Top Chef S06E10: Welcome To Sin-Slash-Vegetables City

Robin would like everyone to know that she is really happy how Restaurant Wars worked out last week. Uh, no-doy, Robin. You rode the chef’s-coattails of your much more talented teammates to one more week of precious, despised safety. It’s important to point out, too, that although your dessert went over well, the thing people actually said is “this is the best thing Robin has made so far.” Which is like describing a date rape as “the least sleazy thing Joe Francis has ever done.” What scale of measurement is that? It is no scale of measurement at all. So relax, Robin. I mean, it would also be weird if Robin was like “I know that I’ve got a limited amount of time left on the show because of my lack of talent, and that there’s a very real chance that the only reason I’m still here is because I’m the closest thing this season has to a villain so the producers are doing their best to manipulate the situation such that I continue to provide the dramatic tension that this season has been missing.” But at least if she said that it would be more honest. Equally “no-doy,” but more honest.

One of the guest judges this week is famed chef, Paul Bartolotta. He is known as one of the premiere Italian chefs in the country, which is why this week’s Quickfire is a TV dinners challenge sponsored by TV Guide Magazine? Wait, whoops, huh? Did Paul Bartolotta owe Frankie Pumpkin Seeds a favor or something? “You are one of this country’s most celebrated culinary talents. So we are going to make you sit in an uncomfortable position and feed you garbage food based on the Simpsons.”


The chefs are each assigned (by Professor Knife) a show to inspire their TV dinners. There is Seinfeld, the Sopranos, Sesame Street, MASH, Gilligan’s Island, the Flinstones, and Cheers. How pedestrian! If I was the editor-in-chief of TV Guide magazine I would kill myself have suggested very different shows. My shows would have been The Wire, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Family Matters, The Office (UK), Friday Night Lights, Hoarders, and Ken Burns’s Jazz.

Anyway, because this is the TV Guide magazine QuickFire, Padma and Paul Bartolotta have to sit on a stupid couch in the middle of the kitchen next to a prop TV from the 1950s and eat their TV dinners off of TV dinner trays, hunched over like criminals.

“You really captured the taste of PRISON.”

One of the problems for the chefs with this challenge is that none of them have ever seen a television before? Robin is like “my mom raised me on health food so I never watched Sesame Street.” It is getting painful how much worse Robin looks every time she says anything. Although, she only says that in interviews. She at least has the competency to not admit this to the judges. Mike, on the other hand, boldly walks up and is like “I’ve never seen Seinfeld.” Really, Mike? Not that I know what a Seinfeld themed TV dinner would consist of. A bowl of cereal that someone close-talked into? Speaking of not knowing what a particular-themed TV dinner might consist of, I have no idea how Jennifer’s chicken roulade with garlic cream, pea salad, and carmelized peaches relates to the Flinstones? Shouldn’t it have been a pile of rocks served on a bed of raw pterodactyl?

So Jennifer and Robin are “up for cancellation” (good one, Padma), while Kevin and Bryan V. are “up for syndication” (even better one, Padma). Kevin wins, again. He should change his name to Winner! He wins a lot is what I mean. The prize is having his frozen TV dinner included in the nightmarishly-awful sounding line of Top Chef frozen dinners from Schwan’s Home Service, whatever that is? I think their motto is “now you can eat like you’re in a nursing home cafeteria without ever leaving your sickbed.”

For this week’s Elimination Challenge, the chefs are told that they will be taking over Tom Collichio’s Craftsteak restaurant at the MGM Grand. That’s it? They just have to cook a delicious steak dinner at a steak restaurant? I’m sure that’s all that they have to do this week. This show, like all reality shows, is built on a foundation of predictability and simplicity. No. As soon as they get to the restaurant and Jennifer has already butchered 30 lobsters, Tom introduces this week’s special guest judge, Natalie Portman.

What, was Zooey Deschanel unavailable?

Natalie explains that she is a total “foodie,” she just has one restriction: she’s a vegetarian. How much of a “foodie” can she really be then? I’m not saying it’s cool to be a foodie, it’s fine for Natalie Portman to not be a foodie, no one should be a foodie, but I’m pretty sure you have to eat meat, and lots of it, to be a foodie. “I would like the seared foie gras on a bed of oxtail foam, but hold the foie gras, and hold the oxtail foam, and make me a grilled cheese sandwich.” Also, Tom needs to relax with the smiles.

We get it, Tom, you have a boner. You, too, Mike.

The chefs scramble to reconfigure their dishes. Some of them have an easier time of it than others. Kevin, for example, looks like a Tofurkey caught in the head of lettucelights!

Anyway, blah blah blah, cooking cooking cooking. Mike can’t get his leeks cooked right. Robin has never seen any of the ingredients she’s using before but she thinks they’re neat, so even though her forte is healthy, vegetarian cooking, she’s just going to make it all up as she goes along, one of the finest strategies. The best part of the whole behind-the-scenes cooking segment of the show, and perhaps one of the best parts of the whole season, is when Mike V. runs around the kitchen going “where are my chopped hazelnuts? Where are my chopped hazelnuts? I need my chopped hazelnuts!” His voice is so high-pitched and panicked. (For those of you who just got super nervous, he does eventually find his chopped hazelnuts. PHEW!)

Oh, and you know that interstitial 45-second clip they throw in every episode? This week’s was all about how Kevin is fat. I guess it was a service for any blind people watching the show. “Is he also fat in the face? Please describe his face since I cannot ‘see’ it in the traditional way by using my fingers.” His face is fat, too, yes.

Robin’s garbage plate is the first up, and Natalie Portman really likes it. A lot. You can feel the flop-sweat on the producers’ brows. Walkie-talkies started squawking and they had to shut-down production for half an hour to prep Natalie on why Robin is the worst. Because by judges’ table, Robin is on the bottom, and Natalie has joined in the chorus of criticisms. But during the dinner she wanted to marry Robin’s dish. And when Tom suggested that maybe it was actually terrible, Natalie was like “I will end you.”

But at least she chews normal, like a normal person, making normal chewing faces.

Padma thinks that Bryan’s garlic blossoms taste like a “prick on her tongue.” The table goes crazy. Later she explains that the prick got bigger in her mouth. Perfect. Let’s file Padma in the TWSS Archives under “MARRIAGE.”

So, Kevin, Mike V., and Eli are in the top 3, but Kevin wins. Ouch. It’s almost hard to watch at this point. It’s like watching the Trail of Tears, if, you know, the Trail of Tears was a mildly enjoyable bubblegum reality show about chubby people loving snacks. The point is this is a massacre. Kevin wins a set of GE appliances, which he will probably trade on Craigslist for one of these. And then he will write a book about it called One Red Hot Dog Grill And Bun Warmer: How I Traded A Set Of GE Appliances For A Hot Dog Grill And Bun Warmer.

Mike V. is mad that Kevin won with a dish that he could have cooked in 20 minutes after his first year of apprenticeship. Well, then maybe you should have! It would have been easier, and YOU would have won. Also, what does it mean for a dish to have “humor” in it? Does that just mean you should put a banana where a banana doesn’t belong?

Robin, Mike, and Jennifer are all on the bottom. I really think Jennifer could go home at this point. She’s Blaise-ing out, Richard Blaise style. You can actually see her mind shattering under the pressure.

Also what is THIS all about?

Anyway, Robin should go home, obviously, but then at whom would we focus our simmering pot of pointless and unnecessary anger? Eli, probably. Definitely Eli. But Robin isn’t going anywhere, Mike is. Home is my guess, but I suppose that is up to him. One thing is for sure, though, he can’t stay here.