Friday, November 20, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas – Because It’s Bocuse…Plus Why In The World Did I Cry At The End?

The chefs are getting ready. We learn that Eli is a really good friend, a best man type of really good friend, of Richard Blais. Ick. I think I’m glad I didn’t know that before.

Jennifer talks about how unfocused she’s become.

They’re in the Top Chef kitchen. Oh, now we’re talking. This is truly awesome. Gavin Kayson, the 2007 US competitor to the Bocuse D’Or competition is the guest judge. He says the Bocuse d’Or “tests your fundamentals, your technique, your passion and it really pushes you to a whole new level of cooking.” So what does that have to do with Top Chef??? Kidding...sort of.

The chefs’ Quickfire Challenge is to do a version of Gavin’s Bocuse d’Or dish of a protein inside a protein, INSIDE A PROTEIN. They have 90 minutes. In Amurica, we call that Turducken! I can’t decide if this is ludicrous or just plain insane.

Oh, this is funny. Jen says she’s going to make a Turducken. Great minds…

The winner won’t get immunity, but he or she will get a significant advantage in the elimination challenge. Eli worries that Gavin will find his dish “ludicrous” I’m just a mind reader tonight.

Michael is a complete jerk. He says Jennifer started out strong, but that basically it’s time for her to go. Gosh, I want her to clean his clock.


Bacon-Crusted Breakfast Sausage With A Six Minute Egg Center

Gavin: “Thank you.”


“Poultry Terrine” Chicken With Turkey & Bacon Mousseline



Calamari Steak, Scallops, Salmon, Shiitake, Shiso With Rice Noodle Salad

“Why did you choose seafood?” Gavin asks her. She says she’s stronger with seafood. Padma, after tasting her dish, says, “Welcome back.” YES! Take that Michael. Kevin gives Jen an adorable wink. How can you not love Kevin?


Rack Of Lamb & Merguez Sausage Wrapped In Caul Fat

“Thank you.”


Cornmeal Fried Fillet Of Catfish With Scallop & Shrimp

“Thank you, Chef.”

Bryan starts out kind of nit-picky when he says that Kevin does pretty simple things, far simpler than his own, but he ends with, “Simplicity’s okay, if you do it correct.” Thank goodness, this is American television, where no one cares about grammar.

Who wins the Quickfire? Gavin thinks Kevin’s catfish was overcooked and that the breading dried it out. Kevin disagrees (to us).

Gavin likes Bryan’s lamb. He thinks it was risky to attempt to do so much in the time that they had and that Bryan pulled it off.

Gavin likes the concept of Eli’s dish and he thinks Jennifer’s dish was very successful.

AND, listen to THIS, Gavin thinks Michael’s dish was more like terrine than a ballontine and it didn’t capture what they were looking for. Michael raises his eye brows in disbelief.

And THEN Michael says (to us) that if he had been told to make a ballontine, he would have and he’s pretty sure that it would have been as good as the one that Gavin made in Lyons for the Bocuse d’Or. You know, the one it took him 4 months to figure out how to do, but Michael could have replicated it on the fly in 90 minutes. GMAB!!!!!!!!!!

And the winner is Jen. YES!!! Go girl! You guy chefs can go fly a kite! Jen won! Hah!

The Elimination Challenge is a Top Chef version of the Bocuse d’Or. They have to make a presentation platter with one protein and 2 garnishes that have to be very intricate and show a lot of technical skill. They have to choose either lamb or salmon and present their food on a mirrored platter before the judges.

Jennifer’s prize is that she gets an extra half hour in the kitchen. She’s happy and says she needs it.

They will cooking for 12 judges including members of the American advisory board of the Bocuse d’Or, including dual 3 star Michelin holder, Thomas Keller. Kevin says his The French Laundry Cookbook changed his life and that he’ll never be able to pay back the debt of gratitude he owes Thomas Keller. Padma says they will be judged on Taste, Creativity and Execution.

