June 21, 2024

CPS

Travel Adventure

“Top Chef: World All Stars” soars with “food rebel” and guest judge Gaggan Anand at the helm

6 min read

Right off the bat, it’s odd that this episode essentially nullifies the entire point of last week’s cliffhanger.

It’s very anticlimactic to show the result via the “previously on Top Chef” package and not in the first minutes of the episode, but alas . . . we see Sylwia lose her cook-off at Highclere Castle and scoot off to “Last Chance Kitchen,” while Tom rejoins the competition.

Au revoir (for now), Potato Girl! 

Emoji-inspired food

Top Chef World All StarsGaggan Anand and Padma Lakshmi in “Top Chef World All Stars’ (David Moir/Bravo)

The episode itself kicks off with the introduction of an absolutely terrific guest judge in the form of the iconic Gaggan Anand, who clearly elicits lots of praise and respect from the cheftestants, primarily Buddha and Tom. 

The enormous, emoji-lined sign between Padma and Gaggan indicates the theme for the Quickfire, which entails choosing an emoji and then cooking a dish inspired by it. The backstory: Gaggan reveals how he was once nonchalantly menu planning on his iPad and was struck when he saw the suggested emojis that popped up after he typed certain words. 

Victoire gets last pick and in a seemingly defeatist manner, grabs the sushi emoji, which she then struggles to conceptualize a dish around.  I agree with Buddha’s sentiment in that I would’ve opted for a generic or emotion-based emoji over an actual food emoji, which obviously would allow you more leeway. Buddha whips out his molds again (he had bought $1,000 worth of molds!), crafting a skull for his frozen coconut dish he calls “freezing to death.” 

We’re also treated to a return of Shady!Padma with her “. . . is zucchini really a nightshade?” barb to Sara.

In an unusual twist, Ali stumbles a bit, mistaking his four leaf clover emoji for a generic herb and producing a dish that’s not especially noteworthy. Dale, in his first odd decision of the episode, opts for a 30-minute chicken soup, which Padma even notes is a strange idea. Buddha takes the win with his frozen dish. We’re also treated to a return of Shady!Padma with her “. . . is zucchini really a nightshade?” barb to Sara. Ha! 

Top Chef World All StarsTom Goetter and Buddha Lo in “Top Chef World All Stars” (David Moir/Bravo)

“Licking” the competition

The setup for the elimination challenge features a cool behind-the-scenes shot of Gaggan’s preparing his artful, rainbow-colored dish (with a stencil!) indicative of the plight that the LGTBQI+ community faces worldwide. Our cheftestants “eat” the dish . . . and by that, I mean lick. 

This is the segue into our elimination challenge: Produce a meaningful dish that sends a message, but it must be visually stunning and able to be eaten without utensils. 

Dale (confusingly?) opts for a mole which he hasn’t made many times. Amar’s inspired by papaya salad, but goes in a high-concept direction with a stunning arrangement of varying colors and shades consisting of tiny dots of purees and jellies.

Gabri aims for al pastor on a multi-color tortilla, while Charbel is inspired by za’atar manoushe and speaks about the struggles facing the Lebanese people and how he wants to bring attention to that, with a beautiful Lebanese flag-inspired array of sauces and flavors, accompanied by an edible “tree” with which to mop up all of the components. 

Nicole’s dish consists of jianbing pancakes and chicken, which she says is “like a Chinese burrito,” while Tom opts for a vegetarian pumpkin, ginger and carrot dish in the form of a frozen mousse. Ali aims for a vegetarian kubbeh with mushroom wrapped and decorated in leaves, and Buddha picks a super-elevated “chips-and-dip” with Brillat savarin and a crumble. Victoire goes for a potato-heavy dish with akara and cassava. Sara makes a “pecan pie pork” rib with cocoa and buttermilk. 

I lol when I realize that Victorie tells Gabri to “shut up!” IRL and not in a confessional, while I’m also enjoying his impassioned speeches about transgenic foods and frozen corn.

