This was, unquestionably, my favorite episode thus far this season.
But first (cue Julie Chen-Moonves): Let’s focus on the Quickfire!
Do you know the origins of the word “honeymoon?”
This episode begins with some amazing Victoire content (yet again), contrasting her bright, positive nature and talent with the immense challenges she’s endured in her life. After speaking Italian with her husband on FaceTime, she reveals that she’s experienced homelessness and poverty. Again, it’s almost striking to note just how compulsively, incredibly “root-able” and likable she is.
Amar Santana and Victoire Gouloubi in “Top Chef: World All Stars” Episode 5, “Holiday Vacation” (David Moir/Bravo)
This episode begins with some amazing Victoire content (yet again), contrasting her bright, positive nature and talent with the immense challenges she’s endured in her life.
The celebratory mead and honey-centric Quickfire challenge is fun: I’ve always been fascinated by mead, and the guest judge seems so earnest. Buddha’s mentions he’s using manuka, and specifying the honey is so important because the floral notes can differ so much from honey to honey. I wish there more details about the honeys offered and how to use honey, such as Nicole’s note about its viscosity and how it can change so much once cooked. I like the idea of whipped feta to “balance the sweetness of the honey and mead” a la Charbel.
Padma’s dropping Begona’s dish is a fun moment . . . and how cool is it when Begoña calmly picks it up and flips it right-side-up with her fish spatula? Tom wins (apparently his first ever win?) for his dish, which is based on something he once made for his way cooler and smarter (and probably taller) brother’s wedding: pine honeyed duck with honey “caviar,” created courtesy of carefully deployed agar.
Buddha Lo and Gabriel Rodriguez in “Top Chef: World All Stars” Episode 5, “Holiday Vacation” (David Moir/Bravo)
We’re going to the countryside (sponsored by VRBO!)
The built-in, blatant product placement of “Top Chef” at large has always cracked me up and this episode doesn’t let me down: It’s basically a VRBO commercial for a good 50% of the episode (at the same time, though, how beautiful is that VRBO house?)
The built-in, blatant product placement of “Top Chef” at large has always cracked me up and this episode didn’t let me down . . .
The challenge involves cooking in the Kent countryside and creating a celebratory and/or holiday-based dish. Truthfully, I’m a bit confused during the shop with 1,000 pounds split among the chefs (I’m not a numbers person), but I’m glad it all works out: Everyone can afford everything they need, with enough leftover to buy a bonus celebratory bottle of tequila. Priorities!
As everyone hoops and hollers about the vast house for the night (24 beds!), it also dawns on some of them that the kitchen situation may be . . . less than ideal. There’s only one large oven and no more than six to eight burners. Obviously, that doesn’t leave much room for 11 cheftestants to comfortably work on their dishes. Because of this, Begoña and Charbel discuss sharing the frying oil, with Charbel frying his dish components first before letting Begoña use the same oil afterwards. Right away, the standard “Top Chef” fan can deduce that this arrangement may indeed result in something that might impact the food — or the elimination.
I love how everyone shares their holiday memories, the wide range of holidays represented (from Eid to Hannukah), and the varying foods that mean so much. Buddha and Amar “borrow” from other countries, while people like Victoire, Sylwia, Ali and Sara use very personal food memories and connections for their food.
Also, how fascinating that Victoire leaves her mask on during the entire cooking process . . . not for COVID purposes, but to prevent her from having any allergy issues re: raw nuts. Let’s not have a repeat of last week’s epipen emergency.
Also, I’d like a look at Sara’s journal where she tracks how each chef has performed, showing that only she and Buddha have never been in the bottom . . . until this episode. Considering Buddha finally has that dubious honor for his underseasoned salmon salad, that means Sara is now apparently the only person who hasn’t found herself in the Bottom 3 thus far. Foreshadowing?
