September 7, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas - Week 3: "I was pretty much in tears, y'know what I'm sayin'?"

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Last week on Top Chef: All the contestants bitched about the challenge. Blah blah blah. Tom Coliccio had something to say about it on the Top Chef Blog, and he said it better than me, so go check it out.

Episode 3 starts out with the girls in bed moping. Laurine says she feels intimidated by the other contestants because she was trained so long ago and the others are so talented. They head off to the resort and...


Quickfire Challenge

Create an "out of this world" dish featuring potatoes.


POTATOES! Lots of 'em. All colors and sizes. Preeeeeety. When they say "out of this world," I wonder if any of the contestants will decide to take it to the "alien" level somehow. They only have 45 minutes to cook their potatoes.

I almost fall in love with Ron when he says that what music was to Bob Marley, food is to him - peace and love. Peace and love on a plate!

Ashley decides to do a potato gnocchi even though it's going to be a really tight squeeze to pull off in the amount of time they're given. The problem with these types of decisions is they are either really impressive or end up REALLY badly. Then there is a dramatic mixup with Preeti using Ashley's water totally by mistake, Ashley was pretty pissed and it put her even further behind with her gnocchi.

Ash's chilled sweet potato custard turned out not too bad. Bryan did a soup, and Preeti went for poached potatoes, her dish was gorgeously colorful. Mike V did tuna and potatoes for a winning balance and Jennifer did potatoes three ways, which the judges thought was nice. Robin used three kinds of potatoes with pancetta and an egg, and Hector did another potatoes three ways dish. His purple potatoes and ham looked so pretty! Laurine made a veggie potato burger with a portobello bun. Uck. Mattin made cod with potato puree, and Kevin made a bacon braised yam which sounded yummy. Mike I did a potato risotto, which came out a little salty but I agreed with Padma that it was a cool idea. Ashley's gnocchi didn't get any terrible comments off the bat, and Eli made a Yam puree with pistachios and bruleed whipped maple... MMMM. Except for that shell that snuck it's way in there. Ron made a sweet potato crusted yellowtail, and they liked his side better than his main dish. Jesee did a sweet potato soup, which the judges thought was quite spicy.


Eli's yam dish was apparently too sweet, so send it over here. Seriously? Sounded delicious. Ron & Jesse are also in the bottom three. Jennifer's mussels, Ash's custard and Ashley's gnocchi made it to the top three. Mark chooses Jennifer as the winner, giving her immunity and Mike the Man calls it favoritism? WTH? I don't get what he meant by that.


Elimination Challenge


A man in dress blues walks into the kitchen. He is an Air Force Colonel and give them some orders.


Chefs must report to Nellis Air Force Base, home of the famous Thunderbirds, to prepare a meal for 300 airmen.


The Colonel points out that these people have had many types of foods and also have nutritional requirements. The chefs are told they will know nothing about their ingredients or cooking supplies until they show up on site.


Back at the house, the chefs meet and discuss the challenge. They decide to put Jennifer in charge since she cannot be eliminated if people go wrong. The chefs then divide themselves into team of two, who will each prepare a dish with an American theme. At the end, Jesse and Ron are left with each other.


When the chefs arrive at the kitchen on base, they find cans and cans and packages and packages of food. There are no stoves or pots. They have to serve 300 airmen in a less than ideal (for them) kitchen. This is an industrial kitchen, not a restaurant kitchen. Kevin has cooked in a facility like this before in ROTC, which is definitely an advantage. Jennifer takes teh best idea from each team and writes it down, and they start to prep.


All of the chefs are excited about cooking for the men and women who have been serving our country. Preeti talks about how the defining moment she wanted to be a chef was 9/11 and that it affected everyone differently, and that's how she felt it and then she went to culinary school a few years later. Huh? Um, okay...


Mike the Man decides to do a cold shrimp salad "just for the hell of it." I secretly hope it goes horribly wrong so I don't have to listen to him anymore. There is a lot of braising going on in the kitchen, Kevin's southern meat sounds really good. Ron wants to make chowder, he's won at a chowder festival before. I fear that something will go wrong. Ashley and Ash are making a chocolate brioche bread pudding and NOM NOM I WANTS.


There is only one skillet in the kitchen, everyone is having trouble because there are no burners or pots and pans, and they have to figure out timing and how to cook all of the food in what order etc. Jennifer does as good job of keeping people organized and keeping the cooking areas labelled so that everyone knows when it's their turn and who is using what. The situation could have been just AWFUL and she managed it very well to help everyone get their dishes done.


The chefs all finish their dishes on time without any major problems. Ash, Ashley & Jennifer are going to be the 'helpers,' there to refill make sure things run smoothly and basically be gofers. They start judging each other's dishes, Eli doesn't think that the clam chowder was the best idea, and Laurine doesn't feel confident about the pasta salad.


Padma is wearing a crazy dress with leopard print and a belt thing. It seems almost too sexy for the occasion. The braised pork shoulder with potato salad looked very good. I thought Kevin and Eli really hit the mark because they were really going for providing something from home for the soldiers. When he started talking about his family, I started to get a little teary eyed.


The judges were impressed with what the chefs came up with considering the ingredients they had. Well, except the pasta salad. They definitely weren't impressed with that. I don't understand why the chili was okay for a hot day but the clam chowder wasn't. Gail thought maybe because itw as creamy/heavy it wasn't as appetizing in the heat. The judges and airmen loved teh potato salad. They loved the pork belly taco things, but did not like the greek salad that came with it.

Aside from the gnocchi water incident, there was quite a large lack of drama and mistakes in this episode. When the Colonel was thanking the chefs I just couldn't hold it together. If I'd been one of those chefs? I would have been freaking bawling. What an awesome opportunity. Even though drama makes for a more fun show to watch, I guess I'm glad they didn't eff this one up. Ron sums it up - "I was pretty much in tears, y'know what I'm sayin'?"


Judges Table


The judges call Mike, Michael, Eli & Kevin first. The judges loved the BBQ Pulled Pork and the bacon dish, but they didn't have much good to say about the salad. In the end, Michael V won the challenge for his pork/bacon taco things.

Preeti, Laurine, and Mike get called back. Mike the Man is LIVID that he was in the winners bracket for his team, but called back on his own for possible elimination. I hope that he goes, I actually can barely stand him. Mike pointed out that he "didn't have to" do that dish (the salad) and the guest judge pointed out that his salad was bland, and he was responsible for it. They split up the work, went their own ways (they admitted that in the previous judging) and Mike's dish was not strong enough. Tom was determined to find out who said "let's make pasta salad," and they wouldn't or couldn't say. They said they thought their dish was flavorful. Laurine says during judging "to be honest with you, I think I honestly forgot about the competition." Dude, why would you say that during judging?!

It was a pretty harsh judging between the bottom three this time. It seemed like this was a pretty hard decision for the judges. They were really going at it at the table! Laurine and Preeti didn't understand why they were there, or what they were supposed to be doing, and Mike put forth a flavorless, unappealing throwaway dish.

In the end, it is Preeti who must pack her knives and go.

Next week, the chefs face the French.

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