Friday, October 30, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas, Ep. 10: I Gotta Take a Leek

I finally caught this week’s Top Chef on DVR. I had the chance to be out eating great food and chose that over watching people on TV cook food. So this week the chefs had to take a crack at TV Dinners. Although I watch a lot of TV while eating dinner, I have never been a fan of the traditional frozen TV dinner, so I was interested to see what they would whip up. To add to the fun, each chef drew a knife and got a TV show to base their dish on. I thought this was cool and was even more excited about this Quickfire Challenge. Unfortunately, very few of the chefs actually did much with the theme. Most of them weren’t even that familiar with their shows.

Here’s what they got and what immediately came to my mind:
- Kevin: The Sopranos- A great one. Make an Italian feast, feature something from the pork store and of course, some Capicola (gabagool). Kevin does meatballs. I doubt he’ll be the one to get whacked.
- Eli: Gilligan’s Island- This one is easy. Coconut cream pie, radioactive carrots & spinach and wash it down with some Spider Cider. Or The Skipper's favorite meal; a nice, thick, juicy steak. Eli admits he’s a bit young to really know Gilligan, so he does island themed macadamia shrimp. I can live with that.
- Jen: The Flintstones- Oh man, so much here. Obviously giant ribs, a bronto-burger, a bowl of Fruity Pebbles and any drink on the rocks. Unfortunately, Jen does not have any big beef to work with, so she does a lame chicken dish with little relevance to the show. Yabba dabba dull.
- Robin: Sesame Street- There are so many possibilities. Obviously cookies, but how about cooking a big bird? Or say your dish was brought to you by the letter “C” and make all foods that start with “C”. Also, make something with sesame seeds, for god sakes. While Robin does not know Sesame Street that well, she does at least make an attempt to link the color and look of her food to the show.
- Bryan: MASH- The first thing I thought of was mashed potatoes, which actually Bryan did. And I could not argue with his choice of Korean food. He does meatloaf & mashed potatoes. Henry Blake is yawning in his grave.
- Mike I.: Seinfeld- Perhaps the best one to get. So many funny possibilities. Mutton, mulligatawny soup, jambalaya, scrambled eggs with lobster, pretzels to make your mouth dry, Kenny Roger’s chicken, a Twix, Poppy’s handmade pizza… the list goes on and on. But Mike I. confesses that he never watched Seinfeld. WHAT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I never really liked this guy and now I know why. I hope he gets kicked off tonight. He makes sausage and peppers. He could have won this event by simply saying at presentation: “No soup for you!”
- Mike V.- Cheers- Bar food comes to mind, which is what Mike V. does, but I would have at least served a beer in honor of Norm. I also would have done a Boston themed meal… maybe some chowdah or baked beans.

Jennifer and Robin end up as the losers, and Kevin and Bryan are on top. Kevin ends up winning, but as I said, I was very disappointed by the lack of relevancy the food had to any of the TV shows. Kevin also wins the honor of his dish being featured as one of the new Top Chef frozen TV dinners. It’s the brand his grandma buys, and he says he hopes someday she can buy one with his picture on the box. I like Kevin, but my god man, you’ve won a lot of money already on this show. Step up and buy the damn meals for your grandma yourself. What kind of grandson are you?

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs get to take over Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak restaurant at the MGM Grand. That night, the chefs eagerly plan there carnivorous platters, only to be surprised by guest judge Natalie Portman, who is a vegetarian. This throws a wrench in most people’s plans, but Robin is psyched because she is at home with vegetarian meals. Surprisingly, Kevin reveals that he and his wife take a vegetarian break each year. You’d never know it by looking at him. I guess potato chips and ice cream are not considered meat. His veggie break is probably why he’s still alive, after watching the segment where he eats everything in sight at the contestant’s’ dinner.

It’s apparent that there is no fight left in Jen. Her performance is starting to slide and each interview has her less confident than the last. The opposite is true of Mike I., who assumes that he'll keep moving on, no matter what he does.

I think my favorite part of this challenge was Tom Colicchio’s reactions to the dishes and the contestant’s explanations after words. A few words to describe it would be confounded, condescending, baffled, disgusted and annoyed.

The winners are Mike V., Eli and Kevin. Eli might have done better, but a judge got a piece of his lavender garnish in a bite and equated it to eating soap. Having tasted those soap ball decorations as a curious kid, I know how bad that can be.

Kevin ends up as the big winner again. He also wins a suite of GE kitchen appliances. Hey, maybe he can actually cook his grandma a meal or two now, instead of letting her eat frozen dinners.

When all is said and done, it’s Robin, Jen and Mike I. on the bottom. Mike I. was convinced he would win this challenge, but a pot of slow heating water drowns his hopes. He serves undercooked leeks. However, Robin seems to have finally written her ticket out of the kitchen. Not only does she attempt to cook two dishes she’s unfamiliar with, but she under serves her beans by three plates. Meanwhile, Jen has become Eeyore from Winnie the Poo. She practically concedes the contest at Judge’s Table.

Just as we all expected the knife to come down on Robin, a bomb is dropped instead. Mike I. is eliminated. The man many deemed as the wild card in this contest is gone. He’s shocked, Robin is shocked and so are the rest of us. Sure, he’s a cocky S.O.B., but Robin did not get all of her food served. Those must have been some bad leeks. Or maybe the judges just agreed with me that anyone who doesn’t watch Seinfeld should just pack their knives and get the hell out of the kitchen. In Seinfeld-speak, he’s just not sponge-worthy.

So Robin dodges a bullet and there is finally only one Mike that I have to write about.
See you next week. Bon Appetite.


Stephanie Frantz said...

Jack, as always, great recap. However, I can't believe you didn't even mention the fact that at judging Mike said "whatever, whatever, whatever" when talking about is screw-ups with his meal. I am pretty certain that is why he went home instead of Robin. Who says that to the judges???

Wacky Jackie said...

Yeah Steph, you are right. I wrote a day after I watched the show, so it was not fresh in my mind, and I was all riled up about the TV show stuff.

I loved that they called him out on that. That was such a diss to the judges. He never thought he was going home before Robin.