Tag Top Chef Las Vegas

Top Chef Goes Vegetarian

It’s down to the final seven of Top Chef Las Vegas!

This week’s quick-fire judge is James Beard award winning chef, Paul Bartolotta. Padma introduces the TV Guide quick-fire challenge: reinvent a classic TV dinner inspired by a classic television show. The chefs draw knives to reveal the iconic television shows:  

Jennifer- The Flinstones
Mike I.- Seinfeld
Kevin- The Sopranos
Eli- Gilligan’s Island
Michael- Cheers
Robin- Sesame Street
Bryan- Mash

After 60 minutes, the cheftesetants serve Padma and Chef Bartolotta their reinvented TV dinners. On top are Kevin and Bryan. Kevin’s meatballs with polenta, roasted cauliflower and roasted pair earn him the win for this week’s quick fire. Although immunity will no longer be rewarded, a version of Kevin’s winning dish will be featured in the new line of Top Chef frozen foods. Jennifer’s chicken roulade and Robin’s burger with egg land them on the bottom of the challenge. 

Padma announces the elimination challenge: cook at Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak at the MGM Grand for one night. The eager and excited chefs head to Craftsteak after a rather drama-free night of menu planning. As soon as they arrive the chefs disperse and attack kitchen. You can see the twinkle in their eyes and excitement in their voices. The chefs are enamored with all of the meat, “It’s the motherload” one of the chefs exclaim. It was only the perfect set up for another Top Chef twist. Tom introduces the elimination challenge guest judge, actress Natalie Portman. Ready for the twist? Natalie is a vegetarian, which means Craftsteak is going vegetarian for one night. As soon as the chefs realize they will not be using any of the meat they had just previously admired, anguish sets in on their faces. Most of the chefs are thrown by the news, but some are happy to embrace the change. Robin is giddy over the produce walk in, scrambling to grab fresh garbanzo beans and squash blossoms. Mike I. struggles with his dish and Bryan doesn’t even complete his plating. It was actually surprising to see how much the chefs were thrown with the vegetarian challenge.  

Time is quickly up and the chefs present their dishes to the judges:
Robin- stuffed squash blossom, beet carpaccio, fresh garbanzo beans and chermoula    
Eli- confit of eggplant, lentils, garlic puree and radish salad
Michael- asparagus salad, Japanese tomato sashimi and banana polenta
Jennifer- charred baby eggplant, braised fennel, tomatoes and verjus nage
Mike I.- whole roasted leeks with onion jus, baby carrot puree and fingerling potatoes
Bryan- artichoke barigoule, confit of shallot, wild asparagus and fennel puree
Kevin- duo of mushrooms, smoked kale, candied ginger and turnip puree

Back at judge’s table Kevin, Eli and Michael are on top. Kevin’s mushroom duo is praised as inventive and cohesive by guest judge Natalie Portman. However, Michael is visibly upset by Kevin’s win. Sure, it wasn’t as whimsical as your polenta and banana, but it did win for a reason Michael. On the bottom are Mike I., Robin and Jennifer. At judge’s table Robin gives one of the most long winded answers about her dish, “I did consider protein. When I make a vegetarian dish I definitely want to give my vegetarians protein. I eat vegetarian a lot and I saw those garbanzo beans and I love garbanzo beans and got excited by the fresh garbanzo beans which I’ve never worked with before. I had never stuffed a squash blossom before and I was going to play off a chick pea fritter idea or a falafel. There was a lot of flavor going on there and I think the chalua had a lot of flavor going on and I’m not sure if it all worked so well together.” So Robin, were you excited about the garbanzo beans? But in the end Mike I. had to pack his knives. The judges could not get past the poorly cooked, raw leeks in his dish. Farewell Mike I!  

Top Chef Restaurant Wars

It’s the Top Chef episode we’ve all been waiting for: Restaurant Wars!

