Thursday, October 15, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas Episode Eight Recap

Once again it's early morning at the Top Chef Estate where we find Robin doing pilates outside. Inside, Brother Mike doesn't like the feeling of being on the bottom.

He then likens himself to a culinary Babe Ruth. The boy doesn't have a lot of facial expressions, but there's a whole lot of ego. And Eli, who still lives with his parents, calls Mommy.

On to the Top Chef Kitchen!

This episode's challenges are about the art of pairing. For the Alexia Quickfire, the cheftestants must create a dish incorporating one of several varieties of Alexia Crunchy Snacks.

Granted, this is a more upscale challenge than those in prior seasons requiring use of items from vending machines, but still. Corporate sponsorship rules the day!

We then find that there is a Palmer - Brothers Voltaggio connection.

The brothers don't need the advantage anyway. Well, maybe Michael did last week....

The cheftestants have 45 minutes for the challenge. Ever since his telephone conversation with his mom, Eli is feeling really confident. The not-so-confident Ash says he is going to make some changes in the way he competes.

Jen chose to make porkchops but as time is running out, she realizes they have been overcooked. But she feels if the judges hit her station first, she'll be ok.

Time flies and soon Charlie Palmer and Padma are tasting the food/snack hybrid dishes. Of course they visit Jen last. And of course she ends up in the bottom three along with Ash and Robin. On top are Bryan, Kevin, and CockyEli, whose mama is finally made proud when he scores the win. Unfortunately for him, this is not a High Stakes Quickfire, and there is no more immunity.

The knife block is then dragged out and the chefs pull cutting implements bearing the names of pig parts. BrotherMike gets cheeks while his older brother gets ribs; Laurine has the butt and Eli the belly (but butt seems more appropriate for him, doesn't it?). DoucheyMike gets pork shoulder, Kevin gets the leg, Robin gets center cut chops, and Ash gets the tenderloin. Jen's knife reads "wild" meaning she gets to choose her cut. She goes for belly.

For this Elimination Challenge, the cheftestants are to create a dish that works with pinot noir for an annual "Pigs and Pinot" charity event. They will have 4 hours to make 150 tasting portions. But first, they visit Palmer's restaurant, Aureole, where they meet a master sommelier and have several glasses of pinot.

They each pick a pinot with which to pair their pork dish. Mama's-Boy Eli scoffs at the lot of them and says there are clearly amateur palates in the group.

After wine, then shopping. I get the feeling that Whole Foods must have been warned that nine chefs would come in looking for a couple hundred pounds of pork products, because I know my local shop wouldn't be able to accommodate the request. Does Whole Foods even sell pork cheeks?

Back at the Top Chef Hideaway, Eli is cooking scallops for dinner. Robin, who tends to be on the loquacious side, is offering him platters on which to put the food, offering him scallions to put on top the dish, etc. She's just trying to be helpful. But his dislike for her is so intense, he's a prick about the situation. When she comments that he's used a cutting board that she had put out for her own use, but it's ok, she'll wash it, he stomps around like the big baby he is and screams that Robin is not his mother.

Robin's really ok with it, after all...


The next scene shows the chefs hanging out in their underwear, eating directly from the skillet, like animals. It's like a frat house in there.

The next day, the chefs start preparing their dishes. Ash is afraid he's going to overcook his pork tenderloin, so he decides to switch gears and not make his original dish of pork served hot with polenta but instead take DoucheyMike's suggestion and serve the meat cold. So how is that "making [my] own food?" hmm?

Mama'sBoy and Jen both are using pork belly, so he uses this opportunity to trash talk her dish. Such a child.

Did anyone else notice how sweaty the usually cucumber-like Bryan was through both the Quickfire and Elimination Challenges?

I guess cooking for a former employer is high-stress. I think if I were cooking for an old boss, I'd be stressing out too, over which type of poison is most effective but hardest to detect....

Actually, the stress gets to both brothers, as they briefly squabble over the Glad wrap.

The cheftestants then gather their things and head to the Springs Preserve, where the porky event is taking place. Today's guest judges include Dana Cowin from Food & Wine, the prickly Toby Young, and one of Gael Greene's hats, which appears to have attached itself to Padma's head.

...and sweaty.

They taste a bit of everything. Ash's pork is called "clammy" and Robin's dish is "slimy." Laurine's "rillettes" don't escape criticism either.

And, the usual suspects' dishes are praised.

At Judges' Table, those usual suspects, Brothers V, Jen, and Kevin, are called out first. They all made fine food and artfully paired their chosen pinots. Toby went on about how Jen's European pinot, when compared to the American pinots that they tasted prior to her dish, was like the difference between a shaved armpit and a hairy armpit. Remind me not to drink European pinot noirs without putting it through a filter first.

I thought Ms Armpit Wine was going to win this challenge, but I was wrong.

Charlie Palmer also invites Kevin to be a guest chef at the 2010 Pigs and Pinot event in California.

Next in front of the firing squad are Laurine, Ash, and Robin. Back in the stew room, DoucheyMike says he hopes that they make the "right decision" and axe "big r, small obin," and Mama'sBoy agrees and refers to her as "grandma." Umm...I'm older than Robin, and that comment really pissed me off. Grrrrr.


Back to the judging. Ash didn't develop flavors well enough in his dish, and his wine pairing didn't work. Tom says he second-guesses himself too much. Toby thought Laurine's rillettes were like "dry hash," and Palmer says they weren't rillettes at all. And Robin's sauce was compared to the gunk at the bottom of a coffee cup, not to mention her dish didn't have enough pork.

Fake-out scene! Back again in the stew room, Mama'sBoy continues to trash talk Robin. BrotherMike suggests that he really has a crush on her (which brings up all sorts of Oedipal issues) and at one point during Eli's rant says, "and then you had sex." The funniest part of this exchange is when BrotherBryan, who apparently has spent too much time staring blankly at the wall, says, "you did?" in a completely incredulous tone.

Back at Judges Table, Padma drops the verdict.

Not too surprising. He could have gone last week as well.

Next week: Restaurant Wars!