Thursday, September 10, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas - Guess Who's Coming To Dinner? Robuchon, The Chef Of The Century

Okay, I’m really liking this. The losing Quickfire chef will be going home, as well as one at the end. Not that I wish them ill. There are just too many chefs to keep them all straight.
We see the chefs in the morning. They all look awful. Ashley, no, Robin seems to be sitting by herself. We’re seeing Robin a lot. Uh-oh for her.

They arrive at the Wynn Las Vegas. Cool. And there’s Daniel Boulud. Eli blabs on about who he is. Tom holds up a snail. Jen says (to us) that whoever thought a snail looked good to eat had to be really hungry. She puts it a bit more colorfully.

The Quickfire Challenge – Create a dish using escargots in 45 minutes.

It’s not that that’s sooo hard, but, as with all of these challenges, the time is the thing. Daniel says he expects somezinnngg heee hazzz neve-AIR tasted before.

They work in Daniel’s gorgeous kitchen. I just want to take a look around.

Mattin is thrilled. Robin is worried. She is so going home. Three at a time, the chefs place their dishes in front of Tom and Daniel.


Escargot Provençal With Caramelized Shallots, Pernod & Fresh Herbs


Escargot With Grilled Ramps, Brussels Sprouts, Chanterelle Mushrooms & Yuzu

They liked the yuzu with its acidity.


Escargot, Mache & Fried Tomato

Interesting, says Daniel.


Sautéed Escargot, Lemon Risotto, Spinach, Parsley Pesto & Garlic Butter

Very nice, says Daniel.


Caribbean Escargot With Pickled Mushrooms


“Bagels & Lox” – Poached Escargot, Marmalade, Goose berries & Rye Crostini

Mm-hmm, says Daniel


Fava Bean Crostini With Escargot Sautéed In A Piment D’Espelette & Anise


Escargot Mirepoix Soup & Salad

Very interesting.


Escargot Fricassée With Mushrooms, Brussels Sprouts & Candied Bacon Jam

Daniel asks if his bacon jam is his mom’s recipe. He says he made it up at his restaurant


Escargot With Red Wine Risotto, Spinach Emulsion & Marcona Almond Froth

Goodness, so complicated.

Michael V

Escargot & Chanterelle Mushroom Bolognese Lasagna


Mike I (The one that isn’t the brother.)

Sautéed Escargot Over Potato Garlic Puree, Spring Onion & Ouzo Broth

Mike blabs a little about his inspiration from Crete. Tom and Daniel don’t seem to care.

Interesting, Daniel says.

Tom says they put together some really great dishes, and they had 3 favorites. One was Mike Isabella’s. He’s the one that people don’t like. Daniel says that from his trip to Crete, he brought back the soul of the dish. They loved Kevin’s too, with its bacon jam. The last top dish was Jennifer’s. Daniel said her dish had an extra dimension to it. She is sooo winning the whole competition. Remember who told you that and when!

Daniel’s favorite of all of those three was Kevin’s and he gets immunity, plus another bonus to be announced later. He says (to us) that his competitor’s food may be prettier than his, but what he does has just as much validity. It just goes to show, put bacon in anything and you should be okay. It really is the new pomegranate.

There were 3 dishes they didn’t like – Jesse, Ashley’s and Robin’s. Robin is going home, I’m sure of it now. Wait, this is different. They’re going to give them a second chance. They have to go into the kitchen and make an amuse bouche in 20 minutes. Tom says one bite will save them…or their chance at winning Top Chef anyway.


Avocado Soup With Yuzu, Green Apple Mustard Relish & Crab


Tuna Tartare With Sorrel, Gooseberries, Fried Quail Egg & Fried Bread


Foie Gras With Caramelized Pineapple, Tarragon & Ramps

It’ll be Robin going home, but they DID like the soup. They didn’t like Jesse's so much, and there were problems with Ashley’s dish.

Kevin says putting bacon jam on any plate makes you golden.

And the chef going home is…Jesse. I am sooo wrong…all the time. She says she’s been on the bottom the entire time she’s been there and Jesse wants people to know she doesn’t suck as much as it looks.

They draw knives for the Elimination Challenge. 6 have the names of French sauces, 6 have French proteins.

Elimination Challenge

French Pairing – Protein & Sauce

They have to pair up and produce a 6 course meal. (Oh, one course for each pair…I was worried there for a second.)

Mattin is so obnoxious. Because ee ees Frennnsccchh, he feels like the challenge is just for him. He says that “all eyes are on” him. The only thing they’re looking at is his really stupid red scarf. How great would it be if he went home?

They will be serving other great French chefs, including Joël Robuchon (THAT is hardcore greatness!!!) And they’ll be cooking at Robuchon’s Michelin 3 star restaurant. THAT is awesome.* Tom says he’s actually nervous just to eat with the man.

Mike, the brother one, says very dramatically that Robuchon is THE chef of his generation. Not just yours, Mike. Daniel reminds us that he was named the Chef of the CENTURY (by the guide Gault Millau in 1989).

They are so upping their game this season.

Kevin not only will NOT be cooking, but he’ll be joining them for dinner.

The chefs group themselves together in pairs and go shopping. They have 200 dollars to shop.

This is worrying. Ashley says that a velouté sauce is the French equivalent of gravy. Mattin says to add bacon. Ron says Robin has weird ideas that have nothing to do with French cooking. Mike and Bryan have so much sibling rivalry, it's ridiculous. It’s kinda funny in a really immature way.

Hector used to do banquet type food for a living. He says that’s all people want.

Jen says this is probably going to be the toughest challenge of all.

Mattin gets Ashley to say that French cooking is the best. Duh.

Bryan is completely humorless.

Ron’s made frogs legs hundreds of time, so that shouldn’t be a problem. He says Robin is really hyper. I still stick with Robin going. She talks, talks, talks.

Ash, the guy, says they have an hour tomorrow to make the greatest dish of their life.

The judges and other guest chefs enter the dining room in Robuchon's Las Vegas restaurant as if it were a chapel... heck, a cathedral. Everyone but Kevin is dressed in dark colors. Well, Padma is in yellow, but she has to wow everyone every minute of the day. Robuchon comes in dressed rather simply and monk-like (which you just know cost thousands). Kevin is sweet. He’s slightly cowed (who wouldn’t be?), but he holds his own when invited to speak.

Padma introduces the chefs – Daniel Boulud, cute Hubert Keller (I do LOVE his hair), Jean Joho, Laurent Tourondel , Tom and Gail, translator Emmanuel and Joël Robuchon.

Ron And Robin

Frog Legs Meunière With Lemon Confit, Mache & Arugula Salad With Fried Capers

Jean is very opinionated, but not in a bad way.He says it’s very heavy on flour. Daniel says the frog legs are overcooked. Hubert, in his sweet way, says there was some originality in the dish.

And Robuchon? The translation: “They put a lot of thought into this dish. It’s a good dish but the flavors are a little masked. You can’t taste the frog anymore.” Love him. Everyone nods.

Bryan and Mike I.

Warm Cured Trout With Deconstructed Béarnaise

Bryan is such a stiff. Mike I. may be a bit of a blowhard, but at least he has some personality. Bryan has the charm of a rock. Liven it up! Smile! Or something.

Daniel: ”It was a perfect translation of what they had to do. Jean: ”Simple, but really sophisticated.”

Robuchon: “To me, a successful dish is taking something simple and making it exceptional. A sautéed potato, a béarnaise sauce…there is nothing more simple. They deconstructed it, they put a lot of thought into it. J’aime beaucoup.”

Gail smiles widely. How could she not? She’s sitting at the table with Robuchon.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but tears are coming to my eyes every time Robuchon speaks. Where is this coming from? It’s probably like a Roman Catholic seeing the Pope. His French is soooooo French. And there is absolutely nothing like Frenchmen talking seriously about food.

Oh, who am I kidding, I cry at everything. When we took the kids to Disneyworld and I was introduced to Mickey Mouse, I almost wept. They make it this big deal. You stand on a long line to go “backstage” to have some face time in small groups with the grand mouse. It really was like meeting a movie star or hero or something. Robuchon is legitimately great, so I’m giving myself a pass for getting misty eyed.

Eli and Laurine

Lobster, Sauce Américaine With Cauliflower Purée

Jean says the lobster is tough and the sauce is bitter. That can’t be good.

JR: “I think it’s good work. They succeeded in their dish. But if you go into the details, I’m a little caught off-guard.” MAIS NON!!! Chef must never be caught off-guard. He continues, ”Because there’s not a genuine flavor that it should have for lobster Americaine.” Précisément! Zee young chefs must learn zat zeez classic Frennnnsssccchhh dishes must be learned parfaitment.

Ashley and Mattin

Seared Poussin & Ravioli with Sauce Velouté & Green Asparagus

While they’re cooking, Mattin gets Ashley to say that French cooking is the best. Duh.

Mattin introduces the dish in French, which is perfectly appropriate. But after he finishes, HE CURTSIES. I kid you not, he actually really and truly curtsies. Ashley, as sullenly as possible, describes the dish in English. She so clearly doesn’t want to be there. She should go no matter how the dish turns out.

Tom is appalled by how much bacon is in the sauce and says here’s one case where everything is not better with bacon.

Oh, His Majesty is, how you say, malheureux: "The poussin is bland. I don’t know if it’s a velouté or if they wanted to make it more complex?"

Jean: “They worked really hard for not a very good result.”

Michael V. & Jennifer

Rabbit Chasseur with Mustard Noodle & Shiso

Michael introduces the dish with the French word for rabbit, lapin. Good. He’s a bit livelier than his brother and not quite as serious.

Daniel, smiling: “This is a very good piece of rabbit.

God: “The rabbit is always a very difficult dish to make, because it’s often dry in texture. Here you could say the rabbit was cooked perfectly. It’s a successful dish.“

The other chefs agree. Tom says that, though Jen and Michael are young, their "work is mature.” Ahem, who has been rooting for Jen since the very beginning? Oh? Did I already say that once or twice?

Hector and Ash

Chateaubriand, Sauce Au Poivre With Confit De Pommes & Spinach

They have problems because the meat took too long to cook and it had to be cut before it rested long enough, so it starts bleeding all over the plate.

The chefs notice the problems immediately. They can’t find the sauce.

Chef R: “It’s too bad because it’s lacking refinement. There’s no juice, there’s nothing. The big problem with this dish is it’s not ‘au poivre’.”

I have GOT to remember that. The next time H criticizes something I make, I’m going to say, “Do you mean to say it’s lacking in refinement?” THAT does sound a whole lot better than “This stinks”.

At the end of the meal, Padma asks Chef Robuchon if the chefs pleased him. “I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the work of these young candidates. We saw some very successful dishes.” Gail says they couldn’t have had THIS dinner at this point in any other season…basically admitting the crappiness of past cheftestents. (Take THAT Hosea!) Tom agrees.

“Any of the candidates that are looking for a job are more than welcome to come work for me here.” Kevin looks like he wants to bolt from his side of the table and hand him his resume.

Back in the stew room, Kevin refuses to give up anything that was said.

All Ashley does is hold her head in her hands. WHY are they keeping her?

They call in Jen, Michael, Mike and Bryan. The judges loved their dishes. Daniel says his French colleagues thought they were very professional. Jen and Michael give each other tons of credit (anything happening behind the scenes?). Michael says the most important part was “breaking down that animal.” Eww.

After giving particularly high praise to Jen and Michael, they pick Bryan as the winner. Let’s see if he cracks a smile. Mike smiles more than Bryan. STILL no smile. Padma says Bryan has won a week to stage at Robuchon’s Las Vegas restaurant. THAT is the freakin’ prize of the century. He kinda BEGINS to smile…sort of. (Michael AND Jen look pissed.)

They call in the losers - Hector, Ash, Ashley and Mattin.

Daniel says their velouté was closer to a gravy than a velouté. Mattin should have run screaming from the room when he heard that and gone back to his Mama’s apron strings until he learned his sauces better. I’m surprised that Daniel didn’t demand he give up his French citizenship.

Ashley just nods as if she knew everything was bad. Tom says the bacon was way too strong. Mattin says he hadn’t made a velouté in a long, long time. HUH? You’re French and so proud of it. It should be in your blood. You stink and that was a terrible answer.

OMG, when Daniel says he didn’t like the asparagus, Mattin says EET wasn’t his idea to use the asparagus. What a total pill. I like him even less than Ashley. Ashley basically refuses to argue about it. Mattin comes off like a spoiled child.

Ash (the guy) was honest about the problems with their dish. Hector too. They acknowledge that they had problems and were completely upfront about the difficulties. I think they shouldn’t go home. I think Ashley or Mattin should…actually both.

More head-holding by Ashley (the girl). Ashley (the boy) says having a losing dish at Judges Table is really awful, because they’re so spot on about what is wrong with it.

Ashley is kind of cool and perfectly able to take responsiblity for a bad element in a dish. He probably learned what NOT to do again. Mattin on the other hand is a complete jackass. (Now that he’s clearly not the best French chef, TAKE THAT SCARF OFF NOW!)

Okay it is…oh, I didn’t see this coming…It’s Hector. That’s pointless. It seems like the judges thought that the chateaubriand is so basic that there was no excuse for it.

And Ashley is STILL holding her head in her hands. I liked Hector this episode and now he's gone.