Contestants and judges all sit down to eat on “Top Chef: World All Stars” Episode 5 “Holiday Vacation” (David Moir/Bravo)
The celebratory meal
The food this week doesn’t especially bowl (har har har) me over, but I love the sound of Sara’s creamed greens with biscuit gravy (plus the story), Victoire’s bean stew (a Congolese dish called madesu), Charbel’s eggplant fatteh with tahini yogurt, pomegranate and crispy pita. Plus I love the cook on Gabri’s fish — even if his mole verde leaves a bit to be desired.
Our Top 3 are Amar with his lamb dish (the marmalade sounds amazing), Ali’s amazing mezze platter with kebabs and patties and Victoire’s exquisite bean stew. Ali acknowledges his winner’s streak but in his now trademark modest manner, which is such a contrast to how German Tom performs when he’s a winner.
I find the “pairs” of friendships in this season — Begoña and Gabri, Sylwia and Victoire, Amar and Ali — to be such a fun, sweet component of the show.
Amar takes the win; in his follow-up celebratory confessional, he even jokes that he’ll invite Ali (alongside his family) to his VRBO trip. The pairs of friendships in this season — Begoña and Gabri, Sylwia and Victoire, Amar and Ali — are such a fun, sweet component of the show.
Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.
One of the biggest takeaways for me this episode is Buddha’s angry reaction and bitter attitude post-judges’ table, which we have not seen from him before. Begoña’s energy has seemed a bit off the past two episodes, and her incohesive dish conceptualization (and the Charbel/oil issue) clearly puts her into a certain headspace, but Buddha’s disgruntlement is . . . unusual, as well as off-putting. And I’m not the only one to feel this. In the stew room (aka the outdoors), the other cheftestants, primarily German Tom and Sara, push back a bit on Buddha and Begoña’s unhappy commiserating. I wonder if Buddha’s attitude post-judges’ table will continue. He had a pretty easy road to the win in his first season in Houston, but this group brings a much higher level of competition.
Judges Martha Ortiz, Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons in “Top Chef: World All Stars” Episode 5, “Holiday Vacation” (David Moir/Bravo)
After dinner mints
I’m so glad Gabri isn’t eliminated; his story really resonates with me (as it, clearly, also did with Gail). I also love seeing Nicole compliment Padma on how she’s a “good eater.” There’s obviously a power imbalance at play in meals like that, but it’s entertaining to watch how Padma and Gail especially are able to just hang and eat before switching into “judge” mode. What must it be like when the cheftestants eat along with the judges? This allows the cheftestants to also glean their own thoughts from the cookery and seasoning and dishes, and I wonder if that also may have factored into Buddha’s little fit once he tasted the others’ food.
German Tom had immunity from his earlier win, and therefore he’s safe from elimination deven though his dessert is clearly too dense. Usually that cake “gimme” would have probably been a source of contention, but aside from that throwaway of Sara dunking on it (and various mentions of the cake’s density), it seems to go unnoticed. Tom is fascinating: He’s so light, joking and jovial, but he doesn’t seem to handle certain criticism or adversity well. He was dismissive after getting feedback after last week’s biscuit Quickfire, he doesn’t seem to care about the quality of the cake in this episode, and the preview of him in the next episode doesn’t bode well either.
Padma speaks in such a warm, effusive manner towards cheftestants she feels especially fond of and I’m starting to see that with her treatment of Victoire; checking on how she feels, speaking Italian to her and in this segment, talking at length about how she truly loves the stew and how she’s so looking forward to more food from the Congo. I agree with Padma: Victoire’s story is an amazing one, and I am so excited to see if she could be our victor. I’m not sure if there’s a more deserving person there.
I agree with Padma: Victoire’s story is an amazing one and I am so excited to see if she could be our victor. I’m not sure if there’s a more deserving person there.
Lastly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Begoña is our first “Last Chance Kitchen” victor this season and re-enters the competition next week.
On to next week!
“Top Chef: World All Stars” airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Bravo and streams next day on Peacock.
about “Top Chef,” Holidays and celebratory meals: