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Michael La Corte

Top Chef: To the Victoire go the spoils

"Top Chef" really might be one of the most feel-good shows on television. It's neat to compare the show's current tone to the dark nature of Season 2 of the same show: they couldn't be more disparate.
The following contains spoilers from "Top Chef: World All Stars" Season 20, Episode 4.

Ali has yet another top-notch, super positive episode, scored by another win and even more of his even-keeled, good-natured, modest energy. In Episode 2, I felt Ali was great (but Chef May slightly outshone him in that episode) and I felt similarly here: Perhaps Ali is our winner in this episode, but I'm more struck by Victoire, who has a terrific showing. (Isn't it wild that she speaks seven languages and just learned English only four months prior to when "Top Chef" began filming?)

Her confessionals are laugh-out-loud funny, she speaks about moving from Congo to Italy, her facing everyday racism in Italy, her triumph on "Top Chef" Italy and how she now knows that she's a beacon of inspiration for many women around the world. This is crystallized by Sylwia's constant, kind support of Victoire, from their working together in last week's elimination challenge to her finishing Victoire's sentences at the table in this episode.

Mind you, this all not even mentioning her entire allergy moment (and subsequent win)!

Mind you, all this and not even mentioning her entire walnut allergy moment (and subsequent win)! What a roller coaster of an episode for her. But back to the competition . . . 

Biscuits galore (but not like the ones Kacey Musgraves sings about

This Quickfire segment opens with a funny quip from Gabri about the guest judge Paul Young's attire being reminiscent of Austin Powers, but I'd argue that Padma's getup is even more Powers-influenced: a mod sheath dress with matching go-go boots. (Also love her speaking Italian to Victoire at one point. Who's the polyglot now?) 

The Quickfire challenges the chefs to make two biscuits — one savory and one sweet — but I'm perplexed by the instructions and truly can't discern if the challenge is actually a biscuit biscuit (like the American ones you'd get from Popeye's) versus a British biscuit (aka a cookie). This isn't answered until the cheftestants present their food. I especially love the way that Sara fuses the two types of biscuits while still incorporating the Southern flavors that she's most comfortable working with.

I'm also intrigued by German Tom here, who gets an oddly scathing critique from Paul Young – for not at all meeting the brief by making CAKE – which is the first time Tom displays any sort of negativity or anything other than his light and easy breezy persona thus far. Fascinatingly enough, though, Tom's scenes still seem to be scored with jaunty, almost-carnival like music. 

Ali's Quickfire win (for his savory Za'atar biscuit and sweet orange sablé) is noteworthy because his strategy cooking them is the almost laughable, with his peering into the ovens and babysitting throughout. But again, his affable nature and apparent sweetness turns what could've been a funny moment into a wholesome one.

. . . again, his affable nature and apparent sweetness turned what could've been a funny moment into a wholesome one.

My favorite part of the Quickfire is Buddha's telling us that he bought his dog eye surgery – "he was about to go blind" – with his "Top Chef" winnings from last year. Buddha's dog's name is translated to "little crumb" but Buddha says he had "more rolls than a bakery." The whole confessional is just *chef's kiss.* 

Off to the stadium

This is one of the few times I can recall that the group goes in almost completely blind — only knowing the challenge would be held at Tottenham Hotspur stadium.

Padma Lakshmi in "Top Chef" (David Moir/Bravo)

For the elimination challenge, teams of three will face off each against each other "regulation" style, basically meaning that a bracket-style competition, which would finish with the only team that loses twice entering a final round in which the three chefs would then compete against one another. 

Luciana has a (very foreshadowing-heavy) confessional in which she reveals if she knew about the parameters of the challenge prior to, she probably wouldn't have picked Gabri and Begoña as her teammates. Oop! 

Begoña Rodrigo in "Top Chef" (David Moir/Bravo)
Luciana has a (very foreshadowing-heavy) confessional in which she reveals if she knew about the parameters of the challenge prior to, she probably wouldn't have picked Gabri and Begoña as her teammates.

Begoña immediately takes charge of the team, which is contrasted to the other team, in which we get a bit of discord between Nicole and Victoire. Soon enough, though, the other team has some issues with the lack of texture in their dish ("soft on soft" is never a good bet!) and Victoire suddenly is sneezing incessantly and her voice deepens about five octaves. Turns out that she's incredibly allergic to the walnuts, but hadn't say anything to her teammates. I was fascinated by the fact that the medic immediately jumps in after time is called to pull her off and tend to her. Coincidentally and fortunately, her team wins, but it raises the question: What the heck would have happened if they hadn't? Would Victoire have been forced to just forfeit? Who knows . . . but thank goodness their team wins, and Victoire is able to move on. I especially love when Victoire finds out about her team's win and wants to go celebrate with them, but the medic forcefully refuses to let her. I think the epipen was still in her leg!

Team Charbel/Sara/Sylwia also succeed with their take on a Welsh rarebit (interesting that that dish was actually the challenge in the most recent "Last Chance Kitchen" unbeknownst to this team, of course). I really like each cheftestant on this team, so I'm happy for their success. 

Aquiles Chávez, Ledley King, Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons in "Top Chef" (David Moir/Bravo)

"Pack your knives and go"

I'm also surprised that the Begoña team makes so many (simple) mistakes, repeatedly: the oxidizing apple, the weird lack of texture in the first dish (even after Luciana called it out) and even the pea cookery in the final challenge (or lack thereof). Just odd overall . . . and a good harbinger of the fact that their team will eventually be the losing team (although I'm a little anxious for Buddha and Tom, so I'm glad they pull it off and am intrigued by their using a dessert — and a relatively simple one at that.) 

Both Begoña and Gabri have confessionals discussing the camaraderie of their team and how they don't want their friends to go, but we get nothing of the sort from Luciana — who eventually winds up being the "victim," if you will.

Begoña Rodrigo, Luciana Berry and Gabriel Rodriguez in "Top Chef" (David Moir/Bravo)

In the final judging, there's numerous mentions of the fact that Begoña's dish, while the peas aren't stellar, is clean, elegant and even deemed "art" by Gail. All of the peas are undercooked, though, according to Tom. Yet again, a simple ingredient (rice, peas) tends to often trip up these incredibly talented chefs. I am also oddly intrigued to see how closely Begoña holds on to those long tweezers, even when standing in front of the "judges' table" and when hugging goodbye to Luciana. Like a comfort of sorts? 

I love Luciana's final words about how she's sharpened her knives and is ready to remove her earrings and start chopping in "Last Chance Kitchen." We'll see how she fares! 

Next week looks interesting . . . why is Gail getting emotional?

"Top Chef: World All Stars" airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Bravo and streams next the day on Peacock.

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