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Top Chef: Las Vegas Episode 8 – When Your Dish = Armpit Hair is a Good Thing


You would think that if Toby Young invoked armpit hair when describing your dish that perhaps you were on the road to elimination. Not so fast, Top Chef Fans! It seems this comparison is a good thing. But more on that later.

This week, Top Chef course-corrected and got rid of the proper Ash. Last week, the more talented Ashley was booted while Ash somehow lingered on even though he admits that there are other chefs better than him. Ash continued to compete like an awestruck fan of his competition this week. This time he went against his first instinct to make polenta with his pork dish and instead took MM’s suggestion that he make a cold tenderloin dish. It was clearly an error and it led to his demise.

In fact, the results this week basically mirrored what is likely to be the boot order barring some serious missteps or some Carla-like turnarounds for some. The Top 4 were the big favorites – like having an NCAA Final Four of Duke, UCLA, Kentucky and North Carolina – of BryanBot, Kevin, Hawk and Jenn. The bottom three were Ash, Laurine and Robin – clearly the weakest remaining chefs. MM and Eli were in the middle. It was a rare Top Chef episode where the results basically reflected the overall talent of the chefs.

Kevin stepped up to the plate, and apparently he really had to. He is a big fan of the pig – he cooks it often and has a tattoo of a pig on his arm. So when the challenge turned out to be pork-centric, Kevin felt the pressure. Having randomly drawn the leg, Kevin chose a difficult to make dish – the terrine. Tom’s blog describes this as a cold meatloaf-type of dish which must not only be served cold, but prepared cold. It is a very complicated dish, and Kevin pulled it off. Throw in his knowledge of the vineyard where his wine came from – he knew hazelnuts grew there and the wine would thus have a hint of hazelnut – and you had a winning dish.

The Volt Brothers both worked with famed restaurateur Charlie Palmer (not this guy) – BryanBot for 10 years, and Hawk for a year – so they also felt pressure. Not only was the usual sibling rivalry in play, but now they were playing for the attention of their father figure. Both succeeded, BryanBot a bit more based on his success at the Quickfire as well. Perhaps it is because he was essentially mentored by Parker, so he knows his sensibilities; perhaps it is just that BryanBot is good. We did find out one thing here in this episode – Kevin is better.

Before getting into the food – and I liked the challenge, and the food looked rather good this week – we must address the drama. Hey everybody, it’s the latest episode of Everybody Hates Robin! To be perfectly honest, I don’t know where I stand on this one. In the hate column, Robin really doesn’t stop talking and is certainly not as talented as the others. In the like column, what has she really done wrong other than not be an edgy 30-something? The others are awfully mean to her, but she does appear to have brought some of it on herself.

Eli and Robin had words stemming from a kitchen cleaning incident. Robin blamed Eli for not cleaning properly; Eli took her passive aggressiveness personally. Eli shouted that she wasn’t his mom, and Robin thanked her lucky stars she wasn’t. Finding out Eli still proudly lives with his parents at age 25 certainly provides a lot of insight into his rampant immaturity. Bottom line – this fight bores me and I would like it to go away, even if it means simply sending Robin home.

Quickfire – Padma (wearing jeans tucked into boots, one of my favorite looks of all time) and Palmer instruct the chefs to pair a dish with a crunchy Alexia snack. More product placement from Top Chef! The trick here is to make the flavors match and not come up with a pairing similar to Eli’s suggestion of a bad one – Marshmallow and steak.

Eli – Potato Clam Salad with Fennel, Celery and White Truffle Sauce. He used the onion snack. Palmer liked the smokiness.
Kevin – Warm Bean Confit Tomato Salad with Fresh Herbs and Creamed Corn. Also the onions. No input shown.
BryanBot – Seared Ribeye with Picked Onion, Sautéed Mushrooms and Chive Puree. Onion Snack again. Palmer likes it, but questions if it was a safe choice. Methinks that is question they have discussed before.
Robin – Sweet Corn Panna Cotta with Avocado Mousseline with the Jalapeno snack. Palmer comments on the tang. Of the food. Get your mind out of the gutter!
MM – Chilaquiles with waffle fries. Palmer finds it spicy, but likes the texture.
Hawk – Tuna Tartare with avocado, pickled onions and jalapenos. (soaked in water to deaden the spice) Simple thank you.
Ash – Chilled Cucumber Avocado Soup with Crème Fraiche, crab and red pepper. He used the BBQ Bold & Spicy waffle fries too. The chip overpowered the dish.
Laurine – Swordfish with Spinach, asparagus and a fava bean puree. She used the onion snack as a bread crumb. Her choice of fish was questioned.
Jenn – Sautéed Pork Chop with Tomato sauce and feta cheese. She overcooked the chop and knew it. She suggested Padma and Palmer use more sauce.

Bottom 3
Robin – Poor texture and no chip flavor
Ash – Peculiar combination
Jenn – Good idea, poor execution

Top 3
Eli – Tender clams, natural choices made
BryanBot – Spot on execution, even if safe.
Kevin – Good Pairing.

Eli wins in a surprise and really gets nothing in return. Ash calls him an amazing chef, continuing the theme of Ash complementing the other chefs for being awesome and better than him.


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