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Top Chef - Las Vegas - Ep. #10 - 10/28/09 (Spoilers)

The Quickfire is a a Gourmet TV dinner, inspired by shows that TV Guide has chosen: The Sopranos, Gilligan's Island, Flintstones, Sesame Street, M*A*S*H, Seinfeld, and Cheers. Paul Bartolotta is the Guest Judge.

And Jennifer is really screwing up! Bryan's meatloaf dish looked REALLY good, as did Kevin's meatball dish. And the winner is? Kevin again! No immunity, however. But his dish will be featured in a Schwan's line of Top Chef Frozen Foods - interesting!

For the Elimination Challenge, they'll take over Craftsteak @ the MGM. But hey - there's going to be a hitch! Tom's special guest is Natalie Portman...and as we've said in earlier threads, she's a vegetarian. And they're cooking in a steak restaurant. What FUN! (not! LOL)

The previews show Jen and Mike I. not doing well. Hmmm....

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  1. i think she's even vegan. hard.

    but jen really seems to be hitting her limit - be it physical/mental whatever. despite that, i think she's good.
    but kevin's amazing!!!

    6 Replies
    1. re: AMFM

      She just said vegetarian, so that gives them a *little* leeway.

      ::::Sob:::: All that beautiful meat in the walk-in.

      1. re: LindaWhit

        agreed. just read an article where she was VERY vehement in her anti-meat stance.

        i love a good steak but enjoy eating vegetarian done well too - vegan, however, i couldn't do!

        1. re: AMFM

          I think she "converted" from vegetarian to vegan since this show was taped.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Jenn's sauce was a verjuice with butter. Ok for a vegetarian, but verbotten for a vegan.

            1. re: chicgail

              But no one else seemed to use butter or eggs or cheese. I wonder why. That would have given them much more options.

              1. re: chicgail

                pretty sure I saw kevin melting butter at the beginning of the challenge.


      Tom C: "We went from little prick to big in my mouth." And a wry eye-roll.

      Friend of Natalie's: "Yes, that's what usually happens!"

      Brilliant. :-)

      1. This episode has me worried. Showed very little cooking, what are they going to show for the last 20 minutes? And the promos showed Natalie Portman tasting something and saying, "this is disgusting", and that didn't come out in the episode, what? Did anyone else note this omission? Maybe I'm a little grumpy tonight, but I don't care for this episode (so far).

        17 Replies
        1. re: mjhals

          I noticed that preview as well, mjhals...was waiting for it to see what it was. I think the Elves are screwing with us again. And after last week's show, this one is a great let-down.

          But....as charmedgirl points out below, Fabio's hosting a TC reunion dinner next week - looks like Marcel is just as snarky as ever!

          1. re: LindaWhit

            This time it really bugged me. I was expecting the comment, so w/ each course thought it was coming. So with only one course left (Kevin's), I was convinced he'd seriously messed up (and he's far and away my pick to win it all). Creative editing is one thing, but I think this has crossed the line into misleading.

            1. re: mjhals

              There's no rule that says they can't be misleading, is there? Like you, though, I was waiting for it and then dreading it was Kevin, especially since his dish didn't look pretty like the others. But I think that she probably did say that about one of the dishes, but they realized if we knew what dish she said that about it would be obvious who was going home.

              1. re: mjhals

                It really bugged me too--knowing the context of the comment would have helped us understanding the judging better. Not fair, elves!

              2. re: LindaWhit

                Still don't particularly like this episode, but Natalie's comment about Mike's dealer almost won me over completely. I thought it was cute and pretty loose for a celebrity that's supposed to be "on" all the time, kind of edgy!

                1. re: mjhals

                  I missed that - what exactly did she say? It did crack up Tom, I saw that.

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    She was commenting on how inventive and surprising Mike's dish was and she asked who his dealer is and if he wants more customers.

              3. re: mjhals

                I was watching with a group of family members, and we were all cringing, expecting the "disgusting" line to get hauled out for one of our favorites.

                No clue who was the target.

                GO JEN! Get your fire back!

                1. re: dmd_kc

                  Jen seems to be psyching herself out and it's getting worse for each challenge. I think she's great, but at this point her biggest challenger is in her head.

                  1. re: chicgail

                    At JT, Colicchio mentioned that they were all very tired and could use a rest; at that point they have been going full tilt for several days and she was physically ill for a couple of challenges, too.

                    1. re: chicgail

                      Jen's inclusion into the bottom 3 seemed like a filler to me. While I agree her performance has dropped off, her biggest faults were it was too small and she was nervous doing her tableside pour...yet Eli''s and Bryan's dish looked just as small...and i concede that could be the magic of television.

                      1. re: Alex318

                        Yeah, Tom said in his blog that the only problem with her dish was that it was too small, but that it was well prepared and tasted good, especially the sauce.

                      2. re: chicgail

                        My thoughts exactly, She's definitely psyching herself out. Too bad b/c when she's on, she's great.

                        1. re: chicgail

                          On the flip side, she's also showing a good sense of humor. I liked her feisty quotes about not being a vegetarian and never becoming one. And also Bam Bam (Flinstones) being a boyfriend who carried a club and dragged his girl by the hair... which she kinda liked from time to time. Nice!

                          Leading the line at Ripert's place every night has got to wind anyone up.
                          Meanwhile the shooting schedule might be wearing down her robo-chef persona, but it's also showing her real personality, which I find funny and full of self examination (which sometimes includes the being down on one's self).

                          She needs to relax a bit and have fun, trusting the skills and intuition we've already seen,

                          1. re: tastyjon

                            i loved Jen's Pebbles & Bam Bam comment! it definitely showed a [very likable] side of her we don't really get to see much.

                            1. re: tastyjon

                              Now that you mention it. Self awareness is not an attribute that most of the folks on this season has in abundance. Ash did, but he did nothing with it.

                              I thought Richard Blais did and it actually cost him in the final challenge. I thought Harold was pretty self-aware.

                              So, the attributes of a successful human being may not be the same attributes for a Top Chef winner?

                              1. re: Phaedrus

                                Ha ha, that's funny.

                                In my experience, there are two types of successful people:

                                1. People who think everything they do is awesome, which gives them the gumption to try anything -- and the freedom to succeed without overthinking it.

                                2. People who scrutinize their every move so closely that it makes them agonizingly self-aware. Many of these people achieve greatness through knowledgeable critique of their own actions.

                                Most successful creative performers/interpreters I've known -- singers and actors (and that's many) -- fall into the first. Process-oriented creator/artists like cooks, photographers and musicians are often the latter.

                                Jen's definitely in the second group.

                      3. Fabio hosts a Top Chef reunion dinner!! So excited for next week!

                        ETA: what restaurant was that in the little short during the commercial break? Did Kevin say it was one of his best meals ever? I missed part of what they said.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: charmedgirl

                          I think that was Paul Bartolotta's restaurant in LV.

                          1. re: charmedgirl

                            Kevin was hilarious in that short. What did he say, something like "I eat everything, I didn't get fat accidentally"? Delightful. He's fantastic. Jen seemed very relaxed in that short, I wonder when they filmed it.

                          2. And Kevin, Michael, and Eli are in the top...and based on the comments about Eli's dish, will he win? Kevin's dish looked really good, yet again!

                            And Kevin has a DOUBLE! He wins Elim. as well. A suite of GE appliances is his prize - and doesn't he seem thrilled! LOL

                            Oh Michael - aren't YOU a sore loser! Wow.

                            In the Bottom - Robyn, Jennifer, and Mike I.

                            22 Replies
                            1. re: LindaWhit

                              Mike I has got to go home with the "whatever, whatever comments". So, so off-putting. Gails comments about him are right on.

                              And I just want poor Jenn to have faith in herself. This episode does reinforce the feeling that she's losing it. Really want her to pull it together next week, if not...I think she's gone, but I suspect this time she'll hang around.

                              1. re: mjhals

                                I do think it's Robyn (all over the place with her dish) or Mike I. But Jen is definitely losing confidence, and is showing her tiredness, as Tom said.

                                And Mike I. is gone! Wow.

                              2. re: LindaWhit

                                What was Michael's (I think I can finally tell the brothers apart now) dish? I only remembered the banana polenta as he was claiming to be able to reproduce Kevin's dish in 20 minutes.

                                1. re: jules127

                                  The banana polenta is all I remember as well. But I did get a giggle from Bartolotta's grimace when he heard what he was served. As Tom C. said, generations of Bartolotta's family were rolling in their graves. :-) But it made Natalie laugh, and she was guest judge!

                                  1. re: jules127

                                    Oh, I just wanted to slap Michael -- that was such a rude thing to say, not only disparaging Kevin but disparaging the judges by implying they were stupid to choose him. He probably didn't even taste Kevin's dish, so how can he know what really went into it? You can slop a bunch of ingredients on a plate, but you won't necessarily develop complex, interesting flavors. *Smoked* kale? That's pretty damn inventive, Mr. This-sounds-daring-and-creative-but-I-stole-it-from-another-chef.

                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                      Michael is clearly a creative and talented cook, but as a chef or someone in charge of a kitchen, he has no sensitivity to the people he iw working with. I would be disappointed if he won this season's TC. At this point I am rooting for Kevin or Brian. Unless Jen gets herself back under control, she doesn't stand a chance.

                                      1. re: chicgail

                                        I agree with you. Michael's moved down on my "top" list. I'd like the top 3 to be Kevin, Brian, and Jen. But unless Jen gets those personal bugaboos out of her head, she's going to sink.

                                        I will be interested to read/see Mike I.'s exit interview. He's gotta be ticked that Robin outlasted him. It was VERY obvious in the Stew Room that Eli was pissed off.

                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                          Mike has an interview on the Washington Post. I suspected he was a jerk, now I know. Honestly, his comments about Robin are BEYOND unprofessional--and its his comments, not editting. Glad he is gone!


                                          1. re: jenn

                                            How is it unprofessional for Mike to state his *opinion* on Robin's cooking. Unkind and undiplomatic, maybe. Unprofessional? No.

