Friday, October 30, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas - Analyzing Michael, A Cocky Chef And Get a Grip, Jen!

I hate the name of this episode - “Meat Natalie”. I also don’t really want to be reminded of the Restaurant War episode. The brothers were so obnoxious that it gets me annoyed.

There’s no bikini in the opening, so hopefully Jen’s safe. Everyone is tired and defeated sounding. Robin is chatting away.

They arrive in the Top Chef kitchen and Paul Bartolotta is there. The Quickfire Challenge is to make TV dinners based on “iconic” television shows. There’s no apparent reason for this, except to drop the name “TV Guide” as many times as possible. It has nothing to do with Paul Bartolotta and his Italian roots.

At our house, when we were kids, we always thought TV dinners were a huge treat and we only had them if our parents were going out. Take-out in the Stone Age just wasn’t something we did, except VERY rarely.

They have 60 minutes to prepare their dishes. Michael lets drop an interesting tidbit. His mom was a “MOM mom” with dinner on the table at 5:30 every night. But then he says that everything changed when they moved in with their father. AH-HA! Could this childhood trauma be the basis for Michael’s personality disorder? Or should I just say disordered personality?

That’s kind of a shame, though. He continues that he and Bryan had TV dinners at his father’s house “here and there”. So could this whole living-with-his-father thing have to do with why he treats Robin so badly, who is the “mom” of the group? Hmmm.

My goodness, they are all doing so much. They’re including desserts too. How do they do that in 60 minutes?

Kevin tells a darling story about how his family all lives on the same street, including his grandmother. She makes breakfast every morning for the entire family. That’s too sweet.

Jen is having problems. She burns a garlic cream sauce. I really think it’s in her head. And once you lose that confidence, it’s all over.

The chefs serve Padma and Paul on tray tables on a retro couch. Funny.

Jennifer - The Flintstones

Chicken Roulade With Garlic Cream, Pea Salad & Caramelized Peaches

Jen had first looked for some meat on the bone, which would have been apt for the Flintstones. THIS menu has no relation to the show.

Paul looks up at her (remember he’s sitting at a tiny tray table on a low old fashioned sofa) and asks her “How’d you feel in the end?” She hesitates and says, “I feel okay…now.”

Mike I. - Seinfeld

Sausage & Pepper, Mushrooms & Cheese, Warm Fruit Salad With Pine Nuts

Mike claims he’s never seen Seinfeld. Paul is incredulous. So am I and what does this menu have to do with it anyway?

Paul likes the toasted pine nuts.

Kevin - The Sopranos

Braised Meatballs With Polenta, Roasted Cauliflower & Roasted Pear

THIS at least is somewhat reminiscent of the show he’s supposed to be paying tribute to.

Padma: “The cauliflower is really good.”

Eli - Gilligan’s Island

Macadamia Nut Shrimp With Sweet Potato Puree, Herb Salad, Cherries & Bananas

That’s kind of island-y.

Paul: “Fried nicely.”

Why do we keep seeing Robin looking bothered and kind of shifty, as if she’s secretly added salt to someone's dessert?

Michael V. - Cheers

Chicken Parmesan With Braised Swiss Chard & Cherry Pie

HOW in the world did he have time to make a cherry pie?!!

Paul: “Fennel! That’s what I taste, Nice.”

Robin - Sesame Street

Burger With Egg, Crispy Kale, Carrot Salad & Almond Laced Cookie

She talks way too much about what she did and why she did it.

Paul: “I like the direction and the inspiration for sure.” OH, that must mean that he HATES her food.

Bryan - Mash

Meatloaf, Mashed Potato, Asparagus & Apple Tart Tatin

Padma:” Mmm.” Paul: “Ditto on the Mmmm.”

Losers: Jennifer - “The pea salad was kind of …eh. Also, the roulade didn’t hit the mark for me today.”

And Robin - he thought her burger was dry and the meal wasn’t special.

Winners: Kevin - his concept was “consistent”. Paul liked the meatballs and he LOVED the pears.

Bryan - “Beautiful roulade. Dessert (Padma) went Mmm, I seconded the Mmm. Excellent work.”

