at Cold Stone or anything, but I’m pretty sure you just pour it in the thing and press “Make Ice Cream.”
SS: Technically, yes that is a perfectly articulated recipe for every kind of ice cream. Why don’t people just do it right?
DT: Eric makes a porridge, like he’s in some kind of Dickens novel.
SS: Gregory also manages to sneak in the tiniest brag about how he’s been gluten-free for over ten years, and then promptly sprints directly into Lee Anne who’s running to complete some urgent dumpling errand I would imagine.
DT: After Stephanie makes, in her words, a dish that could “explode into a pile of poop,” it’s time for the judges to taste the food. Voltaggio, much to his absolute shock, is in the bottom again after only using flour in his crumble!!!!!
SS: Every week Voltaggio makes a dish that is only tangentially related to the challenge at hand, and then seems bowled over to find himself not winning the challenge.
DT: Ultimately, Malarkey doesn’t get his damn doughnut on the plate and also finds himself in the bottom.
SS: Nini, Gregory, and Melissa make up the top three, and, although Padma’s face while tasting Nini’s dish looked like my face the first time someone offered me free drugs, it’s Gluten-Free King Gregory that wins this challenge and the accompanying $5k.
DT: Maybe enough money for a new jacket.
SS: I think you mean a second identical fringed jacket to wear on laundry day.
DT: Sure! Alright, it’s time for this week’s Elimination Challenge, which is all about music! Harmony! Lyrics! Violins?
SS: Are you ready for a bunch of labored and extended metaphors about how a dish is like a symphony? How carrots are like cellos? How kale is a trombone? Good, me too.
DT: The chefs are asked to *deep breath* work in pairs to find harmony between two assigned flavor profiles for the 100th anniversary of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
SS: Sweet and Bitter. Salty and Sour. Timpani and sousaphone. Unpredictable combinations abound! Music metaphors!
DT: Perhaps the most unpredictable combination is the pairing of Lee Anne and Malarkey for this challenge.
SS: Did they pair up? Or had everyone else already chosen a partner? Regardless, I was excited to see how they’d work together after Malarkey’s famous betrayal of Lee Anne in front of God, the judges, and everyone else a couple of weeks ago. GOD I love drama.
DT: Our chefs trudge their asses downtown to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, where they meet LA Phil conductor Gustavo Dudamel who doesn’t so much speak in words as he does in limericks.
SS: Kevin talks for upwards of six hours about the architecture of Disney Concert Hall, and how the interior looks like a cabbage (has he seen cabbage before, one wonders?).
DT: After what I can only assume was an entire afternoon of Gustavo Dudamel comparing cellos to cantaloupes, we’re off to Whole Foods.
SS: This is a highlight of every episode for me, but this week seeing Eric and Lee Anne physically fight each other over endive like….two people in a Whole Foods fighting over endive, was….*chef’s kiss*
DT: That was legitimately terrifying. Also, not a fight that I expected Lee Anne to win? But hey, good for her! It’s time to get cooking and we’re met with ANOTHER conflict between chefs.
SS: Sweet, sweet Nini politely asks Kevin what he’s working on and in return Kevin throws her an aggressive “FUCK OFF,” and then tries to play it off like a joke. It was uncomfortable! No one laughed!
DT: Melissa does her best to play peacemaker, but it’s still awkward. TIME TO ASK YOUR MOM FOR ANOTHER NECKLACE, MELISSA!
SS: Unsurprisingly, Malarkey and Lee Anne have a hard time working together, but when it comes time to present their dish to the judges, all their passive aggression pays off. Dudamel says something about balance and harmony or whatever, and the rest of the judges nod in agreement as if they’ve understood anything he’s said.
DT: Nini and Karen present their umami/sour dish, which the judges decide is hampered by the sweetness of their tomatoes.
SS: Kevin and Melissa create a dish centered around cabbage, which they both swear looks like the interior of Disney Hall (reader, we are skeptical), and ultimately pull out the win.
DT: Basically, the judges loved everything and their decision came down to nitpicks. So, unfortunately, those damn tomatoes send Nini and Karen home. BUT WAIT!
SS: A twist?! On reality TV?! GODDAMN IT I AM ADDICTED TO DRAMA AND BEING DRAMATIC!!!!!
DT: Put your pants back on. The judges explain that (dun dun dun!) Nini and Karen will be forced to face off in Last Chance Kitchen IMMEDIATELY. The winner of that battle then takes on rustic queen Lisa to find out who gets thrown back into the competition.
SS: I’m about to have a heart attack. Someone call the police. Someone call Padma!!!!
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.