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Top Chef Las Vegas: magic act

On Bravo’s “Top Chef: Las Vegas” last night, Penn and Teller were guests as well as chef Michelle Bernstein. But there was no magic act when it came to elimination time….because there are a few of these contestants that are hanging by a thread with the likes of Jennifer, Kris Kringle (Kevin) and the brothers Voltaggio that are barreling toward a showdown.

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Top Chef Las Vegas: roughing it

Last night on Bravo’s “Top Chef: Las Vegas,” the remaining 12 contestants were asked to rough it, literally. But first, a unique quickfire challenge that would be judged by special guest Tim Love, who was a contestant on “Top Chef Masters” and owns Lonesome Dove Western Bistro and The Love Shack in Fort Worth, Texas. The challenge, as voted on by TV viewers, was to cook something using a unique ingredient–cactus. Thankfully this beat out the other two possibilities–rattlesnake and kangaroo. (ewwwww).

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Top Chef Las Vegas: women dropping like flies

We’re three episodes into Bravo’s “Top Chef: Las Vegas,” and already it’s looking like this is going to be a race between Jennifer and like half a dozen guys.


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Top Chef Las Vegas: fun in the sun

On last night’s “Top Chef Las Vegas” on Bravo, there was another high stakes quick fire challenge, and an elimination challenge that was to cook for a dual bachelor/bachelorette party. At one point during the episode, one of the chefs was talking about how he had nicknames for all of his fellow contestants….so I’m going to start using a few of my own nicknames too.

Kevin will now be known as Kris Kringle.
Ashley will now be known as Ben Folds.

That’s all I can think of right now, but if you watch this show and know what I’m talking about, you are probably laughing right now.

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Top Chef Las Vegas: what’s your vice?

“Top Chef Last Vegas” (Season 6) kicked off last night and while I confess that I only started watching this show last season and became really hip during “Top Chef Masters,” I feel like I’ve been watching it all along. And since these first episodes are usually crazy to try and recap with all the new faces, let’s just run down the names of the contestants: Kevin, Preeti, Ron, Eve, Mattin, Jesse, Jen, Jennifer, Bryan, Michael, Mike, Laurine, John, Robin, Hector, Eli and Ashley. Whew.

They brought in the usual cast of characters as judges—Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi and Gail Simmons, and they began with the Quick Fire challenge, which was the team relay race. They broke into teams of four, but since there are 17 contestants, one of them drew a gold coin and was able to sit out the race, as well as have immunity for the first week. That person was Robin.

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Top Chef Masters: a master is crowned

The one thing that struck me this season on the inaugural “Top Chef Masters” is how truly amazing these chefs are at what they do…and how they can create masterpieces on a plate within minutes, using any ingredients in front of them. Well, the finale last night was no exception, with Hubert Keller, Michael Chiarello and Rick Bayless squaring off for the grand prize of $100K for charity and the title of Top Chef Master.

They began by having host Kelly Choi take them to the Getty Villa, where they would be spending the day and night, having time to think about their menu, and then creating four main dishes each to serve to a panel of judges. The judges for the finale would be the three who have been here since the start–food critics Jay Rayner, Gael Greene and James Oseland; “Top Chef” regulars Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons and Padma Lakshmi; and each of the winners of the first five seasons of “Top Chef.” The task? A “meal of a lifetime”–dishes that represented various parts of each chefs’ life–their earliest food memory, when they decided to become a chef, their first restaurant opening, and today.

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Top Chef Masters: zero hands

nullLast night’s “Top Chef Masters” was the prelude to next week’s season finale, and it was one of the most intense and difficult challenges, if not the most difficult, yet. The final four first did their quickfire challenge, where they were blindfolded and had to guess what was being put in their mouths–10 items in all, and among them were peanut butter, hoisin sauce, hummus, pappadum, ketchup, smoked paprika and mango. After looking afraid and not feeling like he did well, Michael Chiarello wound up winning with 7 out of 10 correct. Rick Bayless and Anita Lo had 6 correct and Hubert Keller had 5. So Michael began with 5 stars, Rick and Anita 4 each and Hubert 3.5.

