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Top Chef: Las Vegas, Episode 7 – Sending Home the Wrong Ash


Despite the insane escalation of the Robin hatred, and next week seeming to ratchet it up another notch, this week gave us the ousting of the wrong Ash. I was hard on Ashley earlier in the season, and her cooking was a bit uneven from challenge to challenge, but she had proven to be a fairly strong chef, and I considered her to be a dark horse for the finals. Not to mention, along with her fellow chefs, I was starting to like her. I mean, her ouster brought Jenn to tears. Jenn!! The toughest chick on TV since this one.

But anyway, the Robin hatred continues because these chefs consider her to be inferior and to be a Chatty Cathy. MM earned his name this week by once again belittling someone with two X chromosomes. Do you think he would have been as dismissive of Ash if they were partnered up? Certainly not. I found it to be completely off-putting hearing MM describe both to Tom during the Head Judge’s rounds, and then to the full panel of judges, that “I” made this and “I” did that. Robin even gave him an elbow nudge at one point to remind him that this was a team challenge. MM was worried that he may go home because of Robin’s lack of skill, but he was probably more in danger of being swallowed up by his ego.

Now, Ashley certainly earned her elimination. She did not do justice to those prawns, which as described sounded like she cooked the last of the species. I wonder if Matthew Broderick delivered them to her. But she also made the gnocchi, one of her specialties, as well. My question is, what the hell did Eli do, other than badly cook the gnocchi? It leads once again to the age-old Top Chef Team Challenge question – is it more egregious to take the lead and fail, or to do little and blame the leader? Eli didn’t drive this car, but he sure spilled something all over the dashboard.

However, Ash barely got into the car. He was busy admiring it from the showroom. Or at least, admiring the driver. Man, what the heck was that about? Is it me, or did Ash sound like a cross between a Number One Fan and someone with an unhealthy crush? He actually defended taking a secondary, or even tertiary, role to Hawk by saying it is an “honor to wash the paintbrushes for Picasso.” So, Hawk is Picasso? What does that make Kevin and BryanBot, who are arguably better chefs this year? Or Rick Bayless? Or Tom? By this standard, Tom is Zeus.

Ash wouldn’t stop talking and dug himself such a hole that I thought he was a dead man walking. But instead, we lost the other Ash-ley. It seems her offenses against the precious prawns were too much to overcome. And, her team’s disregard of Tom’s obvious hint – “prawns over gnocchi?” – didn’t help much. Gnocchi is too soft to hold up under the shrimp … I mean, prawn. So, no more tuxedo T-shirts. And no more bedhead hairdos. And sadly, another week with cannon fodder such as Robin, Laurine and Ash in the competition.

Quickfire – this High Stakes Challenge presented the chefs with a plug for cookster.com, a slot machine to randomly give them a food, texture and cuisine style, and a choice for the winner of $15,000 or immunity. It also gave us Padma in, what I am sad to report, a very unflattering green pantsuit. Why? TV personality Tyler Florence is there for judging and for minimal commentary.

Quickfire

MM. Stressed, Umami, Asian – Raw mushroom salad with Yuzu emulsion. Tyler tells him it’s “good stuff.” Not, Good Stuff. That would be much more delicious.

Laurine. Tart, Romantic, Latin – Crushed goat cheese salad with orange jalapeno vinaigrette and Hibiscus flowers. “Nice job.”

Ash . Tired, Tart, Italian – “Pantry” Pasta Puttanesca. “Close to the Naples taste.”

Hawk. Adventurous, Tangy, Asian – Yuzu curd with whipped Greek yogurt and seaweed cracker. “Great flavor combination.”

Eli. Stressed, Umami, Latin – Mushroom ceviche with avocado marble. Nothing. Eli gives a surprised eyebrow arch.

Kevin. Stressed, Hot & Spicy, Asian – Char grilled pork with Vietnamese herb salad. “Nice job,” as Kevin has never done this combination before.

BryanBot. Adventurous, Crispy, Asian – Seared scallops with Bok Choy & tempura beads. It was “Asian General.” Not really sure what that means.

Robin. Stressed, Umami, Middle Eastern – Root vegetable hash with cumin & Curry oil. Padma calls her out for curry not being Middle Eastern. Robin admits to it, but not before almost trying to talk her way out of it, before realizing that Padma is actually Indian and would know.

Ashley. Blue, Cheesy, Middle Eastern. – No Kabobs with Blue Cheese dipping stations for Ashley! Feta pudding with sumac dusted halibut. “Good.”

Jenn. Adventurous, Nutty, American – Maine diver scallops with pistachios and salmon rice. And it seems some caviar too. She gets nothing.

Tyler’s Bottom Three

Robin – It was elementary and way too salty.
Eli – He killed the flavor of the umami, although as MM said, it really has a flavor unto its own, and it doesn’t seem to be a good one.
Jenn – Caviar on top of scallops is not adventurous. And this is not Top Scallop! Jenn’s illness during this challenge seems to have really affected her.

Elimination Challenge – Another plug. This time for the Macy’s Culinary Council. I guess they decide who will carry the Onion Ring of Power to Mount Doom. The Council representatives consist of Tyler Florence, Nancy Silverton (founder of La Brea Bakery), Govind Armstrong (8 Oz. Burger Bar), Takashi Yagihashi, and Tom Douglas. Each of them is holding a bag of ingredients and chefs are randomly selected to be teams of two and must cook what’s in the bag for a dinner party served family style. The twist – the dinner will be cooked and served in the chefs’ house that evening. The house has been fully stocked, but the workstations are few and far between.


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