                                            BTW you link is broken. The interview is here http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...

                                            1. re: KTinNYC

                                              thanks for fixing the link.
                                              I stand by unprofessional---the only reason for a person to speak the way he does of a competitor is when deep down you lack confidence in your own abilities. Focus on the food!!! Who cares if she is annoying? Compare his behavior to all the Masters in the TopChef Masters--no one felt the need to dis the other contestants, they were too caught up in their own creations.

                                              1. re: jenn

                                                Its not like Robin ever shown to back down or respect others boundaries when all they want to do is get away from her, or for her to stop talking about herself. They don't like her, but she keeps joining them, forcing herself on them. Makes for compelling TV.

                                                1. re: jenn

                                                  He was asked a questions and he answered them. It's not like he just spouted off on her.

                                                  Washington, D.C.: I didn't think you were a jerk -- and you certainly had personality. I've never tried your restaurant in D.C., but will stop in sometime. Enjoyed your style of cooking. You mean to tell me Robin is still there? That woman could not cook her way out of a paper bag.

                                                  Mike Isabella: That's totally true. She can't cook.

                                                  Arlington, Va.: If you were to enter a restaurant where Robin is the chef, what would you order?

                                                  Mike Isabella: Nothing.

                                              2. re: jenn

                                                The link to the Washington Post live chat w/ Mike I. was posted earlier downthread by newhavener07 a couple of hours ago. I actually had one of my questions answered by Mike I. and commented on it following newhavener07's post.

                                            2. re: chicgail

                                              I agree. I think he's showed his immaturity and unprofessionalism time and time again. It's too bad because I admire his creative cooking style. Bryan's point from the RW episode is well taken: Michael V. shouldn't be rewarded for bad behavior. To my thinking, someone who is in charge of a kitchen absolutely should have interpersonal skills. Both Kevin and Bryan seem capable of this. Jen too, if she could get herself together.

                                              1. re: Gigi007

                                                the only thing worse than mike isabella's attitude was gail's dress. yowzer. she needs to fire her wardrobe person yesterday.

                                                1. re: isadorasmama

                                                  I usually like what Gail is wearing - It's usually Padma that gets my "Yowzer!" remarks!

                                                  1. re: NellyNel

                                                    Padma's been dressing better this season, not so much like the confused fashionista of seasons past. Poor Gail - I have her body type, and it's not easy to look fashionable when one's built quite the opposite of Padma; still, wearing a frilly Leprechaun dress is inexcuseable.

                                                    1. re: Claudette

                                                      Last week during Restaurant Wars, Padma looked absolutely amazing in that low-cut dress and tiered necklace. She is a wonder of nature.

                                                      1. re: newhavener07

                                                        true, but the way she speaks makes her look robotic.
                                                        man, i'm feeling snarky today. sorry.

                                                        1. re: isadorasmama

                                                          You hit the nail on the head! I think that Padma is strikingly beautiful, but the way she speaks is off putting.

                                              2. re: chicgail

                                                At this point I'm mainly rooting for Kevin. He and Mike V are the two chefs whose food looks most interesting to me (well, Mike's looks interesting and Kevin's looks just plain delicious), and Mike is too big a jerk to root for.

                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                  +1, Ruth. My thoughts exactly, although I can't seem to let go of Bryan. I'll admit that I'm probably biased b/c I've eaten at his restaurant and have been quite impressed. Am getting annoyed by Mike V. If Tom C.'s blog is any indication, his attitude and behavior are hurting him.

                                        2. Top Chef Frozen Dinners?! Awesome! I can't wait for the ceviche!

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: ktb615

                                            LMAO! nice :)

                                            i'm going to reserve any comments about the episode itself until i have a chance to watch it all the way through. i missed at least half of it. hooray for DVR!

                                            1. re: ktb615

                                              Rocco is going to be ticked, its going to cut into his Bertoli frozen dinner sales.

                                              1. re: ktb615

                                                <Top Chef Frozen Dinners?! Awesome! I can't wait for the ceviche!>

                                                But will they pair it with scallops?

                                                1. re: ChefJune

                                                  Of course, "Top Chef Scallop Ceviche" from the camping out episode. UGH!

                                              2. Kevin gets a double win QF and Elimination..way to go. Mike V is a little bitter awwww suck it up and stop crying.

                                                22 Replies
                                                1. re: chris2269

                                                  And how nice for him to win another really good prize. His Calphalon pans, while not a stick in the eye, were the worst elimination challenge prizes this season.

                                                  Though weren't there a couple of times where winners got something like a signed book by the guest judge and a firm handshake?

                                                  I'd have loved to try a lot of these dishes, but Kevin's actually made me excited. Love mushrooms -- though I think they're borderline-dangerous as the centerpiece of any dish because of how many people absolutely loathe them. I guess Top Chef judges should be expected to have broader palates than the general population, huh?

                                                  1. re: dmd_kc

                                                    I don't know what segment of the population "loathe" mushrooms, but I think your supposition that implies a large segment of the dining public does not like mushrooms is faulty.

                                                    Kevin's choosing to do mushrooms was a brilliant move, well prepared mushrooms are in fact "meaty like" and can stand on their own as a substantial center piece of a dish. The fact that he was the last to serve also was to his benefit, as after eating all of the "vegetably" dishes, the diners last taste memory was of something substantial, flavorful and satisfying.

                                                    If Kevin does not ultimately win Top Chef, it just means that he is destined for something bigger.

                                                    Now I think I'll do something with some meaty portabello mushrooms next week.

                                                    1. re: ChinoWayne

                                                      I have to agree with dmd_kc - many of my friends don't like mushrooms, including a coworker who was a vegetarian for 20 years. (She now eats seafood and a bit of chicken now and again.) She said that while she wouldn't eat Kevin's winning dish, she did think that he was the only one who thought about the dish needing to be an entree vs. an appetizer. The mushrooms are hearty and filling vs. most of the other dishes, which seemed to be less substantial.

                                                      1. re: ChinoWayne

                                                        ChinoWayne, I'm just going by what I've witnessed more times than I can count at pizza places and the like. I have one friend who can't eat anything on her plate if mushrooms have touched any part of it. Maybe it's just my experience, but if you asked me to guess the most frequently-disliked common ingredient, I'd say mushrooms.

                                                        But again, yes -- I think it was a great move on Kevin's part.

                                                        1. re: dmd_kc

                                                          Maybe you are right dmd_kc and Linda, it's not been my experience, but rather the opposite, particularly when I scarf all of the mushroom/port reduction before my dining companions can at our favorite steak house. ;-)

                                                          1. re: ChinoWayne

                                                            Save some for me, CW. ;-)

                                                            And to add to my comment above, two of my friends have said "it's a texture thing" when it comes to mushrooms. One of them enjoys a mushroom reduction or can tolerate teeny-tiny bits of mushroom (as in a duxelles), but larger pieces she won't touch.

                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                              My husband's line is that he'd never eat anything that closely related to athlete's foot. :)

                                                              1. re: AMFM

                                                                ::::snort::::: OK, now THAT'S a good line. ;-)

                                                                  1. re: AMFM

                                                                    my husband says something similar... fungus grows in your shower... would you lick the shower walls? ;)

                                                        2. re: chris2269

                                                          I've read many remarks about Mike V's reaction. I'm curious, how should he react? Good sportsmanship suggests he should shake Kevin's hand and say "good job." There is no requirement to then say "oh yeah, Kevin kicked my a$$, my dish was no good at all." Watch any sporting event and you'll see a perfunctory handshake and then a bunch of excuses as to why the team lost and how the team should've won. This is something I read years ago about Jack Nicklaus:
                                                          "I have never three-putted the last hole of a tournament or missed from inside five feet on the last hole of a tournament," Jack said. He continued with his talk.

                                                          That was more than one member of the audience, a man in his 60s, was able to bear. When question time came, he stood up.

                                                          "Uh, Mr. Nicklaus," he said, "I really enjoyed your talk. But the statement you made about never three-putting the last green of a tournament or never missing from inside five feet on the last hole of a tournament--well, I was watching you in the Senior PGA just last month and I distinctly remember you missed a three-footer on the last hole."

                                                          "Sir, you're wrong," Jack said firmly. "I have never three-putted the last hole of a tournament or missed inside five feet on the last hole of a tournament."

                                                          "But, Mr. Nicklaus," the man objected. "I have it on tape. I could send it to you. Lee Trevino was in the broadcast booth, and he said you never used to miss short putts, but now you miss them to the right sometimes and then you missed an entire cup to the right . . . "

                                                          "There's no need to send me anything, sir," Jack interrupted him. "I was there. I have never three-putted the last green of a tournament or missed from inside five feet on the last green of a tournament."

                                                          Jack finished his talk and headed for the airport where his jet was parked. He has a busy schedule.

                                                          But the questioning man lingered, and he approached me. "Dr. Rotella," he said, "what's wrong with Nicklaus? Why can't he just admit it? You're the psychology expert. Can you explain it?"

                                                          I asked the man whether he played golf.

                                                          "Yes," he said.

                                                          "What's your handicap?" I asked.

                                                          "About 16," he said.

                                                          "And if you missed a short putt on the last hole of a tournament, you'd remember it and admit it," I observed.

                                                          "Of course," he confirmed.

                                                          "So let me get this straight," I said. "You're a 16-handicap, and Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer ever, and you want Jack to think like you?"

                                                          The man had no answer.

                                                          The point of the story, of course, is not whether Jack Nicklaus has ever missed a short putt on the last hole of a tournament. Of course he has. The point is that Jack's memory works differently from the memories of a lot of golfers. He has selective amnesia. He's able to block from his mind all the missed putts. He keeps and replays the memories of made putts. He's able to retain a firm belief that the next one is going in the hole. He's able to think of himself as a great putter.

                                                          1. re: Ericandblueboy

                                                            there are actually studies that show patients with clinical depression actually have the opposite type of selective amnesia. they remember with FAR more frequency the negative events in their lives or the negative outcomes and it shapes their opinions. Such things are very interesting.

