Top Chef Las Vegas: more veggie tales

Last night’s “Top Chef: Las Vegas” on Bravo featured the remaining seven chefs facing more and more pressure. Some would respond while others would start to wilt, and we’re almost to final four territory (just where has this season gone??).

We began with a quick fire challenge as host Padma Lakshmi introduced Italian chef Paul Bartolotta, who has an Italian restaurant in Las Vegas and is known as one of the best in the cuisine. But oddly, their quick fire was not Italian-oriented. Instead, they each had to create a “TV dinner” style dish based on a popular show, drawing knives to determine who would be representing which show.

Kris Kringle (Kevin) drew first and had “The Sopranos,” and he made a meatball dish with polenta and roasted cauliflower. Eli had “Gilligan’s Island” and made a macadamia and cashew crusted shrimp with tropical fruit salad. Mike Isabella had “Seinfeld” but admitted to never having watched it. Yikes. He made a sausage and pepper dish, though I’m not sure how that fit the show. Mike V. had “Cheers” and made bar food–chicken tender parmesan with swiss chard. Robin pulled “Sesame Street” and made a burger with egg, some sort of cookie and braised kale. Kale? For a kid? Brian had “M*A*S*H” and did a 50’s inspired dish of meat loaf, mashed potatoes and apple pie. Finally, Jennifer had “The Flintstones” and made a chicken roulade with peaches and a pea salad. Not sure about that one either. No bronto-burgers, Jen?

Chef Bartolotta chose Robin and Jen’s as his least favorites, and his top choices were Brian and Kris Kringle. Okay, from here on out, we’re going to refer to Kris as his real name, Kevin…you all know he looks like Kris Kringle, and he’s too much of a contender! Kevin won the challenge and his prize was to have his dish featured in a new line of Top Chef frozen dinners with Schwan’s.

For the main challenge, the chefs were whisked off to head judge Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak restaurant, where they would be serving dinner to the judges and some guests. After looking at all the great steaks that were back in the kitchen and trying to determine what they would be making, a curveball came in. That curveball was actress Natalie Portman, who would be the guest of honor. However, Natalie is a vegetarian. Yikes….you could hear the collective groan and awkward comments (Robin: “They are people too!”).

Robin made a stuffed squash with fresh garbanzo beans and a beet carpaccio. All of that sounded good on the surface, but apparently her head was so scattered that she was not focused on one particular aspect of the dish.

Eli made a confit of eggplant, with lentils and radish garnish. This went over fairly well.

Mike V. made a few types of asparagus, with a tomato sashimi and banana polenta. The polenta was brave considering chef Bartolotta was a judge, but he pulled it off and he got the reaction out of Portman he wanted (“I’m not sure why, but I love this…”)

Jennifer made a charred eggplant with fennel and was nervously saucing each plate when describing the dish. For whatever reason, they didn’t like her dish and she was going to be in trouble again.

Mike I. made leeks with a carrot puree and roasted fingerling potatoes. A good idea, as he wanted the leeks to resemble scallops, but they kind of fell apart as he cooked them. Not good and they let him know it.

Brian did an artichoke dish with shallots and a fennel puree. I think they liked his dish but didn’t love it.

And finally Kevin made a mushroom duo with smoked kale and turnips. The judges loved his dish and thought that the mushrooms were a nice protein replacement.

As the judges discussed what they liked and didn’t like, at one point Natalie Portman made an adolescent type crack about something Padma said about a “prick” in her mouth, and all of them started snickering like they were watching “Beavis & Butthead” together. It was pretty funny.

So they called in the three chefs whose dishes they liked the most–Kevin, Michael V. and Eli. They loved the textures but more importantly the flavors Kevin created, the creativity of Michael’s and how pretty Eli’s dish looked in addition to tasting great. The winner? Kevin again. Michael was pissed because he said he could have made Kevin’s dish in his sleep. Yikes….easy, dude! Kevin’s prize was a kitchen full of appliances and this guy just keeps racking up those prizes!

The least favorites were Jennifer, Robin and Mike I. Jennifer’s was considered to be a plateful of garnishes and they questioned why that was when she had 2 hours. Robin’s dish was all over the map and not focused enough. And Mike not only failed with his leek experiment, but he was cocky and thought the rest of his dish was great…Colicchio disagreed wholeheartedly. So while we were all holding our collective breath, waiting for Padma to say Robin’s name…she didn’t, instead going with Mike Isabella. Dude was too cocky for his own good, though it’s hard to believe he is a better chef than Robin. Really hard to believe.

So we are now down to six–Robin, Jennifer, the brothers Voltaggio, Kevin and Eli. I’m still pulling for and picking Kevin as my frontrunner. What do you all think? Will the brothers implode soon? Will they cancel each other out? Tune in next week!

  

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