top_chef_logoOn tonight’s episode of Top Chef Masters:

Kelis is bringing her milkshake to the Top Chef Masters yard tonight, charging the chefs with grinding their own meat and making something delicious from it (these previews don’t give me much to work with), as well as acting as Quickfire judge. Did you know she was a trained chef? News to me.

As for the Elimination Challenge, my girl crush for Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks is fully realized when she and her husband, actor Geoffrey Arend, give the chefs their challenge of modernizing some popular dishes from the ’60s. I’m hoping to see both a Jell-o mold and some form of meatloaf revamped with a fabulous new makeover — and will sneer at any chef who creates some deconstructed mess. (Extra points for any Firefly references during tonight’s live tweet party.)

Preview video highlights:
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top_chef_logoTonight’s Top Chef doubleheader brings us the “controversial” Top Chef All-Stars reunion episode at 10 p.m. (ET) followed by the premiere of Top Chef Masters season 3 at 11 p.m.

As for the All-Stars reunion, the previews (below) are making it out to be pretty escandalo — but I’m sure it’s a lot of hype (though it will be nice to see all of them one last time). They will, however, be grilling Jamie about her lack of participation and penchant for cutting herself and hiding under tables during the season.
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top_chef_logo_lgUnless you live under a rock, you were fully aware that the Top Chef All-Stars finale was last night — and if you were a loyal fan, you were watching it live.

We were lucky enough to have Joe Yonan from the Washington Post (better known as @WaPoFoodLive) as our special guest for this podcast. He dished up all of the hot, behind-the-scenes Top Chef gossip from the D.C. season and snarky commentary on last night’s finale.

As for the episode: the little amuse bouche challenge with the 15 chopped chef’testants was a great twist to the episode — Blais and Jersey Mike having to blind-taste their offerings to determine who’d be on their teams for the finale’s “Restaurant Wars” challenge. Funny how Mike said he didn’t want Jamie on his team and then he picked her! What did I say about karma a few weeks ago, kids?

The rest of the episode was a definite nail-biter. Bias aside, Jersey Mike was putting out some stellar-looking dishes! I was getting scared. Blais, on the other hand, was showing a lot of restraint. Too much, though? Was he true enough to himself in his dishes? It seemed they were toe-to-toe in their courses — Mike having two great courses and the same for Blais.
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top_chef_logo_lg The two remaining chef’testants are hitting the ground running during the Top Chef: All-Stars finale tonight! I’d say there are two distinct groups of fans who will be watching tonight’s final showdown: Those who desperately want Blais to win and those who desperately want Jersey Mike to not win. Of course, there will be some centrists as well.

Right after Blais and Mike learn that they’ve made it to the real finale, Tom gives the gents their final quest: “We want you to create for us the restaurant of your dreams.” I’m taking it as this will be a Restaurant Wars-style showdown. After learning that 15 of the chopped chefs will be returning to act as sous chefs for the challenge, Blais and Mike are deliberating over who they want on their team. Little do they know, it won’t be as cut and dry as picking out their team like they did during kickball games in middle school gym class.

Back in the kitchen, Padma charges the 15 returning chefs to create an amuse bouche for Blais and Mike, who will then have to choose their sous chefs based solely on a blind taste test of those offerings. I’m sure by now finalists have a decent idea of the other chefs’ cooking styles so that they might be able to match the dish to the chef.

Preview video highlights:
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PS022811 Fresh Fruits #221Here’s a piece I did recently for the Photography Issue for the Tampa newspaper, Creative Loafing, that I work for.

Local freelance food stylist and photographer Andrea Acailawen has learned to blend her love of photography and passion for food into a successful career, bringing food to life through her camera lens.

Working for a Northern California ad agency, she styled products and food for a variety of clients: home goods and kitchenware companies, department store and grocery chains, restaurants, wineries, a cherry grower — even a nut manufacturing plant. Now she’s opened her own photography and styling business in Tampa and is “starting from scratch in a new market.”

It’s not surprising that she ended up in this vocation. Her chef/photographer father taught her how to cook and bought her a camera at the age of 6 for a class field trip: a medium-format Hasselblad (one of those old-school, boxy-looking ones with a single lens and film-winding crank).
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top_chef_logo_lgThree chefs remained at the beginning last night’s episode of Top Chef All-Stars and

The Quickfire was an interesting twist on Top Chef challenge twists: each chef choose the other’s challenge (i.e.: one-pot meal, canned food, etc.), then chose the second round of twists which were revealed halfway through the challenge (cook with one arm, use no utensils, etc.). Was anyone else as confused as I was? Anyway, they all ended up finishing on time, Carla made a guest appearance, they were judged by Wolfgang Puck and then Jersey Mike won the challenge.

As for the Elimination, the chefs had to each cook the requested last meal of a famous chef/guest judge, and the lineup included: Wolfgang Puck, Morimoto and Michelle Bernstein. Since Mike won the Quickfire, he got to choose who Blais and Antonia would be cooking for. Mike chose Bernstein for himself, who wanted fried chicken and biscuits; Blais got Puck, who wanted goulash, spaetzle, and apple shtrooodulll; and Antonia had to cook Morimoto’s requested meal of miso soup, pickled mushrooms and sashimi.
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top_chef_logo_lg It’s the second to last episode of Top Chef: All-Stars tonight!

For the Quickfire, the remaining chefs have a pretty easy challenge: prepare a one-pot meal. But, as we’ve seen in the past, there’s the potential to over-think a dish and it turn out to be a mucky mess.

In the Elimination Challenge, it looks like the chefs will be paired with some big names in the culinary world: Wolfgang Puck, Morimoto and Michelle Bernstein (if I remember correctly), and they have to prepare a meal indicative of those chefs’ styles. Mike says he’s going to go out on a limb and trying something new for him for this challenge. Um, Mike, have you not seen many other chefs do this so close to the finale in past seasons and fail miserably?

Preview video highlights:
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