Thursday, August 20, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas Episode One Recap

Ok, Dust Bunnies - here's my take on the first episode of Top Chef Las Vegas. I hope you enjoy it. So I don't have to go back and forth, would you please leave your comments on this post on my blog? I've linked to it at the bottom. Thanks! [NOTE FROM DAVID: I've disabled comments for this post - so PLEASE go to The Minx's blog and tell her how fabulous she is. The link to her blog is at the end of this post.]

Finally - a new season of Top Chef and a new batch of cheftestants to mock and/or cheer on. Plus Padma and Tom and Gail! Nothing against Kelly Choi and her motley gang of "critics," but Top Chef Masters was a little too nicey-nice for theminx.

So what are we waiting for? On with the show!

First we meet the chefs. There are 17 of them, as last season, and that's entirely too many to keep track of this early in the game. Especially since several of them will be long gone before we have time to hate them. Or love them. I'm not even going to bother to go through them all, but I'll give you the highlights.

As with last season, there are three members in Team Rainbow. Ash outs himself immediately, saying he is the only chef with a boyfriend. A male boyfriend. Yes, we get it. Hello! we're watching freaking Bravo. There are also two lesbians, Ashley and Preeti, who look like adorable little boys.

In the accent department, we have Mattin, a Frawnch dude in a really gay neckerchief whose theeck accent (hon hon) makes Fabio seem like a native American. No, no, not a Native American. Then there's Hector, from Puerto Rico, and Ron, from Haiti. Both have growly low voices that sound like a mashup between late Frawnch pro wrestler/actor Andre the Giant and Yaphet Kotto, with maybe a soup├žon of Herve Villechaize.

Several of the cheftestants have tattoos, most notably Jesse and Jennifer Z., who also has grossly disfigured earlobes. And after Baldarama 2008, there is a suprising dearth of the follicularly-challenged.

We see all the chefs meet by the pool, then head to their suite at the M Resort Spa & Casino. After everyone is unpacked, they go to the kitchen to meet Tom and Padma.

The first Quickfire of season 6 looks very familiar - we saw it on Top Chef Masters just a few short weeks ago. In this version of the Mise en Place Relay, the cheftestants will be grappling with ingredients that are favorites in landlocked Las Vegas - seafood!

First the chefs must shuck 15 clams, then peel 30 spot prawns, clean up 5 lobsters, and finally cut 2 chops from a prime rib. (They must have run out of fish.)

It's a team event and the chefs draw poker chips (guess the airline lost the knife block in transit) to see which chefs they get stuck with teams they will be on.

Team Black is Eli, Mike I, Ashley, and Hector.
Team Green is Jen Z, Ron, Ash, and Laurine.
Team Red is Kevin, Preeti, Mike V, and Eve.
Team Blue is Mattin, Jen C, Jesse, and Bryan.
Team Yellow is Robin.

Huh? Why is there only one person on Team Yellow? Because there's an odd number of cheftestants! By picking the lone yellow chip, lucky Robin gets to sit out the Quickfire. Not only that, she receives instant immunity from elimination.


The chefs set to work, with the clams seeming to get the best of everyone.

During the clam portion of the program, Mike I. shows himself to be a bit of a prick when he notices that Jen C. has shucked as many clams as he has.

Offense taken. Mike wins the round by a hair. Maybe he won't be so lucky next time, eh Jen?

Finally the blue team pulls out the victory when Bryan is the first to complete the beef portion of the contest.

Now comes a second Quickfire, one Padma refers to as "High Stakes" - the blue team must participate in a cook-off, the winner of which wins a chip worth $15,000. Lonely Robin on Team Yellow can trade her immunity to compete, but she's no dummy and decides to remain safe. And immune.

For the High Stakes QF, each member of Team Blue must create a dish using the ingredient they handled in the Mise en Place Relay: Bryan gets beef, Jen gets clams, Mattin gets lobster, and Jesse gets prawns.

Jen wins for her ceviche, which she pronounces "suh veech." Not only does she get the money, but she gets kisses from Tom and Padma. Yeah, I know you're jealous.

