Arts Desk

Arts Roundup: Top Chef All-Stars Edition

Morning, all. Let's see what's going on in the world of arts and entertainment, shall we?

If you keep up with the D.C. visual arts community, you're aware of the Smithsonian's decision to pull David Wojnarowicz's A Fire in My Belly from the "Hide/Seek" exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery, after calls from John Boehner (R-Ohio) to remove the video. Tonight the Transformer Gallery–which is screening a continuous loop of the banned video in its storefront window—will be staging a protest march, with folks gathering at 5:30 p.m.

It appears that any publicity is in fact good publicity. After a tumultuous year, Kanye West topped the charts with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which moved nearly 520,000 units in its first week of release. It's nearly 70,000 more copies sold than his last effort, 808s and Heartbreak. But he continues to lose out to Taylor Swift, whose Speak Now debuted a month ago with over a million copies sold. Karma's a bitch.

In other music news, Grammy nominations were announced last night, and Eminem leads with a whopping 10 nominations for his comeback album, Recovery.

The Washington Jewish Film Festival starts today, and we'll be covering it. For the next 10 days, 11 venues throughout D.C. and Silver Spring will host more than 50 movies, as well as conversations with filmmakers. Check back today for a festival preview, as well as throughout the next week and a half for film reviews.

Finally! Top Chef All-Stars debuted last night, and you know I watched every minute of it. Eighteen favorites from past seasons are back, including a more than respectable three from D.C.: Carla Hall, Mike Isabella, and Spike Mendelsohn. A few of the love-to-hate cheftestants are back too, namely Stephen Asprinio and, of course, Marcel Vigneron. Anthony Bourdain's on the judging panel! And the stakes are higher than ever–the winner receives $200,000.

For the quickfire, cheftestants divided up by season and prepared a dish that represented their host city. I am very pleased to report that season 4's Dale, Richard, Antonia, and Spike nabbed the win with their inspired take on a Chicago hotdog. Richard's mustard ice cream particularly stood out. I like Richard and I expect him to go far, but I was really put off when he said, "I think most people remember my season for me losing my season." Um, ego much? Season 4 winner Stephanie Izard deserved the title every bit as much as her Atlanta-based competitor.

The chefs were given a nasty elimination challenge: They were tasked with making the dish that sent them home. For the most part they really killed it. Jamie, Angelo, and Spike were in the top three for their successful updates; Richard would have been up there too, but he was declared ineligible for the win because he continued plating after time was called. Spike surmounted the terrible product of frozen scallops by masking their flavor entirely, a move that prompted Bourdain to ask, "Is this the craftiest motherfucker that's ever been on this show?" In the end, Angelo took it for his ramen update. It's only been a few months since last season–déjà vu all over again.

Fabio, Stephen, and Elia comprised the bottom three. Fabio took particular offense to Bourdain's criticism of his pasta with seafood sauce. "I really, really, really hate it," Bourdain said. "It looks like an inside out animal." Ouch. As she left judges table before the judges deliberated, Elia said, "Don't eliminate me. I have a lot more to do. I mean it." It almost came off as a threat. But in the end she was sent to pack up her knives for her tealeaf-wrapped steamed snapper. I completely disagree with the judges on this one–Stephen's trio of dishes looked terrible, and it's obvious Elia's got way more cooking ability. You can bet he's not long for the show.

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