Because of the challenges required for plating this elimination, the judges are seated in the kitchen, to make timing and service that much easier. We are treated to a scene of Tom’s taking his mousse out and saying it looks good but needs to defrost for 30 minutes. And we immediately know that he’ll run into trouble.

Top Chef World All StarsTom Colicchio, Amar Santana and Ali Al Ghzawi in “Top Chef World All Stars” (David Moir/Bravo)

Service!

Ali gets high marks for his mushroom kebbeh, while Amar also gets compliments for his artsy dish. Buddha’s dish is called “on the hands of mother nature” and is applauded but “could have used more of mother nature’s bounty.” Tom’s mousse is falling apart but has great flavor, but the dish is super hard to eat. Gaggan says Sara could start a fast food chain around her dish, while Dale’s chicken is called out for being flabby and under seasoned — but his mole is good. Victoire’s dish is confusing and is under-seasoned, Gabri’s and Nicole’s dish fare well and Charbel’s gets rave reviews, but Tom Collichio “wishes there two trees.”

Judges’ table

The top marks go to Amar, Ali and Charbel. In a slight surprise, Ali takes yet another win, making a third notch in his bed post — and possibly beginning to run away with the competition.

Top Chef World All StarsGaggan Anand, Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons in “Top Chef World All Stars” (David Moir/Bravo)

In a slight surprise, Ali takes yet another win, making a third notch in his bed post — and possibly beginning to run away with the competition.

In preparing to speak to the “bottom,” Tom C. notes “that the losing dish was the least favorite in a day when we had 10 extraordinary dishes.” Gaggan comments on Victoire’s socks, helping to break the mood a bit. We already know the issues: Tom is upset that he bungled a challenge he could’ve excelled on but his mousse was too soft, Dale’s decision to make mole was peculiar, his chicken wasn’t cooked well, and Victoire’s tuber-centric dish was confusing. 


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In the end, Dale goes home (again) for his bland chicken and good-but-not-great mole. Padma says “sorry your return was this short,” and Dale calls himself a two-time loser. Gaggan gives him a hug and Dale is off into the sunset, nothing that he hopes to “slide into finale and ride off with a win.” 

I’m relieved that Victoire isn’t told to leave, but it’s always a bummer when there’s a “revolving door elimination,” we’ll call it.

I’m relieved that Victoire isn’t told to leave, but it’s always a bummer when there’s a “revolving door elimination,” as we’ll call it. We see this with Dale’s journey of elimination, comeback and first week without immunity, in which he goes kaput. 

Also, I will note that while I really like Ali, I feel like Charbel deserves this win. I wonder if he may have won if had paired his multitude of sauces with more “dippers”? This is the second week in a row in which Ali receives rave reviews for a dish that doesn’t look or sound especially great to me. I also think Sara should get some points for her rib.

Next week features the iconic mise en place relay as well as the “fastest elimination challenge in “Top Chef” history! I’ll see you then.

The crowd is definitely thinning; it’s always fun to experience the momentum as the numbers dwindle and now we’re in single digits (sans the LCK returnee).

After-dinner mints

I always love “stew room” scenes, and they’re so far-and-few between in the current era of “Top Chef,” so it’s a surprise to see it for a few fleeting seconds in this episode

New outfits in the confessionals are always fun, signaling a new batch of episodes and ushering in the second half of the season. I love Dale’s shirt!

The cheftestants usually drive themselves to food shopping or challenges; I wonder why that changes this episode?

Gaggan is labeled a “food rebel” by the on-screen chyron and by Padma. 

The crowd is definitely thinning; it’s always fun to experience the momentum as the numbers dwindle and now we’re in single digits (sans the “Last Chance Kitchen” returnee).

Why were there gooseberries in so many of the Quickfire dishes?

“Top Chef: World All Stars” airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Bravo and streams next day on Peacock.

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