Tom Colicchio, Elia Aboumrad
In case you missed it, Elia is so not over having been eliminated first on Top Chef All-Stars.
After getting the boot in the season premiere, she mouthed off to the press about how she had been unfairly judged and specifically went after head judge Tom, accusing him of not serving grass-fed beef in his restaurants and endorsing Diet Coke. "He has become someone who is not all about the food anymore," she told the Chicago Tribune in December. "He's not all about supporting farmers markets. He's all about high-fructose corn syrup and there is only corn-fed beef on all of his menus now."
Top Chef's Mike: I thought I won
At the end of Wednesday's reunion special, host Andy Cohen asked her to explain her comments. "It came from going to have dinner at Craft in Las Vegas, and they told me that there was only had corn-fed beef," she said. "After the release of the interview and I read Tom's rebuttal, I went again and I grabbed a menu to see if maybe I was wrong, maybe if it was just for a season. It wasn't."
When pressed further, Elia didn't back down. "There are certain things that I especially don't believe in, like the Diet Coke [ad]," she said. "I think that product has a lot of bad stuff in it and I just think for a chef of his caliber, that didn't belong."
Tom replied by asking her fellow contestants, "Who here sells Diet Coke in their restaurants?" Nearly all the contestants raised their hands. Dale L., however, attempted to throw Elia a life preserver, asking Tom, "When you get certain endorsements, where is the line where you sacrifice certain levels of integrity?" Tom, of course, was quick to answer. "I draw the line with things I don't use. I actually drink Diet Coke and I actually sell it. No reason to draw the line there." And as for buying locally, Tom continued, "I buy food from small farms. This is something I've been doing for 25 years. It's not a trend, for me, it's something I really believe in."
Top Chef's Richard: I wanted to embody the spirit of the underdog
"My point is, you're wrong," he told Elia. "We still have grass-fed beef. [But] we've never not served corn-fed beef in the restaurant." When Elia tried to suggest that he should only serve grass-fed beef, Tom shut. her. down. "I buy more from small farmers than you will in your lifetime... You cannot operate a steakhouse if you're not serving corn-fed beef. No one will come."
But hey, if she wants to be bitter, that's A-okay with Tom! "I understand that you're upset and that's fine," he said. "Being the first person to go, obviously, it was difficult... [The decision] was unanimous. This wasn't personal. You chose to make it personal...This is a good lesson for a young chef: Be careful what you say in the press." Asked if she regrets her comments, Elia refused to recant. "No, I stand by it," she said. Silly, Elia.
Here's eight other things we learned at the reunion:
Jen is embarrassed that she chewed out the judges after serving them soggy bacon. In the heat of the moment, she was pissed. Now, she's just disappointed in herself. "I was extremely emotional and it got to me," she said. Sensing the awkwardness in the room — and it was definitely awkward to rewatch! — Gail offered, "I've been saying it for years that I can't believe someone hasn't gotten that mad at us — not because of our decision, but because of the passion that they had." Said Jen: "I fought for it, and that's me."
Gail needed the most convincing during the final judges table. "There were parts of Mike's meal that really moved me," she said. Also, two words: Pepperoni sauce. "I can't stop thinking about it!"
Mike will never cop to borrowing from Richard's notebook for Chicken Oystergate. "No such thing as stealing an idea, period, when it comes to cooking food. Everything's been done before, some way, somehow, some similarity," Mike said. Casey agreed: "You can't copyright dishes." For his part, Richard said he's over it — and he wouldn't have done the exact same dish Mike did. "I think there maybe was a little inappropriateness under the circumstances, but that all got settled with those winks and head nods that you saw... I wouldn't have done the oyster gravy that he did with it."
Angelo can't describe his fashion sense (notable for his avocado-in-your-pantswear). "Impossibly eccentric, maybe?"
Padma offers a fun fact! The host volunteered that she would go out with Casey or Elia. "Or I could motorboat Antonia." Okay, then!
Does Jamie regret leaving one of the challenges to get stitches? Not a chance. While her competitors all said she should have sucked it up and cooked through the pain, it doesn't sound like Jamie's sorry for ditching Casey in her hour of need. "Maybe that was a cop-out and maybe you guys wouldn't have done that," she said. "I have a very small thumb, I am a very small person." Jamie also hasn't watched any of the season.
Richard splits his time between his wife and kids and Fabio. "Whenever he comes to the West Coast, he's mine," Fabio said after watching a rather lengthy montage about their bromance. When Richard's not there, Fabio said there is a girlfriend in the picture. (And there's also his turtle.)
Tom's favorite dishes were... Carla's chicken pot pie, Richard's hamachi sweetbread and Mike's fish in a banana leaf. And yes, he was nervous when he had to cook during his own Quickfire. "Welcome to our world," Jen said.
Did you feel as awkward as we did watching Tom and Elia go at it? Leave your thoughts below.