'Top Chef' Recap: Feeding Fallon

By Michael S. Pascua,
The contestants make a fondue dish to try to impress Jimmy Fallon on his birthday.

[Top Chef - Season 8 Episode 9]


The cheftestants wind down from last episode's Italian challenge at the bar with most of the contestants celebrating Antonia's win. Dale was upset that his food was described as bland, but still congratulated Antonia on her win. Fabio and Antonia bickered because Fabio was convinced that Antonia's dish wasn't Italian. Mike joins in and points out that fennel was a French element. They were just sour grapes because they weren't the Italian to win.


The contestants arrived for their quickfire challenge and found fondue sets sprawled out. Padma announced that the contestants had to make a fondue that is creative and beyond that '70s stereotype of bananas and chocolate. Padma announced that the fellow contestants will be the judges and they would vote for the best and worst contestants. There was no immunity but Padma announced a trip to Napa Valley as the prize.

The contestants ran to the fridge for their 30 minute challenge. Mike had no clue, but Antonia decided to use a Jewish deli inspiration and made a smoked salmon inspired dip. Richard followed his classic steps deciding to play on chocolate bananas that Padma announced. Tiffany immediately thought of dessert and decided to work with apples. Dale decided to do an Asian inspired pho. Angelo attempted a deconstructed beet and goat cheese salad. Mike decided to go with a feta cheese fondue with lamb kabobs. Angelo panicked and was a bit upset as time ran out.


Padma poured wine and started dipping. Of all the contestants, we never saw Carla's work until the end. She had a coconut curry. The contestants tried their best to impress each other. After all the food was served, Padma handed out grading cards. While some contestants thought of friends, Dale decided to be a stereotypical critic. Padma announced the worst contestants were Fabio, Tiffany, and Mike. Padma picked on Dale to explain why he didn't like Mike's dish; Dale didn't like Mike's spice and cheese. The favorite three were Antonia, Dale, and Angelo. The winner was Dale.


For the Elimination Challenge, Padma sent the contestants to Rockefeller Center. They enter NBC Studios and onto Jimmy Fallon's stage. Jimmy Fallon made the contestants play Cell Phone Shootout. Each contestant would snap a picture from a quickly rotating set of frames. The picture would be their category for Jimmy's Birthday Lunch.


Snapped Photo:
Antonia - Beef Tongue
Fabio - Hamburger (which Fabio pronounced as "booger")
Angelo - Pulled Pork
Richard - Ramen Noodles
Dale - Philly Cheesesteak
Tiffany - Chicken Dumpling
Mike - Sausage & Peppers
Carla - Chicken Pot Pie


Of all the contestants, Carla started to dance because she was just discussing Chicken Pot Pie with other contestants. Before the contestants leave, they were told that Jimmy hates mushrooms, mayonnaise, and eggplant. The contestants arrived at Whole Foods and Carla was still excited. Dale was nervous about the Philly cheesesteak but he decided to get pretzel bread as well. Fabio decided to make the burger like a glorified meatball picking some interesting meats that aren't traditionally in a burger.


The contestants woke up the next day and Dale joked about how perfectly Angelo looks all the time with his perfectly groomed five o'clock shadow. The contestants arrived at Collichio & Sons and had two hours to get their food ready. Fabio was nervous about his "booger." Angelo decided to make a spice mix first for his pulled pork with some odd ingredients that included coffee. Antonia was worried about beef tongue, but felt better after Richard instructed her to put the tongue in a pressure cooker. It's great to see contestants still being supportive of each other even at this late of a stage. Dale was unsure about his seasoning because of the last challenge, but may have forgotten at this point that he purchased pretzel bread with salt on top. Tiffany felt like a mess while making a southwestern chicken dumpling, which looked nothing like a dumpling. Carla was nervous about two hours to make a chicken pot pie but continued to work hard under the pressure.


The judges, Jimmy's parents, Jimmy's wife, and some of his staff arrived and were seated. Fabio and Antonia were the first to present. Antonia made a deli sandwich inspired piece; though when she said sandwich, there was no visible sign of bread. Fabio's burger had cheese on the side. Jimmy thought the burger was meatloaf. Gail and Tom disliked it. Jimmy liked the beef tongue; all the flavors fit perfectly. The second wave of chefs included Tiffany and Richard. Richard tried to be traditional with the ramen; Richard got compliments for his food, but Jimmy missed the dry ice and the laser shows that Richard would normally provide. Tiffany's southwestern inspired dish was a bit too spicy for Jimmy. Carla and Dale were third. Carla ran around like crazy, her hair bouncing as she moved. As Dale plated, Carla panicked but finished on time. Dale's Philly cheesesteak gets positive notes for its softness, but after the second bite, the cheesesteak was too salty. Carla's received rave reviews for the level of comfort that it exuded. Angelo and Mike were last. Both Angelo's pulled pork and Mike's Fenway style sausage and peppers got positive marks. The contestants finished with an ice cream cake. As the challenge ended, Jimmy announced that the winner would be invited to a cooking segment on his talk show.


The contestants sat in the stew room and laughed at Carla's stress as she cooed like a bird. Padma arrived and called on Carla, Antonia, and Angelo. The three were the top contestants. Jimmy was ecstatic. Tom appreciated all the spices that Angelo put in, Gail loved how it all came together. Carla's crust on the bottom was amazing. Jimmy felt the love that Carla was cooking with. Antonia never ate beef tongue, but Jimmy thought she handled herself well. Angelo, Carla, and Antonia had a beef tongue song and started singing it to the enjoyment of the judges. Jimmy announced the winner was Carla. She jumped for joy; Carla also won a Trip to Hilton Tokyo (plus airfare).


Tiffany, Fabio, and Dale were called in as the bottom three. Richard wasn't intimidated about Carla's third win; Mike's happy not to be in the bottom. Tiffany's chicken dumpling was too thin and flat. There wasn't enough comfort in it and it wasn't near a chicken dumpling. As for Fabio, Padma called his patty a meatball. Gail was missing the moisture. His cheese on the side was horrible. Dale's dish was too salty; he was scared about the blandness. It was salt on salt action.


The judges deliberated as all the contestants stewed. Tiffany's dish masked her chicken too much. Tom pointed out the mental image of chicken and dumplings and it didn't hold up. Similarly, Fabio's wasn't a hamburger; the patty itself was a failure. Dale's dish had too many salt elements.


After the commercial break, the bottom three stood before the judges. Tom pointed out the flaw of Tiffany was that it wasn't Chicken and Dumplings. Fabio's patty was meatloaf. Dale's was just salt. Padma announced that Fabio was eliminated. Fabio made a promise to Jimmy that he will one day make a wonderful burger for Jimmy that will make him regret his choices. He thanks everyone and kissed Richard on the cheek as he packed his knives.


Next week: Muppets. Target. Anthony Bordain's fixation to stoner food.

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