                                                            1. re: AMFM

                                                              I don't think that "selective amnesia" is necessarily a function of clinical depression or any other kind of pathology. Human beings tend to remember whatever supports their current occurring reality and not remember those things that would conflict with how they have constructed their world.

                                                              1. re: chicgail

                                                                it's hard to know which comes first is all i'm saying and is an interesting study. is their view of the world shaped by their memories or vice versa.

                                                            2. re: Ericandblueboy

                                                              Really interesting post, Eric. I can think of some top-level tennis players who also think this way. Some might call it arrogance or as you alluded to earlier, a lack of good sportsmanship, but for these athletes, it is how they construct and see their reality. Yet I'm not completely convinced this applies to Michael V. Maybe. To me, it appears that the guy has a huge ego.

                                                              1. re: Gigi007

                                                                it appears that the guy has a huge ego
                                                                Many of the good ones do. According to the latest Michelin guide, Tom Colicchio has no stars. If you put Volt's Table 21 in NYC, I'll bet it gets at least 1 star (if not 2). I just ate at Ko (a 2 star restaurant). Table 21 vs. Ko - twice as many courses (just as good food - in terms of ingredients, inventiveness, and cooking technique) at the same price.

                                                                1. re: Ericandblueboy

                                                                  You would probably not get twice as many courses at the same price were it also in NYC, considering the cost of doing business there, in terms of real estate (highest $/sq ft), etc.

                                                                  And while it may be true that many good chefs have big egos, it is surely simplistic to claim a causal equation where bigger ego = better restaurant or higher ratings.

                                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                    or that a chef's big ego=better food, for that matter. a lot of people that have a prima donna i-wanna-be-a-celebrity-chef attitude don't have anything but the flash.

                                                                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                      And while it may be true that many good chefs have big egos, it is surely simplistic to claim a causal equation where bigger ego = better restaurant or higher ratings.
                                                                      Did someone make that claim? Or is this a public service announcement? Perhaps you should consider the reverse, it's the best chefs that have outsized egos, because they can afford it.

                                                                    2. re: Ericandblueboy

                                                                      Yes, many good chefs, athletes, etc. have huge egos. I guess what I was trying to say and perhaps it's not all that different from your point about Nickalus, is that in Michael V's case, I would guess that his huge ego is more responsible for how he sees things and behaves rather than selective amnesia. Or it could be that in the case of some individuals, the two go hand in hand.

                                                                      And this is just a guess (and my own humble opinion), but I bet Bryan V. has less of a problem than Michael V. in owning up to things he screws up on. The editors showed us his "sour grapes' face when his brother won challenges, but we don't know know what else went on. I'm not saying that he's the humblest of guys/chefs, but I would guess that he's more humble than his brother and has less "selective amnesia" or as large of an ego in that case. And I agree with you Volt's Table 21 is likely worthy of 2 Michelin stars.

                                                                      1. re: Gigi007

                                                                        Bryan is intense and competitive but he hasn' shown any ego that I recall. He's been churlish when someone else wins but he never had a totally rude confessional about a competitor.

                                                                        1. re: Ericandblueboy

                                                                          I agree, and I do think Bryan is more mature than his brother. Although I'm rooting for both of them, I can't help wanting our local guy to win. If I get my wish (and right now, I'd say Michael V. and Kevin may be favored over Bryan), I would be sorry 'cause then it might be near impossible to get a reservation at Volt!

                                                              2. I now like Natalie Portman less. All that lovely meat at Craftsteak...and not one bit of it touched. What a shame!
                                                                Awesome wins for Kevin...very well-deserved. So sad for Jen...she's so talented. Mike V. was indeed a sore loser...or was it fatigue and the constant demands of competition?
                                                                I'm very glad we don't need to hear Mike I.'s cocky and off-putting comments anymore. And Robin is delusional thinking that there's going to be less tension with him gone...she's still a sub-par chef in comparison to the remaining cheftestants.

                                                                18 Replies
                                                                1. re: attran99

                                                                  Because I'm sure Natalie Portman was the one who came up with the challenge.

                                                                  Personally I really liked this challenge. Who was talking sous vide for steaks (why do I think it was Mike I?) but then they have trouble cooking vegetables and coming up with a veggie main? Come on!

                                                                  The kitchen obviously had no vegetarian cheese, or any of the usual suspects in veggie fallback land like tempeh and tofu. Which again I appreciated because it meant they had to really think.

                                                                  Aside from the prize I also liked the TV dinner quickfire. In my mind I took away points from those who did not fill all four compartments. I'm mean that way.

                                                                  Congratulations to Kevin. I like him more with each episode.

                                                                  1. re: MplsM ary

                                                                    I also thought it was a good challenge, but I suspect even without tofu and tempeh, they could have used regular ol' cheese (just not head cheese ;-), eggs, legumes, etc -- they certainly used butter. It was vegetarian, not vegan.

                                                                    1. re: momjamin

                                                                      Rennet makes regular cheese a proscribed food for most vegetarians.

                                                                      1. re: MplsM ary

                                                                        There are two types of rennet - animal based (often veal) and vegetable based. Packages will typically specify which is used.

                                                                    2. re: MplsM ary

                                                                      In a schadenfreude sort of way I don't feel to bad about Jen. She started out so cocky she needed to be taken down a couple pegs. I initially liked the Volt brothers but their childish behavior and immaturity is showing through. (At least one of them- I can't always keep them straight.) I'm growing tired of all these egotistical, arrogant chef's strutting around. Can I please have someone with quiet modesty, with humility, maturity and self-effacing humor excel at cooking? Oh wait, Kevin! He was the only one who got it that vegheads want a substantial and filling as well as tasty meal, something lost on one of the pouting Volts.

                                                                      1. re: MplsM ary

                                                                        What was going on with the "protein" comments? Most of the dishes had no protein to speak of, including Kevin's. I was surprised we didn't see more beans, grains and pulses.

                                                                        1. re: MplsM ary

                                                                          Mary, in my many years of vegetarianism, I knew only one lacto-ovo vegetarian who eschewed animal-rennet cheese. Maybe that's changed in recent years among vegetarians (I gave it up around five years ago).

                                                                          I did find it interesting that cheese wasn't a component of anyone's dish in this challenge, at least that I can recall.

                                                                          1. re: dmd_kc

                                                                            I am one of the many hypocritical, cheese eating vegetarians. Right now in Minnesota and in neighboring Wisconsin and Iowa we have some stellar cheese making going on and I turn a blind eye on the rennet. As you say, many do. Not all.

                                                                            I read an interview with Natalie Portman and she is more adherent than I, or as you say, many others. And since I saw no eggs, I'm guessing she doesn't eat those, either.

                                                                            Edit - Just read Gail's blog and they were encouraged to use eggs. Now I am really confused.

                                                                            1. re: MplsM ary

                                                                              From Tom and Gail's blog it's clear that eggs were allowed, it's just that no one used them, which is crazy to me! As Ruth L. said above, I think she's vegan now, but was not when the challenge occurred.

                                                                              1. re: JasmineG

                                                                                The failure to use eggs is particularly mystifying since doing fancy things with eggs is so hot right now in high-end cuisine. All I can think is that the difficulty of preparing and plating 12 servings of eggs to be served at the same time and not having some of them become cold and/or overcooked was too daunting.

                                                                                Someone used lentils. Robin used garbonzos. Did anyone else include a protein?

                                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                  I don't think anyone used a protein -( I'm sure someone will correct me if that's not the case) - which is why I couldnt understand why the judges kept asking Mike I where his protein was.

                                                                                  1. re: NellyNel

                                                                                    I am surprised that Mike I didn't come out with something crude and rude.

                                                                                    1. re: NellyNel

                                                                                      He kept saying he wanted to make it have the feel of a seared scallop and was treating it like the protein, when in fact he had no proteins on the plate. I don't think anyone else really mentioned proteins, so it wasn't quite as much of an issue.

                                                                                      1. re: queencru

                                                                                        Right. These chefs often use the word "protein" as a generic word for the central element of their dish (they "pick their protein"), and I think that's how Mike I was thinking about it. But of course, it was a stupid way to describe it, especially since he didn't manage to execute his original faux-scallop idea.

                                                                                      2. re: NellyNel

                                                                                        The judges kept probing because of Mike's comments in his description of his dish. First, he began by stating that they were the protein. Then, he modified his comments to say the slices of the leek were visually duplicating the look of scallops, a bona fide protein. Since vegetable protein does exist, but it is most emphatically not leeks, Mike created a legitimate question in the judges' mind about his food knowledge. They should have questioned him.

                                                                                  2. re: MplsM ary

                                                                                    I don't think you're hypocritical. In 17 years, I went through many degrees of observance, including two (unhealthy) vegan years. For a small portion of that, I avoided rennet, cochineal, and everything else I could think of. It was no fun, because it meant I ate almost nothing I didn't prepare myself. Going to a party or a restaurant was misery.

                                                                                    Most of the time, I simply didn't let myself think about the oil in the fryer or the broth the potatoes were cooked in.

                                                                                    1. re: dmd_kc

                                                                                      Indeed. 35 years as a vegetarian (and maybe a fish dish once a year). In the 70s eating out meant a dinner salad for me. No fun. These days the dining out world is my 'Tofoyster' by comparison.

                                                                                      If I call ahead and ask for a vegetarian option when going to a meat heavy restaurant, I'm usually very pleased with what I'm served. Sometimes my dining companions are a little jealous.

                                                                                      Like you, I don't sweat the small stuff. I'm certain I've had a lot of beef and chicken broth based dishes served to me over the years but I choose not to think about it.

                                                                                2. re: MplsM ary

                                                                                  Not blaming her for the challenge...blaming her for her vegetarian tastes. Still all that lovely meat and not one ounce of it used...so sad.

                                                                              2. Please tell me who had to "pack their knives and leave" Jen or Robyn?????

                                                                                9 Replies
                                                                                1. re: bermudagourmetgoddess

                                                                                  It's a bit further upthread, bgg...it was Mike I.