The chefs go shopping. Back at the house, Michael goes right to bed. The rest of them watch a dvd of the Bocuse d’Or. They see lots of cheering and screaming. Kevin needs help knowing how to sous vide.

Bryan says (to us) that if someone asks him a question and the other person KNOWS he knows the answer, then he has to answer him, because the other person “will think (he’s) a prick”, if he doesn't. Got that? I believe if Bryan thought he could away with it, he WOULDN’T have answered. And he also remarks that his brother probably wouldn’t share information like that. So Bryan, slightly grudgingly I thought, tells Kevin what to do.

They arrive at the kitchen of Alex in the Wynn Hotel.

Oh my, Tom comes in with Thomas Keller. Thomas is very kindly and says it’s just about “putting your head down and going to work”. Tom says that they wouldn’t have sprung this on them, if they didn’t think they could handle it. WAIT FOR THIS!!!! Bryan gives a full out SMILE after hearing those uncustomarily soothing words from Chef Colicchio.

Michael says he’s confident, because he’s done culinary competitions before (a decade ago) and he always did well. Of course, he did.

Jen says this is a huge opportunity for Thomas Keller to see her talents. Oh, here’s the remark they previewed last week. Michael says Kevin’s food has been good, but not challenging and that “the food that Kevin cooks is the food that I cook on my day off.“

Tom comes into the kitchen to chat. He’s okay with all of them, except that Tom wonders why Kevin is doing something in this challenge that he’s never done before. He adds one more thing…the winner will receive $30,000 from the M resort. They’re all thrilled.

He tells us who the judges are – Tom, Gail, Jerome Bocuse (Paul’s son and a vice president Bocuse d’Or USA, Alex Stratta, Traci DesJardins, Daniel Boulud, Gavin and Tim Hollingsworth and Thomas Keller.

Kevin says he’s going to give them complex flavor in a simple presentation.


Poached Lamb Loin Caramelized In Lamb Fat And Olive Oil, Sherry Glazed Golden Beet With Parsley Sauce And Pickled Swiss Chard Stems; Baked Asparagus With Sunchoke Cream And Buttered Toast


Keller asks him if the lamb was sustainable. Yes, it is. Tom loves the Swiss chard and the pop the parsley sauce gives it. Daniel likes the lightness of the asparagus. Thomas says he did a great job, but that it was a little elementary for the time he had.


Cauliflower And Chickpea Plate, Loin Of Salmon Cooked Sous Vide With Crab Zucchini; Tzatziki With Salmon Tartare Served With A Champagne Tomato Nage

Daniel screws up his face a little and asks him about the direction of the dish. Michael says, “Just Mediterranean flavors.” Traci thinks the flavors are really disparate. Tom asks what cauliflower and caviar have to with Mediterranean flavors.

Alex finds a bone in the fish, which he says would have disqualified him at the Bocuse d’Or. Yeah! Tell ’em. Daniel says there is a total lack of harmony.

Jen is awesome as she offers to help Bryan finish and he accepts.


Crusted Loin Of Lamb; Crepinette Made With Shank Finished With Caponata; Orzo Pasta Cooked In Sheep’s Milk Cheese

Thomas asks him how he made the garlic chips. Bryan says he puréed the garlic and spread it on acetate and dehydrated it. (If you have a dehydrator at home, you too could garnish dinner like that.) Thomas says nice technique. Jerome Bocuse says he likes the way Bryan plated his dish and that he has some strengths and some technique.

Thomas was very impressed when he looked at the platter, but that he undercooked his lamb. Mon Dieu! Traci says if all the components had been well executed the dish makes a lot of sense, but that obviously he ran out of time.

Tom asks Timothy “How coachable do you think he is?” That’s an odd question. Timothy says he likes his demeanor and the way he talks about food and that Bryan is very knowledgeable.