Not wasting any time, they get straight to the Elimination Challenge. Each chef must prepare a dish based on a vice of which he or she is guilty. The best and worst chefs from each team will be up for the win or the elimination.

Each chef gets $150 and 30 minutes to shop at Whole Paycheck, then 2 hours to cook their dish at Wolfgang Puck's steakhouse, Cut.

Next we see Tom Colicchio shilling for Diet Coke. What? No Hardee's commercial?

In the Cut kitchen, the chefs scurry to prepare their dishes. Because Robin couldn't be both winner and loser of her one-man team, she had to abandon Team Yellow for another group.

Everyone interprets "vice" differently than I did. I thought of the Seven Deadly Sins. The cheftestants mostly thought about alcohol, which I suppose if one drinks enough, it can be quite deadly.

Jen Z. says her vice is her hot temper, so made chiles rellenos. Stuffed with seitan, or wheat gluten.

I wouldn't go so far as to call it yucky, but it seems too...healthy?...to represent a vice. And I wouldn't call chiles rellenos a "hot" dish, necessarily.

Anyhoo...we find that Mike I. lives his vice: douchebaggery. He's obviously superior to everyone else, and he's not even European.

I'd watch out if I were you, Mike. Hector doesn't seem like someone to be messed with.

Me too! I don't get the "Swiss cheese" earlobe look. Bet it's fun when the baby pulls on 'em.

Time's up, utensils down - on to Judges Table! And look who's joined Tom, Padma, and special guest judge Wolfgang Puck....

Each team presents their dishes to the judges, who discuss them in turn.

First up is Team Black: Douchebag Mike chose to represent his hot temper and foul mouth rather than his sexist attitude; Eli represented his arrogance, bitterness, and penchant for drink; Ash considered bourbon and red wine to be his vices; Hector chose excessive cigar smoking.

The judges felt Hector would have gotten more of a smoky flavor in his steak if he had cooked it on the wood-fire grill rather than deep-frying it. Ahhh...but that's logical.

Sounds like Wolfgang has been watching too much Hell's Kitchen.

Next up is Team Blue: Bryan's vices are bourbon and cigars; Jen C. drinks too much and does stupid stuff as a result; Jesse likes whiskey and excess; Robin is a bad Jew because she likes pork; and Mattin wears a stupid red neckerchief.

Green Team goes next: Ash's deadly sin is procrastination; Jennifer Z. is hot-tempered; Ron growls something about not letting go of a 27-day journey from Haiti; and Laurine's vices involve bacon, beer, and donuts. What? Those aren't vices, they are necessities of life!

Jen's chile relleno is the big target for her team.

Laurine's donut doesn't escape criticism, as Wolfgang grabs one off Padma's plate and hurls it across the room.

Finally we have the Red Team: Mike V. does a tribute to plastic surgery with "rack" of lamb; Preeti's vice is Maker's Mark Manhattans; Eve wishes she could be more simple and cook less-complicated food; and finally Kevin is a big procrastinator so he cooked slow food fast and fast food slow, hoping he'd finish in time. Or something like that. At this point my bacon, beer, and donuts have kicked in and I'm half asleep.

After the tasting and bitchery, the judges send the chefs to the Glad Family of Products Stew 'n' Booze Room. Padma then puts on her best funeral-director voice and calls out Ron, Mike I., Kevin, and Jen C. After 5 seasons of this, everyone knows the highest-scoring cheftestants get called out first, so Padma can cut the act. (Did anyone else think she seemed a little stoned this episode?)

All four had good dishes, but Kevin's slow-cooked salmon won the challenge.

Back in the Stew 'n' Booze room, Jesse, Hector, Jen Z., and Eve get called to face the judges.

Hector defended his choice to deep-fry the steak by saying he wanted to make it chicaron-style and "cronchy." He says he cooked with his "heart and balls."

Jesse's chicken breast was dry, Eve's seafood was not cooked properly, and Jen's dish was too clunky. Overall, they were least impressed with the flavorless seitan-stuffed not-hot pepper, and she was given the kiss of death from Padma.

Will make it easier to move to the sequester house....

Next week - still too many chefs!

Please post your comments here. Thanks! Hope you enjoyed it!

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