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Top Chef - Las Vegas - Ep. #11 - 11/11/09 (Spoilers)

OK, I fully expect there to be MANY comments re: the guest judge for tonight's Quickfire! LOL Nigella Lawson in one bed, Padma in the other, and the cheftestants serve them breakfast in bed. Have at it, guys! LOL

Interesting pairing - Robin vs. Eli, Michael vs. Kevin, Jen vs. Bryan.

So Michael's doing another banana puree? Hmm...and Kevin's dish looked HEAVENLY! Oops - did Bryan mess up with the vanilla?

Yup, I guess he did. Low = Bryan & Robin; and High = Kevin & Eli. The winner is Eli. Wow. He gets his recipe in the upcoming QuickFire Challenge Cookbook!

For the Elimination Challenge - they draw knives with LV hotel names on them. They have to cater a party at World Market for 170 guests of small plates inspired by the hotel names they drew. Going to be interesting!

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  1. So Michael gets New York New York - seems to immediately have a dish in mind.
    Eli - Circus Circus - he has no idea.
    Jennifer - Excalibur - she can't figure out what to do either. (come ON Jennifer - medieval times?)
    Robin has the Bellagio - wants to incorporate art into her dish.
    Bryan has the Mandalay Bay - sustainable seafood seems to be his focus.
    And Kevin - the Mirage. He didn't say much about his inspiration, except simple, straightforward food. Not sure how that will tie in with The Mirage, but knowing Kevin, he'll pull something out of his hat!

    9 Replies
    1. re: LindaWhit

      Brian is totally getting the "going home" edit...talking to his son on the phone, two interviews about how much he misses his family- I hope the edit elves are messing with us and its not Brian going home!

      1. re: karenfinan

        Do NOT say that! They *did* like his dish, thankfully....and Padma didn't like Eli's or Robin's dishes. I think they're definitely in the bottom - not sure who the third would be. Jennifer?

        1. re: LindaWhit

          Do they always pick three for JT? I thought so, but also thought so for the quickfire, but only two were selected for this one. Seems like the bottom two are clear, you're right- Eli and Robin, but not sure about a third. Frankly, I hope they skip a third if they don't really need to pick one, and just focus on the true bottom ones.

            1. re: karenfinan

              And Michael wins! That gives him 4 EC wins and 6 "High" positions. Lots of color on that progress chart! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Chef...

              And Eli's getting bashed - could it be his turn before Robin? And Judges are even saying that Jennifer's hit a wall.

              Wow - I really think Eli's gone based on what the Judges are saying!

              1. re: LindaWhit

                I'm surprised too that Robin is gone after the bashing Eli received. Panna cotta is a very straightforward dish which Robin messed up. However, it takes years of experience to make a gritty, "I want to spit up", peanut soup... lol. I'm confused by the decision.

                1. re: dave_c

                  Based on comments, Eli should've gone home....

                  1. re: Ericandblueboy

                    I also thought Eli was going to go home based on the editing. I think Robin went home because Tom C actually liked Eli's dish (according to his blog). From past shows it seems that Colicchio's vote has the largest weight -- either that, or Colicchio does the best job of convincing others to vote his way.

                2. re: LindaWhit

                  Watching Robin in the QF and in the Elimination just got me yelling at the TV. Too bad they couldn't have eliminated both Robin and Eli. He will probably be the next, unless Jenn screws up.

        2. And it's Robin. I will be interested to read in the blogs how close Eli was in going.

          1. I have to say that the only reason for that brief interlude was to assure the Korbel product placement. Yuck.

            1. Michael won? With chicken wings? And a blue cheese disk that Toby said he didn't like the taste of? Really.

              9 Replies
              1. re: chicgail

                I was surprised at that as well. I will be interested to see what the blogs say. I really thought Kevin or Bryan had that one.

                1. re: LindaWhit

                  I thought for sure Bryan would win, esp. since they had featured him so much trying to make us think he'd go home. And yes, cuz Toby was so not into the cold blue cheese, I thought that would make Michael lose.

                  I'm really surprised Robin got the boot with the way it seemed as tho NO ONE liked Eli's dish (esp Nigella) but mostly just thought Robin's consistency was off. At least Eli didn't make a snide remark, altho there's always next week.

                  I'm sick of Jen. Let's see what happens with Kevin and the brothers. I hope he and Bryan are the final two.

                2. re: chicgail

                  I was rooting for Kevin (as always) but I did think that Michael's and Bryan's dishes were the two that best reflected the inspiration of their respective casinos...what does even a very nicely prepared salmon have to do with the mirage? I mean, they did show Kevin playing with the dolphins, but umm....dolphins aren't fish, of course.

                  When they first showed Bryan walking into the reef exhibit I yelled at my TV: "If you serve shark I will scream"...but fortunately, the small print in the exhibit encouraged him to serve a dish of sustainable seafood. I could also see the inspiration for that, and it looked delicious.

                  wings do say NY to me. Of course, I am not from NY....

                  1. re: susancinsf

                    I thought wings said "Buffalo," which admittedly is in New York State, but it's not New York, New York. Sorry, i just don't get it. While I obviously didn't taste any of them, I thought either Kevin or Bryan was going to take it.

                    1. re: chicgail

                      I remember reading on one of the blogs, maybe Tom's, that in these theme challenges you should just make your best dish and just make up some story. The food is what matters the story can just be an after-thought.

                      1. re: chicgail

                        My husband said - wings are not NY, NY - they are Buffalo ! How could he win with something that does not say NY NY?

                        1. re: jeanmarieok

                          I thought that, too, Jeanmarie, but Michael's inspiration apparently was the little fire boat in the moat at NY, NY. and he was thinking about firefighters, who probably eat Buffalo wings, wherever they are.

                          1. re: ChefJune

                            Since the link to the place only needs to be 'close', I suppose it's fine.

                          2. re: jeanmarieok

                            I think the challenge was to create something that was inspired by the venue. It doesn't have to be something directly related to it. Inspiration isn't always logical.

                    2. Again they showed Michael dissing Kevin's cooking (on upcoming preview) saying something like "I cook dishes like his on my day off". Not surprising his brother called him a d**k, he really does act like one. Obviously Michael feels Kevin breathing down his neck. Kevin seems genuinely nice and grateful for the experience and I don't recall him dissing other peoples efforts. I hope Kevin takes it all. Michael has an ego that needs to be taught a lesson.

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: Axalady

                        Kevin is this season's Stephanie. Neither of them said an unkind word about any of their competitors. I hope he wins this season.

