Last night’s “Top Chef Las Vegas” on Bravo began with Eli talking about how he, at 25, still lives with his parents–and he’s kind of proud of it. Okay. Then they showed he and Robin bickering in the kitchen of the house they are all living at, and Eli telling Robin “You’re not my mom!” Nice. Anyway, it seems like Robin, who is 15-20 years older than most of the other chefs, is a bit out of place here. She’s also clearly not as talented.
The quick fire challenge featured chef Charlie Palmer, who the brothers Voltaggio have both worked for, as the guest judge. The challenge was to create a dish paired with snack food, namely the new Alexia snacks (which are awesome, by the way)….Palmer judged each one and his least favorites were Robin’s jalapeno and sweet corn custard, Ash’s chilled cucumber soup and barbecue snacks, and Jennifer’s pork chops, which dried out significantly before Palmer tasted them.
His favorites were Eli’s clam salad, Brian’s ribeye and Kris Kringle’s (Kevin) warm bean salad. I’m not sure how those three were paired with the snacks, but apparently they were done well. Eli’s was the overall favorite.
For the elimination challenge, the chefs were asked to create a dish for an event Palmer was involved in called “Pig and Pinot,” where pork dishes had to be paired with wine. Each contestant drew a knife that had a part of the pig on it, and they could each choose a pinot noir to pair their dish with and would be judged both on the food and the pairing. Eli won the first challenge so he had free reign to choose, and he picked the pork belly. Jen drew a wild card knife and she also got to choose whatever she wanted, and naturally chose the belly as well.
Meanwhile, Ash made a pork tenderloin with polenta…but wait! Another chef suggested he make a chilled tenderloin dish with a cherry and corn salad, so he changed his mind and did that. Does this guy have a mind of his own? Kris Kringle made a pork and vegetable pate with mushroom salad, and told himself that he needed to win this one because he’s an expert on pork and even has a pig tattooed on his arm. Brian made ribs with parsnip puree, Mike V. made pork cheeks in root beer with truffles, Jen made a light take on pork & beans, Eli made a braised pork belly with root vegetables, Mike Isabella a stuffed pork shoulder with orange sauce, and finally Laurine made peppery pork rillettes.
The guest judges, along with Palmer, would be Dana Collin from Food & Wine Magazine; the pleasantly obnoxious Toby Young; and of course head judge Tom Colicchio and host Padma Lakshmi. After tasting each one, the judges asked to see Michael, Brian, Kris Kringle and Jen. I turned to Mrs. Mike and said, “There is your final four.” Pretty much, right? And at this point I’m thinking we need to fast forward a few weeks, because it’s evident that Ash, Laurine and Robin are not going to win…and Eli and Mike Isabella are wild cards.
Toby talked about how pairing certain American dishes with European wines was difficult, like the difference between a shaved armpit and hairy armpit…um, come again? I think they threw that in there for comic relief.
Anyway, the favorite dish and winner this week was..Kris Kringle! He won a spot as a guest judge at the 2010 “Pigs & Pinot” event. So dude accomplished what he wanted to. Then they asked to see Ash, Laurine and Robin. Yeah, no duh. They told Ash his dish lacked flavor…ouch. Then he explained his original intention, and Palmer told him he should have stuck with that and Ash was kicking himself. Colicchio reminded Ash that he’s done this before too. Laurine was told her rillettes were like cat food. Yikes. And Robin’s pork was thin and her sauce was gummy.
However, Robin and Laurine both thought their dishes were good, and that in itself is a problem. But in the end, it was Ash’s lack of flavor that did him in, as well as the fact that he couldn’t think for himself. That translates to no chance of winning Top Chef.
So we’re down to eight now….the projected final four of Michael, Brian, Kris Kringle and Jen; and the likely next four to go home in Robin, Laurine, Eli and Mike Isabella. Who do you like? I’m going with Kris Kringle until he proves me otherwise, but any of the top four I mentioned could easily win.
See you guys next week!