                                                                                  And Tom C's blog at Bravo was rather revealing: http://tinyurl.com/yjbz2hx

                                                                                  Last paragraph says: "Mike I. knew his dish was bad — he even acknowledged as much to while we were shooting the reunion episode — but seemed to count on Robin’s dish being worse, so he never seemed to actually consider that he might be packing his knives. I really think he believed that as long as Robin was still there, he was safe, that there was no chance she’d outlast him."

                                                                                  Why does this *not* surprise me about Mike I?

                                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                    Thanks, I missed it ...Iwas reading too fast...I won't be able to see this eposide until a rerun this weekend...It shows at 2 am in Bermuda, not staying up for that!

                                                                                    Nope does not surprise me at all about Mike I...Loved the blog from Tom C...
                                                                                    Never under estimate anyone!

                                                                                    1. re: bermudagourmetgoddess

                                                                                      Hey BGG,

                                                                                      They keep showing it all night, I usually catch it at 7am when it shows again.

                                                                                      1. re: bdachow

                                                                                        I used to watch at 7 am but now I work out at 7-8 and I think it is oxymoron to watch a food show and work out...like to use to do...hahaha

                                                                                        1. re: bermudagourmetgoddess

                                                                                          Lol, totally agree but I can never find anything else compelling to watch that will hold my attention long enough to make me forget that I'm actually working out.

                                                                                          Is it 5 pm yet, back to the usual haunt for Friday.

                                                                                    2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                      It seems to me like Karma in action. We all “know” that Robyn is a bit out of her league, but it’s pretty sweet that she outlasted Mike I.!

                                                                                      Justice will be served if she slides past Eli.

                                                                                      1. re: StewieBoy

                                                                                        Go Robin! Yes, she's annoying, but she's showing some staying power.

                                                                                        1. re: newhavener07

                                                                                          I'm with you. I don't think she's a "top chef," but the nastiness of the other competitors have had me rooting for her. They've been totally inappropriate. She's not a kid. She's dealt with serious illness and I give her points for life experience and staying power.

                                                                                        2. re: StewieBoy

                                                                                          "Justice will be served if she slides past Eli."

                                                                                          I agree completely!

                                                                                    3. Did anyone else feel like the chefs in this challenge just seemed to completely miss the mark? I mean, no pasta, rice, bean or poatao-based dishes? And the lack of protein was offensive. Or were they just all trying to be so inventive that they couldn't come up with a single dish that looked like it could be an entree? Or was it that Craftsteak had such a limited pantry? I kept scratching my head the entire time...It also seemed like none of the food had any kind of texture. Just a bunch of sautteed/simmered vegetables.

                                                                                      I was hoping for something fried or breaded. But maybe that's just my unrefined palate talking.

                                                                                      24 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: soypower

                                                                                        Read Gail's blog - she said the same thing: http://www.bravotv.com/top-chef/blogs...

                                                                                        And Tom's blog said they had trucked in a full truckload of veggies from the Santa Monica Farmer's Market the night before, so maybe that's what caught their eye vs. thinking about something that would be more like an entree...other than Kevin, of course.

                                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                          Incredible. Thanks for the link. That's got me scratching my head even more now...

                                                                                          1. re: soypower

                                                                                            EXACTLY. Sheesh, how often do you read or hear vegetarians say they're tired of pasta for the only vegetarian dish in a restaurant? But that doesn't mean that pasta couldn't have been used inventively.

                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                              Count me as another surprised at how un-main-course-like every single offering was. And as delicious as I'm sure Kevin's was, those of us who've spent years in the vegetarian trenches know that while mushrooms have a great hearty mouthfeel, they're actually among the lowest-calorie ingredients out there. Unless you load them up with fat, you're going to be hungry shortly after a mushroom feast.

                                                                                              I've always wondered if the cheftestants consider how many other dishes the judges will be tasting, particularly earlier in the season when they're plowing through a dozen or more plates. Would that make you think lighter if you were in their shoes? Seems like it might give an unintentional edge sometimes, especially if your dish is being tasted further down the line.

                                                                                              1. re: dmd_kc

                                                                                                I'm pretty sure they don't know the order in which the dishes will be tasted. I remember Jennifer saying a few QFs back that she was hoping Padma and the guest judge would come her way first, as her dish would not "hold" if they came later. Sure enough, her dish was one of the last they tasted, and it was overcooked.

                                                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                  That was for a quickfire, though -- they definitely know what order they're going in for a situation like this where they're serving in order, because each of them is scheduled to serve at a particular time. All of their time buzzers don't go off at the same time, they're staggered (with staggered start times as well), so that the food is hot and just plated when it's time to serve the judges.

                                                                                                  1. re: JasmineG

                                                                                                    Good point. Had forgotten that was discussed earlier. Then in response to dmd_kc, I think the chefs are busy thinking about their *own* dish vs. what everyone else is making around them - or at least they should be thinking about their own dish. So going "lighter" if you're towards the end of dishes served, while it might be a good idea, could also backfire if there isn't enough oomph in their dish to make it stand out.

                                                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                      Yeah, and they may not know when they're planning the execution of their dish where they're going to be in the procession, it's probably better for them to focus on what they know that they can do well.

                                                                                          2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                            As a side note, I'd love to know the name of the Japanese restaurant chef Bartolotta introduced the group to after the judging! (Gail mentions it in her blog)

                                                                                            1. re: FlyerFan

                                                                                              Someone in the comments section said they thought it was a place called "Raku".

                                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                Thanks! Off to the Southwest board to see if there are any posts about it......

                                                                                          3. re: soypower

                                                                                            Hey soypowder - I was thinking the same thing. I was blown away with the lack of grains, beans, or dairy. It didn't make any sense to me.

                                                                                            And where was the protein????

                                                                                            1. re: soypower

                                                                                              I was also wondering why no one seemed to incorporate many grains, cheese, or beans in their dishes last night and I actually came to see if others on this board were wondering that too. I thought I may have missed something Tom or Natalie said when they were explaining the challenge.

                                                                                              1. re: soypower

                                                                                                I wondered about that too. I make a mean veggie risotto with faro and wild mushrooms. . no one did anything substantial like that . . .Hey! I can be on the next TopChef veggie challenge!
                                                                                                Seriously though, I looked at all those pretty little plates of food and --except for Kevins, of course--and thought, Dang! I'd be starving if tha twas the main course1

                                                                                                1. re: soypower

                                                                                                  Grains and legumes are healthy, hearty, vegetarian, versatile and provide protein. Not sure what the contestants were thinking by by-passing all of those. I think the only exception were the handful of fresh garbanzos that Robin used. Oh, and someone (Eli?) included some lentils.

                                                                                                  1. re: chicgail

                                                                                                    I think they got distracted by the array of farmer's market goodies and went into default mode of designing side dishes around seasonal produce. They weren't thinking like vegetarians in terms of a variety of items with some protein-rich beans or grains in there to balance out the vegetables. No so surprising since they are all mainly meat-oriented chefs. Surrounded by all the meat, they went into side-dish mode.

                                                                                                    1. re: newhavener07

                                                                                                      Except Mike I. I thought it was interesting that this should have been a breeze for him based on the fact that about 1/3 of the dishes on his menu are vegetarian/vegan, yet he didn't do anything remotely resembling them. I was expecting a falafel, hummus, or something else a little more filling/fatty than what we got.

                                                                                                      1. re: queencru

                                                                                                        He said he had no yogurt to work with *shrug*

                                                                                                        1. re: dach

                                                                                                          Yogurt isn't a key ingredient in many of the vegetarian/vegan dishes on his menu. I don't think that's a valid excuse.

                                                                                                        2. re: queencru

                                                                                                          Good point, queencru. I too thought Mike I. would've had an advantage. He has had a ton of practice making vegetarian dishes at Zaytinya. In the live chat w/ him earlier, he said that if he had to do the challenge again, he would have make a rice or risotto dish. Why he went with leeks is beyond me.

                                                                                                          1. re: Gigi007

                                                                                                            I think he may have been too fixated on the fake "scallops" of past seasons--chefs won several challenges with bananas seared to look like scallops as part of a dessert. His thinking was likely "fake scallops equals win" and then he saw the leeks and half-baked idea was born.

                                                                                                  2. Catching up here.

                                                                                                    I thought the elimination challenge was going to be dismal, and I was right except for maybe Kevin's dish. For some reason western vegetarian cuisine doesn't do it for me. I think it was Tom who was commenting on Jen's dish, but it can apply to all of the dishes: you're supposed to serve an entree not a side dish, that to me is the greatest failing here, that all of these chefs treated vegetarian dishes as a side dish in their minds and the results looked that way.

                                                                                                    Did anyone else catch the lip smack that jen put on Mike I after he was eliminated? Gail's expression was : "WHOA!". For head fakes I guess.

                                                                                                    Doing my Tim Gunn imitation here, did anyone else find Gail's outfit...odd? Never thought of fiddlehead ferns as a fashion inspiration. Gail is getting better, especially compared to Toby.

                                                                                                    I really enjoyed the bit where they were all eating together, that looked like fun.

                                                                                                    I didn't think I would like to see Natalie Portman but her sense of humor was great, especially with her hilarious comments on drug dealer etc.

                                                                                                    Very much looking forward to Fabio pounding the crap out of Marcel.

                                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                                      I'm still amazing that no one used more pastas, grains, legumes. Other than Eli's lentils, they really were just garnish or non-existent.

                                                                                                      LOL on Gail's fashion choice - I did notice it; a bit odd. But a great comparison to fiddleheads. :-)

                                                                                                      And it does look like Fabio gets ticked off at *someone* next week in that he wants the cameras to stop filming. I think the Elves are leading us to believe it's Marcel. Not a hard thing to consider, however.

                                                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                        To her credit, and she really annoys me, Robin tried to use chick peas.

