Review: Top Chef - Meat Natalie
by Allison Waldman, posted Oct 29th 2009 12:40AM
(S06E10) After last week's restaurant wars, which I found really disappointing, I was hoping for a really tough challenge tonight. As Hemal guessed, having Natalie Portman as a guest judge did turn this main competition into a vegetarian duel. Oooh, yum. Vegetables. More about the kale and mushrooms after the jump.
The quick fire was a TV dinner challenge; I don't know how guest judge Paul Bartolotta could relate to that. He's a James Beard award winner. TV dinners don't have anything to do with quality meals. Nada.
Still seven TV shows -- The Sopranos, Gilligan's Island, Flintstones, Cheers, M*A*S*H, Sesame Street, Seinfeld -- were supposed to be inspiration. Mike Isabella had never seen Seinfeld. Now I know why I hate that guy. His food had nothing to do with Jerry, George, Elaine or Kramer.
Kevin was lucky because The Sopranos was obvious -- Italian meatballs. He's such a good cook, I'm not surprised that he won again. Although I thought Brian's M*A*S*H meat loaf was closer to the TV dinner concept and the idea of the TV show.
It was fun to watch the chefs get all psyched about going to Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak at MGM Grand. The visions of beef danced in their heads. However, the twist was Natalie Portman as the guest judge. She called herself a foodie, but she's a vegetarian. No meat Natalie, not to be confused with the Patty Duke movie, Me Natalie.
Assessing how well the chefs could do without being able to use eggs or pasta or fish or anything but vegetables was difficult. Robin thought she was in her element, and Kevin compared this challenge to giving up meat for lent. But my favorite was the anti-Seinfeld Mike. Mr. Over-confident, he acted like this was no big deal. He even had an edge, presumably, because his mother is a vegan.
The cooking was very uninteresting because vegetables are boring. Really boring. They're not really appetizing. Every plate looked like a minimalist painting.
Robin made a hot mess and screwed it up by not getting the beans on the plate. What is that, Top Chef hari-kari?
As obnoxious as Mike was, Eli was nearly as bad. If I were a vegan or vegetarian, I'd be offended that he felt sorry for me. What was he thinking? Then again, he also felt that the only worthy thing Natalie ever did was the Star Wars movies.
The V brothers were super serious, as usual. Michael had the most interesting plate because he at least made the judges laugh. Apparently bananas in polenta is hilarious.
Poor Jennifer had a bad time last week and a worse time this week. She was nervous and second guessing herself. The judges wondered if she presented them a dish or a garnish.
Brian's artichokes did result in a funny exchange when Padma felt a "little prick on the tip of my tongue" when she ate it. Tom wondered about the little prick.
Kevin's plate was not pretty. It was not colorful, but the mushrooms, kale and turnips were considered a manly vegetarian meal.
Kevin, Michael and Eli were the favorites, and Tom tipped his cap to Michael for the banana polenta. But Kevin took the night. I think he might have won because he had the most filling meal. He won a big prize, too -- a suite of GE appliances. Wow!
When Brian heard about Kevin's veggies winning, he got all sore loser about it. Not classy, BV.
Robin, Jen and Mike I. were the bottom three. Mr. Overconfident resented being there, but couldn't explain why he left a protein off his plate. Padma was disappointed in him. His response was, "whatever, whatever."
Gail didn't like his arrogance. I didn't like Robin's babbling about the garbanzo beans. Jennifer looked resigned to losing. She may have TC burnout, as Tom suggested.
I thought this was the end for Robin, but instead it was Mike. "No soup for you, Mike Isabella." Go watch Seinfeld and figure it out. He was pissed that Robin outlasted him, but too frigging bad. Robin's not going to win the competition, but Mike won't either.
[Watch clips of Top Chef at SlashControl.]