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Review: Top Chef - Culinary Olympics

by Allison Waldman, posted Nov 19th 2009 1:05AM
tom_padma_top_chef(S06E12) When I saw that the title of tonight's episode was "Culinary Olympics," I didn't really imagine what the chefs would be going through. Were they going to be pole vaulting into the kitchen, did they have to prepare a meal on an ice skating rink? What could be the Olympian angle? Well, apparently there's a culinary competition that's as intense as the Olympics -- and it's not held in a kitchen stadium with Alton Brown doing play by play.

That said, this may have been one of the toughest assignments ever on Top Chef. I tried to envision how past season winners -- let alone the runners up -- would have done in the same circumstances that these final five faced. I can't say for sure that I can think of one that would have aced it ... and for how this five did, read on.

The Bocuse D'or is the world championship of food, a veritable World Cup with dishes instead of soccer balls, with cooks representing their countries in a very specific food presentation. Make that French cooking, which is even more exacting.

When I heard the description of a protein and two garnishes -- only the garnishes had to be ultra complex and intricate -- it sounded daunting. I suspected that at least a couple of the cheftestants were soiling their shorts. The winner would get a place in the actual competition and $30,000. And, yes, a place in the final four of Top Chef.

Faced with making either lamb or salmon, there were three lamb preparations. Kevin succeeded most in delivering a composed, flavorful dish, but he was accused of being too simple. Eli's lamb was underdone and inedible. Brian put a lot of work in, but the execution was off. Still, those garlic chips impressed Thomas Keller.

Jen's salmon was uneven in the cooking and the cutting. Ironically, she had an extra 30 minutes because she won the Quick Fire, but she still was sloppier than she should have been. Michael's salmon included a bone. That's right, one bone and he would have been tossed from the Bocuse D'or. His presentation also lacked harmony. Doh!

How arrogant did Michael sound beforehand when he said that he was confident because he'd been in food competitions in the past. I'm also a little fed up with Michael dissing Kevin every week, saying that Kevin's food is what Michael cooks on his day off. Give me a break ... Kevin has been consistently winning challenges and proving himself. The younger Voltaggio is a jerk. Brian, on the other hand, gave Kevin advice -- when asked -- the night before, proving that he was not a prick (his word).

Kevin was the top winner, and he was floored by the honor. I've said from the start he was my choice for the final two. I'm standing by that prediction.

Eli got the gate because the chefs couldn't stomach undercooked lamb. In fact, they were upset that they couldn't taste the meat with his sauces. He was cool about leaving, a little emotional, especially when he realized how close he came to the finish. That meant Jen and the Voltaggio Brothers were moving onto the finals with Kevin.

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La-Di-Dah

Hey dkny,
I agree. I was also hoping for a split winner because they kept saying Brian, if given more time, would have nailed the execution, and he would have been more comfortable (more in comfort zone) of the competitions, while Kevin would have been tossed out for simplicity. I wish the judges hadn't felt like they had to give the crown for this challenge to only person, though I am happy for Kevin.

November 19 2009 at 11:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dkny

I was really hoping for a split winner and Brian would go on to audition for the actual competition and Kevin would totally understand that his food isn't in that style would "only" take home 30k. At least that's what I thought when they asked if Brian were coach-able. Michael is prick and it may sound lame but I got pretty excited when Padma said "welcome back" to Jen. Jen has been my favorite from the beginning because she's kinda hard core but is clearly a good person who laughs at herself. Plus in the beginning she was pretty kick-ass. I hope she is back! I know it will be disappointing to some but I would like to see her and Kevin in the final.

Judging from the preview their seems to be at the very least a lot of bad hair days in Napa

November 19 2009 at 10:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tollendyr

I personally wouldn't eat at Michael Voltaggio's restaurant. I think if there is anything he needs to take away from being able to watch this competition after it's over, is that sometimes, being a total jerk, can have a less than desired impact. I'd much prefer to eat at Brian's place where I know I'd be getting just as amazing food, from a person with human emotions other than "I'm awesome."

November 19 2009 at 9:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wulfn1

I was surprised that Kevin won. Considering the comments at the table were regarding his simplicity and, that given the amount of time for preparation , he made a "safe" dish , I would have expected him to stay but not win.
Michael has been pompous from the beginning. His lack of focus with the dish and his arrogance in not doing quality control with the fish.
I was hoping , despite the mistakes Brian made , that he would be the most successful this week.

I was also glad that Jen did well this week . Though I was disapointed that with the extra time she still couldn't manage to pull everything together in a more professional manner.

Last week the most irritating "cheftestant" went home and I cheered. This week, the second most irritating went home. I'm glad the four that are left managed to stay despite each of their mistakes.

Still hoping Brian will win in the end. It would be just punishment for Michael to face that daily. Add the fact that Brian has personality and can cook his ass off and to me there is your top chef.

November 19 2009 at 8:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lisa

Thrilled for the Kevin win and hope he goes the full distance. Glad Jen returned to her normal fierce self. Not sad about Eli's PYKAG. Truly despise Michael V.

November 19 2009 at 8:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Lisa's comment
Jimmy_MO

Couldn't agree more. It's one thing to be self-assured and believe strongly in your work. However, Michael V is so full of himself. He truly didn't get how wrong his choices were last night. Instead he blames two far more experienced chefs and two women who know their food for not understanding his vision.

All that aside, I think what really make me dislike Michael V is how he actively wishes for his brother to fail just so he can be the winner. Competition among siblings is one thing, but this is just dysfunctional.

November 19 2009 at 11:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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