                                                                                                        1. re: AMFM

                                                                                                          Three of them on a plate (and actually, she didn't get them on 3 of the plates). That's a garnish, not a meal. :-)

                                                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                            fair enough. i was falling asleep a bit this week. they were a good thought though!

                                                                                                      2. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                                        Gail's dress was designed to serve as both a prom dress and a bridesmaid's dress.

                                                                                                        It was nice to see Portman and her friends seeming to have such a good time. I like it when the guests have fun while still giving good feedback to the permanent judges.

                                                                                                        1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                                          I agree completely about western vegetarian cuisine. I was surprised the cheftestants didn't draw more from other cultures- using lentils, making hearty curries, or focusing on other dishes that are more than just some vegetable garnish on a plate that you'd normally see adjacent to meat or fish. Kevin was the only one I thought actually produced a meal.

                                                                                                          I liked Natalie as a judge. I was surprised that no one knew she was vegetarian and that Eli said her only notable work to date was Star Wars. Haha.

                                                                                                        2. I'm still scratching my head about why there was virtually no use of proteins or starches...Was it because the pantry at Craftsteak doesn't have a lot of those things or because they were just focused on the produce? Pasta, beans, lentils, eggs, dairy, breads...not to mention dishes inspired by non-Euro/American cuisine. While I couldn't give up seafood or meat, there are a lot of vegetarian dishes that are delicious and filling.

                                                                                                          Anyone else surprised to hear that Kevin and his wife abstain from meat for the entire season of Lent? Wow!

                                                                                                          1. I agree that Jen has lost her edge and in fact seems lost in general. Couldn't have been upset if she was sent home after yet another bad performance. Glad Mike I is gone.

                                                                                                            Michael V is a jerk. He didn't taste everyone else's dishes so how could he know that he could make it in 20 minutes? And the way he treated people in the last episode when he ran the kitchen was unacceptable. His brother is right - Michael has probably been rewarded for bad behavior his entire life. Go home already.

                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: mojoeater

                                                                                                              Jen is burnt and I will say it again, what I said from episode one, I CANT STAND THOSE BROTHERS. Arrogant, cocky and frankly, not that creative. Deconstructing food is so five (or whatever) years ago. Kevin is a class act. Talented, humble and, seriously, not just talented, I think he may be a culinary genius! This whole cooking for celebrity thing is annoying. It takes away from the competition if you ask me.

                                                                                                              1. re: HabaneroJane

                                                                                                                I think the producers may be
                                                                                                                1) Running out of celebrity chefs
                                                                                                                2) Feeling under pressure to up the celebrity quotient because they are in Vegas.

                                                                                                                1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                                                  3) want more people to watch their program

                                                                                                                  el linus

                                                                                                                  1. re: linus

                                                                                                                    Oh yeah that. Goes without saying...

                                                                                                            2. WOW -- I just read Tom's blog. He delivers a rather stern lecture to both Voltaggios, particularly Michael, for thinking their "advanced" techniques are necessarily superior to more time-tested ones.

                                                                                                              "In general, please do not be snowed by the techniques employed by the Voltaggio brothers " is one of the most direct things I've ever read by one of the judges.


                                                                                                              20 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: dmd_kc

                                                                                                                best thing Tom's said (or written) ever! Amen to that. Brothers turn my stomach whenever i see them on TV.

                                                                                                                1. re: HabaneroJane

                                                                                                                  Kevin is way out ahead as a fan/viewer favorite and he's one of my favorite TC chefs ever in his combination of humility, skill and creativity. The story about his entire family living the same street and eating together weekly was almost too much--if he loses to a Voltaggio punk, there may be rioting in the streets or at least several thousand heirloom squashes hurled at TV screens.

                                                                                                                  1. re: newhavener07

                                                                                                                    How cute that his grandma still makes them all breakfast! Although it does show a bit of bias that we think that's lovely and think Eli's closeness to his family must be pathological.

                                                                                                                    1. re: AMFM

                                                                                                                      Good point altho I assume the various members of the families are paying their own rent, etc.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Joanie

                                                                                                                        And Kevin said something along the lines that everyone goes over to his grandmother's house on Sunday morning for breakfast...so everyone's out on their own. Not still living with mommy and daddy.

                                                                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                          I still can't get over how warm and fuzzy that whole scenario is. I'm amazed that people in the U.S. still live like that, and a little saddened that it's such an exotic concept--eating regularly with extended family members. What has our society come to?

                                                                                                                          1. re: newhavener07

                                                                                                                            The ease of moving across country (and a BIG country at that) for another job makes us become a much more fractured society as it relates to living near family members.

                                                                                                                            I would have loved to have lived near my mother's mother before she passed away - but she lived in central PA where she had retired to a family home. And we lived in northern NJ - Dad's business needed him near NYC.

                                                                                                                            Now - my sister lives 40 minutes from me towards the south, my mother lives 40 minutes north of me. My brother, OTOH, lives in L.A. with his family. So we remain fractured.

                                                                                                                            1. re: newhavener07

                                                                                                                              I think it's rare for an entire family to stay in the same city for several generations. Many people move when they retire, others move because work opportunities dry up in a certain city or aren't available there at all. I live in a city that has few good opportunities for young professionals, so most people who don't settle down before their late 20s end up leaving to find something a little better.

                                                                                                                            2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                              He also said that he and his wife give up meat for Lent, which makes me think that he comes from a very traditional Irish Catholic background, which is consistent with the family sticking together in the neighborhood.

                                                                                                                          2. re: AMFM

                                                                                                                            The big difference is Eli lives at home.
                                                                                                                            Kevin is married and his family lives in the same neighborhood, but I'm assuming he and his wife live in their own house.

                                                                                                                        2. re: HabaneroJane

                                                                                                                          Arrogance is no substitute for good people skills. Maybe Michael V (and Brother Brian) should spend some time with Rick Bayless.

                                                                                                                          1. re: chicgail

                                                                                                                            Thank you, Chicgail. Nastiness does not make you a good chef. Its unfortunate that it's accepted. It's pretty immature, actually. And I don't care how good of a chef you (thinK) are.

                                                                                                                            Rick and Hubert are prime examples of that.

                                                                                                                        3. re: dmd_kc

                                                                                                                          "This was a challenge about vegetables and was an opportunity to honor them, rather than turn them into faux-finishes of proteins." Tom C

                                                                                                                          Great, first honor the protein, now honor the vegetable. When are we going to honor the GE Monogram ovens, oh wait, thats what product placement is for....

                                                                                                                          1. re: dmd_kc

                                                                                                                            Someone needs to point the Voltaggio brothers to Tom's Coke commercial.

                                                                                                                            1. re: dmd_kc

                                                                                                                              i guess Tom is as bored with Bryan's foams as i am ;)

                                                                                                                              1. re: dmd_kc

                                                                                                                                I too was impressed by Tom's blog. It seems like in his mind, Kevin is the clear front runner although he does give credit to Michael V. for taking a risk with his dish. Very telling.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Gigi007

                                                                                                                                  Speaking of taking risks - Do we dare think that during the previews for the next episode when Toby says something to the extent 'He was in Vegas, took a gamble and lost' he was talking about Mike V.?

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Alex318

                                                                                                                                    Hmm, interesting observation. I didn't catch that. You may be right because the judges clearly perceive Mike V. as a risk taker. Plus he may be trying their patience with his antics.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Alex318

                                                                                                                                      I, for one, don't trust the promos anymore after they heavily emphasized the "disgusting" comment by Natalie Portman when it never made it into the actual show. I'm still grumpy about it.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: dmd_kc

                                                                                                                                    Rant about novel technique as Tom did, Mike V still came in a close second. The judging wasn't unanimous -- Tom initially wanted to give the win to Mike V.

                                                                                                                                  3. Robin outlast Mike I. One more to go, Eli. After she's done with Eli, she can take Mike I's advice and bow out gracefully leaving Jen, V Bro's and Kevin.

                                                                                                                                    Looks like Michael V can't accept the fact that he was outcooked by someone using classic techniques vs his modern cooking style.

                                                                                                                                    Jen... Makes great sauces and ceviche, but her cooking has been hit or miss. She would have been great compared to other seasons, but this season is really tough. However, if she does win this, I would NOT be disappointed. Eli or Robin winning would be very disappointing.

                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                    1. re: dave_c

                                                                                                                                      I can certainly see where/how he hasn't won many fans but Eli's cooking hasn't been that bad. Far better than many contestants who have slipped through other years.

                                                                                                                                    2. Natalie seemed like a good night out - funny, well-spoken.

                                                                                                                                      I loved Kevin's reaction to winning the GE wares - it was some mixture between sarcasm and bewilderment - "lucky me." As for his dish, it was a brown monochrome thing, but it was the only one of the bunch that actually had me hungry looking at it. Leave it to Kevin to bring the "substance." Additionally, the dude is a savant. He has had to go outside his Southern/meat roots and consistently does well.

                                                                                                                                      I've had smoked kale before. It is better than I imagined it would be. Fantastic, in fact.

                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                      1. re: fame da lupo

                                                                                                                                        >>I've had smoked kale before. It is better than I imagined it would be. Fantastic, in fact.<<

                                                                                                                                        If you are using it for medicinal purposes, they won't prosecute you now.

                                                                                                                                      2. I know Mike I is an ass, but really - Isn't anyone else sick of Robin constantly squeaking by??
                                                                                                                                        It's getting really annoying now. This has to be a new record for TC. She's been in the bottom 3 how many times?? UGHH

                                                                                                                                        I was bored by this one - I guess last weeks was so exciting to me, and then this one - a veggie challenge - for me wasa dud.
                                                                                                                                        No ones dish looked exciting in the least.(not even Kevins IMO)

                                                                                                                                        Mike I seemed to be really well liked by the other chefs. Both last week and this week one of the brothers said "come back Mike" when he was in the bottom group. Did anyone catch that?
                                                                                                                                        And also the big ole bear hug that Jen gave him and seemed to really shock Gail.
                                                                                                                                        Jen also said "Love you" to him later...

                                                                                                                                        Gails dress was bad..