                        1. re: ChefJune

                          Agreed. The preview of Michael dissing Kevin *yet again* really ticked me off. And I'd almost be fine with him NOT in the finale. I think Kevin and Bryan should be the Top 2. Not sure what's going on with Jennifer, unless she's hit that wall as Tom C. is now saying. If Eli gets into the Finale, then he's this season's Lisa, IMO. He just doesn't deserve to be there.

                          1. re: ChefJune

                            Kevin has been a class act all along. He hasn't said anything bad that's made the editing. And, I love how calm he is with his cooking and presentation, the antithesis of Robin.

                          2. re: Axalady

                            I thought that was really cheap when he said that. I'd eat Kevin's food over Michael's any day.

                            1. re: Axalady

                              I really don't care whether Michael disses Kevin's cooking (this ain't top humble chef). I thnk they're both talented but Michael has more tricks up his sleeves (so does Bryan). It'd be interesting to see either Michael or Bryan vs. Kevin in the finale because of their contrast in styles.

                              1. re: Ericandblueboy

                                Yes, Michael certainly does have more tricks up his sleeves, but a really great chef doesn't need to rely on tricks - Kevin is a perfect example of this. Kevin's food has real heart and soul to it where Michael's seems so heavily over-manipulated. Besides, there isn't a trick in Michael's repertoire that the judges haven't seen.

                                I'd love to see a Brian vs Kevin match.

                                1. re: Axalady

                                  <I'd love to see a Brian vs Kevin match.>

                                  Somehow, I have a hunch we will see that.

                                  1. re: Axalady

                                    Are you one of those people who think that no innovation is necessary or wanted? Those "tricks" are simply innovative cooking techniques. If used properly, makes the food taste better. If overused without thought, you'd get Marcel on season 2. I don't know why people think Michael is a one-trick pony. Everytime he disses Kevin, he's implying that he already mastered what Kevin is doing. Arrogant, possibly baseless, but there's no evidence that Michael can't cook just as well as Kevin even without his bag of tricks.

                                    1. re: Ericandblueboy

                                      I think most people's beef with Michael's comments is that he seems to assume that because Kevin isn't using advanced techniques his food can't possibly be as good as Michael's, let alone better. Using advanced techniques can make food taste better, but sometimes all they do is make food more interesting, which isn't the same thing.

                                      1. re: gastrotect

                                        I agree with everything you (Gastro) said. In fact, since they rarely taste each other's dish, Michael's complaints don't hold much water. My point above is that most people go too far by saying that all Michael can do is party tricks or that innovation CANNOT improve taste. In Tom's blog, he specifically said that Bryan's dish and Michael's dish are much better than Kevin's and that between the two - "Michael edged out his brother by taking more risks and doing something more interesting." I read that as saying if two dishes are equally good taste wise - the more interesting dish wins.

                                        1. re: Ericandblueboy

                                          To some, more interesting tastes better. To others more interesting is too different, therefore it tastes worse. So it is a subjective thing.

                                          what it all comes down to is whether you are eating for the sensual experience or for the intellectual experience.

                                          I sometimes like eating something for the pure sensual experience, the textures, the familiarity of the taste, the depth and breadth of flavors, the interaction of the different compoenents. While at other times, being challenged intellectually is what people are aiming for.

                                          I think where Michael gets it off kilter is that he is equating "better" with the pure intellectual experience, and that is not always the case. Both take skill and creativity, they are different dimensions of a very large subject.

                                2. re: Axalady

                                  That comment was particularly off-track because Kevin's dish as he described it was quite complex and sophisticated. He just doesn't go for gimmickly molecular gastronomy tricks, which Michael seem to think mark a top chef. I'm pretty sure molecular gastronomy will soon go the way of all food fads, especially as it is so labor intensive and reliant on expensive equipment. Michael will be be crying at home in his foams.

                                  1. re: Axalady

                                    The cool thing about that statement was that it was actually a backhanded compliment, though I don't think Michael meant it as one.

                                    I doubt michael meant to imply that he cooks bad food on his days off. Instead, he implied that Kevin cooks like a very skilled chef who is turning the over-the-top 'wow' factor down and presenting dishes that are delicious, simple, and immediately appealing. In comparison to Michael (not to most of us), that is what kevin is doing. And it's working.

                                    That said, I don't think Michael would be the chef he is without a degree of arrogance.

                                  2. I do think some contestants had a bit of an edge.... Circus Circus and Excalibur aren't really as easy to do as Mandalay Bay....

                                    I thought for sure Eli was going home, it seemed as though Robin's dish wasn't quite as "bad"...but just showed how "out of her league" she was. What would you have done if you were Jen? When I think of medieval food I think of those gigantic turkey drumsticks or a banquet at King Arthur's round table...spit roasted meats and maybe some mead...lots of gamey tasting meats...

                                    Anyone else catch the previews for the next episode with Thomas Keller- I can't wait!!!

                                    16 Replies
                                    1. re: QSheba

                                      Another high pressure judge, such as they had with Joel Robuchon. I know I would get very stressed out if I knew I had to prepare a dish for Thomas Keller. It will be interesting to see who pulls it out.

                                      It would seem that this was what was being filmed here locally in Sonoma/Napa that we've discussed on another thread. We'll see whether they filmed it at Brix in Napa or at Cyrus in Healdsburg/Sonoma.

                                      From the teaser, it looks like there might be some flubs from the usual best performers. But then, as we know, the editors can make things look like whatever they think will get us eager to watch.

                                      1. re: cmvan

                                        I spoke too soon. Now having read Tom's blog, he states that there are 2 more Vegas episodes. So that would mean that they're doing next week at Keller's Vegas restaurant.

                                        I also found it interesting that Tom & Toby disagree on the difficulty of this elimination challenge.

                                      2. re: QSheba

                                        Mead would have been a great idea! Possibly in a sauce, especially if she had used a more dry mead that wouldn't have been overwhelmingly sweet. If nothing else, beer! Especially some sort of beer-braised meat. That would have been pretty tender and easy to eat in the catering situation.

                                        Turkey legs, not so much, though. Turkeys come from North America and they wouldn't have been available in medieval Europe. Certainly they would have eaten other forms of fowl, though.

                                        Also, I don't think Tom's description of Medieval food was entirely accurate. Yes, food was heavily spiced, but my impression from my armchair research has been that spice was used as a status symbol (it was pricey), not because it was rancid. My understanding is that, at least in the upper classes, people would have not slaughtered livestock for meat until it was needed, so it would have been pretty fresh.

                                        For Eli, I originally thought of some sort of trio to play up the three-ring circus theme, but I don't know how you would do that in a cocktail party situation.

                                        1. re: rweater

                                          Blog comments have already responded quite strongly to Tom's assertion that spices were used for almost-rancid meats (a myth as noted by several food historians on his blog comments). You're right - spices were a status symbol, so when it was used, it was to show how rich the landowner was.