The winner is Kevin. A version of his meal will be featured in a new line of Top Chef frozen foods by Schwan’s Home Service. Padma actually said that with a straight face as if that’s a good prize! I never even heard of it. Is it a takeoff on my fav (as a child)...Swanson? Kevin hopes his face will be on the box, so his granny can buy it.

I’m sorry that Chef Bartolotta had to judge this challenge. It had no relevance to him whatsoever.

For the elimination challenge, they’re taking over Tom’s restaurant, CraftSteak. They’ll be serving 4 judges and 7 other people.

Jen is tired and unfocused. Kevin is talking about sous-viding his meat. I really don’t get why they all like to do that so much and what the benefit is. Also it always comes out wrong on Top Chef…or is that TNFNS? No, those folks probably don’t even know what it is.

The chefs go into the kitchen and start grabbing meat and seafood. Jen wrestles live lobsters to get at them.

Tom comes in with Natalie Portman. Mike I. is drooling and Eli says (to us) how much he admired her in Star Wars. He looks more like a trekkie than a Star Wars fan…but whatever.

Natalie says how much she loves to eat, but there’s just one thing. Isn’t there always? She’s a vegetarian. All that meat grabbing was for naught.

Robin says she LOVES cooking vegetarian. Tom says CraftSteak is going vegetarian for one night. Jen and Eli flip for the eggplant. He wins and gets the big eggplants and she gets the tiny ones. I like those better anyway.

Mike I. is sooo full of himself, it’s sickening. He says in his restaurant he has 60 dishes on the menu and over 20 of them are vegetarian. He’s not worried about anything. He’s coming across as a real idiot.

Kevin tells us that he knows how hard to feel satiated with just vegetables because he and his wife stop eating meat during Lent. His goal is make something very satisfying.

Robin goes on about fresh garbanzo beans.

Mike I: “I don’t care what I cook. It don’t make a difference to me,” as if no matter what he cooks, it will be good enough. They are definitely spotlighting him this episode. He has a problem with the boiling water for the leeks. He says he’s used to vegetarian cooking because his mother was a vegan. Oh, that explains it. (Kidding.)

Eli says sometimes he feels sorry for vegetarians, because they end up just being served a vegetable medley. Substitute the word Leper or Illegal Immigrant for Vegetarian to get the feeling of how the chefs are talking about this. Weird.

It’s a little surprising that this seems to be such a challenge. It’s 2009, for goodness sake, and probably by 2015 everyone will be a vegetarian anyway.

I can’t even listen to Michael. He won’t let Robin steal a smidgen of boiling water.

Jen says with great passion, “I have never been a vegetarian and I never ever will be.” She says she does cook vegetarian when she has to.

We see Mike again, cutting into the leeks and seeing that they’re not done. He’s kinda smirks and says, of course, he can pull it off. Okay, it’s pretty clear we’re seeing this for a reason. Naturally Robin’s dish will stink and so will his. Will Mike go home? If they decide the loser based on who smirks the most, then he will go home.

Dinner is served for the judges, Natalie and some of her friends.


Stuffed Squash Blossom, Beet Carpaccio, Fresh Garbanzo Beans & Chermoula

Padma: “Chermoula has salt. I can feel my ankles swelling.” Natalie says she’s never had fresh garbanzo beans before. Tom says he doesn’t have any and Chef Paul gives him one. Natalie thinks the dish is beautiful to look at. Gale says it has too much salt. Tom says the whole dish was strangely seasoned.


Confit Of Eggplant, Lentils, Garlic Puree & Radish Salad

Gale loves the texture of the eggplant. Nat likes the salad. Paul:” A very thoughtful presentation.” But he didn’t like the “polarizing” lavender blossom, by which I guess he means that it ruins the taste of everything else.

Michael says he’s much more serious than any of the other chefs there and he hopes the judges appreciate that when they see his food. Gag me!

Michael V.

Asparagus Salad, Japanese Tomato, Sashimi & Banana Polenta

They’re intrigued by the banana in the polenta. “I like that Michael is kind of turning us upside down a bit,” Gale says. Natalie says Michael is Picasso.