Lamb Sausage Wrapped Around Three Different Loins With A Pistachio Crust Served With An Arugula And Tarragon Coulis; Ras Al Hanout (WHERE have we seen that before?) And Carrot Purée And Yogurt Foam; Brioche Crouton With A Tomato And Piquillo Pepper Marmalade

Tom isn’t happy with the differing thicknesses of the lamb. Jerome remarks that the fat in the lamb is undercooked and it’s unpleasant to eat. Thomas is particularly unhappy that Eli ruined a beautiful piece of lamb. Padma says some of the flavors were good, but Daniel says he failed in execution.


Lightly Poached Salmon Topped With Caviar And Enoki Mushrooms; Shrimp Flan With Snap Pea Salad With Truffles; Celery Root Squares And Shitaki Mushrooms

Traci says everything tastes good, but the dish isn’t well thought out. Tom says the dish is all over the place, but most of it tastes pretty good.

Thomas likes the custard with the shrimp the best. Gavin is interesting. He says if Bryan had more time, the vision of his dish could have been executed, while Jen's dish is at a dead end.

Daniel raises his glass to Paul Bocuse and Thomas adds, “For setting an example to us all...”

Gail says she's very proud of them all for cooking as well as they did in just the 12 hours that they had. The chefs come out and the judges applaud them and then Thomas Keller drops a bombshell. He says the winner will be given a spot to compete for the US team for the 2011 Bocuse d’Or.

Bryan tells us that that will be a huge door to be opened if they win this. And that people aspire to that for years. Kevin says (to us) that it would be an honor to represent his country, but that it would scare him to death.

Michael says he hasn’t spent this much time with his brother for years. And that his mother would be proud of them. I beg to differ. I think she would be horrified at their lack of filial affection.

All the chefs go into the Judges’ Table. Tom asks Michael to explain how salmon and caviar are Mediterranean. Tom isn’t particularly satisfied with Michael's answer. Tom says that in a competition of this gravity, there isn’t that much “poetic license to play around like that”.

See, smarty pants, you don’t know everything! And then Gail says Chef Stratta found a bone in his piece. Tom does say that parts of the dish were great, “I just don’t understand the direction.”

Jerome Bocuse says Bryan’s lamb was underdone. Bryan apologizes, but says he didn’t want to take it past rare to medium rare. Jerome says with great authority and in a very heavy Frennncccsssshhh accent, “I zink we all agree that wit more time, eet would be a different dish.”

Jerome tells Kevin his dish was very simple. Kevin is uncharacteristically verbose and talks very slowly and clearly (because he’s talking to a foreigner?) using the word “componentry”. Are we talking about stereo systems or food? Tom says the chefs around the table felt that it was too simple for four hours of work.

They weren’t happy with how Jennifer cooked the salmon. Jerome says it wasn't cooked properly.

Eli is next. Gail liked the idea of the sausage, but said that there were big pieces of fat that weren’t cooked enough. Eli thought it didn’t need to be cooked all the way through. Tom interrupts him and says “It was really undercooked.”

That’s it. Eli is going home. Michael is a jerk, but Eli’s couldn’t be eaten, which cannot be a good thing in a cooking competition. Jerome makes the point that if it had been lean meat, he might have been able to get away with it, but not with so much fat.

Tom says it’s been a pleasure watching all of them. Kevin says that means a lot.

The judges go back and forth. Frankly, there were so many mistakes from everyone. How will they choose? I still think Eli will go. Tom says because Kevin’s dish was so simple, it would be immediately dismissed in competition. But Jerome says something surprising. He says because each element was actually cooked properly, Kevin has the advantage over the others.

I JUST THOUGHT OF SOMETHING! The reason Tom asked if Bryan was coachable, was referring to competing in the Bocuse d’Or. I could absolutely see him there. He has the right temperament. Does that mean he’ll win? But there were a lot of problems with his dish. I just can’t see Kevin at the Bocuse d’Or. So I don’t know what they’re going to do about a winner.

And the winner is…Kevin. THAT’S a surprise. Jerome gives him a Bocuse d’Or chef’s jacket and lots of reading material. Kevin says the M resort is his favorite place. He’s really thrilled.