                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                            Ah, haven't read the blog yet. I was just thinking duck might have been a good option for Jen, also.

                                            1. re: rweater

                                              Any "game meat" would have been good - venison, duck, goose, along those lines. Her cuts of beef were just WAY too big for them to eat. I don't recall - did she marinate them? Smaller pieces might have done better in a marinade and in cooking.

                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                I don't remember, either. I know she said she had three red wine sauces and that she wasn't sure what she was going to do with them (which told me right there that this probably wouldn't end well). But I don't recall exactly what she did to the meat before she cooked it.

                                                1. re: rweater

                                                  And I just checked Bravo for her EC recipe; not there; just her QF recipe of "S.O.S" Creamed Chipped Beef with Toast, Potatoes and Tomatoes.

                                                  Oh wait - yes, it *is* there - http://www.bravotv.com/foodies/recipe... - but WHY are they saying it's an EC "Winner"? Michael V. might take umbrage at that, especially since she was in the Bottom 3. (Hmmm...Michael's winning dish is being shown as winning Episode 10. http://www.bravotv.com/foodies/recipe... Really wish they'd get it right!


                                                  And it doesn't look like there was any marinade; just a NY Strip that was grilled. But a strip steak is usually pretty tender. How the hell did she make it so tough they couldn't bite into it? Perhaps the size of the pieces was the problem.

                                          2. re: rweater

                                            I loved Tom's assertion that Jen didn't know much about medieval cooking...I know that top chefs are supposed to have a wide knowledge of techniques, but I think you have to get her a pass on that one :)

                                            1. re: Reignking

                                              Especially since Tom himself was wrong re: medieval cooking. :-)

                                            2. re: rweater

                                              She could have gone the fowl or game route, such as quail or rabbit. Paired with things common in northern europe, such as juniper berry, dill, barley, cabbage, prunes ... etc.

                                              However, while writing this, I'm thinking that all this has been done before ... maybe not original. But then, Carla really impressed with her roasted chicken last season.

                                              1. re: MartinDC

                                                If you haven't yet read Richard Blais' blog on this episode, don't miss it! He suggests things he might have done with each of the assigned hotels as his theme. And what he thought of the resulting dishes.

                                                He would have taken Jen's "Sword and Stone" idea quite literally. Very creative and gutsy.

                                                1. re: ChefJune

                                                  It's easier to Monday Morning quaterback then to really perform. I like Blais but coming up with your ideas in your living room is a lot different then coming up with them in the heat of competition.

                                                  1. re: KTinNYC

                                                    Its a thought experiment, Monday morning quarterbacking as you said. Chill.

                                                    1. re: Phaedrus

                                                      I'm not putting him down for doing this in fact I think his ideas are pretty interesting.

                                                  2. re: ChefJune

                                                    For once, though, it seems that these chefs had a lot more time than usual to come up with their dishes.

                                            3. I have grown rather tired of Tom being bi-polar on what the chefs should do.

                                              He is always saying, "If it wasn't working, you shouldn't serve it." So, Robin's stained glass doesn't set up correctly and she chooses not to serve it.

                                              Padma or Nigella say that her inspiration worked, but too bad her stained glass failed and Tom immediately does a snide, "Yeah, but she didn't serve it."

                                              So, which is it, Tom? Serve things that don't work or don't serve them? It isn't that hard to pick a side and stick with it.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: Seth Chadwick

                                                I thought Tom's statement implied, "Yeah, but to her credit, she didn't serve it."

                                                1. re: momjamin

                                                  Me, too - that's how I took it - at least she didn't serve it. Robin's sob stories at JT are the stuff legends are made of - this week's was the best - 'I am so inspired by the chefs around me that I try things I don't have the skills for'. I mean, what could they do but send her home?

                                                  1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                    Robin's comments for the last few weeks have been setting up for her departure. Even though she continued to say that she was glad to be around, I'm off-put by her comments that she "deserved" to be there...how can you deserve to be there when you constantly feel inferior to all the remaining chefs and their great skill? It was easy to tell that she felt out-classed and way out of her league. Very glad to see that we no longer have to deal with any more of Robin's convoluted disaster plates.
                                                    I thought the top 3 dishes tonight were well deserving of a win. I wonder what the blue cheese sauce on the anti-griddle would have been like...I would have loved to eat Kevin's salmon (the colors of his dish on my 62" HDTV were AMAZING!), and though Bryan's dish looked pretty...was it me or was it all one color? I know there was green from the parsley sauce, but wasn't it all yellow?
                                                    Very sad that Jen's so discouraged. I hope she finds her groove back...she's been so strong since the beginning...so sad to see her sputter out.

                                                    1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                      i think his point was that the attempt didn;t matter as it didnt end up on the plate and thus cant be seen as part of the finished concept

                                                  2. re: Seth Chadwick

                                                    There does seem to be some contradiction and inconsistencies in the judging, but one thing I will never understand is when the chefs admit to an element of the dish being left off. Why bring it up? It can only hurt; it can never help. The judges aren't going to give you credit for something that's not on the plate, and it's only going to put the idea in their heads that "something is missing," even if they never would have missed it if they hadn't known about it.

                                                    1. re: Seth Chadwick

                                                      "I have grown rather tired of Tom being bi-polar on what the chefs should do.

                                                      He is always saying, "If it wasn't working, you shouldn't serve it." So, Robin's stained glass doesn't set up correctly and she chooses not to serve it"

                                                      THANK YOU!!!! me too, me too, me too.
                                                      or as I said to my MIL, damned if youi do, damnd if you don't.

                                                    2. The Quickfire dishes all looked better than the Elimination challenge dishes -- all of those breakfasts looked great and made me hungry, while the only one that really appealed to me of the Elimination dishes was the chicken wing, and maybe Kevin's salmon.

                                                      It was pretty clear that Jen wasn't going home -- their complaints about her dish were minor in comparison to how much they hated Eli's and Robin's. I do love that Kevin was trying to make Eli feel better, though (Kevin and Eli were in San Francisco last week, and I just missed them at the Ferry Building! They were spotted getting coffee at Blue Bottle, and getting some of the lard caramels at Boccalone).

                                                      I much prefer the challenges that aren't catering challenges. The food always looks better when they're making dishes of food, and not small plates.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: JasmineG

                                                        I agree about the catering challenges. Nothing says sustainable like plastic plates and cutlery.

                                                      2. Thank goodness for the DVR, I was able to catch most of it this morning, it also made me realize just how little content we are getting after you fast forward through the commercials. I don't have to put up with Erica anymore.

