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Top Chef: Las Vegas, Napa Valley Part One – The Last Cut Is the Deepest


Awww … that sucked. Not the episode – it was actually quite good. I am just disappointed that there is now a whole lot less estrogen now. Although Pregnant Padma and Gail looking the best she ever has before can possibly make up for the loss of Jennifer.

We kind of knew going in that Jen was the big underdog going into the Finals, mainly because the boys were just so dominant on a consistent basis. Hawk was the only one ever at risk of elimination, and that was due to hot plate issue he was up against in that one challenge. Jen limped towards the end of the season, so she really had to both step up her game and hope one of the boys slipped up.

Jen stepped it up, but the guys did too. And as Kevin said, “someone really talented is going home.” How talented? These four won every single elimination challenge during the season. Unfortunately, Top Chef was doing a Finale with three chefs, not four. So someone had to go. Tom said in his Bravo blog that all four of the dishes were excellent; Jen had a salt issue that was just enough to put her in fourth place. Sometimes on this show, the littlest thing is the difference between staying and going home.

The editors did a very good job at keeping the mystery going regarding who was going to win and who was going to go home. During service, I thought Jen was going to win and BryanBot was going home. Then during Judges Table, I thought Kevin was going to win and Hawk was going home. And unlike what the show would have been like if a clearly inferior chef had made it through, we really knew that all four were strong enough to have won a different season rather easily.

One big problem with the episode – the Return of Winky. If you recall, Chef Michael Chiarello was one of the finalists in Top Chef: Masters. At least you remember that if you were one of dozens to have read my commentaries or watch the show. On Masters, he earned the nickname “Winky” from me because of his game show host-like personality. I refuse to quote his endless monologues, he is just insufferable.

Oh, and the crazy hair that the chefs had going – that was kind of disturbing too. Let’s not even talk about Padma’s bangs.

Quickfire – Winky and Padma have the chefs make a meal featuring the grape – the patron saint of Napa Valley. The twist is that they must make the meal on the Napa Valley Wine Train while it is moving. Kevin worries about motion sickness. That would be an interesting presentation! Oh, and the winner will drive home in a brand new Prius, and hopes that the Survivor Car Curse does not hold on Top Chef. Although, Richard Blais may disagree.

Kevin – Honey and Fromage Blanc Mousse, glazed grapes, olive oil and sea salt. Padma comments on having dessert first, and Winky loves the oil.

Hawk – Grape Leaf stuffed with couscous, vinegar-glazed grape and scallop kabob. Hawk uses the grape vine for the kabob stick. I think based on Winky’s bluster and love for the “story” of cooking meals, that Hawk’s use of so much of the grape was a really big deal.

BryanBot – Roasted hen, bacon, Brussels sprouts Concord grapes, ruby quinoa and arugula. Winky questions using the Concord grape, which is not a local grape.

Jen – Sautéed chicken livers, clams, Cabernet grapes, wild mushrooms and tendrils. Winky threatens to steal the dish for his restaurant. You would think that would indicate a win for Jen, wouldn’t you?

Anyway, Winky calls out BryanBot and Kevin for failing to feature the grape, they just incorporated the ingredient. And somewhat unexpectedly to me, he gives the win to Hawk. So Jen loses the challenge, the car and, so it seems, the recipe.

Elimination – Cater the Crush Party, a traditional party in Napa Valley to mark the start of the harvest. They must cater for 150 people and make two dishes – a veggie and a local protein – using only local ingredients from a farmer’s market (other than salt and pepper, which turns out to be a big deal)

Kevin – He cooks this way at his restaurant and believes it to be a strong suit. He is worried that it will take a long time to braise his meat.
Protein – Grass-fed brisket with pumpkin polenta and marinated root vegetables
Veggie – Roasted beets and carrots with carrot top (not Carrot Top) puree and San Andreas Cheese

Gail raved about the colors on the veggie dish and Padma enjoyed the robust seasoning. Gail dug the polenta and Tom was critical of the “tinny” texture of the brisket.


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