Someone says this is the second time that Michael has been called Picasso. Does anyone know the first? I know, I know! It’s here, just do a “control F” and type in Picasso to find where the reference is.


Charred Baby Eggplant, Braised Fennel, Tomatoes & Verjus Nage

Jen serves the sauce separately to each diner with her hand shaking. Natalie whispers that she (Jen) is so nervous. Hush! She’s not doing her any favors by pointing it out!

Gale loves the verjus. Natalie is ever so slightly catty when she says it was slightly dangerous too and imitates Jennifer flinging the sauce all over to get it on the plate. That’s not nice. Leave poor Jen alone.

Gale then says her dish is not that substantial. Paul says it doesn’t stand out. One of the guests says this would be great side dish (next to a steak).

Mike I.

Whole Roasted Leeks With Onion Jus, Baby Carrot Purée And Fingerling Potatoes

Mike opens himself up to criticism by saying he wanted to give them a feel of having a protein. He wanted the leek to LOOK like a scallop, but the general consensus at the table is that that still doesn’t make it a protein.

Bryan doesn’t get everything on his plate. It looks like it would feed a bird.


Artichoke Barigoule, Confit Of Shallot, Wild Asparagus & Fennel Purée

Padma, talking about the garlic blossoms, says they’re like a prick on the end of her tongue. Natalie says don’t say that and so the dirty talk begins.

Padma is continuing to describe something or other and Tom says they went from a little prick to (something) big in your mouth. A guest says, “That’s what usually happens.” Maybe it’s good for Bryan that that took the emphasis off the dish.


Duo Of Mushrooms, Smoked Kale, Candied Garlic & Turnip Purée

Paul says this is richer and feels more like an entrée. Natalie says it’s meaty. “It’s a manly vegetarian meal.”

Michael looks at what Bryan didn’t have time to put on the plate and he tastes it. He says it's full of grease anyway. Mike walks by and says, “It (the fighting between the brothers) never ends.”

We see a scene with the chefs eating at the Bartolotta restaurant. Kevin tells them about when he ate 130 chicken wings at one sitting. Someone (I didn’t see who) says he didn’t get fat accidentally. Kevin says it was a personal choice. They’re all stuffed and Kevin asks if anyone want to go to the buffet after.

I LOVE that Macy’s commercial, with Lucy, Tim, Jerry, Johnny and Kanye (with his mouth shut).

Padma calls in Kevin, Michael and Eli. As they walk in, Kevin says Eli is going to ask them if they called his name by accident. The judges were really impressed with Michael’s dish. Tom says it reminds him of why you have to keep an open mind about dishes, because he thought the banana in the polenta would be weird.

Gale thought Eli’s dish was beautiful. Tom says it was interesting and fun.

Natalie says Kevin’s dish was wonderful. Tom says it was a mouthful of flavor.

And the winner is…Kevin! Natalie says his dish showed inventiveness and cohesive flavor.

Kevin wins a suite of GE appliances. He laughs. I can’t tell if he’s thinking I don’t want that junk or he really likes them. He could always give them to Grandma.

Oh, this is entertaining. Michael is po’ed and kinda nasty in his camera interview. He says Kevin won by cooking a turnip purée, roasted turnips and a big pile of mushrooms on a plate. “I coulda made that dish in 20 minutes.”

Wow! Is there a reunion show? I want to hear what Kevin thinks when he sees this show.

Michael continues, “For a dish that I could have made in the second year of my apprenticeship, to win? I was obviously pissed off.”

Robin, Jennifer and Mike go in.

They start with Mike. Natalie wondered why there wasn’t a protein. They all give him a hard time about saying the leek was supposed to represent a protein.

Mike tries to explain and excuse his leeks and says the rest of his stuff came out well. Tom begs to differ. He says the carrots were okay, but the problem is it doesn’t matter, because you couldn’t get past the leeks. Uh-oh. Mike actually says, “Whatever, whatever. What am I going to do?” Go home, fool, that’s what. It’s never a good idea to look as if you don’t care.