                                                        Padma and Nigella, oh be still my beating heart! But sometimes I wish the luxurious robes weren't so.....enveloping.

                                                        Now, Eli's dish sounded disgusting to me and it was, so all is well with the world. .I too thought Eli was toast.

                                                        So what is it with these Brits and making similes to body parts. First jay Raynor with the comparison of the perfectly cooked pana cotta to the jiggling of a woman's breast, I was kind of hoping Nigella would demonstrate, and then Nigella described the perfect pana cotta as the firmness of the inner thigh of a 17th century courtesan. Hmm, I guess Robin went straight for the silicone implants.

                                                        They kind of shortchanged Kevin's dish by a lot, you really didn't see a lot of his cooking and the dish itself, as well as Bryan's dish. they seemed more focused on the disasters in the making and Michael's dish. Interesting.

                                                        I definitely liked the looks of Kevin and Eli's QF dishes.

                                                        Anyone else catch that bit between Robin and Michael in the kitchen during the QF. As much as Michael's attitude bug me, Robin needed to get out of the way, it is too late to clean up her station and she was on Michael's time, which means stay out of his way. She could just apologize by cleaning up after him after he had to clean up after her.

                                                        I found the Circus Circus experience dreary too, after having been mesmerized by the same experience 20 years ago as a kid.

                                                        I also found it interesting that they showed Jennifer as the only one who actually ate at her resort, everyone else seem to just walked through the resorts in a hurry.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: Phaedrus

                                                          And it took a whole 10 hours before anyone said anything about Nigella and Padma in the robes in bed. But I knew I could count on you, Phaedrus. ;-)

                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                            As I can count on you and ghg to drool over Eric Ripert.

                                                          2. re: Phaedrus

                                                            Phaedrus--"I guess Robin went straight for the silicone implants"---Genius!

                                                          3. Anyone else catch this edited string of images from JT, which I imagine didn't really happen exactly like this:

                                                            <judge>: This was clearly Michael's dish -- refined, delicate, effeminate.

                                                            Michael: I think every plate I put out should have my personality on it.

                                                            Michael's big brother gives him an odd look, as if he caught the implication of describing Michael's personality with those words, and Michael didn't.

                                                            20 Replies
                                                            1. re: momjamin

                                                              Yeah, I thought we would be seeing Michael running up to the JT and punching somebody.

                                                              1. re: momjamin

                                                                I'm not sure that I'd characterize Michael's dishes as effeminate. Michael may not have heard it or maybe he simply didn't know how to respond. But it was funny.

                                                                1. re: Ericandblueboy

                                                                  What IS an effeminate dish? Did he mean, fussy, refined, delicate?

                                                                  1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                    That comment made me uncomfortable. What exactly IS an effeminate dish? Was it said to be derogatory?

                                                                    1. re: isadorasmama

                                                                      I don't think so. I'm not sure what he meant by it, but he was clearly speaking approvingly at the time.

                                                                      1. re: isadorasmama

                                                                        Interesting that in our culture "effeminate" is considered on the face of it to be a negative. What does that way about our attitude about what it is to be female?

                                                                        I, too, thought that the comment was said in an approving way, perhaps meaning nuanced or delicate. But the very idea that being effeminate struck people as being a negative is telling. Surely Bryan had a reaction to the comment.

                                                                        1. re: chicgail

                                                                          His reaction was to thank Toby and to say his cooking reflected his personality which I thought was an odd statement because I don't really see femininity in Michael at all.

                                                                            1. re: chicgail

                                                                              Hey, I'm a vocal proponent of gender neutrality but I have a hunch that in a lot of professions a man being called effeminate wouldn't be taken as a compliment. Perhaps in the world of chefspeak the definition is altered. I dunno. I only cook at home or with friends at their homes so I don't get much opportunity to banter with the pros.

                                                                              1. re: chicgail

                                                                                Interesting that in our culture "effeminate" is considered on the face of it to be a negative.
                                                                                Effeminate is not derogatory on its face (not sure why you think it is). Telling a guy he's effeminate suggests he's not masculine - that's why Bryan reacted cause Michael is not effeminate.

                                                                                1. re: Ericandblueboy

                                                                                  They didn't say Mike was effeminate. The reference was to his food. not the same thing.

                                                                                  1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                    except that the prefaced calling the food effeminate by saying it reflected his personality

                                                                                2. re: chicgail

                                                                                  I get your point. However, "effeminate" isn't the same as "feminine" -- that's why there are two different words. Unlike "feminine," "effeminate" implies that it isn't normal or natural for the thing described to have feminine characteristics; it's specifically used to indicate an absence of masculine characteristics, not just the presence of feminine characteristics.

                                                                                  I certainly thought that was a poor choice of words, that is, that "feminine" would have been a better choice without the negative implications. I believe "feminine" is the word they've used in the past, so perhaps it was just an instance of grasping at the wrong word during hours at judges table.

                                                                                3. re: isadorasmama

                                                                                  I think that you all may be reading too much into this... I think Bryan looked away because he was just pissed (as usual) that his brother was getting accolades and he suspected that Michael would win...

                                                                            2. re: momjamin

                                                                              first of all..eli should have gone home with his inedible peanut popcorn vile soup. as much as robin has been maligned and not necessarily been great ever, hers wasn't nearly as inedible, according to the judges, as Eli's.
                                                                              second of all and more perturbing---CHICKEN WINGS AND NEW YORK CITY? um. If it was Buffalo Buffalo Casino ok. But since when are chicken wings considered the quintessence of NYC? But ok. His wings were tasty. But still. Wings and NYC? That bothered me.
                                                                              And Jennifer is cooked, huh?

                                                                              1. re: HabaneroJane

                                                                                Yeah, I didn't really get the connection between wings and NYC, but I think he was focusing on the NY Fire Dept, what would appeal to a fire fighter, and the "heat" of the wing - sort of a round-about way to get there though!

                                                                                1. re: becky315

                                                                                  I think that's an example of cook whatever you want and just make up a good story.

                                                                                2. re: HabaneroJane

                                                                                  It might've been a stretch, but I can deal with that. What's worse is that the reviewer at ew.com -- who gets paid for this stuff -- thinks about the south when it comes to Buffalo wings.

                                                                                  Of course, had he had the Hooters hotel...

                                                                                  1. re: Reignking

                                                                                    Well in some ways we have the South to thank for Buffalo wings since the base of the sauce that is used originally came from Louisiana.

                                                                                3. re: momjamin

                                                                                  I saw that as well. Seemed to sail right over Michael's head, whereas Bryan definitely caught the insinuation.

                                                                                  But then again - who *knows* when Bryan gave Michael that look. It could have been several days earlier at another JT. We all know how the Elf editors spin their magic.

