Thursday, October 22, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas Episode Nine Recap

As morning breaks over Casa Cheftestant, we find Laurine ruminating that the remaining chefs are definitely the best of the bunch. Kevin is lamenting the loss of Ash, who added a special dynamic to the house, one that lessened the annoyance of the constant bickering between the Voltaggio brothers, who, believe it or not, are in their 30s.

On to the Top Chef Swanson/GE/Alexia kitchen where they find Padma with this week's guest judge.

Honestly, I like Rick Moonen and wish he had done better on Top Chef Masters.

The Quickfire this week is a two-team relay race. But first...the cheftestants draw knives; most are blank except for Jen's and BrotherMike's. They have instantly been elevated to the lofty position of team leaders and get to choose their team-mates. Jen, tempted to break up the Bicker Brothers (yes please!) instead chooses Kevin. Michael seems relieved and grabs Big Bro next.

I am dubbing the teams "Team Bicker," comprising Michael, Bryan, Eli, and Robin, and "Team DickHer," Kevin, DoucheyMike, Laurine, and Jen. Kevin is neither a dick nor a her, but I couldn't convince Jen to trade him for Eli just to make my name work out better.

The teams will get a total of 40 minutes to create their dish, however, each individual chef has only 10 minutes to work. And, while one chef cooks, the others must be...blindfolded.

I would bet money she feels the same way about you.

As the working chef must remain quiet, the blindfolded chefs will have no idea of what is going on. It's rather like an exquisite corpse, and no, I didn't steal that term from CSI, although a CSI/Top Chef mash-up could be pretty amusing.

The teams get 30 seconds to decide on the order in which they will cook. Jen and Eli start for their teams. Eli has a strategy: you didn't see that one coming! Eli also thinks his team is well-suited to working with one another. Well, three of them, anyway....

You know he's thinking "Uranus."

Next up is Robin and Laurine. Robin is pleased that Eli has gotten so much done in 10 minutes and works on a Caesar-like salad concoction. Laurine pretty quickly grasps Jen's concept and goes with it.

DoucheyMike and Bryan are third in line. DM looks a bit confused and dizzy after he takes off the blindfold, but that's not much different from his usual look.

Finally, Michael and Kevin cook last. Kevin realizes that Jen intended for him to oil poach the prepared black cod, but he naughtily decides to switch things up and cook it in butter instead.

Time is called; Rick and Padma taste Team Bicker's food first. They don't make many comments at all, so it's hard to tell if they liked the dish or not. When they get to Team DickHer, they ask Jen to describe the dish. She must still be suffering from her cold because she calls the fish "trout" when it's clearly black cod. (At least that's what she told us in a voiceover while she was cooking.) She's embarrased when corrected, but her team wins anyway.

Padma then tells the chefs that this Quickfire was of the high-stakes variety - the winning team gets 10K, to be split four ways. Or, rather than taking the cash, they can "let it ride" - if they win the Elimination Challenge, they each get 10K. The team, feeling cocky and/or greedy, takes the gamble.

Padma wastes no time in presenting this week's Elimination Challenge - the infamous Restaurant Wars. This year, instead of being responsible for frivolities such as potted plants, china patterns, and Sandra Lee-style tablescapes, the cheftestants will be competing in a fully-stocked existing restaurant, Rick Moonen's RM Seafood, which conveniently has two kitchens and two dining rooms, one more formal, the other somewhat casual. As the Quickfire winner, Team DickHer gets the advantage of choosing in which restaurant they would like to work; they choose the upstairs space.

With 30 minutes to plan, Team DickHer decides to eliminate the dessert course, since that is the traditional bane of most cheftestants' existance. Team Bicker, on the other hand, is so confident, they decide to do two different desserts. Potential Kiss-of-Death action here! Also during the planning stage, the teams choose restaurant names. Michael comes up with the clever Revolt (Robin, Eli, Voltaggio), and associates it with "revolutionary." On the other team, Kevin wants to call their restaurant Mission, based on the no-fuss practicality of Mission architecture.

The two teams each send two members to Whole Paycheck armed with $1500 in poker chips and two teams to Restaurant Depot with the same amount. Before they head to their respective vans, Rick Moonen reminds the cheftestants of something they should keep in mind when they cook in his restaurant:

While shopping, we hear that Eli has decided to be civil to Robin, since they're teammates. Big of him.

Back at the restaurants, the chefs set to work prepping their dishes. Eli and Laurine have taken front-of-the-house duties for their teams, but each is responsible for one dish as well. They all feel the pressure. Michael turns out to be a bit of a martinet and starts bugging Robin about the components about her dish, feeling she's "out of her league." Bryan doesn't like being told what to do by his little brother and starts complaining. Michael snaps at him, "don't be a dick."

The annoyance factor is starting to trump hotness here, boys.

Meanwhile, over at Mission, Jen is seriously in the weeds prepping for her two complicated fish dishes. Kevin is working on two meat dishes, one of which is Laurine's, and DoucheyMike is working on two apps. They are worried. And rightfully so - before they know it, customers are arriving while Laurine is still familiarizing the wait staff with the dinner selections.

Lucky for her, the judges hit Revolt first. Padma doesn't like the name, saying that it evokes "revolting." But they have mouthgasms over Michael's chicken and squid dish. The apps go over well, but then there's a long wait for the second courses (during which time the boys are too busy squabbling to cook). When they finally come out, the judges think Michael's cod is brilliant, but Toby's "not overwhelmed" by Bryan's entree. But I'm guessing he's not underwhelmed either, so maybe he should have just kept his mouth shut?

Dessert comes next, but first...more Revolting squabbling, this time involving Robin.

