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Top Chef: Las Vegas, Episode 4 – The Chef of the Century


Cook Off

Robin – Avocado soup with Yuzu, green apple, mustard relish and crab. She clearly heard the praise for Jenn’s Yuzu and ran with it.

Jesse – Tuna tartare with sorrel, gooseberries, fried quail egg and fried bread. With her life on the line, Jesse went with fried foods. I see her method there, everything is good fried!

Ashley – Foie gras with pineapple, tarragon and ramps. When trying to impress the French chef, break out the foie gras!

I was positive Robin was doomed because soup is not an amuse bouclé. But instead, Jesse’s run of crappy cooking comes to an end with a dish she makes every day in her restaurant.

Elimination – chefs draw knives and each gets either a French sauce or a French protein. They pair up and have to make six dishes (one per pair) for an incredible lineup of French legendary chefs. And Kevin. The lineup includes Boulud, Tom, Padma, Gail and Kevin. Also, Hubert Keller (Theoden to us all) of Fleur d’elys, Jean Joho of the Eiffel Tower Restaurant in Vegas, Laurent Tourondel of BLT Restaurants (My wife gasped), and Chef of the Century Robuchon, who looks a bit like a kindly French version of Joe Pesci. And his translator Emmanuel.

Kingpin/Robin – Frog Legs Meuniere with lemon confit, Mache and arugula salad with fried capers. Kingpin makes the frogs, Robin the sauce. Robin won’t stop talking and ignores her food. They seem to place fourth in the challenge. Boulud finds the frogs overcooked, but Theoden and Joho point out how hard it is to cook frog. Joel thinks the frog flavor was masked.

MM/Bryan – Warm cured trout with deconstructed béarnaise. Bryan draws the trout, and MM the sauce. Even though Bryan not only makes the intricate and complicated fish dish, but he outlines the method of deconstructing the sauce. MM might as well have strings attached to his arms. Boulud thinks it was perfect, Joho says sophisticate and Joel says simple and exceptional and really likes it.

Eli/Laurine – Lobster, sauce Americaine with cauliflower puree. Laurine gets the shellfish, and Eli the lobster sauce. They have problems cooking it without overcooking. Boulud seems to like it, but Joho finds it tough and the chefs again give props for the difficulty in cooking this dish without French training. Joel calls it good work, but lacking genuine flavor. They clearly finish third in the challenge.

Flais/Ashley – Seared Poussin and ravioli with sauce veloute, and green asparagus. Ashley makes the young chicken and Flais gets the sauce. Flais shoots down Ashley’s suggestion to incorporate asparagus into the sauce and chooses bacon instead. The bacon overwhelms all the judges, leading Tom to call it the rare exception to the rule of how bacon makes everything better. The meat is overcooked as well.

Jennifer/Hawk – Rabbit chasseur with mustard noodle and shiso. Hawk has the duck, and Jenn the sauce. Boulud and Joel rave about the perfectly cooked rabbit. Tom is amazed that such young chefs could make such mature dishes.

Hector/Ash – Chateaubriand, sauce au poivre with confit de pomines and spinach. Hector gets the meat and Ash the sauce. They have huge issues with timing and cut the meat with only a couple of minutes left which leads to severe bleeding (meat didn’t sit long enough) and scrambling to plate leading to Ash failing to sauce all the dishes properly and Hector badly cutting the meat. Gail thinks it was hacked with an axe and others lament the lack of sauce.

MM/Bryan and Jenn/Hawk are the winners. Tom tells them it was incredibly professional food. High complement. After more flirting from Jenn and Hawk, Boulud gives Bryan the win and a week to work with Joel. Bryan actually smiles. He reminds me of Melman in Madagascar.

Flais/Ashley and Ash/Hector are the bottom two. Flais and Ashley come very close to throwing the other under the bus. Flais is extra lame in explaining how he hasn’t made the sauce in a long time and Tom can tell he’s full of it. Ash and Hector know what the did wrong, but Boulud won’t let them blame the time since he knows exactly how long it takes to cook these items. My wife noticed how the meat was unevenly cooked right when Tom pointed it out. Tom says any cook in a Vegas buffet can cut meat better. Ouch.

Hector is sent home for badly cooking the beef. He strangely just turns around and walks out, no words for anyone. Whatever.

Quickfire Hits

  • Jenn on snails – It is a very delicate and hard to cook protein. And whoever first decided to eat it had to be really effing hungry.
  • Is it me, or is Jenn getting sexier each week? I don’t know, but I’m developing a bit of a crush here. She still scares me a little bit, but maybe that’s playing into it!
  • Along those lines…is there something with Jenn and Hawk? First the playful pushing in Whole Foods and then her quote about “feeling each other’s movements in the kitchen.” And wouldn’t you know it, watching their rhythms in their movements, it was, well, intimate. Well, don’t tell that to the rabbit that they butcher with incredible efficiency, with Jenn using the bones to make her sauce.
  • Now that I have expressed me budding love for Jenn, let me warn Ashley and Robin, you almost knocked her down when you ran to the Cook Off. Watch out, I’m keeping an eye on you two.
  • Kevin after his Quickfire win – “Some chefs’ plates are prettier than mine and are more sophisticated, but I have just as much validity as what they do.” In other words, he’s good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like him.
  • Jesse on her elimination – “I’m pissed, disappointed and embarrassed. I don’t want people to think I suck this bad.”
  • Kevin on Joel – “I own everything he has ever written, including the French books. I don’t speak French.”
  • All I could think about while watching Kingpin make the frogs was how much he could have helped out Doc Hopper.
  • Kingpin about the French and Haitians – “Haitians go a long way back with the French.” Wow, that’s like a Native American saying, “Europeans and us have had some adventures.”
  • Extra scene – why is Flais the only one not wearing clothes during the birthday cake scene? This was admittedly one of the funnier scenes of the night.
  • Eli on Joel – “I was certain he didn’t actually exist, but is really a unicorn.”

Next week – Desert cooking. Yum.

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