“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.
For the race, the four stations were shucking clams, cleaning prawns, breaking down lobster meat and then cutting a prime rib into two chops. One of the teams was at a horrible disadvantage to start, as Preeti had never shucked a clam in her life, yet volunteered to do that station by default. The blue team—Bryan, Mattin, Jennifer and Jesse—won the challenge. Their prize was now to face off against each other, making a meal with the ingredient they had in the race in 30 minutes. Jen won with her clam ceviche, and her prize was $15K.
Then on to the elimination challenge, and in addition to the three regular judges, chef Wolfgang Puck would be the fourth judge and the competition would take place at his restaurant in the Palazzo Hotel & Casino. It would be a “vice” challenge, in which each contestant had to create a dish based on their personal vices, because it was Vegas, after all. It was a bit confusing because Colicchio said that they would be competing as teams, but against each other, or something like that. Whatever. After each group of four came out and presented their meals to the judges, they deliberated and brought out Ron, Mike, Jennifer and Kevin—and said they were the best four of the group. Kevin won the challenge with his nicely cooked halibut with green salsa.
Then the bottom four were Hector, Jen, Jesse and Eve. Hector had made deep-fried steak, something Puck and the judges really gave him a hard time about. Jesse made chicken which was way too dry, Eve made a seafood dish with no flavor, and Jen made Mexican stuffed peppers, but used seitan instead of meat. This one also had no flavor, and the judges questioned her use of something other than meat for this particular creation. So they booted her off, along with those tattoos that appeared to cover most of her body. But aside from being risky with the seitan, the fact that Jen made a typically spicy, flavorful dish with no flavor was her ticket home.
There was a ton of information crammed into 75 minutes last night, so as we go along we will learn more about these contestants and their creations and convey that to all of you. In the meantime, I’m off to cook me some breakfast…