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Tue. May 26th, 2020

TV Recap: Top Chef All Stars LA Episode 9 “Cabin Fever”

Good morning if that’s what time it is where you are, and welcome to another recap of “Top Chef: All-Stars L.A.!”

My name is Daniel Trainor, and I have not known what time of day it is since March 6th at 1:24 p.m.

And I’m Sam Stone, an adult man who does not know how to grocery shop for anything but Eggo waffles and peanut butter. 

The Restaurant Wars are over! The finish line is in sight! Let’s go.

DT: The chefs are forced to wake up early for some unknown reason. Bryan Voltaggio climbs down from his bunk bed at 5:00 a.m. like a kid on Christmas morning, but instead of unwrapping presents, it’s to eat a stale English muffin with Lee Anne.

SS: A gift in itself. We all rag on Voltaggio for not knowing how to make good coffee (two ingredients and no prep) and THEN a mysterious letter arrives, a reality show concept you may remember from “America’s Next Top Model” as Tyra Mail.

DT: The chefs are informed they’re going to summer camp!!!!! Stephanie greets this news with an eye roll and says she “doesn’t like the outdoors.” This is your winner of Iconic Moment of the Episode™, which is a thing I made up last week, as avid readers will recall.

SS: The chefs will decamp to a mountain lodge for this week’s episode; a concept I unfortunately have to say is directly lifted from Season 2 of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” 

DT: And just like that, they’re out the door! Brian Malarkey in his traditional camp uniform of a jean jacket with a popped collar.

SS: Brian Malarkey accidentally doing drag of me going to a dance in sixth grade. 

DT: I must apologize, because we’ve absolutely buried the lede here: Karen was the captain of her varsity cheerleading team. Karen is a beautiful onion that keeps peeling into pieces that make absolutely no sense.

SS: We arrive at Pali Mountain and are immediately greeted by Padma who’s wearing high-waisted khaki pants tucked into knee-high boots and a down jacket. It’s a look that screams “I forgot we were filming today and rushed over here from the stables, where I was grooming my French-speaking horse.”

DT: Well, it’s time for the Quickfire Challenge and, that’s right, it’s an old fashioned BUSH’S BAKED BEAN OFF! I was really hoping Duke was going to be our guest judge!

SS: Instead, it’s Kelsey Barnard Clark, winner of Top Chef Kentucky, and the most beautiful woman ever frickin’ invented. 

DT: Sam, stop SWEARING and focus on the BEANS!

SS: The contestants are challenged to create a dish using one of Bush’s bean products. We love product placement that isn’t even remotely creative!

DT: Voltaggio proudly says “No beans about it, I want to win.” There’s just something about an evil laugh after a joke about baked beans that makes me want to call the police.

SS: Stephanie starts off strong with absolutely no concept, but finally decides she’ll try to cobble together some kind of bean burger. Bean-ger if you will (I personally will not, but thought I’d present the option).

DT: Malarkey, predictably, is all over the place. He grabs dead pine needles from a tree and throws them on his peppers like some kind of deranged Boy Scout. 

DT: Per usual, Voltaggio makes an absolutely beautiful dish that has absolutely nothing to do with the challenge. He creates a very fancy steak dish and I think I speak for myself and the Wendy’s lady when I say “WHERE’S THE BEANS?!”

SS: Another incredible misquote of one of my favorite feminist icons, the Wendy’s Lady, Daniel. 

DT: May God rest her beefy soul.

SS: During judging, Padma and our perfectly bone-structured guest judge absolutely trash Stephanie’s Bean-gers which never really came together literally or figuratively. 

DT: Stephanie finds herself in the bottom with Voltaggio, who cannot follow rules, and Melissa, who has no pores, but struggles with her fried dough dish.

SS: Lee Anne, against all laws of physics and nature, wins the challenge. She says the $10k she earned will go towards a baked beans themed wedding. Have you ever conceived of a more erotic wedding theme?