As usual they don’t like Robin. She blabbed and blabbed…and blabbed some more about her dish. Tom says it was all over the map and it never came together. Gale particularly didn’t like the chermoula.

On to Jennifer, Padma says she didn’t see two hours worth of work on her plate.

This is mean. Padma says, “About your verjus, a few of us wore it.’ Are Padma and Natalie examples of “Mean Girls”?

Jen says she was nervous at the dinner and that she’s nervous now. Tom says her performance is starting to suffer. She says she hopes to pull herself together, but if she doesn’t then she thanks them for the chance. That’s not good, to sound as if she’s giving up.

The truest thing said on this episode was when Natalie said she didn’t think it was that outlandish a challenge…that it’s a real-life challenge. She says many times she goes into a restaurant and asks the chef to come up with a vegetarian option for her. It is true that they shouldn’t have found it so arduous. Plus it was only one dish and for not a huge amount of people.

With the chefs out of the room, they say Jennifer was a defeatist. Gale says Mike was arrogant, and that he took for granted that he would never go home. Nat notes that it wasn’t a good idea that Robin did two of the elements of her dish for the first time that night.

And it’s…Mike. He gives a creepy smile. He says he should have done a lot better than everyone else, because this is his background. Whatever that means.

He says Robin should have been eliminated, and that if he had been on the bottom as many times as she has been, he would have sent HIMSELF home. His last line was his best. Oh well. SO long, sucka.

He doesn’t look too upset. Jen is more upset for having done so badly. I just really don’t want to see Robin in the finals and I hope the brothers grow up a little bit between now and the finale.


Anonymous said...

I don't see Robin making it to the finals. I don't think she can keep squeaking by, unless Jenn screws up again next week. But I think the remaining chefs are too good for her to pull a Lisa from two seasons ago and somehow wind up in the final over your Dale.

And Michael V. - if you coulda made that dish in 20 minutes, then you should've. Just because it's "basic" doesn't mean it can't be good.

Adam said...

I just watched the episode last night, and I'm with ya on Mike being super cocky. Before it was kinda fun, but now it just got nuts. You gotta love it when he gets his due.

I'm guessing this show goes down to Kevin vs. the brothers. They are up there just about every week.

Sue said...

From your mouth...Lisa turned out to have some chops at the end, even though my Dale WAS screwed.

Do you think Michael's personality is getting in the way of him not winning more challenges? I wonder if the judges see any footage of how they are in the kitchen and they just decided Kevin is such a nice guy AND he can cook that they want to give it to him.

It IS clear, though, as much as I hate to say this, that Michael is a superior chef and amazingly gifted. So maybe he should be TOP CHEF and not Kevin, who would be TOP SWEETHEART.

Hiya Adam,
Yeah, Michael is definitely annoying.

I'm with you on the final three, but stuff happens, so who knows? I wouldn't be unhappy if Kevin wins, but as I just said, Michael CAN cook.

Heather said...

I was also annoyed about Michael's comment on Kevin's dish. Michael made polenta and an asparagus salad which also doesn't take hours to prepare. I'm with Amy - if he 'could have done that', maybe he should have - it was the winning dish. Maybe his overconfidence and arrogance is keeping him from topping Kevin's dishes. He is a great cook but to be a great chef you have to keep your team working in the right direction and I would never want to work for him. Biased, of course, because I am a HUGE fan of Kevin.

I'm disappointed with Jenn. She should be doing so much better and just keeps falling on her face. She's getting too emotional and is bringing that weakness to the table.

Sue said...

Hi Heather,
You're right about a chef having to be able to command his troops. That distinction between the brothers came up before - Bryan has been a chef in the sense of leading his kitchen staff and Michael has cooked in many different places and honed his skills as a cook.

But for the purposes of this competition, they are being judged largely on their ability to cook. Yes, they have to deal with teammates in some challenges, but the major thing is their cooking.

Jen was my pick from the beginning and her progress has been disappointing. Kevin is such a cool, nice guy, it would be great if he won. But as far the person with the most advanced culinary talents? Don't tell him I said this, but I'm thinking it's the insufferable Michael.

