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Top Chef: Las Vegas, Episode 3 – “I Forgot I Was In a Competition”


Jeremy is away this week, so I have the pleasure of recapping Top Chef today for you. I am a relative newbie to recapping, but I hope that I can do the show justice.

The quick fire challenge today is going to be judged by Mark Peel, the Author / Chef / Owner of California’s Campanile restaurant. The contestants are also greeted with piles of potatoes. I just have to laugh, Peel & potatoes; are they going to have the first ever potato peeling quick fire? Nope, darn it, the challenge is that the chefs will have 45 minutes to create an out of this world dish that features the potato. Who knew there were so many different types of potatoes?

The chefs are scurrying around the kitchen trying to gather ingredients from the pantry. Ron feels like he is the Bob Marley of food, focusing on peace and love. Potatoes are a great comfort food, so his inner Bob Marley might serve him well with this challenge. Ash is talking about sweet potato ice cream, which sounds good. I must be hungry, because all I can think of is a little marshmallow topping making a sweet potato pie sundae; my ultimate comfort food choice.

Kevin offers Preeti his water to cook her veggie, but she walks away from it and someone takes the pot off. In the craziness of the last 20 minutes, Preeti puts her asparagus into Ashley’s gnocchi water. Ashley is not very happy as she has to start another pot boiling. Luckily that is not a food that needs to spend lots of time in boiling water.

Time is up.

Ash presents a Sweet Potato Custard with Toasted Pecans. They like the texture and he is complimented. I guess he didn’t have time to freeze it completely.

Bryan makes a Sunchoke & Yukon Gold Vichyssoise with Applewood Smoked Caviar. Chef Peel comments that it could have been gluey, but it isn’t.

Preeti prepared Saffron Poached Russian Banana Fingerlings with Asparagus and Tomatoes. A “very nice” is offered from Chef Peel.

Michael V. does a Confit Tuna and Potato Sandwich. Chef Peel thinks it is a little underdone, but that the balance of texture and flavor are great.

Jennifer’s dish is Steamed Mussels, Yukon Gold and Blue Potatoes with Lemongrass Potato Sauce. Padma compliments her saying that it was very nice.

Robin offers up Purple and Fingerling Potatoes, White Yams with Pancetta, Frisee and Fried Egg. Chef Peel tells her that it looks like breakfast. She stumbles a little bit with that and defends breakfast. I personally could eat breakfast any time.

Hector makes three different potatoes. Steamed Sweet Potato with Fish Sauce and Lime, Purple Potatoes and Ham (is that like Green Eggs and Ham?), and lastly Smashed Fingerlings with Yeast, Yellow Chile, Slow Cooked Egg and Cream. Chef Peel says it has a good flavor.

Laurine tells the judges she made the potato the star of the show. Vegetarian Potato Burger, Portabella Mushroom Bun and Fingerling Chips. The chips are “perfectly crisp” according to Chef Peel.

Mattan presents Poached Cod with Blue, Yukon and Sweet Potato Purees. Before they even take a bite of it, Chef Peel remarks on how beautiful the presentation is.

Kevin prepares Bacon-Braised Yam with Potato Sauce, Asparagus, Mushroom and Cauliflower. Duck fat is used to emulsify the potato for the resting sauce. He is complimented on taste and color.

Mike L. makes a Potato Risotto with King Crab and Mascarpone. Chef Peel seems surprised at his dish, but thinks it is a little salty.

Ashley was able to pull out her Potato Gnocchi with Hen of the Woods Mushrooms and Homemade Ricotta. I wonder how you make Ricotta in 45 minutes?

Eli has just won my heart when he says that he has made a Yam Puree with Pistachios, Whipped Bliss and Bourbon Maple Syrup. Chef Peel seems very impressed with the dish, judging from the one word we hear, “Wow.” Padma, however, finds a small pistachio shell.

Ron presents Sweet Potato Crusted Yellowtail with Fennel and Leek Stew. Chef Peel tells him that his favorite part of the dish is the Fennel and Leek on the side; that can’t be a good thing.

Jesse greets the judges with a water bottle pressed up to her ear, nerves maybe? She has made a Sweet Potato Soup with Ginger, Brown Sugar and Cayenne Pepper. She is fearful that there is too much Cayenne. The texture and color of the soup are wonderful; the spice however literally raises the eyebrows. She knows it’s spicy, but is just hoping not to be in the bottom again.

Chef Peel’s least favorites are Eli’s overly sweet, sweet potatoes, Ron’s bland yams over overly cooked fish, and Jesse’s heavy-handed cayenne soup.

His favorites are Jennifer’s soup, because he thinks it’s the perfect combination of ingredients and textures, Ash’s custard, and Ashley’s gnocchi is his last favorite. He really enjoyed the flavoring, and the perfectly cooked mushrooms gave to the overall dish. Ash is visibly stunned when told he had the perfect use of time management. It’s a good thing he was flexible enough to come up with a Plan B. Jennifer wins for finding the true essence of the potato.

Mike L. is upset that she won and thinks that there is favoritism. This makes no sense since the brothers seem to be winning the most. Personally, I think he is one of these guys that doesn’t like losing to a woman. It couldn’t possibly be that he added too much salt to his dish.


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