                                                                                4. I'm a bit surprised that no one did a take of the famous $5 steak that Vegas is famous for. At the very least a theme of getting what ever you want in Vegas. Having been to all of those casinos I believe Robin and Eli were the only ones who got it right in terms of representing their given choice. The colored sugar, or attempted, was a no-brainer and Eli's mess is absolutely appropriate for Circus-Circus. CC has the worst food and is probably one of the worst hotel/casinos in the world. In fact, I dare say Eli should have won. But, I digress. My original comment has to do with the $5 steaks and other inexpensive food you find floating round Vegas. So, I'm guessing it was strictly interpreting what said casino represents to you.

                                                                                  11 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: bigmackdaddy

                                                                                    Next week is going to be good. They are cooking for the bocuse d'or.

                                                                                    1. re: SDGourmand

                                                                                      Actually, I think it's a tryout to be on the U.S. team for the Bocuse d'or.

                                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                        the theme of this episode is to identify a USA candidate to compete in the prestigious Bocuse d'Or Competition 2011. The episode features Bocuse d'Or USA officals. Chefs, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, and Jerome Bocuse as the guest judges in their quest to find a candidate.

                                                                                        1. re: SDGourmand


                                                                                          I'm reading it as they were looking for someone worthy enough to be on one of the sixteen semi-final teams, not for *the* person to represent the U.S. The top team will represent at the 2011 competition. (The top 16 teams will be announced on Dec. 7th, per the snippet below from the full announcement):

                                                                                          "From the pool of applicants, The Foundation's Board of Directors - Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller and Jerome Bocuse - will review all of the submissions and select the sixteen semi-finalist teams, which will be announced at a press conference on Monday, December 7, 2009. From February 4-6, 2010 at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, these sixteen teams will compete for a chance to represent the United States at Bocuse d'Or. The teams will compete in a U.S. Semi-Final round on Thursday, February 4. The top eight teams will advance to the U.S. Final competition, held on Friday, February 5 and Saturday, February 6. The top team will be selected as the U.S. representative."

                                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                            DAMN! That is terrific. No pressure...

                                                                                            1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                              LOL! Yeah, *none* at all. And that is why, perhaps, that we see the cream of the crop worried about their dishes in the previews.

                                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                Did you see the part of the announcement that said, "ยท The Commis Applicant must be an American citizen and 22 years of age or younger at the time of the final competition in Lyon on January 25, 2011". Twenty-two or younger!? Over a year from now! So the applicant would have to be under 21 today. I knew cooking was a young persons game but damn...

                                                                                                1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                  I know. I do wonder if anyone in that early-20s age range has made it onto any of the teams before. Would they have "polished their game" at that point in their careers to be good enough?

                                                                                                  1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                    i'm really glad they are sticking to the apprentice tradition and what a commis is really supposed to be. in a field that is currently plagued with career changers wanting to come into pro kitchens at age 40 or whatever. . . then you have folks in their early 20's who really *want* to make a career in kitchens who are being shoved aside by people who are too old to feel like they have to mop a floor or schlep full cases of veg. there are plenty of fantastic 20 year old commis/kitchen assistants out there, many of whom come from poor working class backgrounds and have worked their way up from being a dishwasher at age 15. this is where many of the people with real emerging talent and drive will be able to shine and get a fair chance to break through the racist and classist barriers that exist in culinary school and in pro kitchens.

                                                                                              2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                Yes thats what I took as as well. I got that from an event they are holding in the astor center in NYC to show this episode of TC

                                                                                                1. re: SDGourmand

                                                                                                  I have to interject. I'm going to the event at the Astor Center next week and I am so, so, so excited. Eeeee!!!

                                                                                      2. i would just like to add that i thought eli's quickfire dish was genius and looked AMAZING. :) he's one of those "when he's on he's really on and when he's off..." chefs. nothing robin has done has really made me want to eat it. maybe the one dessert.

                                                                                        i actually thought the idea of the peanut soup was fun. just didn't happen.
                                                                                        and i heart kevin.

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: AMFM

                                                                                          I totally agree, on Eli's QF, his peanut soup concept, and hearting the big redneck with the great personality and the intellectual chops.

                                                                                          BTW, Blais' blog this week is lots of fun -- what he would do with the casino inspirations.

                                                                                          1. re: AMFM

                                                                                            You know the old saying, "throw enough mud on the wall, some of it will stick." I think Eli one of those chefs that gets lucky once in awhile.

                                                                                            The peanut soup should have sent him packing, but I would bet Tom C was worried that Robin was going to sneak into the finals so he pulled the plug on her.

                                                                                          2. Speaking of spoilers, did anyone see Tom Seitsma's chat in the Washington Post the other day? I can't quite tell, but it seems like he's giving the entire season away! He's got great sources in the D.C. restaurant world, so he may well know the winner.

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: cmvan


                                                                                                "Now, I have a question. I have eaten at Minibar, and while I enjoyed it, I think I lost appreciation for how fantastic the food was by the time I was presented with the 15th interesting concoction. A friend wants to try Table 21 at Volt, and while I'm definitely interested, I'm a little worried I'm going to walk away with the same feeling. Is Table 21 a totally different approach, or is it similar? I know that I'm a spoiled diner if this is my main concern, but trying to find the right spot for a special night out.

                                                                                                Tom Sietsema: Yes, you are a spoiled diner! lol.

                                                                                                Table 21 in Frederick is very similar in (service/presentation) style to Minibar in Washington. But your chances of seeing -- and even being served BY the top chef -- is also greater at Volt.

                                                                                                All that said, you really ought to check out the Maryland destination. I had a swell time there.

                                                                                                washingtonpost.com: 2009 Dining Guide: Table 21"

                                                                                            1. Robin can't make panna cotta. My 11 year old can make panna cotta. She said she felt out of her league but she's been way out of her league for too long.

                                                                                              10 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: chowser

                                                                                                I must say, in Robin's defense, that I can make panna cotta -- but since it's not something I do often, I'd have to consult a cookbook about the proportions of gelatin to milk. Gelatin is one of those ingredients I use seldom enough not to wing it.

                                                                                                However, that also means that were I Robin, I'd have picked something I actually **knew** how to make. I will never understand these contestants who not only go outside their comfort zone, but in fact try to make known quantities they've not attempted before. From a sheer strategy standpoint, it's obvious to me that your best chance is to make things already firmly in your repertoire. It's not as if the judges know you make 19 skate wings and 36 polenta cakes a night at your restaurant. Go with your strengths!

                                                                                                1. re: dmd_kc

                                                                                                  Yes, if you're going to pick a simple dish to make and not improvise on it, pick one you can make. She was burned many times before for trying something she's never done before, as she was kicking herself for in the end. What's the definition of insanity? I also think panna cotta is pretty forgiving and there are many variations to it so can be fixed, if she'd noticed it was getting too hard.

