Tag Top Chef recap

Top Chef in Napa Valley

We’re down to the last two episodes of Top Chef Las Vegas! The final four head to Napa for their quick-fire and elimination challenges. This week’s guest judge is Top Chef Master, Chef Michael Chiarello– a pioneer of fine dining in Napa Valley. For the quick-fire challenge the chefs must cook with Napa Valley’s signature crop: the grape. The chefs have a full pantry and 30 minutes to cook for Padma and Chef Chiarello. And for a classic Top Chef twist, they must cook and serve their dishes on the Napa Valley Wine Train. On the menu:

Kevin: honey and fromage blanc mousse, glazed grapes, olive oil and sea salt
Michael: grape leaf stuffed with couscous, vinegar glazed grape and scallop
Bryan: roasted hen, bacon, brussel sprouts, concord grapes, ruby quinoa and qrugula
Jennifer: sautéed chicken livers, clams, cabernet grapes, wild mushroom and tendrils

Michael wins the last high stakes quick fire and his prize: a new Toyota Prius. Padma announces the elimination challenge, which will determine who will be competing in the finale for the title of Top Chef. The elimination challenge: catering the Rutherford Hills Winery Crush Party. The cheftestants must each create two dishes, one vegetarian and one protein, using only local ingredients (other than salt and pepper). If the ingredient isn’t raised or grown in Napa, they will not be able to use it.

The final four head to a local market to select their ingredients. Back in the kitchen, head judge Tom Colicchio comes by to check in on the chefs. On the menu:

1)    grass-fed brisket with pumpkin polenta and marinated root vegetables
2)    roasted beets and carrots with carrot top puree and san andreas cheese

1)    turnip soup with foie gras terrine, poached pear and glazed turnip
2)    vegetable pistou, heirloom tomato coulis, 63 degree egg and fennel

1)    fig-glzed short ribs, celeriac puree, wax beans and wild arugula
2)    goat cheese ravioli, delicate squash puree and bronze fennel

1)    grilled duck breast, braised dug legs, squash puree and foie gras vinaigrette
2)    chevre mousse with honey mushrooms, braised radishes and basil

Guests arrive and it’s difficult to tell who will be eliminated. At this point in the competition, any tiny mistake can send someone packing. The judges convene at judge’s table and Tom appropriately praises the chefs for their great efforts all season long. Bryan wins the elimination challenge. However, one had to go and Jennifer is sent home. It really could have been anyone at this point. We are sad to see her leave, as she was one of our favorites. Next week is the season finale! Let us know who you are rooting for!

Top Chef Culinary Olympics

After 22 challenges and 17 chefs, it’s down to the top five of Top Chef Las Vegas!

The theme of this week’s quick-fire and elimination challenge: Bocuse d’Or– the world’s most difficult and ultimate cooking competition. Executive Chef of Café Boulud and 2007 Bocuse d’Or American representative, Gavin Kaysen, serves as the quick fire judge. Their challenge: create a version of Chef Kaysen’s Bocuse d’Or dish- a protein, in a protein, inside a protein. Hmm…Turducken perhaps? The chefs have 90 minutes to create their dishes.

On the menu:
Eli- bacon-crusted breakfast sausage with a six-minute center
Jennifer- calamari steak, scallops, salmon, shitake, shiso with rice noodle salad
Michael- ‘poultry terrine’ chicken with turkey and bacon mousseline
Kevin- cornmeal-fried fillet of catfish with scallop and shrimp
Bryan- rack of lamb and merguez sausage wrapped in caul fat

Jennifer takes the win! It’s great to see her on top again after her not-so-stellar performances in the last few challenges. Now on to the elimination challenge. The challenge: A Top Chef version of the Bocuse d’Or. Each cheftestant must create a regal presentation platter with one protein and two garnishes. The chefs have two choices for protein: lamb or salmon and four hours to cook. In true Bocuse d’Or competition style, the chefs must present their creations on a traditional Bocuse d’Or mirrored platter. The chefs will be cooking for 12 esteemed judges, including representatives of the American Advisory Board of the Bocuse d’Or as well as Thomas Keller, the only American-born chef to have simultaneously two restaurants with three Michelin stars. The criteria of the challenge: taste, creativity and execution. I can’t think of a better group from Top Chef Las Vegas contestants to serve in this elimination challenge!

On the menu:
Michael- salmon with cauliflower chickpea tart and zucchini tzatziki
Jennifer- salmon and caviar, shrimp flan and truffle, celery root and shitake
Bryan- crusted lamb loin, lamb shank crepinette and orzo au gratin
Kevin- poached lamb loin, sherry-glazed beet and asparagus in sunchoke cream
Eli- sausage wrapped lamb loin, carrot puree and tomato piquillo canapé

Back at judge’s table Jerome Bocuse, son of Paul Bocuse, serves as the elimination guest judge. Kevin wins! His dish is simple, well executed and cooked correctly. Frankly, Kevin makes the kind of food that I want to eat and his humble, kind attitude is making me root for him to win! He is awarded $30,000 and a spot to compete in the 2011 Bocuse d’Or as an American representative. But it is Eli who is sent packing for his undercooked lamb. It was ‘hard to swallow’ as one of the judges stated. Farewell Eli!

Next week, the chefs head to Napa! Until then, cheers!