Anonymous said...

Sue do you read Tom Colicchio's blog on Bravo? He said that he actually wanted Michael V's dish to win this week. But, he also wrote, "Please don't be snowed by the Voltaggio brothers' techniques." He said that while they use advanced cooking techniques, in the end it still comes down to whether the dish was good, and fancy techniques doesn't mean it's going to taste better - it just means you used fancy technique. And this one challenge notwithstanding, all the other times Kevin beat them out, Tom agreed that he had the better dish.

Oh, and I felt that halfway through that dinner Padma was a tad drunk. But I'm not a fan of hers, for reasons I just can't quite put my finger on.

Sue said...

You know I HAVE read Tom's blog and I really should again, but I don't read anything that anyone says BEFORE I write my post.

But see? MV did snow me with his fancy schmancy cooking. I do agree that it doesn't matter how complicated it is, if it's not good, it doesn't matter.

BUT don't you think a few brownie points should be given to the more complicated of two equally good dishes? In this case, though, it sounds as if Kevin's dish was just better...

Emily said...

Padma was drunk? Isn't she pregnant on the show? They were acting all giggly and silly about something. Ohhh I think it was Eli's dish.

This was a great recap of a good episode of the show. We're getting down to the finals and it's getting exciting. Robin goes next week.

Anonymous said...

If a dish is close I think brownie points for the fancy technique. But they only showed Michael using a blowtorch. Is that super fancy? Plus, Kevin's seemed to be the only dish that would seem substantial. Michael's did seem kind of side-dishy.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Missed this episode. I wish I had seen Mike go. I want to root for Robin just to see her outlast Mike and MIke and Eli!

Vegetarian by 2015? Say it aint so. I'm going out for a burger!

Interesting how the tide is turning against Jen.

KEVIN HAS A WIFE? Did I ever know that? I was sure he was gay. As a woman I would not want to kiss that icky beard. As much as I like him and his cooking, the presence of that beard in my kitchen even grosses me out a bit.

Sue said...

She did seem a bit loopy, but I think it was because there were so many women at the table, she was treating it as Girls Night Out type of thing.

I can't imagine that Robin will stay much longer.

I don't disagree with you about this particular dish of Michael's. And why they all, except Kevin, couldn't seem to get that a vegetarian dish can be filling and not piddly is a mystery to me.

Hi Rach,
The bad thing about Jen is that it isn't that people are turning against her, it's HER turning against herself!

I always think people are gay and I never thought Kevin was. I know what you mean about his beard, but he has such a cute personality that I think that overrides a few little hairs in the stew. (NOT!!!)

Shays’ Rebel said...

I loved this episode because of that stupid Mike Izzy. I watched it over and over. Hahaha. Buh-by, Mike! My heart leapt with joy when Mike left before Robin. Nonny-nonny boo-boo, you prickless scum.

And as for the evil Michael, this wasn’t the first time he felt the need to diss a winner. Remember the cactus? If I were cooking cactus for Michael, I would pull off all the needle sharp sticky things and serve those to him hidden in a nice sauce.

What is it with chefs and vegetarian dishes that they hate so much to make and can’t cook them anyway? Oftentimes I order a “vegetable plate” even when I go to two star restaurants. What’s wrong with fried green tomatoes, squash casserole, and collard greens? Oh, wait, I said two star restaurants, I meant two asterisk restaurants, and the chef is called “chef.” (When you send your compliments to the “chef,” you have to use air quotes.)

All the chefs on Top Chef think they have to serve their vegetables piled up in little sticks and teepees and yuck, disks. (Do they even know what a ladle is?)

I’m worried about poor Jen. It’s terrible when you do poorly once, and from then on it affects your entire performance. Now it would be terrible if she went home before Robin. (She won’t, of course.) That would be a travesty, but I don’t think she could possibly do that badly. Mike, yes, haha, but not Jen!

I thought Padma was pregnant too! Now, my mother smoked and drank on six kids, and I must say we all turned out, well, sem-EYE almost adequate.