Top Chef: Pricking On

NUP_135067_0588After seeing this week’s episode of Top Chef I am left feeling a little uncertain if I agreed with the departure of Mike Isabella. At the beginning of this season I was rooting for him as a local DC chef but then I changed allegiances to Jen because she was tough and seemed to hold her own. But now she’s cracking under the pressure and I’m left with no one to really root for.

This is a first for me because there was always someone worth it that would motivate me to keep watching week after week. While it feels pretty safe to assume that the Voltaggio brothers will make the top three, their personality and their cooking just hasn’t won me over. Who will fill the third spot more than likely seems to be Kevin now unless Jen manages to pull something miraculous that will blow away the judges’ minds in the next two episodes.

It seemed like a majority of the chefs tonight were much more creative in the quickfire challenge than the elimination challenge. When there were zoom in shots of the food, I got really hungry and had to go raid my fridge. Tonight’s quickfire had the chefs draw knives where they were assigned a particular TV show. Then they would use the show as inspiration to come up with their version of a TV dinner.

Kevin won that round with his inspiration being The Sopranos with his meatballs with polenta, roasted Cauliflower, and roasted pear. In second place came Bryan whose apple tarte tatin looked absolutely delicious on my television screen that I had to get up and rummage through my fridge for something sweet to eat (alas all I had was Greek yogurt!).

For the elimination round, the contestants are told that they will be taking over judge Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak restaurant. Everyone then starts figuring out what meat dishes they are going to be making and when they get to the kitchen, they are drooling over the amount of quality product that is at their disposal. But then comes the big twist, their guest judge turns out to be Natalie Portman.

Anyone who pays attention to Natalie Portman knows that she is vegetarian. I was surprised that they would have this type of challenge again because a vegan one was already done in Top Chef Masters with actress Zooey Deschanel. I actually liked that episode much more because not only is cooking vegan more challenging, but Deschanel also had gluten and soy allergies to boot.NUP_135067_2175

The elimination round dishes were not spectacular. Kevin wins with his duo of mushrooms, smoked kale, candied garlic and turnip puree. I believe the reasoning behind this was due to the mushroom as good meat substitute while everyone else’s was a lot less hearty and substantial. Michael, who was also in the top three, was upset that his asparagus salad, Japanese tomato sashimi and banana polenta didn’t take the center stage, as the end all be all dish of the night. He remarks that he could have done the winning plate during the second year of his apprenticeship.

So Mike gets axed for his badly cooked fennel and Robin once again is safe despite being consistently at the bottom. He probably got kicked off for his arrogance more than anything, but hey maybe the Top Chef producers wanted to shake things up for ratings sake. Next episode though, it seems insane that Robin isn’t finally kicked of.

The highlight of the night was a funny little exchange between Natalie and Padma while eating Bryan’s food that goes something like this:

Padma: There’s like a little prick on the tip of my tongue!

Natalie: Oh don’t say that! That’s awesome!

Oh ladies, tsk tsk.

Want to see the exchange for yourself? Here’s the video.

For another take on this episode, check out Whatever, Whatever by Jaimie Campos.

Season 6, Episode 10: Meat Natalie (originally aired October 28, 2009)

For more on Top Chef, click here.

Wednesdays at 10/9C, Bravo

Photographs courtesy of  NBC Universal and Trae Patton

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