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. So far, everyone that’s been eliminated has been female, and a few of the next chefs to be cut are likely to be women as well, judging by recent history.

Last night the episode (which was a too-long 75 minutes) began with a quick fire challenge, as the contestants were greeted by host Padma Lakshmi and chef Mark Peel (who was recently on “Top Chef Masters”). The theme of the challenge was potatoes, and they were asked to create an “out of this world” potato dish in 45 minutes time.

Since we still have way too many contestants and could use pages of cyberspace saying what each one made, we’ll continue to just give you the best and worst, since that’s what Peel would be judging anyway.
His least favorite were Eli, Ron, and Jesse. Eli made some sort of sweet potato dish with pistachios, and Padma had the misfortune of chomping on a shell. Ron made some sort of yellow tail fish with potatoes, and made reference to Bob Marley (Ron is Jamaican) but his dish lacked flavor. Jesse made a sweet potato soup but was too heavy on the cayenne pepper.

Peel’s favorites were Jen, who made some sort of mussel and potato dish with broth; Ash, whose ice cream instead turned into a custard, which made him laugh that he actually came out on top; and Ben Folds (Ashley), who was almost inadvertently sabotaged by Preeti, and scrambled to finish her gnocchi dish in time. Jen won the challenge and her prize was immunity this week, and one of the guys made a comment about Jen being a teacher’s pet of sorts. Yeah, but that’s because she is a damn good cook, guys, and she has an arrogance that she can back up.

Then came the elimination challenge, and after meeting an Air Force base colonel, the group was told they would be cooking as one team for 300 or so Air Force “Thunderbirds” and their families. But the catch was, they would not know their ingredients and cooking untensils until they arrived at the base. When they did arrive, they realized they would be dealing mostly with canned foods and no pots or pans or stove tops. Yikes.

They decided to break up into teams of two to streamline the process, with each chef being responsible mostly for one dish. Jen was assigned the title of executive chef since she had immunity, something she is familiar with doing outside the show. The last two to not be picked for teams were Ron and Jesse, who then had to work with each other.

Kris KringleAfter serving everyone, including Peel and the three regular judges (Padma, Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons), they were asked to pick their favorites and least favorites. The judges asked Mike, Michael, Eli and Kris Kringle (Kevin) to face them. They praised Michael, who made some sort of pork belly dish that they couldn’t get enough of; but berated Mike, who threw together a cold shrimp salad that was bland and uninspired. They loved Eli and Kris Kringle’s tag-team of braised pork and potato salad, staying true to their Southern roots and reminding Peel of his grandmother’s cooking. But the winner was Michael.

Then, they stunned Mike by saying they wanted him to return to the losers’ bracket along with Laurine and Preeti. Mike was again lashed at for his shrimp dish, but he was like a pit bull trying to defend himself. The judges appreciated his fire, but were still correct in saying he should have not made the dish at all, and instead should have focused on helping Michael. Preeti and Laurine were another team, and they made a pasta salad with veggies like sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes that looked boring as hell. Laurine said she forgot it was a competition for a minute, that she was more focused on and honored about feeding the troops. Preeti, however, said that she didn’t believe anything was wrong with the dish. After deliberating, the judges told Preeti to pack her knives and go, and it was mostly because she really believed her flavorless and boring pasta was one of the best dishes. Tom even said to her, “Do you want to just get by week after week, or do you want to win?” And when he answered his own question, the choice was easy.

So three women have gone home–Jen with the big hoop, disgusting earrings and very large tattoos; Eve, and Preeti.

The next several weeks will likely see chefs such as Jesse, Ron and Laurine heading home. Michael, Brian, Jennifer, and Kris Kringle appear to be the top contenders, but you just never know how things are going to shake out on “Top Chef.” See you all next week…..