This week’s guest judge is Top Chef Masters alum, Rick Moonen. The quick-fire challenge: Top Chef’s first ever tag team cook off- why have they not done this before!? The chefs draw knives and Jennifer and Michael have first and second choice to choose their teams. On the Red team: Jennifer, Kevin, Mike I and Laurine. On the Blue team: the Voltaggio brothers, Eli and Robin. Robin is last to be picked and declares, “I’m their mom here, and I know that’s what they think of me.” Sorry Robin, but I don’t think these guys think of you as their mom. The chefs learn that each team is required to make one dish in 40 minutes. The first chef in line will start the dish and cook for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes the next chef will take over until all chefs cook for 40 minutes total. And the twist (there’s always a twist in Top Chef!): the chefs cannot speak to each other, and until they cook they must wear blindfolds. The team that creates the most cohesive dish will have a significant advantage in the elimination challenge, along with $10,000 to split because it is a high stakes quick-fire challenge.

After some quick thinking and a little confusion, the 40 minutes are up and the teams are ready to present their tag team dishes to Chef Moonen. The Blue team creates sablefish with sautéed mushrooms, shitake broth and radish salad. The Red team creates pan roasted NY strip steak with whipped miso, avocado puree and pickled vegetables. Despite presenting the dish as trout and not sablefish, the Blue team wins the high stakes quick-fire challenge. They have the option of splitting the $10,000 amongst themselves, or letting it ride in hopes of winning $10,000 each for an elimination challenge win. The team decides to let it ride and Padma presents the elimination challenge: Restaurant Wars.

The teams are told that the challenge is all about the restaurant and menu concept- they are not responsible for the décor. Good thing, we all remember the scented candles fiasco right? As champion of conscientious cooking and owner of RM Seafood, a 100% sustainable seafood restaurant,  Chef Moonen instructs the cheftestants that they must carry the sustainable seafood mentality throughout their menu creation.

The teams deliberate and finalize menu concepts, restaurant names and roles. The Red team comes up with the name Revolt, symbolizing their names and the concept of uprising (yes, Revolt). The Blue team chooses the name Mission and relates it to the mission-style of architecture: simple, understated and not flashy. Because of the Blue team’s quick-fire win, they have first pick and choose the fine dining room over another less formal dining space.

The Mission menu: asparagus and six minute eggs, arctic char tartare, bouillabaisse consommé, seared trout, pork three ways and lamb with carrot jam.

The Revolt menu: chicken and calamari ‘pasta’, smoked arctic char, duo of beef, cod and billi-bi sauce, pear pithivier and chocolate ganache.

In the Revolt kitchen Robin and Michael clash over Robin’s pear pithivier dessert. Michael takes over Robin’s dish and she tells him off for doing so. Bryan tries to diffuse the situation, and later comments that feelings need to be put aside and it’s time to win. In the front of the house, Eli and Laurine are kept busy with their guests and the judges. Both teams experience trouble with the pacing of their courses, but it becomes clear that Mission is having the most issues. Laurine runs off after serving the judges their first and second courses, causing them to call her back to explain the dishes. Temperature issues with Kevin and Laurine’s lamb cause the judges and guests to take notice. Chef Moonen even calls it ‘Jell-O lamb’. Tom also declares that Jennifer’s trout with broken butter sauce is an absolute disaster. Conversely, Revolt serves up a delicious first course. The judges love Michael’s chicken and calamari dish. Despite the bickering between Robin and Michael, it seems as if their food is not affected.

In the end, not only does Revolt win Restaurant Wars, but the Red team takes home the win for best restaurant in all six seasons of Top Chef. Michael is declared winner and decides to share his $10,000 prize with the rest of his team. However, back in the stew room Bryan is obviously upset with Michael’s win, stating that he is annoyed that his brother’s unprofessional behavior is rewarded in the challenge. Nonetheless, put your feelings aside and it’s time to win, right Bryan?

The Blue team is not surprised by their loss. Their decision to have Jennifer create two fish courses and Kevin create two meat courses did not work in their favor. The judges point out that the team needed a leader, and that a kitchen cannot run without one. Ultimately, Laurine is sent home. Did anyone else think that Jennifer could have easily been sent home as well?

Check back next week for another Top Chef recap! Cheers!