Then came the elimination challenge, and each chef would have to cook a buffet lunch for 200 Hollywood guests, but the catch was that they couldn’t touch the food. Instead, they had to interview and “hire” a staff from among former “Top Chef” contestants. Among them were Fabio and Jamie from last season. They also each had a $2000 budget to work with.

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Top Chef Masters: would you like fries with those vegetables?


Yesterday’s “Top Chef Masters” on Bravo brought us from five contestants down to the final four, and the challenges, especially the elimination challenge, were particularly interesting. First, after unveiling mounds of fast food burgers and fries with the chefs wondering if they would have to create something using those pre-made items, host Kelly Choi told them that instead they were going to make their own gourmet burgers with side dishes, and serve to judges that included “Top Chef” Season 4 contestant Spike Mendelsohn and filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, who created the film “Supersize Me.” But I’m wondering..what did they do with all of that fast food?

Rick Bayless made a ribeye burger with three kinds of guacamole. The judges loved the burger but wondered why Bayless made three types of guacamole instead of just one. Still, Rick managed 4 stars.

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Top Chef Masters: six real masters compete

Last night began the finals of Bravo’s inaugural “Top Chef Masters,” and all I kept thinking was that if I was there in person, I would be more in awe than I was simply watching it. These six are some of the best chefs in the world, and here they were in the same room. Anyway, meet the contestants–Hubert Keller, Anita Lo, Rick Bayless, Michael Chiarello, Suzanne Tracht and Art Smith. There were similarities between some of them and yet each chef has a unique culinary point of view.

Their first (quick fire) challenge was another “Top Chef” favorite, the relay race. They divided into teams of three–Anita, Rick and Hubert against Suzanne, Michael and Art. The tasks were to shuck oysters, chop onions, cut up a chicken and then whisk egg whites until they hold for 5 seconds when the bowl is turned upside down. With four tasks, one person from each team would have to do two of them. The judge was “Top Chef” personality Tom Colicchio. Hubert and Suzanne faced off with the oysters and Suzanne was like a machine, making it look incredibly easy, but Hubert caught up to her eventually. Then Hubert and Art faced off with the onions and both were incredibly fast and efficient. Anita and Michael did the chicken, and Anita was a bit faster, but wow….I can’t even do this if I have an hour, and they were carving entire chickens in seconds. Finally, Rick and Art faced off with the eggs…they had to first separate them, and Art got hung up by having a stray yolk he had to remove from the bowl. But it didn’t matter…Rick whisked those whites into what resembled whipped cream in lightning fast fashion and he passed the 5 second test, giving his team the victory. That meant Anita, Rick and Hubert began with 5 stars, while Suzanne, Michael and Art began with 4 stars each.

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Top Chef Masters: more mutual respect

Last night on Bravo was the final preliminary round of “Top Chef Masters,” and next week begins the finals, in which one chef will be voted off each week until someone is crowned Top Chef Master. And last night, more so than in previous episodes, there was a lot of love and mutual respect going on between the contestants…..Jonathan Waxman of New York City, better known as the dude who trained Bobby Flay; Roy Yamaguchi of Honolulu; Michael Cimarusti of Los Angeles; and Art Smith of Chicago (better known as Oprah’s chef). You could already sense that this would be a very competitive round, and it was.

Their quick fire challenge was to create a dish with just $20 and the use of a single aisle at a grocery store, drawn randomly. Jonathan drew the aisle with canned veggies and dried beans, and wound up making a red pepper and lentil salad. Art had the rice aisle and made a risotto with crispy rice salad. Michael had the baking aisle and made a chocolate parfait, and Roy had the pasta aisle and made an Asian style spaghetti with an egg on top. The judges for this were Whole Foods employees, and they liked just about all of the dishes, but loved the chocolate parfait the most…..even after Michael claimed to not be much of a dessert expert. So Michael wound up with 5 stars, Art 4.5 stars, Roy 4, and Jonathan 3.5…all of which would go toward their final score.

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