And the loser is…Tom says it’s going to be hard to see any of them go… the loser is Eli. And, OMG, I’m crying. Why? Because he’s so sweet as he says how proud he is of how he did. He thanks the judges so sincerely for the opportunity and he says (to us) that he can stomach leaving now because of how far he got in the competition. I’m still crying…He says his family and friends (wait, someone’s coming in the room, let me get a tissue!) will be proud of him. I’M PROUD OF YOU TOO, ELI! I’m not sure why, but I am. Jen gives him a giant heartfelt hug. Give him one for me too. He says the people who beat him are fantastic chefs.

Tom tries to console the remaining chefs, well, Jennifer anyway, and congratulates them for getting to the finals. Eli breaks down a little bit too and Jen wipes tears from her eyes. I need another tissue.

Incidentally, just for one second, try to imagine Robin in this episode. It gives you brain freeze, doesn’t it? It’s just impossible to compute. She had none of the chefly skills that we’ve seen all season from the last four chefs standing.

Next time - Napa. THIS is what I hope happens:

I’d love it if Jen could make it to the finals…just to help her with her own issues. That means one of the guys would have to go. Guess who I’d like to be shown the door? Michael is really proving himself to be repulsive. I wish he could learn that no man, and certainly no chef, is an island onto himself.

So I’d like to see the final three be Bryan, Kevin and Jennifer. I’m guessing Kevin could easily win, because his food apparently just tastes so good. But I do think Bryan has the technical chops to be called Top Chef.

More about the Bocuse d'Or here.


Anonymous said...

I think Bryan's comment about Kevin's food being simple was brought about by Michael's snotty "I cook Kevin's food on the weekend." My guess is Michael made the comment in his interview, the producers or whoever do the interviews replayed it for Bryan, who then made his comment (which I thought in the end was complimentary of Bryan).

I thought that maybe they were going to pick a winner of the challenge, and a winner for the Bocuse tryout. I guess I missed the part where they said the winner of the challenge would get the spot.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I was feeling pretty sleepy when this came on, so I decided to not even try to stay awake. Why why why why why do they have to put this show on so late? Don't they understand not every viewer is a night owl?

I was happy to hear Eli went. He was an unsportsmanlike jerk. Look, Robin may not have been a strong chef, but she didn't deserve the treatment she got and Eli was the instigator. Good riddance. I do hope Michael goes next though.

I called it. I said Kevin would win, but I certainly wouldn't mind Bryan in the top spot either. Gimme some of that!

Why won't these people learn that sous vide never seems to work for anyone?

Sue said...

Bryan definitely came off better than Michael and he (Bryan) is loosening up a bit more.

Thomas Keller announced that the winner would be competing for a Bocuse d’Or spot in the dining room after all the chefs came out after the meal. I wish there had been two separate winners too. Kevin could have won his $30,000, and they could have sent a more credible candidate to the Bocuse d'Or tryouts. But Kevin has succeeded in so many challenges, that maybe he will in this one (but I don't really think so...sorry, Kevin.)

And sorry, Rach, but, to ME, 9 is way too early to stop everything and watch food television. I’m mad that they’re moving Buddy to 9 pm.

Eli has been a jerk, you’re right. But for some reason, as he was expressing his gratitude at having done so well, it just struck a chord.

Yeah, no matter how great Michael’s cooking is (and it wasn’t this week) he’s gotta go!

Bryan doesn’t hold a candle to Dale in the hotness category, but I guess there’s no accounting for taste.

That was the weird thing about this challenge. THIS TIME sous vide DID work for Kevin and he had never done it before!

Tiffany said...

I adore Kevin too, but he's going to have to brush up on his technical skills to compete in the Bocuse tryouts. Still, I think good technique can be learned, while it's not as easy to learn intuition about flavors! Michael is really getting more unpleasant as the season goes on. I was glad to see him knocked down off his high horse in this episode! While it's nice to have 'tricks' up your sleeve, if the food isn't tasty, then it doesn't matter. I really, really hope he doesn't win.