SCANDAL! This week’s Top Chef: All Stars was riddled with intrigue as Richard Blais accused Mike Isabella of plagiarizing a recipe. It all happened after Mike read through Richard’s little notebook, which featured a “chicken oysters” idea. You see, the oyster is an oft-overlooked part of a chicken, and Richard had a nifty idea to cook some up and serve them in an oyster shell (get it?). And what did Mike do right after reading that recipe? He deep fried some chicken oysters and served them on the half-shell. Mike explained that he had merely been inspired by Richard’s idea, but let’s look at the history, shall we?Going for Mike: he must have some sort of creativity in order to have gotten on to Top Chef: All Stars. (Unless he was cast for his personality, which is totally possible.)
Going against Mike: his entire reputation on Top Chef has been that of a piggy-backer. He grabbed on to the Voltaggios’ coattails during the Las Vegas season, and just last week, he attempted to ride the Angelo train to the finals also (too bad he derailed that cash cow). Is it that surprising then that Mike would hijack someone else’s creation and pass it off as his own “inspiration?” No.
Even worse was that Mike actually won the Quick Fire challenge with his controversial dish. And even worse than that is that Antonia would have won except she accidentally didn’t plate two dishes and was disqualified. And so, as one chef noted, Mike won by default on a technicality with someone else’s recipe.
That didn’t stop Mike from bragging up a storm about the $5,000 he’d just bagged. He was all grins and cockiness, but we all know that if he’d witnessed someone else advance in the same dubious way, he’d be beyond inconsolable. There’s no way this joker can make it into the finals, right? Right?
Aside from the Mike controversy, the episode was notable for the presence of Paula Deen. It’s not often that Bravo imports stars from the Food Network (although, it’s not unheard of — we’ve seen Tyler Florence and Nigella Lawson on Top Chef before), but I’m all for the cross pollination. Paula of course lorded over a deep frying Quickfire, and even though Mike won, I couldn’t help but think that Blais deserved the prize for his inventive deep-fried mayonnaise. I can’t say it’s something I’d have on the regular — or at all — but I was definitely intrigued, and considering who the judge was, this seemed like an ingenious play.
Later, everyone had to cater a benefit for the Gulf, and Dale, who had won both the Quickfire and Elmination challenges last episode, quickly found himself in the weeds. He had the help of Angelo (various eliminated chefs returned to serve as sous-chefs), but poor Daley Dale could not get a leg up. Suddenly his trademark cockiness turned into humble pie as he offered up a crap stew to the judges. The panel decried the undercooked potatoes and some sort of intense mustard issue, and at the end of the day, it was Dale who went home in a fit of tears. The funny thing was that I was just starting to think that he was going to be a dark horse contender for the big prize. I should have known better though when Dale happily proclaimed his dominance in the first ten seconds of the episode — always a sign of imminent failure. Having Angelo state that Dale’s going all the way also was a red flag. Big time.
Anyway, here’s the photocap:
Paula: “My goodness, Padma, you are just lovely!”
“Why thank you, Paula.”
“I WANT TO BATTER YOU IN CORNMEAL, DEEP FRY YOU, DIP YOU IN MAYO, AND EAT YOU ALL NIGHT LONG!”
“I can’t tell you how many times Gail has told me that too. Then again, she’ll say that about dead raccoons on the side of the road, bless her heart.”
“It’s important that I put a lot of time and energy into making this dish just right. This way Mike Isabella can do me proud when he STEALS it.”
Paula: “Now Mike, did you make this dish yourself?”
“Totally. I mean, I was inspired by Richard in that I saw his recipe, copied it verbatim, and passed it off as my own, but yeah, it’s pretty much all me.”
“Not only is Mike a hack, but his penis is only this big. Just sayin’.”
“Richard said he was doing a dish with scallions; so that INSPIRED me to do a dish with scallions. And wouldn’t you know it? I was inspired to do the EXACT same dish that I saw in his recipe book!”
“You know, maybe I’ll do a dish with pork instead.”
“Weird. I just got INSPIRED to do a dish with pork now. Who would have thunk it?”
“Or maybe a play on surf and turf with the Eastern gulf.”
“Richard’s idea of a surf and turf ode to the Eastern gulf coast is really inspiring me. Hey, you know what I just thought of? A surf and turf ode to the Eastern gulf coast!”
Fabio: “I’m confused. Do you put this on hhamboooger?”
Lady in background: “Okay, Tess, act cool. Try not to notice that FABIO AND RICHARD BLAIS are in this aisle. Get it together, Tess. GET IT TO-MOTHERFUCKIN-GETHER!!!”
Tom: “You guys mind if I just stand here?”
Tre: “It’s a little weird, but knock yourself out.”
Tom: “What do you mean, you want me to go? I thought we were friends.”
“I hope you like this stew, and I hope you see how much I’ve changed as a person. I used to hate myself and would take it out on other people. Now I realize that I LOVE myself and hate everyone else!”
Paula: “Y’all mind if I shave off your hair and deep fry it?”
“Mike, this looks familiar.”
“Well, Paula, in honor of you, I was inspired to make one of your dishes. It’s your recipe, but it was my idea to use your recipe; so really, it’s my dish.”
Paula: “Tom, it’s amazing how smooth your head is. Do you use butter to get that shine? And if so, where’s the leftovers?”
Padma: “Chefs, tell us about your dishes.”
Richard: “Mine was a surf and turf.”
Mike: “Mine was a surf and turf too.”
Richard: “I mean, mine was a spaghetti dish.”
“Mike: “Yeah, I did spaghetti.”
Richard: “I sautÃ©ed an old tarp.”
Mike: “So I got this crazy inspiration to sautÃ© a tarp. I’d seen it before; so it’s not like anyone had ownership over the idea.”
Richard: “I went into a time machine, captured a dinosaur, brought it back to the present, and sous-vide it.”
“So I got this crazy idea: I found this time machine that I guess Richard was in also, and I climbed in, and then there were these dinosaurs; so I grabbed one and brought it back with me and decided to sous-vide it. I don’t know where I got the idea.”
Richard: “I went and lived with beavers for a year, earned their respect, and eventually became their leader. In my honor, they build me a giant dam, which created the most beautiful reservoir in all the land. All sorts of creatures flocked to it, and butterflies would sit on the lily pads and have miniature tea-parties. When they were done, they’d pay their respects by leaving balls of starlight, which I collected for eight months until I had enough to make my dish tonight: starlight sorbet.”
MIke: “Yeah, so I had this crazy idea: I became king of the beavers and then they built me a dam, and there were these butterflies; so I took their starlight gifts, and I thought, ‘hey, let’s make a sorbet out of it.’ It just kind of came to me.”
What did you think about the episode? Did Mike steal the recipe, or do you think he came up with it fair and square? And if Richard shows his cards, is it all fair game?