* H and I had lunch at Robuchon’s shrine in Paris, 14 years, 3 months and 2 days ago, 3 months before it closed in 1996. To tell you the truth, I remember it as being beautiful, but I don’t remember what we ate. I know it’s shocking, but I DO remember some meals from that trip (see paragraph 4).


DebCarol said...

Now we are getting down to business! This was one of the best & most watchable Top Chef episodes in ages. Real challenges, suspense, quick paced . . and you could practically smell the food on the plates. Think Mattin, Robin or girl-Ashley should have been axed rather than Hector. LOVED that you teared up over Robuchon - Heck I know NASCAR fans that still tear up over mention of Dale Earnhardt's name. Robuchon most certainly inspires awe in anyone who respects the art of food. Thanks for the super recap :^)

Sue said...

I love you for not calling me a wuss and I commend you for at least pretending to read that whole post.

I have to admit when they start talking about Junior's dad, it IS very moving, but we all know my bar is set very low.

Nandini Vishwanath said...

Yay! I loved this episode and I'm a Jennifer fangirl. She's awesome isn't she?

The brothers' rivalry is very irritating, really!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I think the show is on to people like you. They realized they were showing the loser at the beginning of each episode, so they stopped doing it. They're probably start doing it again just when you start to relax.

Bryan may be stiff, but he's so cute. I think he's cuter than his brother (it's probably the tattoo thing - Im' just not into body art). I want to eat his food and do him. Look, if he can cook well, it means he has passion and sesuality somewhere. I'm sure I could bring it out in other places. No Kevin isn't reading this.

I get the whole movie-star chef thing. I felt that way when I got to meet the chef of my favorite restaurant on my birthday a couple of years ago. Granted it's a great restaurant,highly underrated in the foodie world, but still the chef is rather obscure.

I was bugged that Mike I claimed he didn't know anything about the classic French dishes/sauces he was supposed to cook. Did he go to culinary school? Aren't those sauces and techniques pretty much Cooking 101 regardless of what you intend to specialize in down the line?

Could something really not be better with bacon?

I stayed awake until somewhere around Mattin's and Ashley's presentation, so I missed the final elimination yet again. I missed all of the drama. Too bad. I never saw why Hector was eliminated and did see that famous "throw your partner under the bus" scene.

BTW, am I the only one that thinks the big Haitian guy sounds just like Andre The Giant when he was in "The Princess Bride"?

Sue said...

Hey Nandini,
We're definitely on the same page. Jen definitely has the guts to get the glory. I just wish the brothers would relax a little. One would have thought that in a competition so fraught with tension, it might have been nice to have a familiar face around. But it seems like that makes it even more stressful for them.

You're too funny. Yeah, I'm sure someone said, "They're on to us! We have to start editing the show differently and fool people about who's going home."

Bryan really doesn't do it for me. I think he's probably a great cook, but he has such a sullen puss that I just wanna kick him…or tickle him and see what happens.

No question that chefs are really hot. No question at all.

Mike’s bio of the Top Chef website says he’s had no formal training.

Hector kept using a probe thermometer to test the meat and it was just cooking too slowly. He didn’t rectify soon enough so he had to cut the meat at the last minute, which didn’t give Ashley enough time to sauce the plates. BUT that wasn’t as bad as Mattin cooking a really poor dish and Ashley moping her way through.

That’s pretty funny about Ron. But wasn’t Andre the giant guy also the same as Lurch in the Addams family and the guy with the steel teeth on James Bond movies?

Tracy said...

That was some episode, huh? Those guest judges were so polite and constructive. I just love Hubert Keller -- he seems like such an amiable man, and I agree with you, I love his hair. And somehow I thought Robuchon would look like Yoda.

I think they should do a few more double eliminations to pare the chefs down a bit.

I liked Michael & Jen's mutual admiration society. They did seem to work well together. I agree with you, Jen probably will go all the way. To cook snails that well when she hadn't worked with them before?

That Bryan has such a robotic personality. If he gets to the final, 50% of the show would be utterly boring (unless you want to do him - LOL).

Sue said...

That is sooo funny you said that about Robuchon. I thought he DID look like Yoda, mostly in the calm way he sat there dispensing his wisdom, with all the other chefs (incredibly distinquished themselves) basking in his glory.

Well, probably the brothers and Jen will be the last 3 standing, unless something goes very wrong before that...And what would reality television be without an unexpected twist?

Emily said...

Great review. I'm really loving this season. Jen is SO winning.
Not sure if Hector really should have gone. I think Mattin with his bacon-volute should have gone.