Top Chef: Las Vegas (season premiere)
by Allison Waldman, posted Aug 20th 2009 2:46PM
(S06E01) The producers of Top Chef must have listened to the criticism from the last edition of the show, the one set in New York with the contestants housed in Brooklyn. Despite being in perhaps the most exciting culinary city in the world, TC-NY was pedestrian. Well, Top Chef season six, is in Las Vegas and judging by the premiere, the stakes -- as they said a few times -- have been set very high. The round-up of players was filled with James Beard awardees, Michelin star cooks, people who have restaurants already... and a couple of others who have something to prove.
Early thoughts on some of the players: Kevin is a real player, serious and creative. Mike is an asshole, but his aggression might work for him. Eli has the qualities of a fat-kid over-achiever. Mattin from France, the one with the red scarf, might be formidable because he's got the classical training and it shows. Ashley is nondescript, like her dull ravioli. Jesse, with the lip stud, needs to show more than how to serve dry chicken breast. Michael outshone his brother, but both looked like they'll be around for a while.
The quickfire challenge was an old favorite, the mise-en-place relay race, only this time there's nothing as easy as chopping onions. Fortunately, instead of just racing, there was a twist. Robin pulled the right chip and won her way out of the challenge, immunity and $15,000. If they're going to give away bucks like that along the way, woo-hoo! Keep it coming!
As for the race -- note to cooks, you don't want someone like Preeti to shuck a clam if she's never done it before! The blue team's cooking challenge was okay, but the other teams just sat around and watched. That was dull TV. For a fairly simple clam ceviche, super-competitive Jen won, and Colicchio looked stunned when she kissed him.
Vice was the theme of the elimination challenge, which reminded me of the seven deadly sins challenge a few seasons back, but all we learned from the dishes really was that too many of the chefs are borderline alcoholics!
Wolfgang Puck, yet another famous chef who has also been a Food Network face, was the guest judge. He was quite good, actually, and his comments about the dishes had Tom cracking up. It was great when he threw a golf ball-like doughnut across the room, and pointed out the over-reliance on purees by the chefs. It's like Marcel and the foam from a few seasons back!
Have you ever heard of seitan? Me neither, but Jennifer was using it. Seitan is a meat substitute made of fermented compressed soybean, which sounds perfectly dreadful. Why would you use it when most people don't like it? Hector, meanwhile, deep-fried a rib eye steak. Yes, you read that correctly. Why destroy a great piece of meat unless you want to be kicked off?
Mike, Kevin, Jennifer (the competitive one) and Ron were the final four and all their dishes looked really good. Wolfgang chose Kevin's arctic char because it was good enough to be on the menu of a restaurant. On the other end of the spectrum, Hector, Jesse, Jen (with the tattoos) and Eve were the bottom four. Jen had the audacity to tell the judges they were wrong about the quality of her food. Really, did she think that would sway them? Eve was incapable of articulating her vision. Hector deserved to be booted, and Jesse deserved to stay because at least she knew what she did wrong. In the end, it was Jen who left. Buh-bye, seitan.