Trouble With Toast

Top Chef Las Vegas, Episode 3 | September 9, 2009

It really says something about this season that I was perfectly satisfied to wait until SUNDAY to watch the third episode.  I mean, yeah, I was getting married and had lots of wedding-related activities going on, but during previous seasons, I would CUT someone if they kept me from watching.  Maybe conditions will improve once a few more people pack their knives and go.  Only time will tell.

Okay, blah blah blah, pre-competition chatting, nobody cares.  The quickfire involves a bazillion varieties of potatoes and guest judge Mark Peel, who I think is adorable.  Again, there are far too many contestants to get into each and every dish, but Atlanta’s own Eli winds up in the bottom three for his too-sweet casserole.  He is joined by Ron’s bland whatever (really, I only understand a third of what comes out of his mouth, and that’s probably being generous) and Jesse’s cayenne-heavy soup.  I have mixed feelings about Jesse, as she seems to have some great and tasty concepts that get bungled in the execution.  There’s something warm and sincere about her, so I’d really like to see her knock one out of the park.

The stars of the quickfire are Ashley (gnocchi with mushrooms and homemade “quick” ricotta), Ash (who made an ice cream that didn’t set and was then called custard, which he and I thought was hilarious), and Jennifer (mussels in some sort of creamy potato-based sauce).  Jennifer takes the win, and Mike I. calls it “favoritism.”  Yes, Mike, you’re absolutely right.  The judges play favorites with those who make delicious and innovative food.  How DARE they???  Either he is the most gigantic asswipe to ever walk the Earth, or the folks at Bravo are taking some huge editing liberties.

The elimination challenge takes place at Nellis Air Force Base, where the chefs will be cooking for 300 airmen.  Many of the contestants have family in the military, and I would have been more emotional about the whole thing if I wasn’t so EFFING pissed about Ashley’s hypocrisy (again).  Sure, get all pissy and whiny about having to cater a bachelor party.  But NO PROBLEMO with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  My husband was in the Air Force, and I work directly with veterans, so I definitely support the troops–but seriously, if you’re going to go on national television and propose to speak for an enormous group of people, at least be consistent.  I just really dislike her, if you couldn’t tell.

The chefs pair up, and Jennifer (who has immunity) is dubbed the “executive chef.”  I prefer the title of “badass bitch of the kitchen,” which I mean absolutely as a compliment, but whatever.  I heart her and her kickassitude.  I also feel kind of bad for Ron and Jesse, who are the last two kids left after all the kickball teams have been chosen, but I guess that’s what happens when no one can understand you and/or you keep making amateur mistakes.  They arrive at the kitchen, and they are greeted with a bunch of canned food and NO pots and pans (instead, they have a bunch of big wok-like devices and enormous soup drum-looking things).  Good thing they have Jennifer at the helm–or, in the pilot’s seat, as this is an Air Force group.  She whips everyone into shape and makes sure that all of the teams have time to cook their dishes.

Then again, not every team needs to cook a lot.  Preeti and Laurine, for example, throw together a very pitiful looking pasta salad.  Other than that, I’m relatively impressed with what folks prepared, especially given the limitations of both ingredients and equipment.  Mike and Mike’s braised pork belly (which is plain old slab bacon), which is served with peanut sauce in a lettuce cup, gets rave reviews from just about everyone.  Kevin and Eli’s BBQ pork shoulder and potato salad is also a favorite, though it doesn’t look particularly sophisticated on the plate.  Those two pairs are sent to judges’ table first, and Mike V. emerges victorious.  Yay!  He and his bro are really rackin’ up the wins.  The best part of the episode, however, is when Mike I.’s eyes nearly bug out of his empty, brainless skull when Padma tells him that he’s coming back in the bottom three (with Preeti and Laurine).  You see, he committed the TC sin of making an extra dish.  Children, this is a COOKING COMPETITION.  If you are not required to prepare something, but you do it anyway, it better knock Tommy-poo’s socks off.  Mike I. even says something about not being gung-ho about serving his grody shrimp salad, and Padma jumps right back at him and tells him, more or less, “Duh, then you should have tossed it in the latrine, soldier.”  Sadly for viewers everywhere, though, Preeti is sent home instead of the sexist asshat.  Bummer.  Future cheftestants, take note: making pasta salad is a bigger no-no than being a dickwad and serving undercooked shrimp.

Next week…French food!  Perhaps that means the triumphant return of Mattin and his neckerchief.



  1. I was really annoyed with Mike in all of his douchetastic glory when he made that comment about favoritism – there is no amount of editing that makes that anything other than what it was. However, when he cooed like a spoiled child that getting on the transports “was cool, like we were going to war” I was over the moon angry. It’s one thing to pepper casual conversations with too many war references, to do so in immediate proximity to people who actually go to war is offensive and displays stupidity.

    Comment by restaurant refugee — September 9, 2009 @ 10:33 pm

  2. Did asshat Mike not learn from Ashley’s mistake in just an episode or so ago? Don’t cook an extra dish. The extra got her to the bad end of the judge’s table and it did him too. Next idiot who pulls that trick should be sent home immediately.

    I agree with Ashley’s non-comment, although I think it’s possible they edited it out. There is enough to hate about her, you don’t need to put her out as an activist. I wouldn’t have minded, but some people just watch for the competition and cooking.

    BTW – It’s OK that you were delayed a few days. I’m not sure if I would have judged or applauded you if you watched it a couple of days before your wedding.

    Comment by Big Money Tony — September 10, 2009 @ 4:05 am

  3. I can’t believe you aren’t finding this season interesting! I think it’s vastly better than last season.

    All through last season I was thinking “I can cook the pants off nearly everyone on this.” This season I am humbled by the skills displayed. There are several contestants whose food is compelling and are also interesting people (the brothers V, Jenn, Hector, even Mike I. is good TV). Maybe I care about the actual food than most people, but the level of cooking this season is way better than in past seasons.

    I find myself using the 8-second rewind constantly just to digest the cooks’ descriptions of their dishes. They’re often so interesting that I find myself pausing just to take it all in, contemplate the flavor combinations, etc. And that’s the case with at least five or six of the chefs this season. Probably the ONLY chef in ANY past season that was that interesting was Blaise.

    Comment by Barzelay — September 10, 2009 @ 6:27 am

  4. RR: I had the same thought. I guess that’s why this season hasn’t made the same positive impression on me as previous. They’re all about the gratuitous heartstring-pulling and the contrived drama, and NOT about some of the incredible things happening with the food.

    Tony: It’s amazing how these folks DO NOT learn from previous seasons or even previous mistakes from their OWN season. I mean, I’m not the brightest crayon in the box, and even I’ve figured out that volunteering an extra dish or an unecessary dessert are both cardinal sins in TC-world.

    Barzelay: See above comment. There is CLEARLY a lot of talent this season, but they don’t seem to be focusing on it. If more of each episode were spent on seeing the food being prepared (or even, as you mentioned, describing the food once it’s finished), I think I’d be more into it. Like I said, maybe things will change after a few more duds are weeded out.

    Comment by bettyjoan — September 10, 2009 @ 3:38 pm

  5. Maybe in this season it’s just more obvious who the rockstars are, which makes it all the more painful to have to wait out the elimination of the others.

    Comment by Barzelay — September 10, 2009 @ 6:05 pm

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