DT: Sam, can we have a baked beans fountain at ours?

SS: I’m allergic to marriage, and also busy that day! 

DT: Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse on this stupid mountain, we find out that the camp has been infested with weird, white moms!

SS: They’ve come to escape their kids, drink a crisp pinot gris, and we learn, be served brunch by our seven chefs!

DT: That’s right, the contestants are asked to each create two dishes for our rowdy crowd of Lisas and Lindas, using the limited ingredients found in the camp kitchen.

SS: As a noted homosexual, I can tell you that brunch is intrinsicly bad and a blight on our society, so when I heard we’d be subjected to a brunch filled with karaoke-fueled MOMS, you can imagine my horror. 

DT: Before we get cooking, though, the chefs get to participate in summer camp activities! Archery! Zip lining! Stephanie getting stuck in a tree! 

SS: The activity footage was fun, but let’s get serious. I didn’t come here to watch Karen jump off some kind of ledge, I came to watch Malarkey cook in a weird hat. 

DT: To wrap up the night, Malarkey tells a rambling ghost story that makes absolutely no sense. If somebody would have thrown him on the fire, I would have organized a petition to give that person the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

SS: The chefs wake up at the crack of dawn to start this accursed brunch, and quickly learn that the “limited ingredients” they’ll cook with are like one cucumber and half an egg. 

DT: Karen doesn’t have much of a plan, so she does what any of us would do and starts mixing corn with her hands.

SS: Our girl Stephanie is struggling again and decides to make….breakfast salad? From “Indian nacho” to “breakfast salad,” I’m going to need Stephanie to take another pass at naming her dishes.

DT: “Breakfast salad” sounds like something you’d come up with when you forget that it’s Mother’s Day and Christine is arriving in minutes.

SS: Melissa chooses to make the classic brunch dish: Romaine Salad. It looks like the most depressing thing in the universe which is saying something because we just saw Padma tuck silk pants into boots.

DT: Malarkey, meanwhile, gets pissed that he doesn’t have space on the buffet line, which is understandable. But it’s also very sad to see a grown man in a plaid newsboy hat run around berating people about where he’s going to make soup.

SS: And just like that, 200 excited moms stream into the cafeteria like it’s a P!nk concert in the middle of a Kohls. They’re all excited for brunch but more excited to be physically near Voltaggio. 

DT: Gregory replaces eggs with spinach, which is a move I call The Popeye and Lee Anne’s oven is on the wrong setting. It’s always something with Lee Anne. If she’s not running into a pole, she’s steaming something she meant to bake. GET IT TOGETHER, YOU HAWAIIAN PRINCESS!!!!!!

SS: The moms loved all the food, but also loved drinking beers in a cafeteria at 9 a.m. In most circumstances this would be incredibly dark, but at brunch it’s FUN.

DT: If drinking at 9 a.m. makes you a mom, well then honey get me a forest green jacket and some distressed denim because we are late to your sister’s recital!

SS: The judges declare Malarkey’s shrimp soup moment bland, Melissa’s salad a throwaway dish and Lee Anne’s doughnuts dense.

DT: Ideally, you’re not looking for one of the judges to put his face in his hands after he eats your doughnuts.

SS: Gail can tell Lee Anne’s pans of clafoutis were steamed. Gail is the smartest person on planet Earth.

DT: At Judges’ Table, Karen, Voltagggio and Gregory comprise the top three. Ultimately, ladies’ man Bryan takes home the victory. He celebrates with another of his signature uncomfortable chuckles.

SS: Malarkey, looking like the star of an East Hampton Community Theater revival of “Newsies,” marvels at his own cooking abilities while in the bottom three, perhaps not understanding that they didn’t like it. He’s joined by Lee Anne and Melissa.

DT: Lee Anne finally falls off the cliff she’s been teetering on for weeks and gets sent home.

SS: Goodbye, Lee Anne. There’ll bean-o one else like you. God I am amazing at comedy and being smart. 


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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