You have to give Top Chef some credit. We are already seven episodes into the Las Vegas season and they are only just now introducing the slot machine? BRAVA. “We can’t just use a slot machine,” said one of the producers to one of the other producers, “the timing has to be just right.” Obviously, roulette will be reserved for when the chefs have been whittled down to the Top 4, and one assumes/hopes that Russian Roulette will be used to determine the ultimate winner. “In this gun are five snowpeas, and one armor-piercing bullet. You have 30 minutes to pull the trigger as many times as you can.” In any case, it is no use speculating about the future. All we can do is deal with the Quickfire Challenge that we have today. And that challenge involves a word-game slot machine. Each chef lines up three words and then has to create a dish using those words. “Grumpy, Armenian, Licorice,” for example, or “Sarcastic, Ecuadorian, Poison.”
After the chefs are done cooking, Padma asks guest judge Tyler Florence for his “bottoms.” That is what she said.
He was unimpressed with Robin’s Sassy/Middle Eastern/Popcorn dish was very Middle Eastern, since it was a curry succotash. He also didn’t like Eli’s Whiny/Latin American/Mushrooms dish because he killed the umami of the mushrooms with too much citrus. Umami! The world’s best Cocktail Party Talking Point. Finally, Jennifer is on the bottom for the first time with her scallop topped with salmon roe, mostly because the dish was supposed to be “adventurous,” and it is true that there is nothing particularly adventurous about just making a standard fancy restaurant dish. Aw, but she’s sick!
GET WELL SOON, JENNIFER!
Tyler Florence’s “tops” are Mike Isabella for his
hand signs Spunky/Asian/Sour Patch Kids.
Also topping Tyler Florence are Kevin and Michael V. But there can be only one! Three men enter, one man leaves with a $15,000 poker chip. That man is Kevin. Duh. As a friend pointed out, Kevin is the Richard Blaise of this season, except that Richard Blaise fell on his own liquid-nitrogen sword. Or maybe it was Bill Nye the Science Guy’s liquid nitrogen sword. The important thing is that Richard Blaise is dead. But Kevin is all about just making good food. Killing it, Kevin. Topping everyone and just riding them.
The chefs are told to go back to the house and just relax. But as soon as they get there they are not allowed to relax at all. Huh. Good trick? You got them! They spent five minutes thinking that they were going to get a momentary break from cooking ridiculous meals for people who hate them. So, the Elimination Challenge: the chefs are grouped into teams of two, and then a famous chef hands each team a bag of groceries. As Padma explains, they will be cooking a family-style dinner party for these guest judges BECAUSE OF THE ECONOMY. Top Chef is probably the most culturally relevant show on TV right now. Sometimes it tells America what America doesn’t want to hear, but you know that it’s right. People are having more elaborate gourmet dinner parties cooked by James Beard Award winning ambitious chefs on a lush outdoor veranda deck overlooking a gorgeous mountain sunset because of the economic crisis. HARSH TRUTH.
And then there is sort of the least interesting part of every episode, which is when the contestants actually cook. It’s like watching paint get kind of stressed out and argue with itself while it dries. Everyone seems to have some kind of mild technical error of some kind at some point, but everyone gets food on the plate and serves it. Mike Isabella is paired up with Robin, who he can’t stand, but even they finish their dish, and the judges seem to like it, so just in general the tension of this sequence is always manufactured and kind of toothless. The judges sit outside and drink wine and laugh and talk, economic crisis-style. They seem to like some things and not to like other things, as judges do. And then it is time for the Judges Table.
Team Kevin and Jennifer and Team Bryan V. and That Girl Who Somehow Hasn’t Been Eliminated Yet are in the top two/four. Everyone loved their beef in tomato chutney gravy, and their halibut w/ corn cake. But ultimately it is Team Kevin and Jennifer that wins, and Team Jennifer and Jennifer who wins wins. She gets a $10,000 gift card to Macy’s? Um, I’m happy for her, and I’mma let her finish, but THEY SHOULD NOT MAKE $10,000 GIFT CARDS. That is a ridiculous amount of gift card.
Now Team Eli and Ashley and Team Michael V. and Ash are in front of the judges for the bottom two/four. No one liked their gnocchi with prawns or their pancetta wrapped halibut with poached egg. Ash tries to defend Michael V. by explaining that all of his ideas are genius ideas, and that cooking with him is like washing Picasso’s paintbrushes? YIKES. Just fuck him already! ENOUGH TALK! The judges are like “so you are basically saying that he is a better chef than you and that you should just go home,” and Ash gives a hilarious backtrack, which includes explaining (basically) that if he’s learned one thing from this competition it’s that even Picasso can undercook a paintbrush.
Meanwhile, back in the Stew Room, Kevin is trying to talk trash about the bottom contestants’ dishes, but Bryan V. is like “I don’t want to talk about it. Blood is thicker than gossip.” You have to protect your house. Everyone comes back to await deliberation, and Michael V. thanks Ash in a very Christopher Moltisanti way for saying nice things about him. Like, he has his arms folded and he’s speaking in a hushed whisper, and he knows that Ash didn’t need to tell the cops that the cigarettes just fell off a truck, but he did, and Michael V. won’t soon forget this favor.
Eli looks pretty nervous too.
But in the end it is Ashley that goes home.
Which is too bad. There were definitely some chefs who could have gone home before her (Ash, Robin, That One Girl Whoever She Is), but ultimately, I mean, Ashley was not going to beat Kevin Blaise or Jennifer Oversized Macy’s Giftcard, so, you know, I guess it just WASN’T IN THE CARDS.