                                                                                                  This gives me a whole new appreciation for Stephanie's being able to make a wedding cake from scratch two seasons ago. How does anyone who is not a pastry chef make a wedding cake that size without a basic recipe?

                                                                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                                                                    So many TC contestants have done panna cotta (including some who've never made it) and failed on the texture, you wonder why they keep trying. Even vile Marissa from S2, who was a pastry chef, failed at panna cotta. Stefan's the only one who's done a stellar one, and obviously knew just what he was doing.

                                                                                                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                      At some point, you'd think future cheftestants would memorize the simple proportions so they can make it. I don't understand how they can go in and not learn, ahead of time, how to make one decent dessert. Prepare!

                                                                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                                                                        No one forced Robin to make a panna cotta or even a dessert. I think that her excuse she was pressured to do more then her capacity was a little bit of a cop-out. I just think she realized her food couldn't ever match the that of the top 3 so she swung for the fences and failed. Even as she was making the panna cotta I was thinking to myself, three hours to cook and she makes a panna cotta? I thought it was a little unambitious.

                                                                                                        1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                          You could kind of say the same thing about Eli and his soup. While peanut butter is a novel idea, it didn't seem like that much was going on. Well, the blob of pink stuff was extra.

                                                                                                          1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                            Yeah, if you're going to do a dish that is a stretch and creative, panna cotta is not it. I saw the ceiling and thought very thinly sliced food, like beets, thin enough to see through. Why panna cotta at all? Sugar art if you've never made it before? Fruit vodka jigglers!

                                                                                                    2. re: dmd_kc

                                                                                                      You mean like her Clam Chowder flan? yum!

                                                                                                    3. re: chowser

                                                                                                      I'm not sure that your son could make panna cotta for 175 without looking at a recipe, though -- and that's what I think happened to Robin. Without knowing the precise measurements, your panna cotta could either be pudding or a block.

                                                                                                      1. re: Reignking

                                                                                                        Fair enough. But I think my daughter knows enough about making panna cotta that she'd know not to try it for 175 people w/out knowing the proportions.

                                                                                                    4. Sad that Robin couldn't make panna cota but honestly, when a judge says they only didn't spit your food because of good breeding and yet you live? YIKES! On my tv, Eli's dish made me think of a circus but in a my 8-year-old-ate- too-much-junk-rode-on-the spinning-thing-and-then-got-sick sort of way. ick.

                                                                                                      As for Robin, setting aside personality (and since its not top adorable likeable chef, personality is irrelevant), unless Top chef is completely rigged and fake and scripted (like my MIL believes) Robin had to have some considerable amount of skill simply to get on the show.

                                                                                                      I think the most telling thing was her saying that she was overwhelmed by all the people who were clever and skilled and doing all the neat things and wanted to stretch outside her comfort zone and do neat cool stuff too. or words to that effect. Not for the first time, did someone have skill enough to get on the show only to cave to deep seated insecurities of "i am not worthy." Obviously thinking of carla here.

                                                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: jenn

                                                                                                        I thought Eli would go home because he didn't seem to realize how bad his dish was. He seemed surprised at the criticism. Robin, at least, knew.

                                                                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                                                                          Eli's soup also LOOKED awful. Despite being the wrong consistency at least Robin's looked like something I might want to try.

                                                                                                          1. re: isadorasmama

                                                                                                            He lost me when he said crushed popcorn.

                                                                                                            1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                                              It actually would have worked much better if he'd left the popcorn whole. Not that it would have saved a disaster of a dish, but it would have provided a better textural contrast and would have been a wittier take on the peanuts-and-popcorn circus theme.

                                                                                                              1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                                                I can kind of see where Eli's could have gotten flavor inspiration. Sweet peanut soup is a common Chinese dessert Peanut + chocolate = reese's peanut cups candy. Chocolate corn drink = Champurrado (its mexican). Chocolate rasberry jelly rings/bars. I like all of them. So I did not appreciate the over-the-top visceral objections Padme and Nigella showed when it was initially presented to them.

                                                                                                                1. re: dach

                                                                                                                  Sweet peanut soup is great, as is warm peanut soup (often made w/ peanut butter for simplicity). As the texture being off goes, I think Kevin put it kindly (I love Kevin's demeanor)--it's something you make and remake and remake again until you get it right. But, as with Robin, trying something new was a stretch for him. And, peanut soup w/ a berry topping, had it turned out would have been like a take on kids' peanut butter and jelly, and I think of Circus Circus as a children's place so that could have been the tie in. If he wanted the pink top, I think a spun sugar topping would have been pretty. Cotton candy, even better, but they probalby don't have access to a machine.

                                                                                                                  1. re: dach

                                                                                                                    I was thinking of caramel apples rolled in chopped peanuts. Nothing wrong with the flavor combo at all in principle. Tom seemed to object (strongly) to the texture, but only the texture.

                                                                                                                  2. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                                                    I have had a corn soup that edges the bowl with crushed popcorn. It is served in espresso cups and the" popcorn salt" is on the edge of the cup It is wonderful.

                                                                                                            2. Since they're in Vegas, it's only been a matter of time until a room service challenge. I liked breakfast in bed with Padma and Nigella.

                                                                                                              I also like Jen but did she really say "sh*t" out loud to them when presenting? I know that's how the dish is known, but it does not make for a super-appetizing description.

                                                                                                              1. I feel like the actual cooking gets the same amount of air time now as it did when there were double the contestants. This bothers me.

                                                                                                                1. They highlighted Jen saying she's ready to go home. Is that foreshadowing? Does it mean she's lost the will to fight to stay in the competition? It seems to me like she's underperforming on purpose. She made some stunning classic dishes for the first half of the show and now she's screwing up left and right. The fact that she was shaking badly when pouring the sauce in the last episode makes me wonder if she's psyching herself out -- or like I said, deliberately throwing herself under the bus.

                                                                                                                  As far as consistency with greatness goes, I think Kevin is coming up roses.

                                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: isadorasmama

                                                                                                                    I thought the same thing about Jen during this episode. Some people here thought the comments on her dish were not as harsh as the comments about Robin or Eli. I, however, thought that when she said she was ready to go home that might somehow work its way into her demeanor or attitude during JT. I thought she was on equal footing to go home.

                                                                                                                    1. re: isadorasmama

                                                                                                                      We need to remember that although we are several weeks into the season, in the chefs real time, it's still only a few days of constant stress. Jenn was also sick with "flu like symptoms" that really sapped her energy levels and she's probably just now coming back to "normal". She's depressed because she's not performing up to her own standards and feeling like a failure. That being said, I hope that she can overcome one more time, kick Eli's a$$ and move on, although I think that Kevin is still the front runner.