                                                                                                                                        Loved the "prick" comments!! LOL

                                                                                                                                        11 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: NellyNel

                                                                                                                                          I may have to watch it again, but it seemed to me that Jen & Mike's hug was full of emotion and it surprised Gail, she looked like she was going to cry watching them.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: NellyNel

                                                                                                                                            I agree that Robin's been squeaking by, but she's been in the Low group 3x (same as Laurine and Ash), while Mike I. had two Lows, so not that far off:


                                                                                                                                            And I just read who the guest judge is for the next episode, 2 weeks from now. Nigella Lawson. I will say it's a safe bet that several more male viewers will be present (Padma, Nigella, AND Gail in one show? I can only imagine the drool from the guys. Or maybe Toby will be replacing Gail again. <g>)

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                                                                                'cat fight'? Why? Is there a long-running feud between the women, or is this some kind of 'joke' predicated on the idea that women can't get along with one another?

                                                                                                                                                Or, is it a joke at your expense that you want to see them fight in the hopes that they will start to make out with one another? In which case, why not suggest that the JT be replaced by glitter oil or jelly? And the winners and losers determined through the outcome of a wrestling match? If you're going to make a joke, Phaedrus, take it all the way!

                                                                                                                                              2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                Not to rain on the parade, but speaking as one of your men, Gail doesn't do it for me.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: fame da lupo

                                                                                                                                                  I'm aware that she's not everyone's cuppa tea, but she does have her fans - including those who prefer her over Padma.

                                                                                                                                              3. re: NellyNel

                                                                                                                                                I picked up on that in my initial post. It wasn't so much the hug but Gail's reaction that was interesting.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                                                                                  I thought she looked shocked more than anything!
                                                                                                                                                  (shocked that Mike was well liked perhaps??)

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                                                                                    I was actually wondering if Gail was reacting to Jen/Mike's hug or to some opposite interaction between Robin and Mike.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: NellyNel

                                                                                                                                                    I couldn't believe that at JT when they turned their attention to her dish, she started blathering on about how bad it was before the judges said anything (at least on camera). She just kept talking and talking. At that point I was thinking "she just eliminated herself".

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: NellyNel

                                                                                                                                                      Re: the prick, I immediately about fell out of my chair laughing, with the simultaneous thought that no one at the table was going to pick up on that, or if they did, not play the pun. It was awesome that Portman caught it in stride and "went there."

                                                                                                                                                    2. It now seems right that Kevin should go all the way. Aside from having the passion and skills (and palate) he let the audience know that his family all live on the same street, and grandma still cooks breakfast for the clan every morning. Who can beat that mojo?

                                                                                                                                                      1. A little suprised Mike did as poorly as he did and was the one to go. But what ever, what ever, it is what it is.

                                                                                                                                                        Agreed, best lines ever
                                                                                                                                                        Tom C: "We went from little prick to big in my mouth." Friend of Natalie's: "Yes, that's what usually happens!"

                                                                                                                                                        Racks up there with "culinary boner"

                                                                                                                                                        40 Replies
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                                                                                          Alert: Mike Isabella is live now (1 p.m. Thursday) at Washingtonpost.com:

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: newhavener07

                                                                                                                                                            Interesting - his comment about Final 3 being a given "now that I'm not there". Wow. :::::Insert @@:::::

                                                                                                                                                            And did he actually let something slip? "Final 3, it's a given now that I'm not there. Looks like it's gonna be Mike, Brian and Kevin. Jen's starting to fall apart it looks like. "

                                                                                                                                                            And still bashing Robin, I see. ::::shaking my head:::::

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                              I noted his comments on RW that Jen did much worse than my take. Mike I (paraphrase): Jen screwed up the line and didn't successfully pre-prep her dishes messing everyone else up. I read into his take that Jen should have ppykag. And he's friends with jen... so I have to flip my take on RW judging , and say Laurine should still be here over Jen. Maybe her teammates (mike i, laurine, kevin) didn't tell the whole disaster story that was Jen in RW to JT. They all seem to like her/feel sorry for her. And I wonder if she still is sick.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                POSSIBLE MAJOR SPOILER

                                                                                                                                                                Did anyone else think the following exchange during the interview was weird?

                                                                                                                                                                "Silver Spring, Md.: What are your favorite places to eat in D.C.? Have you been to Volt since the show finished (and has Brian been to Zaytinya)?

                                                                                                                                                                Mike Isabella: Yes and yes. I've been to Volt and Brian has been to Zaytinya."

                                                                                                                                                                Why single out Brian?

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: uptownlibrarian

                                                                                                                                                                  I think just because Brian's restaurant is in closest proximity to Zaytinya, and the questioner asked about him.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sharonlouk

                                                                                                                                                                    I did mean why did the questioner single out Brian.

                                                                                                                                                                    I guess proximity is an explanation, but it seems a bit thin.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: uptownlibrarian

                                                                                                                                                                      There is a lot of talk locally here about the 2 chefs/restaurants, so it made sense to me. :)

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: uptownlibrarian

                                                                                                                                                                    It's not weird at all nor is it a spoiler. The restaurant where Mike I. works is in downtown Washington, DC and Bryan V.'s restaurant is in Frederick, Maryland, about 45 minutes-1 hr north of DC. I think it's only natural for someone to be curious about that. And it wasn't exactly an interview; it was actually a live chat. A lot of the questions were taken from people online. I submitted a few myself, and Mike answered it.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: uptownlibrarian

                                                                                                                                                                      I don't see why that would be a spoiler. Earlier in the Q & A, Mike said he had known them for years. Why wouldn't they eat at each others restaurants if they had the chance? I'm not trying to be rude, I just don't understand what you're questioning.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jcattles

                                                                                                                                                                        It can't be much of a spoiler because the finale hasn't been filmed yet, right? Even so, I think Mike's knowledge of the results stops with this week's show because he's out of the house. Might have heard some scoop from his buddies Mike and Brian, though.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: newhavener07

                                                                                                                                                                          He is very close to Mike V., less so with Bryan and my sense is that Bryan wouldn't spill.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: newhavener07

                                                                                                                                                                            "Mike's knowledge of the results stops with this week's show because he's out of the house"
                                                                                                                                                                            Not so, the cheftestants who have been told to PPYKAG are sequestered until filming is finished. Many times the last few who were kicked off, return to be sous for the remaining final 3. Mike doesn't know who wins, but I'm sure he knows who the final 3 are. Of course, he can't say anything because of the contractual obligations.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: newhavener07

                                                                                                                                                                      Yeah, I caught that and even had one of my questions answered by Mike I.

                                                                                                                                                                      Here are some of his comments that I found interesting:

                                                                                                                                                                      1) on being portrayed as “cocky and sexist”:
                                                                                                                                                                      Mike Isabella: Cocky? I can deal with that. Sexist? Not one bit. Not oooone bit.

                                                                                                                                                                      2) on the Laurine vs. Jen going home controvery (RW episode):
                                                                                                                                                                      Mike Isabella: I think they both had very poor performances. Jen crumbled. She couldn't execute, wasn't set up. She brought the rest of the line down. She brought Kevin down, expo down. It is what it is. Was Laurine the right one to go home? I don't know about that. I'm not going to say who should or shouldn't go home.

                                                                                                                                                                      3) on theVoltaggio brothers’ sibling rivalry:
                                                                                                                                                                      Washington, D.C.: How much is the Michael/Bryan rivalry played up by producers? Did this go on when the camera's weren't rolling?
                                                                                                                                                                      Mike Isabella: It was played up by producers. They're brothers. They love each other. There's some rivalry, but of course they're going to produce it because it's marketable.

                                                                                                                                                                      4) on the judges:
                                                                                                                                                                      Stone Ridge, Va.: Who would you rather have dinner with - Padma or Tom?
                                                                                                                                                                      Mike Isabella: Tom without a doubt. Tom's a chef. We relate. Padma --- pbbbbtt -- I wouldn't go out to dinner if she was buying. Just joking!

                                                                                                                                                                      Washington, D.C.: Is Toby really as mean as they make him out to be?
                                                                                                                                                                      Mike Isabella: I don't know. He wasn't there a lot and when he was there I wasn't in the loser circle. The harshest judge there is Padma. It's her demeanor as a person. It's who she is! It's TV. She's harsh and rude. I don't agree with certain things that they say, but that's not my decision

                                                                                                                                                                      5) on Robin (just a few of his comments):
                                                                                                                                                                      Washington, D.C.: You mean to tell me Robin is still there? That woman could not cook her way out of a paper bag.
                                                                                                                                                                      Mike Isabella: That's totally true. She can't cook.
                                                                                                                                                                      Washington, D.C.: Did you like doing the challenges in pairs? I felt that some chefs were able to slide to the next round based on their partner's work. Especially when the chefs were teamed up w/ the Voltaggio bros.
                                                                                                                                                                      Mike Isabella: Yeah, I don't like team challenges at all. I'd rather it be individual challenges every single time. It was fun sometimes with the groups, but definitely people skated along aka Robin.

                                                                                                                                                                      Yeah, that's Mike I...

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Gigi007

                                                                                                                                                                        Thanks for posting that Gigi.

                                                                                                                                                                        I find his comments about Padma most interesting

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: NellyNel

                                                                                                                                                                          You're welcome, Nelly. I too found his comments about Padma interesting, and gather that not every cheftestant would be as frank. In the chat he also talks about being close to Mike V. and hanging with the V. brothers and Jen. I'll admit that I'm not a fan of Mike I's, but I found some of his comments in this chat helpful and somewhat insightful.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: NellyNel

                                                                                                                                                                            <I find his comments about Padma most interesting>

                                                                                                                                                                            Wonder whether she put him down???

