Tag top chef

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!

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!