                                                                                                                      1. re: araknd

                                                                                                                        The top 3 are very close, with 4, 3, 3 wins.

                                                                                                                        Illness notwithstanding, Jennifer I think is missing a key ingredient of the top 3, that of creativity. The top 3 make flawless dishes, creatively. Jennifer makes flawless dishes, traditionally.

                                                                                                                        So I no longer think it's only her illness making her frazzled and depressed, its the self-realization of what she's up against versus what's in her arsenal.

                                                                                                                        1. re: dach

                                                                                                                          I think that you are correct. While she makes good dishes, they aren't as creative as the other 3.

                                                                                                                    2. A couple of other things I noticed....Robin said while presenting her QF dish that it was one of her specialities, but then when Nigella put her dish in the bottom two she said she wasn't proud of what she put out that day. I would never say a dish is one of my specialities if it didn't turn out to my standards, at that moment I was ready for her to PYKAG.

                                                                                                                      In my house we were very disappointed in Toby. He's in Vegas and all he gives us is he gambled and lost? Since the EC was based on casinos and Eli's dish was not only horrible but also based on Circus Circus, I expected some sort of sad clown reference. Please keep in mind that we thought the quip would have sounded rehearsed and it would have been an epic fail, but we expected it nonetheless.

                                                                                                                      32 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: lizzy

                                                                                                                        I stopped paying attention to the guy.

                                                                                                                          1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                                            LOL! Yeah, I could just as soon do without Toby completely. But it seems we're stuck with him. I do have to say he's light years better than last season. And since he hasn't been on every week, that's some relief as well.

                                                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                              Don't get me wrong he is my least favorite part of the show, and I would be happier if Gail were there full time or they found an acceptable replacement. However, we just thought that the EC would be more than he could handle, and there was no way he would have kept his over rehearsed verbal diarrhea to himself.

                                                                                                                              1. re: lizzy

                                                                                                                                I think the sheer quantity of blog comments probably made him realize he was trying WAY too hard and needed to dial it back a great deal. He hasn't been as bad this season, thankfully.

                                                                                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                  You are probably right. I just can't help but wonder if the lightbulb that went on was over his head or the editors.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: lizzy

                                                                                                                                    Can't resist...did anyone notice a glare? Then the lightbulb was over his head ;-)

                                                                                                                        1. re: lizzy

                                                                                                                          Does Robin always seem to be disappointed in her dishes? It seems like every time at the JT (how many times has she NOT been there?). she shakes her head and says she could do better. I think it's comes down to, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. I thought it was interesting when she left that she said she deserved to be there.

                                                                                                                          1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                            How sad is it when it's easier to count how many times Robin HASN'T been in the bottom? Robin is a walking dichotomy....she says the other contestants are ahead of her in skill but she deserves to be there. She is making a specialty yet it wasn't her best work. She's there to show what she can do, but she always says she could have done better, seriously Robin which is it? I'm glad she's gone.

                                                                                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                              It's all a schtick... some people are humble when judged and other act like their soup/dish don't stink.

                                                                                                                              Many times the cheftestants would admit they messed up, but at the same time "stand behind their dish".

                                                                                                                              Robin didn't have the chops, but Eli's was the worst dish at JT this episode.

                                                                                                                              1. re: dave_c

                                                                                                                                "Eli's was the worst dish at JT this episode."

                                                                                                                                You can't say that unless you tasted the dishes and I'm guessing you didn't taste the dishes. The judges have said over and over the chef with the worse dish gets sent home regardless of previous performance and I believe them.

                                                                                                                                1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                                                  I'd like to believe that too, but the caveat at the end of the show that says judging decisions were made in consultation with the producers makes this hard to believe.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: StheJ

                                                                                                                                    I've seen that statement at the end of the show and I believe it's more of a CYA situation so that they have the option to exercise the extraordinary option of kicking contestants off the show for one reason or the other.

                                                                                                                                    If the judging was taken out of the hands of the judges I think you'd have a hard time finding the caliber of judges they have. I choose to believe that Andre Soltner and Eric Riepert would not participate and put their integrity in question.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                                                      I certainly appreciate your position and don't want to cast aspersions mostly because it does not make a difference to me either way, since I don't think that this would change the final outcome of any particular season. But, as a person who has watched every season religiously including masters, that's just the impression that I have gotten over time.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: StheJ

                                                                                                                                        Neither you or I have any proof to back up our positions. My only point is that the community these chefs work in is small and if there were shenanigans going on with the judging word would get out. I just can't imagine chefs like Dan Barber, Andre Soltner, Eric Ripert, Daniel Boulud, etc, etc would put their reputations on the line to go on a show that was in any way fixed.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                                                          1.You're right: No one will ever know the truth.

                                                                                                                                          2. The more I think about it, the less I'm buying the CYA argument. If the producers want to throw someone off for shaving another contestant's head or something, then they just go in and throw that chef off. They don't need to put a disclaimer anywhere. They just say that is unacceptable, goodbye Cliff. Why put the disclaimer in at all unless the producers are going to influence judging decisions? I mean what other reason could there have been for keeping Robin around so long but to increase the dramatic tension in what has been a season where the caliber of the chefs has been the highest of all of the seasons so far? She was so clearly out of her league for three or four episodes.

                                                                                                                                          3. It's a tv show or more accurately a reality tv show and honestly I don't really expect it to be on the level. The producers want to make the best product that they can that will attract the most viewers, sponsors etc... and I wouldn't put it past them to keep this or that person around if they thought it would make the show more popular. That being said, I certainly don't think that they would do this wrt the winner.

                                                                                                                                          4. I think chefs want to open successful restaurants and make money. And I think that every time they go on top chef, traffic spikes to their restaurant, their profile increases and they make more money, get a tv show, book deal whatever... I don't know any of the chefs you've named personally, but I do know that they love to have me come to their restaurants so they can take my money or more accurately lots of my money.

                                                                                                                                          5. I wouldn't hold it against any of these chefs if what I'm suggesting were true and frankly I find it more tawdry that they would be hocking soda or plastic products or ovens or whatever.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: StheJ

                                                                                                                                            #1. I said you and I don't know the truth but if there is a fix in then there are plenty of people who know. The judges, some of the people involved in the production, the editiors, etc.

                                                                                                                                            #3. If the producers are trying to create the most drama and create the "best product" they certainly dropped the ball in a couple of the seasons. Ilan vs. Marcel? Sam was more popular then both those twerps put together. Hosea vs. Stephan vs. Carla? Where was Fabio? He was clearly the fan favorite.