Lucky for Team Bicker, the desserts are a rousing success. They love Bryan's chocolate ganache ribbon (a similar dish put him in the bottom three in a previous Quickfire) with spearmint ice cream and tuiles.

Robin's pear pithivier was also a big hit with the judges, possibly to Eli's chagrin.

The judges then go to Mission to eat another 3-course meal.

DoucheyMike's char is lacking seasoning so Padma has to ask for salt. The second course at this restaurant also takes a while to come out because Jen is even further in the weeds. When it does arrive at the judges' table, it's disappointing. Also disappointing is Laurine's behavior - she doesn't bother to announce the dishes when they are brought out, she simply leaves, possibly to hide in the walk-in.

Finally the non-dessert third course is served; Laurine's lamb dish is undercooked, but Kevin's pork dish is good.

Fake out scene! Michael talks about being a professional and a really nice guy with the biggest heart in the bunch, yadda yadda. This is intercut with scenes of him being a dick over the Glad Wrap while cursing Bryan, and yelling at Robin in the kitchen. Yeah, nice guy. I sure want to work with him.

Back at the Glad Family of Products Stew 'n' Booze room, Padma comes in and announces in her best undertaker voice that she wants to see Team Bicker. Team DickHer is not suprised, as they know they sucked.

Tom says this was the best Restaurant Wars in all 6 seasons. They complimented Eli on his front of the house activity. They praised Bryan's ice cream and Robin's dessert. Because Michael produced two stellar dishes, he was declared the winner and given an autographed copy of Rick Moonen's cookbook, Fish Without a Doubt. Because a cookbook is a cheesy prize compared to a stage at a fancy restaurant, or a box of pots and pans, Padma also gives Michael the 10K chip that Team DickHer gave up when they let it ride. He generously offers to split it with his teammates.

Back in the stew room, after Team DickHer goes out for their tongue-lashing, Bryan acts pissy. He says Michael can keep his portion of the money.

But of course, like a good sibling, he's glad his brother won. Riiiiight.

Back at Judges' Table, Team DickHer is completely aware of their shortcomings. Kevin didn't cook the lamb to a proper medium-rare, which Laurine should have caught as plates were leaving the kitchen, so it's as much her fault as his. Jen's halibut was good but her trout was tasteless and the sauce was broken. She said at that point she was feeling pretty broken as well.

But not as broken as Laurine, whose poor showing as front-of-the-house manager got her the boot. The fact that Robin is still around is probably sticking in some craws right now....


Unknown said...

It is interesting, I find none of the remaining cheftestants likable, and usually at this point there is at least one I like. LOL.

I do find Michael V somewhat insufferable, and hope he leaves soon. Either that, or they will be proving that being an unprofessional arse is the way to succeed in the business.

MCWolfe said...

Great recap as always. Love the Mike/Robin "dialogue." Robin seems to be teflon but I wish she would leave. I'm tired of the drama and it is abundantly clear she can't cook to the level of the other cheftestants. And you're right about the Brothers V. I still think they're pretty cute (Brian more so than Mike) but the sibling stuff is getting old.

I'm on the fence when it comes to Douchey Mike and Eli's cooking skills. They seem to be able to turn out a decent dish once in a while but I haven't seen much from them that comes even close to Kevin, Brother Mike, or Bryan.

theminx said...

What about Kevin? I find him perfectly likable.

Jojo said...

Great recap! I have to agree that I really like Kevin. He was at a bbq cookoff at a farm benefit I was at last month and seems a really sweet guy. He won the contest and just beamed!

Kate said...

At this point, the only cheftestant left who hasn't annoyed me is Kevin, so I hope he wins. But I'd still like to see the Brothers V in the finale. Just to make it interesting.

the dogs' mother said...

Glad they got rid of the decor element. I just knew that when the dessert was mentioned and then decided against the judges would miss it!

Joy said...

I'm surprised that Robin is still there, but the Mission Team bombed out. Kevin is likable to me, too. Jennifer, too, mostly.

Cynthia said...

I am enjoying Top Chef this season. And I can't help it, I like Mike. Must be the bad boy syndrome. I like him a whoooole lot better than that frinking Hosea.

Cliff O'Neill said...

You know, I was THINKING the QF reminded me of something! You totally nailed it with the Exquisite Corpse thing. (I only learned about that when I went to a Dali exhibit and there were some he did with friends on display there.)

Oh, and I'm giggling that we each came up with similar names for the Blue Team. Tee hee.

SilvestriWoman said...

Kevin's a sweetheart!!! At the end, I appreciated his simple demurral when asked what the judges said: He was angry and didn't want to talk about it. No drama, no self-pity, no spitefulness...

Jennifer may be a tough cookie in the kitchen, but seems to let it go. She seemed genuinely close with Laurine and certainly can hang with the guys. With Eric Ripert as a mentor, she's been working at a higher level than anyone there. I'd argue that few TC contestants, period, have ever worked at such a level. Only one that comes to mind is Blais, who worked with Thomas Keller. It's also clear that Jennifer is harder on herself than anyone else in the kitchen.

SilvestriWoman said...

Jennifer may be a tough cookie in the kitchen, but seems to let it go. She seemed genuinely close with Laurine and certainly can hang with the guys. With Eric Ripert as a mentor, she's been working at a higher level than anyone there. I'd argue that few TC contestants, period, have ever worked at such a level. Only one that comes to mind is Blais, who worked with Thomas Keller. It's also clear that Jennifer is harder on herself than anyone else in the kitchen.

eric3000 said...

exquisite corpse is an excellent comparison for the quickfire challenge! Thanks for that!

That was a really good episode.