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                                                                                              Ash didn't have anything great to say about Padma either. It seems like she's just incredibly unpopular this season.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: queencru

                                                                                                                                                                                plus there was that now deleted from net interview from an anonymous TC crew confirmed padma is the picky diva and high maintenance prima-donna off the set as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: queencru

                                                                                                                                                                                  Based on Mike I.'s comments, I perceived that he: (1) doesn't see Padma as fully qualified to be a judge (he makes the distinction with Tom C. emphasizing that Tom is a chef) and (2) finds her communication style harsh. I can't say that if I were in his shoes, I'd disagree. And I tend to think the two things go hand and hand. For a cheftestant being judged, Tom as a chef himself, most of the time (I can't speak for all of the episodes or past seasons), can deliver criticism backed up by substantive points, which while critical, doesn't come across as necessarily harsh.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Gigi007

                                                                                                                                                                                    When did Padma cross over from being "the host" to being "a judge?" In the beginning, anyway, she was just the facilitator.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                                                                                                      I haven't seen past seasons, so I don't know what Padma was doing before. Just based on Mike I.'s comments earlier today, he definitely saw her in the role of judge. It also seems that at JT, her comments often emphasized "we" as in "we found that the dish was x...," so she was including herself as a judge. I distinctly recall Padma saying something along those lines at the JT of the RW episode when she questioned and responded to Mike I. about his arctic char dish.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Here's what Mike I. said about Padma earlier today when asked about the judges (specifically, Toby as a judge):: "The harshest judge there is Padma. It's her demeanor as a person. It's who she is! It's TV. She's harsh and rude. I don't agree with certain things that they say, but that's not my decision."

                                                                                                                                                                                      P.S. In any number of articles on the net, Padma is referred to as any one of these three: "Top Chef judge," "Top Chef Host" "Top Chef Host and Judge."

                                                                                                                                                                                      EDIT: Even Bravo's own website mentions Padma having a role at JT:

                                                                                                                                                                                      "Once again returning to the kitchen, cookbook author, actress and host Padma Lakshmi presides over the judge's table alongside head judge Tom Colicchio..."

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Gigi007

                                                                                                                                                                                        I think Mike's reaction may have more to do with his issues with women, as seen with his response to Robin and Jen. Why does he single out Padma as harsh and not Tom, who makes most of the very critical comments. He seems to be responding more to her tone than specific criticisms. Mommy issues, anyone?

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: newhavener07

                                                                                                                                                                                          <Why does he single out Padma as harsh and not Tom, who makes most of the very critical comments. He seems to be responding more to her tone than specific criticisms.>

                                                                                                                                                                                          Maybe it's because Tom has chops to be critical and Padma just has a body.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: chicgail

                                                                                                                                                                                            If being a chef at one time is the sole criteria for being able to judge, then NONE of the people that are judges qualify. Gail wasn't a chef, not was Toby, or Gael Green, or Jay Raynor, or James Osland.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: chicgail

                                                                                                                                                                                              I agree. Anyway, we are speculating on how Mike I.sees this. Given what he said during the live chat (and emphasizing that Tom, unlike Padma, is a chef--it could be like saying a "chef's chef'), that's how I interpret it.

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: newhavener07

                                                                                                                                                                                              Mike is far from the first person to imply that Padma is cold or harsh.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Love watching the woman, but none of us has the first idea of what she's really like as a person. She may be lovely, but she has a generally difficult reputation.

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                                                                                                            IIRC, unlike Kelly Choi for TCM, Padma has always had a vote at judges' table.

                                                                                                                                                                                          3. re: Gigi007

                                                                                                                                                                                            Unfortunately Tom C lost complete credibility with me the episode [past seasont] where he went off on someone for making a dish that combined tomato and peanut butter and crucified the chef with all these comments about how ridiculous/awful the combination was. . . . thereby effectively displaying his complete ignorence about many great dishes in West African cuisine, variations of which can be found in Marcus Samuelson's [sp] cookbooks.....
                                                                                                                                                                                            It brought me flashbacks about the Frugal Gourmet pontificating about something where he was so flatly baldly WRONG that I could never listen to him again.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jenn

                                                                                                                                                                                              Oh yeah. You know, no one is an expert on everything, and maybe Tom could admit that more often. I mean, in between running his restaurants, Top Chef, and other media/celebrity activities, when does he have time to be a serious student of world cuisines. For that matter, aren't his restaurants sort of New American? What does he really know about non-Western cuisines?

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: jenn

                                                                                                                                                                                                marcus samuelsSon
                                                                                                                                                                                                yeah ditto on the "wtf tom c?" in that episode.

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: queencru

                                                                                                                                                                                              Padma's got a big diva reputation throughout the land, not just in Bravoville.

                                                                                                                                                                                          4. re: NellyNel

                                                                                                                                                                                            I have to admit that I have felt this season that Padma has either been more direct (forceful?) with comments at the JT, or the producers are showing/editing her to appear harsher than she has been shown in previous series.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: blackoak

                                                                                                                                                                                              Me too. It seems like every challenge we're hearing her say "Did you taste this?" with a really snide tone. When the others ask, it's usually because something was dangerously raw or had gone off, while she just seems to ask to be antagonistic. I don't remember this in prior episodes either.

                                                                                                                                                                                          5. re: Gigi007

                                                                                                                                                                                            It was interesting: seemed like Mike was battling his urge to snipe at the judges and Robin. The ugly side of his personality crops up, then he seems to pull back in order to plug his restaurant and his pals. But overall the chat made me feel a bit sorry for him--must be tiring to put out that attitude all the time. If I lived in D.C., I'd probably still check out his restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: newhavener07

                                                                                                                                                                                              I think his comments about the judges weren't too bad. About Robin, it does get old, yet to be fair, the Washington Post editors also had a hand in selecting the specific questions Mike I. answered.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Zaytinya, the Jose Andres restaurant where Mike I. works has been around for a while now. When it first opened, I ate there pretty often. But nowadays with so many other restaurant options (and other good Mediterranean restaurants), I don't go as often as I used to. The food at Zaytinya is good, but not outstanding IMHO (not as impressive as Bryan V.'s restaurant, Volt).. Plus I've found that you have to order quite a few small plates to be satisfied. I've actually gone there and had another dinner afterwards.But I should also mention that Zaytinya's decor (blue and white Greek Santorini-look) is gorgeous and is something to see. Food-wise, of the Jose Andres restaurants in DC, my favorite is Jaleo (Spanish tapas).

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: Gigi007

                                                                                                                                                                                              Nice summary! Good that your question got posted. Mine didn't. It was something on the lines of -- how do you feel that Robin outlasted you, especially since you said that she was another old lady that that you didn't have to worry about when she kept immunity in Episode 1. Maybe my question was too mean. : )

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                                                                                                Oh, I LOVE it! Now that would have been a priceless response. ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Too bad they didn't post it. But I think it would have been more fun to see Mike field that question in person in a live interview. I don't think Chow does those interviews anymore with eliminated cheftestants.

                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Thanks. I asked about the V. brothers' rivalry. I don't think your question was too mean. Mike was taking advantage of every opportunity to diss Robin. But all in all, he did better in the live chat than I would have expected. I actually learned a few things that I didn't know and he reinforced my earlier impression of his team mates in the RW episode.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Gigi007

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Yeah, I got that same impression. Mike didn't seem like he was holding back with a lot of his responses. But he kind of evaded that one.

                                                                                                                                                                                          6. It almost seemed they were overwhelmed by how MUCH produce was in that walk-in and didn't go looking for non-produce items. I kept thinking surely there was a selection of cheeses available, along with pastas, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                            I wondered why Kevin didn't do good ol' hearty Southern veggie plate with cornbread. Maybe he thinks you can't do that without adding pork for flavor?

                                                                                                                                                                                            Honestly, I think my typical Sunday brunch fritatta and a nice salad would've been better than most of those dishes. Sure, it would've been pedestrian and a little tough to plate attractively, but still, lots of opportunities for flavor! Perhaps it was so warm there at the time they didn't think about soups, pastas, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                            I was just stunned by how flummoxed they were. Typically, I am astounded by their creativity under pressure, but this one was a total flop.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: onrushpam

                                                                                                                                                                                              I didn't get home from TJMAXX last night till 12:30PM, so only saw a little of the show later. I was in a way surprised Mike I.went home, since Robin hasn't done that well, and from listening to what she was saying to the judges felt like she eliminated herself. Listening to Mike V's comments about Kevin's food, it sounded like he was very jealous of Kevin's win and was putting down his food.
                                                                                                                                                                                              Didn't care for Gail's dress.It wasn't the color so much as the rosettes or whatever on the dress, bad choice. I rarely watch what the judges wear, and I wish Tom would shave that beard,goatee or whatever he has going on. Kevin's beard doesn't bother me at all. Tom's just looks like hair hanging there. Kind of hard to explain to someone that's all.

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. Seemed like the buzzword yesterday was "confit"... How are veggies confit'd?
                                                                                                                                                                                              Sounds like fancy talk that's meant to elevate the price of vegetable dish.

                                                                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: dave_c

                                                                                                                                                                                                It just means cooked in oil. In fact, Tom Colicchio (who can be a pedant when it comes to cooking -- anyone remember his whole coq spiel in coq au vin?) actually has a recipe for red onion "confit" in one of his cookbooks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Tom can be a pedant about a lot of things, but I don't think he would have made an issue about the "coq" if the master French chef hadn't brought the subject up first. Actually, I think part of the pickiness comes from the fact that they have to have some basis for saying one dish had more faults than another. Saying "they were all pretty good but yours was the least good" isn't going to cut it. So especially toward the end, when only the stronger chefs are left and they have to pick at least two dishes to be in the bottom, they tend to fixate on tiny details to justify their criticism.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                    From my recollection, Tom was the one who brought up the coq part. The French chef was saying it was hard to do coq au vin in the time allotted. Then Tom brought it up by saying, "... or with a chicken," to which the French chef agreed. Can't you tell I watch a little too much Top Chef? ; )

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Yup, I agree that they have to nitpick, especially when it gets down to the finals. I believe I read somewhere that a lot of nitpicking went on this season because most of the people here were really talented.

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Interesting possibility floating around about the finale. Seems the cheftestants, Padma and Tom were spotted this last week here in the wine country north of San Francisco.


