Monday, December 7, 2009

Recap Roundup: Top Chef Las Vegas Finale Part 1

This week on Top Chef: trains, grapes, and duck. Also: Michael Chiarello (aka the most polarizing chef ever). Jen goes home, Bryan wins, everybody's still professional and talented. So what do the bloggers think?

Cliffieland on Kevin's best-defense-is-a-good-offense strategy: "Kevin beats them to the punch, saying he knew his meat has a “toothsome” quality. We hear later that he said that preemptively. 'toothsome ˈtoōθsəmadjective(of food) temptingly tasty : a toothsome morsel.informal (of a person) good-looking; attractive.' The beardy one has wiles we had not yet seen! Kudos on the strategy."

Jordan Baker on my favorite silver fox: "Also, it’s hard to feel sorry for her when her horrible fate is that she now has to go back and work for my secret baby daddy Eric Ripert. It’s a real case of the world’s smallest violin playing hearts and flowers just for her – frankly, if given the choice of winning Top Chef and the bounty that goes with it or going back to my job where I got to be near Eric Ripert on the regular, I would be torn."

Minx Eats on Chiarello + Voltaggio: "A train pulls in from which emerges a pregnant Padma wearing a tight sweater dress that shows off her baby bump. With her is my least favorite Top Chef Masters finalist, Michael Chiarello. We then hear Michael Voltaggio proclaim Chiarello "awesome," which only adds to my Voltaggio-fueled annoyance."

Reality Check (Baltimore Sun) on Kevin the locavore: "Bearded Kevin says he cooks 100 percent locally at his restaurant in Atlanta so that might give him an advantage, but it seems to us that the local stuff in north-central Georgia might not be the same as the stuff in Napa. But that's just us."

Speakeasy (WSJ) on Padma's mom gear: "The three month gap also means that we get to see pregnant Padma Lakshmi, working all sorts of funky maternity gear, ranging from a clingy white dress to a bizarre, black bondage-esque get-up with red boots (perhaps she missed the memo about moving to Napa?)."

Reality TV Magazine quotes Jen: "This season was crazy with all the competitors on the show. I knew the Voltaggio brothers; I also knew who people worked for and their background. [But] Kevin was just consistent throughout the entire competition. He was funny. He would always be like, 'I make such simple food.' But his food was not simple. It may look simple but it was so complex and so flavorful. I thought he was really my biggest competition."

TV Watch ( on cheffy trash talk: "Before the knives came out, the tough talk did. 'I want to beat [Michael] to show him simple cooking can win,' Kevin said. Jennifer, meanwhile, was more direct: 'I’m ready to cook my f—ing ass off. Second place is still a loser, so I really want to win.'"

PB Pulse on crush parties, and what every former sorority girl probably thought: "The elimination challenge takes us to the Rutherford Hills Winery, where they are having a crush party, which totally sounds like some arcane Upper East Side tradition where Blair, Serena and the gang from “Gossip Girl” wear masks and engage in soul crushing social treachery and pretending to be 40-year-old divorcees. But really, the only things getting crushed here are grapes."

Herald-Mail (Frederick, MD) on Bryan's food: "Going into this round, Bryan Voltaggio felt it was his challenge to win. 'I think this is true to my style of cooking,' he said. Bryan's vegetarian dish was goat-cheese ravioli, delicata squash puree and bronze fennel. His protein dish was fig-glazed short ribs with celeriac puree, wax beans and wild arugula. "

Premium Hollywood on contestant changes: "Kevin’s hair was different (and there was less of it)and Jen looked like she had gotten some sleep. The brothers Voltaggio pretty much looked and acted exactly the same."

Omnivore (Creative Loafing) on what the show was all about: "If there was one thing last night’s penultimate episode of “Top Chef” Las Vegas focused on, it was, believe it or not, the food."

The Kitchn on local, local, local: "Kevin was feeling confident because his restaurant in Atlanta is "100 percent local." Bryan said he cares more about local food than Michael does. Michael, however, said he is like rubber and Bryan is like glue which totally makes him more local. OK, we made that last part up. "

Eater NY on umbrellas and movie references: "They are such a Team Strikeforce of strong cooking. Very bad ass. It is like that scene in the beginning of Ronin when all those ex-espionage guys are gathered in the little French cafe waiting to see what their next mission is. Is that reference too obscure? Maybe it's like The Usual Suspects then. 'The greatest trick the Voltaggio brothers ever pulled was convincing the world they don't have umbrellas.'"

