'Top Chef All-Stars' Premiere Recap: Ghosts of Dishes Past

Top Chef All-Stars
You know the judges: Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons from Food and Wine magazine, your host, Padma Lakshmi, and new addition, cranky-pants Tony Bourdain.

And you already know the contestants. So now they're upping the ante. With an all-star season featuring the Top Chef wannabes who almost hit it, but not quite, this competition is going to be FIERCE.

Top Chef All-Stars brings together eliminated contestants from the first seven seasons of the show, so all of these guys have their work cut out for them -- and are bringing some big-time agendas to the table. 


Just as a refresher, here's the line-up:

From season one, Tiffiani Faison and Stephen Asprinio. From season two, Elia Aboumrad and Marcel Vigneron. From season three, Casey Thompson, Dale Levitski, and Tre Wilcox. From season four, Richard Blais, Dale Talde, Spike Mendelson, and Antonia Lofaso. From season five, Jamie Lauren, Carla Hall, and Fabio Viviani. From season six, Jennifer Carroll and Mike Isabella. And from season seven, Tiffany Derry and Angelo Sosa.

In the first challenge, loyalties are tested in a battle between the seven seasons for bragging rights as they group up to create a dish that represents their season's city -- within 25 minutes. Members of the winning season score immunity.

Season one's San Francisco style is represented by a cioppino gazpacho.

Season two's LA flavor is represented by shrimp tacos.

Season three's Miami vibe is pork and plantains -- YUM -- with an avocado lime puree and a mango-habanero sauce.

Season's four Chicago style goes old school with a hot dog -- topped with mustard ice cream.

New York goes rogue -- each member makes their own dish with apples. (Get it, the Big Apple?) It's a major risk, because there's not much linking the three dishes together.

Season six's Vegas vibe goes for bucatini with bacon lobster carbonara.

Season seven brought up the rear with DC crab cakes.

Let the judging begin. Miami and Vegas got props, but Chicago took the challenge, earning immunity for its four chefs: Spike, Dale T., Richard, and Antonia.

But they got off easy. Because the elimination challenge is intense. Each chef is ordered to re-create the dish that got them sent home. Ouch. They get three hours to cook. And here's the twist: they're being divided into two teams, and will get to taste -- and comment on -- the other's food.

Richard does a pork belly that gets praise, and Angelo's BBQ pork gets props, too. Dale's butterscotch scallops actually fare a lot better the second go-round. 

Tiffany D's fish and Tre's salmon get poor marks, while Tiffani F.'s got mixed reviews.

Top Chef All-Stars
Elia was sent packing.
Stephen gets reamed by the table for "swampy and muddled" appetizers. Fabio's pasta gets mocked big time -- with Bourdain saying, "It looks like an inside-out animal. I hate it, hate it, hate it." Elia's "feels like a dish someone gave up on" -- and it's undercooked to boot.

Then the other team is up -- and Tony Bourdain declares Spike, who managed to bury the scallops, "the craftiest motherf--er who's ever been on this show." Antonia's sausage plate got mixed reviews. Jamie's black sea bass gets praised, as does Mike's melted leek dish. Dale L.'s lobster gets blasted for pasty dumplings, while Carla's steak gets mixed reviews. Marcel's is overpowered by vanilla, and Jen's duck gets reamed for lacking, uh, duck.

Richard's food fared well, but he's disqualified from winning because he went over time. So Angelo wins the first challenge, and leaves feeling good.

The bottom three? Fabio, Stephen, and Elia. Ouch. Stephen refuses to take the blame for his efforts, saying he didn't create the original, so it would be hard for him to improve them. And Fabio stepped up all feisty, defending his dish and challenging the judges -- especially Tony -- to send him packing. Elia just asked for another shot. But Bourdain calls her "your own worst enemy."

But she didn't get it it. The first Top Chef All-Stars eliminee is Elia Aboumrad from season two.  

Which Top Chef All-Star contestant are you rooting for? And who would you like to see get sent packing?

Image via Bravo TV

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