                                                                                                                                                                                                17 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: cmvan

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Wow, the French Laundry? Now that would be amazing to see.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: newhavener07

                                                                                                                                                                                                    <Wow, the French Laundry? Now that would be amazing to see.>

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Lots of other places in "wine country North of San Francisco." Would seem to make more sense if the finals were at Chiarello's or Charlie Palmer's places, based upon their previous connections with the Top Chef family.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Mike V: That Chiarello guy shows no originality and is too old fashinoned. I can do all of his menu two weeks into my apprenticeship.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Michael Chiarello: I eat punks like Milke V for breakfast.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Yeah, I'd like to see that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                                                                                                                        The article specifically cites Cyrus and Brix as two places that cheftestants, et al, were seen.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Planning the finale can be tricky - wherever they do it has to basically go offline for a day/evening - the kitchen used solely for the "final dinner" - for a restaurant like the FL, which isn't exactly starving for publicity or lacking reservations, how many covers would they lose?

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Not to mention the fact that they probably have to run a sh**load of power lines, lights, camera rigs, etc. into the site for the filming...

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I think Tom and some of the other owners were gracious to lend their kitchens out... perhaps in Vegas, some of the mid-week nights, in the recession of last fall, were more willing to do it..

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: grant.cook

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Could they film at 2am? We never see outside.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: grant.cook

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Top Chef can afford to buy-out the restaurant. One reason "reality" shows have become so popular with television networks is that they are very profitable. I was reading the other day that the average scripted drama costs $3 million *per episode* to produce. At the end, they were paying the cast of Friends millions of dollars per half-hour episode, and that's not even counting writers, directors, production costs, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              "Unscripted" shows are cheap. The "cast" is working for free (actually, I read somewhere that participants get paid the SAG daily minimum, but I haven't seen that confirmed). No writers. No costumes, minimal hair and make-up. Minimal sets, except for the Top Chef kitchen (which is furnished by sponsors, as are a lot of other things) and the Top Chef house (or houses, if you include sequester). They could spend $100,000 buying out a restaurant and it would still be "cheap" compared to the costs of scripted shows.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                In addition to that, the restaurant gets a ton of free publicity if Top Chef films there, so I'm sure restaurants would be delighted to sell out a night of their place to a popular reality show.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: JasmineG

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Perhaps, but then you aren't counterpointing that with ad revenue... you are mixing macro with micro issues- networks may prefer reality shows because they are cheaper, but they are cheaper because they don't spend $100,000 to rent out the FL for a night.. Friends sold more in ads than Top Chef.. even when Rachel had a bad hairstyle..

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  But more to the point - no venture will incur costs "just because." Would it be nice to hold a finale at the French Laundry? Sure.. but a finale held in a nice place a few miles west in Sonoma is still going to draw the ratings. And the restaurant the NEEDS publicity is going to bid/comp higher than a restaurant that already has it. The FL doesn't need publicity.. they could announce a "monkey ass in a clam shell night" and still fill the place..

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: grant.cook

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Well, but that's why the finale won't be held at The French Laundry. I don't quite understand what you're arguing, that they won't be able to find restaurants to host them? It hasn't been a problem for the six seasons of the show so far, and I can only imagine that restaurants will want to do more self promotion, not less, in this economy where it's hard to fill seats anyway.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: JasmineG

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Oh, I would never imply that they WON'T be able to find restaurants to host them - they DO get publicity from it, for example...I think the Commanders place in NOLA is a nice example - a good place, but not on the absolute cutting edge of style or cuisine, a lot of history, able to handle 3 chefs going crazy in the kitchen, and interested in drawing TC fans visiting New Orleans. The place probably draws a larger chunk of its business during weekends, so a midweek disruption was worth it..

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Just that its not a cut and dry decision for any restaurant - there is a downside in the inconvenience, lost night of service, etc.. So super high-end restaurant might think twice.. so I suspect the show and its restaurants find a happy medium - good places that can use a bit of publicity that can accept the tradeoff of having their kitchens take over for a day or two..

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: grant.cook

                                                                                                                                                                                                                They were filming at Cyrus last weekend,big trucks around.I didnt know what it was till read today in local news. Kevin and Eli at Murphy Goode winery, few miles from Healdsburg , on Sunday.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: grant.cook

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I was actually wondering when (time of day, day of week) they filmed at Craftsteak, because you see the cheftestants entering the restaurant from the Studio Walk area of the MGM and there's no one else there. Usually that area's pretty crowded. I'm sure the production folks would clear people away but still it seemed strangely empty.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Debbie W

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    IIRC, we saw a clock when they came in and it was around 9am. I'm sure it's not that crowded before 9am and they probably chose a Monday/Tuesday to make it the easiest.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: queencru

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The touristy parts of Vegas are practically deserted at 9 a.m. I've driven down the Strip at that hour on a weekday (after dropping the friend I was visiting off at work) and you could shoot a cannon down it and not hit anyone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Anyway, my point wasn't that they were going to rent out the French Laundry (as far as I know Thomas Keller has never had any contact with Top Chef, nor has anyone who currently works for him), only that they could afford to buy out a restaurant and don't, as someone suggested, have to depend on finding some weird time when the restaurant won't be busy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I was just fantasizing. Keller is so fascinating--the recent article about him in the NYT just added to his mystery, in my view. I pull out the FL Cookbook when I feel like imaging what it would be like to have the whole day to cook and a mammoth stockpot full of boiling brine in which to blanch random items. Per Se is only a few hours away but unattainable at my present paycheck level, sadly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                3. re: newhavener07

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  They were supposedly filming at a restaurant called Cyrus, which is considered by mnay to be the "French Laundry: of Sonoma County (FL is in Napa County, other side of the mountain).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Doug Keane, the chef/co-owner has built an excellent reputation in the few short years Cyrus has been open.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              3. I was wondering why there were no pastas, rices, or veggie risotto offerings. Eli used some lentils, but for the most part the dishes were all veggie sides or apps made up to look like entrees.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: brooklynkoshereater

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I do agree, and I think the challenge caught them off guard (and it wasn't just lentils - one of the V-bros used polenta... BUT, depending on how strict a vegetarian NP was..

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1) Cheese made with animal rennet would be out - and you need that cheese for the risotto! C'mon
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2) Chicken or any other stock/broth would be out (making risotto a bit tougher, although perhaps a veggie broth would work)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3) This may be nitpicking, but would Egg-based pasta's be allowed? They were using butter, so perhaps NP wasn't down with the egg thing..

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: grant.cook

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    all the blogs and in mike post-ppyag interviews say there where no such super-vegetarian restriction. And they had tofu, cheese, veggie proteins, carbs available, they just happen to all make vegetable appetizers and sides, and no one made a vegetarian entree.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Maybe it was groupthink and hyponotized and tunnel visioned by all the beautiful vegetables. Or it was the shock.brain-freeze of making big craft meat plans but then getting big blindsided with NP dazzling staritude. :D

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: dach

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I'm still trying to figure out what exactly they had available. This was craftsteak, and their menu suggests incredibly limited (and standard) vegetarian fare, with rice as the grain (oooh, mushroom risotto, how bold), with blue cheese and mozzarella as the cheeses. But even if they started to broaden grains, would there have been quinoa? Or would there have been the sorts of spices available to make something vegetarian according to cuisines that specialise in that sort of thing. For example, I was thinking about dosa and such, but reckoned that chickpea flour was out, and yes, without yoghurt, other problems come up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The chefs may have been dazzled by the farmers market in the walk-in, but I also wonder how much the craftsteak pantry may have limited their potential (something TC would not talk about in his blog entry).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. I have a question that will show my ignorance (and may be just plain ridiculous/stupid) but has to do with the time limits imposed on the chefs for preparing their meals. Just used as example - this episode Robin ran out of time and didn't add all the (I think it was) garbonza beans to all the plates but had to serve the dishes as they were, unfinished, Jen plated everything, but then added a sauce while serving the judges and guests. It looked to me than Jen gained extra time by doing this. I guess my question is why is a chef allowed to add anything to the plate after the timer has gone off? Shouldn't the plate be presented as it was (in a timed competition) when the timer goes off?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  [edit] forgot to add that I'm just using Jen and Robin as examples - I don't think Jen gained anything (based on some comments made at the JT) - or meant to gain anything - by saucing at the table. Now if Fabio had done it that would be a different story...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: blackoak

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I thought the same thing - I didn't think Jen should have been allowed to sauce her dish - because she was out of time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I don't think she sauced at the table because she was out of time.. she had it nicely there ready to go. She may have just wanted to keep the sauce at temp or from filming over, or saucing early would ruin some textual aspect of the dish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Its probably sort of a rule judgement call - if its part of a normal culinary practice, clearly is planned for versus just being an out-of-time thing, then they could do it. I mean, I've never had a chef spooning garbanzo beans onto my plate after its was served.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: grant.cook

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Right. Sometimes liquid elements are added at the table because otherwise some other part of the dish would get soggy. I love it when they bring a soup bowl with a crouton (or some similar element) in it and then pour the soup around it at the table.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Sauce can also be difficult because they can "break" or de-emulsify, which is what happened to Jen in the previous challenge. She may have been particularly careful not to let this happen again.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Adding an element like sauce or shavings (truffle, Himalayan salt, etc) at the judges' table has been routinely allowed in Iron Chef America in the past, if I recall correctly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: blackoak

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I had wondered that too. One of the Voltaggios also carried sauce out. It must be allowed by the rules. Perhaps its because some fine dishes are customarily sauced at the table? I don't know.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: blackoak

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I'd guess that anything that might typically be done tableside is still allowed in this type of competition. You wouldn't expect to see someone bringing out chickpeas or a fried item, but it's not uncommon for the server to add the sauce and other seasonings tableside. Whatever the reason was, it seemed like the plating time was separate from the actual prep time and that the cheftestants didn't get nearly enough time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Just watched last night (Phillies have been on!!!) SOOOOOOOOO glad Mike is gone (doing a jig!)