Top Chef Las Vegas: huh?

Last night was the finale of the finale of “Top Chef Las Vegas” on Bravo, and the three remaining chefs–Kevin, Michael and Bryan–had a lot of creative leeway this time around. The final challenge of the season would be to make a 3-course meal at Cyrus Restaurant in Napa Valley. The first course would be using specific ingredients in a box–and all three chefs had the same items. The second course was anything they wanted to make based on what was on hand, and the third was a dessert, also using what was on hand in the kitchen.

But first the other 14 contestants from this season were brought back, and each finalist would draw two knives to find out who their sous chefs would be. Kevin drew Preeti and Ash; Bryan picked Jen and Ashley (Ben Folds); and Michael drew Jesse and Eli. Then as they were working on their ideas back in their suite, the chefs had a surprise visit–from their moms. After hanging with them and getting pep talks, the chefs made their way to Cyrus, where they were greeted by head judge Tom Colicchio. Tom informed them that they would be making one additional dish to start out–a dish inspired by their moms or something that brought to mind their childhood memories.

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If it’s Tuesday night, it must be movie odds and ends

* This year’s Oscar producers have been named: choreographer turned critically-hated film director turned “Hairspray” wunderkind Adam Shankman and industry mainstay Bill Mechanic. Nikki Finke is happy and, really, isn’t that all that matters? That’s not the only gig for Shankman, who will also be directing the film version of the eighties-centric hair-band musical “Rock of Ages.” I’ve run across one or two hair bands I don’t completely hate, but this does not excite me. The period juke box musical I’m waiting for features Elvis Costello, the Clash, X, and maybe some early Ben Folds. I’ll call mine “Clubland.”

* Anne Thompson rakes the muck on the Hollywood Film Festival. Fascinating. I have my doubts about L.A. ever getting a really world-class festival, and this one sure doesn’t seem to be helping.

Zombieland with Jesse Eisenberg* I caught up with “Zombieland” last night and managed not to become overly upset at the gore. (I have this whole issue with excess blood and ick, yet also like the kind of stuff that sometimes features excess blood and ick — it’s a conflict.) Still, I don’t know if I’ll ever truly understand why people enjoy being disgusted. I find being disgusted disgusting.

Otherwise, it was nicely paced, slightly poignant, and very funny, thanks to a nice and cleverly profane dialogue, decent writing, and a good cast. Unlike Bullz-Eye’s David Medsker, however, I found the movie enjoyable but a little thin, especially during the second half. Some of the most ballyhooed aspects (the superstar cameo, which Dave didn’t love either) were less hilarious than I expected, however. I’m surprised we haven’t heard about a sequel yet as in some ways plays more like a well-produced TV pilot than anything else.

* Not that he hasn’t earned the right to be astonishingly wealthy as much as any human can, but how rich must Steven Spielberg be? I mean, if someone owed you a few hundred million bucks would you be all, like, “ah, that’s okay — you can wait until 2017. Just give me a 5.25% share of your income. I’ll be cool.” And, according to La Finke, the language of the contract refers to him as “Steven.” I know Hollywood loves first names, but it’s a contract. Aren’t those supposed to be formal?

* It’s not really movie news at this point, but speaking of musicals this musical lover never asked for, the Bono/Edge Spiderman musical directed by Julie Taymor continues to gasp. Personally, I’ve had my curiosity about a “Spiderman” musical sated already. Much as I love cocktail lounges and the song “Fever,” this was not a high point.

  

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Top Chef Las Vegas: Ben Folds can’t cook shrimp

Last night’s “Top Chef Las Vegas” on Bravo returned after a two-week absence, and admittedly I needed those “previously on…” highlights to catch up myself. Oh yeah, Ron was sent home last time….thankfully, because I couldn’t understand much of what that guy was saying.

Anyway, this episode began with The Food Network’s Tyler Florence as a guest judge, but I don’t think they mentioned Food Network by name. A bit petty, no? Or maybe a legality. Anyway, the quick fire challenge was in the vein of cookstr.com, where each contestant had to use three background descriptions to create a meal in 30 minutes. They used a slot machine to choose mood, flavor profile and type of cuisine–for example, romantic/salty/Asian. Florence would be the judge of each dish. Note: one of the flavor profiles was umami, a newer description to the palate world that I don’t fully comprehend, but it’s definitely a buzzword in the cooking industry–I think it means like tangy or something.

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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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