“Like Shopping with Monkeys on Crack”: Top Chef All Stars LA Recap

TOP CHEF -- "Get your Phil" Episode 1706 -- Pictured: (l-r) Lee Anne Wong, Brian Malarkey -- (Photo by: Nicole Weingart/Bravo)
TOP CHEF -- "Get your Phil" Episode 1706 -- Pictured: (l-r) Lee Anne Wong, Brian Malarkey -- (Photo by: Nicole Weingart/Bravo) /
2 of 2
Top Chef All Stars LA
TOP CHEF — “Get your Phil” Episode 1706 — Pictured: (l-r) Kevin Gillespie, Melissa King, Nini Nguyen, Karen Akunowicz, Bryan Voltaggio, Eric Adjepong, Stephanie Cmar, Gregory Gourdet, Lee Anne Wong, Brian Malarkey, Gustavo Dudamel — (Photo by: Nicole Weingart/Bravo) /


LOCALE: Walt Disney Concert Hall

CHALLENGE: Work in pairs to find harmony between two flavor profiles for the 100th anniversary of the LA Phil

The chefs drew knives representing the five taste profiles- salty, sweet, sour, bitter, umami – and paired up with a chef who drew a different flavor profile to create complementary combinations upon which to create a dish.

GUEST JUDGE: Timothy Hollingsworth, Chef/Owner, Otium

  • Sour/Salty (Stephanie & Gregory)
    • Sea bass glazed with miso, mirin, & sake with sauteed celeriac, pickled apples, bacon & yuzu
  • Sweet/Salty (Kevin & Melissa)
    • Fish sauce caramel roasted cabbage with apple & cured pork crumble
  • Umami/Bitter (Brian & Lee Anne)
    • Beef with miso anchovy hollandaise, bitter greens, charred orange puree & mimolette crisp
  • Sweet/Bitter (Eric & Bryan)
    • Pork with maafe lacquer & bitter greens
  • Umami/Sour (Karen & Nini)
    • Tomato broth with poached cod & pickled cucumbers

JUDGES’ TABLE: With the music metaphors flying, Tom Colicchio evoked our own memories of lyrics Jazz legend Al Jarreau put to Dave Brubeck’s classic “Blue Rondo a la Turk”, telling Stephanie and Gregory that their sea bass “was like melody and harmony working together.” And while Padma said “you guys were really, really close to winning this” to Lee Anne and Brian, it was Melissa and Kevin’s roasted cabbage that Guest Judge Timothy Hollingsworth described as “beautifully put together” that won the Elimination Challenge.

LAST CHANCE KITCHEN QUALIFIERS: With only the Eric & Bryan and Karen & Nini duos remaining on the chopping block, Padma said that “I don’t wanna see any of them go” and Gail stated that “they’re going home for fantastic food” before Padma asked the latter pair to pack their knives and go. In an unexpected twist though, Karen and Nini were asked to stay for an immediate Last Chance Kitchen cook-off, leaving us wondering who prevailed.

CHEF DISH: In a season that finds us rooting for most of the remaining chefs–sorry Malarkey, but you’re the outlier–it was hard to see Nini fall victim to a double elimination for the second season in a row. We’re big fans, so she’ll be missed going forward, IF she doesn’t cook her way back into the competition, but here’s hoping that her world class social media presence keeps us amused through the end of the season.

MALARKEY SMARM-O-METER: Yes, he grates on our nerves and yes, he serves up more low-hanging fruit than we can keep up with, but we’ll cut Brian a little slack this week and award him “just” a 7. The sight of him packing his knives and exiting stage left can’t come soon enough, but we fear that as long as he’s villainy gold for producers, he’ll be sticking around in the competition.

SNARK ATTACK: Snarky comments can either be cringe-worthy or appreciated and this week’s winner instantly qualifies for the Mount Rushmore of Snark, as Lee Anne’s running frustration with our favorite whipping boy culminated in her commenting that “shopping with Brian Malarkey is like shopping with monkeys on crack”. If we were Top Chef producers, we’d have rushed into Whole Foods immediately and retired Chef Wong’s apron on the spot in tribute.


EN FUEGO: In describing her inspiration for the dish she and Kevin would create, Melissa said that “cabbage resembles the ceiling of the Walt Disney Concert Hall”. With that as their foundation, Melissa and Kevin hit all high notes.

ROLLING BOIL: Perhaps fairness should compel us to mention Lee Anne and Brian here, their season-long struggles dictate that we give Rolling Boil honors to Stephanie and Gregory, about whose dish Padma said “I would order this again and again and again.”

BRING TO A SIMMER: This one’s tough for us, as we’re fans of the chef, but Bryan Voltaggio, by his own admission, hasn’t seemed to live up to his own standards or our expectations of him for most of the season. Here’s hoping that he’s able to fine-tune his knives for the stretch run.

Related Story. Join Goose Island's Ingrain Live to cook with Top Chef winners. light

Which chef will make a triumphant return from Last Chance Kitchen? Are some chefs not living up to their potential on Top Chef All Stars LA?