Thursday, October 15, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas, Ep. 8: Kiss Your Ash Goodbye

Things are heating up in the Top Chef kitchen, as the field is narrowing and there are fewer places for people to hide. This week, at the beginning of the show, we learn that Eli still lives with his parents and Robin does Pilates every morning. It illustrates my impression of these two. Eli is a spoiled brat and Robin has to work for everything she gets.

Mike V. reflects on his poor showing from last week and then confidently points out that even Babe Ruth struck out every now and then. (Perhaps all that flattery from Ash last week has gone to his head?)

When we get to the Top Chef kitchen, Padma introduces the guest judge, Charlie Palmer, a great American chef who has ties to both Voltaggio brothers. Bryan worked for him for 10 years and Mike worked with him for one year. The Quickfire’s theme this week was “pairing”. The chefs had to pair a dish with a selection from the Alexia frozen food collection. I had never heard of Alexia, and I’m afraid their advertising scheme worked on me. After watching this challenge, I not only looked them up online, but I have scoped out supermarkets in the area where I can find it. Some of those things sounded good, like those onions or BBQ chips. They even have spicy sweet potato fries, which I’m sure will appear in my dreams tonight. (Naturally, Padma will be feeding them to me in that dream, but that’s none of your business.)

The chefs go to it with mixed results. Kevin takes the fried onions and does a spin on the classic green bean casserole. Laurine takes a page from Dr. Lecter’s cookbook and incorporates fava beans into her dish. She should have paired it with a nice Chianti, if you ask me.

Jen makes pork chops, and quickly realizes that they are over cooked. That’s one of the differences between the better chefs and the rest. They tend to recognize their mistakes. How many times at judges table has Ash or Robin been surprised by the judges reaction to their food?

Sure enough, Robin, Ash and Jen end up on the bottom. Jen is there for poor execution while the other two simply made subpar dishes.

The top finishers are Eli, Bryan and Kevin. Eli scores his first win. I’m sure his parents are proud. Unfortunately, it was not a high stakes challenge, so he does not win any money, and he won’t be getting his own place anytime soon.

Then the Elimination Challenge is announced. The group will be cooking for the Pigs & Pinot event, which involves pork and Pinot Noir. I gotta tell you, if that Alexia food did not make me hungry enough, now they are working with two of my favorite things in the world. As a matter of fact, if I had written that song about “a few of my favorite things”, pork and Pinot Noir would definitely have made it into the lyrics. So would peanuts, baked potatoes, candy corn and mint chocolate chip ice cream among other things. But I digress…

After the contestant draw knives to determine which cut of pork they will use, they return to the house for the evening. Here, through the magic of video editing, we are treated to the non-stop chit chat of Robin and its adverse effect on the rest of the group. Kevin wisely stays out of the fray, but Mike I. and Eli’s distain for Robin is on display front and center. It must be weird for these people to watch the shows afterwards and see all the crap that is said about them behind their backs. If I were on this show, I’d be really careful about what I said about others… after all, all of these folks own really big knives.

- Bryan gets ribs, perhaps the most classic of pork dishes, but one that usually takes a long time to cook properly. His work is cut out for him.
- Kevin gets leg, and is thrilled to be working with pork. He even boasts a pig tattoo. This guy has the love. He comments that with his extensive experience with pork, it would be a major disappointment if he did not win this challenge. (Kind of like when Scarfy did not win the French cuisine challenge.)
- Ash gets tenderloin, perhaps the most delectable dish on the pork menu. When he takes advice from Mike I. and decides to serve a cold pork dish, I knew he was in trouble. Ash is clearly in over his head in this competition.
- Eli gets pork bellies, which always makes me think of Trading Places. Jen draws a wildcard knife and also chooses pork bellies. She wisely avoids a cut that’s susceptible to overcooking. She’s ready to redeem herself from her dry pork chops.
- Laurine gets pork butt and decides to make rillettes. Unfortunately, she does not properly prepare her dish and the judges compare it to cat food. To be honest, I can’t believe she survived this round.
- Robin makes pork chops, which are described as “slimy”. Unless you are cooking for the Adam’s Family, that is not a good word to describe your food.
- The brothers get into a tiff in the kitchen and Mike tells Bryan to go “F” himself at one point. The sibling rivalry is always interesting with these two, as is their loyalty when they are faced with an outside threat.

The top four turn out to be Mike V, Bryan, Jen and Kevin. It was Mike V. who compared himself to Babe Ruth, but it is Kevin who steps up to the plate and hits it out of the park. And, similar to Babe Ruth’s famous called shot, Kevin had pretty much predicted that he would win this challenge. Kevin also is awarded the honor of returning to Pigs & Pinot next year. I am seriously thinking of booking a ticket myself.

On the bottom we have the usual suspects; Robin, Ash and Laurine. I really thought this was it for Laurine, but when Ash starts talking he digs his own grave. He basically admits that he had second guessed himself again and had failed to execute what he calls “his food”. So Ash is asked to pack his knives and go.

Next week things continue to heat up as it’s time for everyone’s favorite, Restaurant Wars. I can’t wait to see how Robin does working in a team setting with this crew. As for me, I’m off to find me some pig and Pinot.

Bon Appetite.

1 comment:

h said...

A triple-elimination would have been nice. And perhaps merciful.