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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Top Chef Las Vegas….errr Napa Valley

Last night on Bravo’s “Top Chef: Las Vegas,” the scene shifted to the Napa Valley in California, and some of the cast had physically changed. That’s because there was a decided time lag between when the final four left Las Vegas to when they re-convened in Napa…we’re not sure how much time, but enough for host Padma Lakshmi to have her pregnant belly start showing. Also, Kevin’s hair was different (and there was less of it)and Jen looked like she had gotten some sleep. The brothers Voltaggio pretty much looked and acted exactly the same.

So Padma announced that for part one of the finale, there would be a quick fire challenge to start, and she introduced guest judge and Top Chef Master Michael Chiarello, a Napa Valley restauranteur himself. For the challenge, they would have to cook Padma and Michael a dish in 30 minutes using Napa grapes and whatever else was in a pantry on the Napa Valley train….and of course, they would all have to share the train’s kitchen. This was a high stakes challenge, too…the winner would win a third generation 2010 Toyota Prius. Wow, these sponsors are really ponying up!

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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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