Gawker on the Prius: "Mike Voltaggio wins the Quickfire challenge and thus a Prius, proving also dickheads drive Priuses."

Slashfood on Jen's strategy shift: "But when a wood fire burned itself out and she was forced to cook her locally sourced duck confit instead of on the grill, she couldn't manage to spin the compromise into a story. Even after the judges praised her use of the entire duck in the dish, she 'fessed up and revealed that she would've preferred the smoky flavor of her initial plan. Of all the talents Jen may have, a poker face is not among them."

Meal Ticket (Philly City Paper) on Jen's ride: "Jen reveals that she drives a 2000 Chevy Cavalier, which endears me to her even more — I’ll race you down Broad in my ‘98 Civic with the cracked-ass back bumper, Jen!"

Food Network Musings on Padma's grammar: "I LOVE that Padma says, “You’ll serve your dish to Michael and ME.” She doesn’t throw around the word “I” indiscriminately AND incorrectly."

Mama Pop on sweet, rotting Napa: "Our remaining four heroes have made it to Napa. Ahhhh. Napa. I can smell the rotting grapes. No, really, I was there in October and on the last day I was a little hungover and the smell started really getting to me."

Relatively Entertaining with a good analogy: "You know that phrase, “any given Sunday”? The one that means on any given day, all football teams are equal. Any of them could take any given day, because the general level of play is so high and the game is so complex, so unpredictable, so subject to chance and luck and heart and the mood of the crowd and injury and weather. Even in cases where one team is the better team on paper, you can’t assume they’ll win. Well, that’s how I feel about the season 6 finale."

Las Vegas Weekly on the Facebook group: "But only can win. (And only one has a Facebook page in support of his bushy red beard. Not that that guarantees the $100,000, but it’s a different kind of victory, if you ask me.)"

Express Night Out on motion sickness + grapes: "Poor, dear, bearded Kevin. Upon hearing the train twist, he informs us that he gets motion sick. But instead of grumbling about it, he gets right down to business making a honey and fromage blanc mousse, topped with glazed grapes and olive oil and sea salt. And he manages not to blow chunks in the process!"

LJ World on some seriously prepared chefs: "It seems in season’s past many of the chefs psych themselves out or are clearly out of practice, but these folks almost seemed like they went home and did quick fire drills in their restaurants every night."

Box Office Prophets with a previous season recap and a good point: "This is the first time in the history of the show that the most talented, most capable chefs made it all the way to the finale. In Season 1, we missed LeeAnn. In Season 2, Cliff was disqualified before the finale. In Season 3, Tre was left out. In Season 4, Dale imploded during Restaurant Wars. In Season 5, Jaime got tripped up on seafood."

DC Restaurant News Examiner on Jen's downfall: "Allowing the grill to sputter forced her into confit as the preparation for her duck and her fois gras vinaigrette gained acclaim for taste, but was not present enough in the final presentation of the dish to show its worth. Her lack of focus in the end sent her packing."

Poptimal with more about Chiarello + Voltaggio: "The good news is, Chiarello is less of a jerk this time around, probably due to editing because he’s not the star. Michael talks about his great respect for Chiarello, which isn’t surprising, personality-wise. I can imagine these two getting along really well."

Max the Girl on the coifs: "As first reported right here in this blog, tonight’s episode was all about hair. Kevin went to the barber and apparently asked for 'The Keebler.' Padma inexplicably decided to rock pregnancy bangs. Jen continued her grand tradition of 'I don’t give a shit' in a ponytail and 'I don’t give a shit' down on her shoulders. Gallant looked exactly the same, because steadfast consistency is one of his most Gallant-like qualities. And Goofus asked his stylist to make him look like a contestant on Chef Academy. Unfortunately, she misunderstood and made him look like a contestant on Tool Academy."

Limecrete on manufactured sibling rivalry: "A hideous Frankenbyte makes Bryan sound angry about Michael beating him to the small prep space, but it's so obviously cobbled together from different quotes, Bryan may as well have been talking about standing in line at the DMV."

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