“This is Like Straight-Up Hunger Games!”: Top Chef All Stars LA Recap

TOP CHEF -- "Cabin Fever" Episode 1709 -- Pictured: Stephanie Cmar -- (Photo by: Nicole Weingart/Bravo)
TOP CHEF -- "Cabin Fever" Episode 1709 -- Pictured: Stephanie Cmar -- (Photo by: Nicole Weingart/Bravo) /

The cheftestants headed to the mountains in this week’s edition of Top Chef All Stars LA, where they enjoyed a summer camp experience before preparing brunch.

With the chefs still visibly and verbally reeling from the shocking elimination of Kevin Gillespie in last week’s Top Chef All Stars LA episode, they turned their attention to Pali Mountain, where they were put through the paces in rustic surroundings 90 minutes from Los Angeles.


Beans, beans, the musical fruit, the more you cook, the more you win. We’re clearly taking creative license here, but you get the point. With a full array of Bush’s Beans at their disposal, the chefs set out to earn the right to toot their own horn with a QC victory.

Nobody was more excited about the Bush’s Beans challenge than Bryan, who not only proclaimed “I’m down with beans”, but added, “No beans about it, I wanna win!”. Unfortunately, Chef Voltaggio’s bean dish was one of Guest Judge and Top Chef Kentucky winner Kelsey Barnard Clark’s least favorite dishes, along with Stephanie’s and Melissa’s.

Top Chef All Stars LA
TOP CHEF — “Cabin Fever” Episode 1709 — Pictured: (l-r) Padma Lakshmi, Kelsey Barnard Clark — (Photo by: Nicole Weingart/Bravo) /

On the flip-side, Kelsey really enjoyed the bean-focused creations offered up by Karen, Lee Anne, and Gregory, with Chef Wong’s black bean empanada taking the honors. And while immunity was no longer in play, Lee Anne’s $10,000 cash prize wasn’t a bad consolation.


Sharing the Pali Retreat facilities with a group of 200 moms from all over the country, chefs were asked to create a brunch buffet for the veritable mom-a-palooza. More specifically, each chef would be preparing two dishes for the buffet and would only have whatever ingredients they could find in the camp’s kitchen at their disposal.

Staring at a 9 a.m. service time the next morning, the chefs were given a recreational interlude in the form of ziplining, tree jumping, and ax-throwing, among other activities. While welcoming the rare diversion from competition, facing this particular form of exertion compelled Stephanie to comment that “apparently summer camp is propelling yourself off of large trees.”


Being roused at 4 a.m. after a short night of sleep interrupted by partying moms left the chefs dragging into the kitchen for the EC. As if that wasn’t a rough enough start, what they found to cook with left Chef Brian to dejectedly observe that “there is not much in here at all”, with Karen adding that “there’s not a lot of diversity of ingredients. there’s not a lot of ingredients”.

Daunting circumstances aside, the chefs set their sights on wowing Guest Judge and Top Chef Charleston winner Brooke Williamson, Chef Kelsey, Padma, Gail, and Tom, not to mention 200 hungover moms.


With Gail telling Karen that “your corn cake was the perfect dish”, she joined Bryan and Gregory in the top three. Guest Judge Brooke said “I could’ve eaten that all day” about Gregory’s wilted spinach and mushroom salad, while in spite of Tom playfully commenting earlier that “this is the first time I’ve seen tweezers used on a buffet line” about Bryan’s roasted carrots, Chef Voltaggio was declared the winner.

Top Chef All Stars LA
TOP CHEF — “Cabin Fever” Episode 1709 — Pictured: Karen Akunowicz — (Photo by: Nicole Weingart/Bravo) /

Not as successful were Brian, Lee Anne, and Melissa, who were tabbed as candidates to be sent packing. Singling out Brian’s soup that lacked flavor and Melissa’s lackluster romaine salad, the judges ultimately decided that Lee Anne’s miscooked clafoutis and dry donuts had earned her a ticket to Last Chance Kitchen.

MALARKEY SMARM-O-METER: Unlike every other entry in this category, what resonated with us this week was something Brian Malarkey did, not said. While it’s possible or perhaps even likely that what grated on us went completely unnoticed by many others, seeing Malarkey pat Melissa on the head while they scrambled for Bush’s Beans during the Quickfire Challenge earned him an instant 10!

HEAT INDEX, HONORARY EN FUEGO AWARD: Within one episode of Top Chef All Stars LA, Lee Anne Wong experienced both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Regardless of how she fares in LCK, we’d be remiss if we didn’t give her props for being one of our all-time favorite cheftestants on the popular show. Her warmth and self-effacing objectivity will be missed.


The six remaining chefs head back to the City of Angels next week when they visit the iconic Los Angeles Coliseum for a Tokyo Olympics-themed episode.

Related Story. Chef Lee Ann Wong is the quintessential Top Chef. light

Which chefs do you think will make the Top Chef All Stars LA finale? Can a chef return from Last Chance Kitchen and win it all?