                                                                                                                                            #4 Soltner and Saihac were both judges and neither are selling anything and neither have a restaurant. I think both men have integrity and wouldn't participate if they were just actors in a play.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                                                              #3: You're missing the point. In re: season 2, it would be that everyone loved to hate Marcel so that's why he was there and that they kept Sam around for so long because he was so popular/handsome when maybe he should have gone earlier. In re: Hootie Hoo, my opinion is that they kept her around so long for her entertainment value. And the same with Fabio, they kept him until they absolutely had to cut him...

                                                                                                                                              #4: I'm not saying that every judging decision is fixed or predetermined, just that some of them maybe; so pointing out a particular judge who you think has integrity is beside the point, especially because there haven't been/aren't always guest judges. I certainly think that the Robuchon episode was straight up.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                                                                I don't believe there's a fix. Two biggest reasons:

                                                                                                                                                1. Colicchio is a stand-up guy, period. I know someone who worked for him, and I believe what he tells me. His word is his word.

                                                                                                                                                2. If they really orchestrated these things, would we ever have had a Top Chef Ilan or Hosea? No way.

                                                                                                                                                The editors play up the backstage conflict to the best of their abilities. But they're working within the parameters of the game, which they don't control. I believe this strongly.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: dmd_kc

                                                                                                                                                  Who was the most hated person in season 2? That would be Marcel. I can pretty much guarantee that Marcel can outcook Ilan any day, but they gave the win to Ilan to appease the masses. And Hosea? As far as they can tell, Stefan is an arrogant prick and plenty of viewers hated him. Again, they chose the lesser of two evils and handed the win to Hosea.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Ericandblueboy

                                                                                                                                                    Plenty of viewers hated Hung too, but also understood that he was the best cook. Most people who watched the show despised Hosea because of his ridiculous Leah thing, so I think there is no way they would have chosen to give it to Hosea.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Ericandblueboy

                                                                                                                                                      While I disliked the persona that was put forth by Stefan in TC5, he was a FAR better cook than Hosea, and I would have much rather have had him win over Hosea.

                                                                                                                                                      As to "I can pretty much guarantee" - unless you've eaten at restaurants they've both cooked at, I'm not sure how. I'm not defending Ilan, but again - we see what we see by virtue of editing. While Marcel's food might have looked better, who knows how it tastes?

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Ericandblueboy

                                                                                                                                                        Marcel did not outcook Ilan on the day of the finals. IIRC, he tried some tricks that failed, something was left in the prep kitchen, and Ilan pulled off one of the judges (Gail's?) all-time favorites -- the fideos. From everything I've read, that wasn't the appeasement win. Appeasement would have been to keep Sam or Elia in the final 2. Likewise, Hosea also outcooked Stefan, who went into the finals over-confident. The Yankees won the World Series this year, and they have plenty of haters ;-)

                                                                                                                                            2. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                                                              I've always been a big proponent of the CYA theory, for reasons I've explained at length in other threads. However, I don't think it's CYA as in they reserve the right to kick off contestants for one reason or another (which as someone pointed out, they could do anyway). I think it's to guard against the very accusations of producers "fixing" the results that crop up in these discussions on a regular basis.

                                                                                                                                              By asserting that production has input on the decision they guard against the accusation that they are *improperly* doing just that. If you reserve the right to have input as part of the rules, then no one can complain if they think that's what happened. It goes all the way back to the first series of Survivor when someone actually filed a lawsuit claiming that production influenced her tribe to vote her out rather than a more interesting contestant.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                Very good point, Ruth. This makes perfect sense to me.

                                                                                                                                          2. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                                                            Do we really have to have this same comversation week after week? Please let the whole "they chose the wrong person, it must be fixed" thing go! We are not there to taste the food or listen to the conversations at JT By now every viewer should realize JT is highly edited. This is first & foremost a reality show, the editor's job is to make it as entertaining as possible. That includes creating doubt about who should've gone home. Except in a couple of cases, we all know the one who was told to PPYKAG wouldn't have made it to the finale anyways. So what does it really matter when they get sent home?

                                                                                                                                            1. re: jcattles

                                                                                                                                              With all due respect, from the perspective of the producers and the network, this show is about selling advertising time to Glad bags and GE and Toyota and Calphalon. And those sponsors sign on when the audience is big and involved enough to make it a "destination" show where they can sell cars and storage bags and stoves. Drama creates that audience. This thread is a testament to that TC has successfully achieved that end.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: chicgail

                                                                                                                                                Absolutely. However, I don't think the producers need to sacrifice the integrity of the judging process (which is important to a fairly large segment of the audience they want to attract and to attracting marquee names to participate) in order to have drama. You can create all the drama you want with judicious casting before the fact (couples like Jen and Zoe, brothers, arrogant assholes, colorful personalities, people from nontraditional backgrounds, attractive young people, likeable underdogs to root for, etc.), skillful interviewing during the competition and even more skillful editing after the fact to make the most of their quirks and personalities and the tensions that inevitably occur.

                                                                                                                                                In other words, why be dishonest when you don't have to be?

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                  I wasn't suggesting dishonesty, Ruth.

                                                                                                                                                  What I was just pointing to is that the intention of the producers is on some place other than recognizing the achievements of the best chef. You are absolutely correct that the focus on drama begins with casting and the interviews and editing help to create and hold viewer interest. What actually happens in real time is usually pretty boring.

                                                                                                                                                  It's a poorly kept secret that (the unexpected notwithstanding) reality shows are scripted. And that's actually one of the reasons we keep watching them and talking about them.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                    I don't think the producers need to sacrifice the integrity of the judging process
                                                                                                                                                    As you pointed out above, they did reserve the right to sacrifice the integrity of the judging process. You believe they don't have to, I believe they already have, and will continue to do so in the future. Why? Why do already rich people trade on insider information? Just because somone doesn't have to do something doesn't mean they won't do it.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Ericandblueboy

                                                                                                                                                      My point is, there's no reason to exercise their right to have input in the decisions, and there are reasons not to, i.e., big names in the restaurant world not wanting to work with them. Don't you think guys like Hubert Keller and Eric Ripert have better things to do than spend hours judging a competition only to have the producers overrule them? The cost (moderate) and benefit (nil) ratio just doesn't make it worthwhile.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                        I think you attribute too much integrity to chefs. I think these chefs go on TV to get publicity, so what if they have to "spin" a little? Gone are the days when the contestants are little known nobodies. Bryan V.'s Table 21 is apparently booked until July of next year on weekends. This show brings alot of publicity! Martha Stewart was busted for insider trading. You think these people have more money and more brand recognition than Martha Stewart?