Trouble With Toast

Top Chef Las Vegas, Episode 6 | September 25, 2009

I really liked this episode.  Not because of who won the elimination challenge (more on that in a moment), not because there was a bull testicle joke at Padma’s expense, and definitely not because of the presence of Penn & Teller.  I liked this episode because it got us one step closer to the real deal, and because it really seemed to challenge even the seemingly unshakable (ahem, Jennifer).

The episode starts with everyone moping about how they miss Mattin.  They miss him so much that they raid his closet and steal all of his MILLIONS of kerchiefs.  They also miss him so much that they start bagging on Robin, claiming that she should have been eliminated instead.  Robin seems to know that everyone in the house has it out for her, but she doesn’t seem too concerned.  This clearly means that she will either win big or go home.  It all hinges on the…quickfire challenge!  Michelle Bernstein is the guest judge, and the challenge is for the chefs to create a “duo” dish that represents the angels and devils on their shoulders.  The top dishes are Mike V.’s salmon two ways (traditional vs. modern), Eli’s scallops two ways (healthy vs. buttery), and Robin’s salad and dessert (good vs. bad).  Robin emerges victorious and wins immunity.  There is much consternation amongst the chefs because Robin totally played the cancer card, which I can sort of understand because, hey, I’ve done that a time or two myself.  Do NOT judge me.  It’s one of the only GOOD things about having cancer.  Anywho, I don’t think it really matters, since Michelle Bernstein would definitely tell you if your food tasted like crap, regardless of your medical status.

Penn & Teller appear to introduce the elimination challenge in their own special, not even remotely entertaining way.  The task for the chefs is to deconstruct a classic dish (they draw knives to determine their selections).  There is the usual flurry of activity.  Bryan is tasked with deconstructing a reuben, yet he picks tuna for his protein; Mike V. is making his own brioche for his deconstructed Caesar salad; Mike I. doesn’t know how to make, let alone deconstruct, eggs Florentine; Eli busts out a beat-up pressure cooker, despite the fact that the TC kitchen is stocked with appliances; Jennifer freaks out and gets all Negative Nelly on us because she drew meat lasagna and doesn’t like deconstructing; and Robin talks to herself (much to Laurine’s dismay).  Tom C. actually does a walk-through (remember when he did that every episode?), and the biggest observation is that Jen is a hot mess.  When they go back to the house, everyone bitches some more about Robin.  Theme, anyone?  We know she’s not going home, so I’m kinda thinkin’ we should move on to some RELEVANT manufactured melodrama.

Dinnertime arrives, and the chefs are serving in pairs.  I am pissed that Toby Young is replacing Gail Simmons.  Mike and Mike go first, and the Voltaggio half of the equation gets praise for his deconstructed Caesar.  He was BORN for this challenge, and everyone kind of gets that.  Laurine and Bryan go next, with the former’s dish (deconstructed fish & chips) being slammed for being overcooked.  Next come Ash and Jen, with deconstructed shepherd’s pie and the aforementioned meat lasagna, respectively.  Ash’s dish does not go over well, largely because of unevenly cooked lamb and the lack of any mashed potato-esque element.  The lasagna gets good reviews.  Eli and Ron are next, and Eli’s riff on sweet and sour pork is where all of the ball jokes come in.  Tom likes the balls, though, so yay.  Ron…well, Ron didn’t really understand the whole “deconstruction” thing, and his paella was basically just plain ol’ paella.  Except it tasted bad, apparently, and Michelle Bernstein was irked about the lack of crunch in her rice.  Next are Ashley and Kevin, with deconstructed pot roast and chicken mole negro.  The pot roast is lauded as being the best-cooked piece of meat the judges have had all night, and the general consensus is that Ashley kicked ass.  Kevin also kicks some ass, with Penn saying that he doesn’t want to eat any other kind of mole after eating this.  I think it’s a testament to his talent that he was able to take something as complex as mole and break it down into clear, tasty components.  Well done.  Last but not least (well, that depends on who you ask) is Robin and her deconstructed clam chowder, and it doesn’t get any positive feedback.

The top four end up being Ashley, Kevin, Mike V., and Jennifer (despite her whining about her lasagna not coming anywhere close to her standards).  Michelle Bernstein announces that the winner is Kevin–YAY!!!  He scores a set of cookware and some serious dirty looks from Mike V.  The bottom three, not surprisingly, are Ash, Laurine, and Ron.  Toby takes great issue with Ash’s shepherd’s pie, despite Ash explaining that there WAS a parsnip puree that just wasn’t good enough to serve.  Laurine fesses up to the fact that the challenge made her very uncomfortable, as deconstructing food is not her bag, baby (hey, it wasn’t Jennifer’s bag either, as she told us about 100 times, but she still wound up in the winner’s circle).  Ron also admits that he’s never deconstructed anything, and his paella gets knocked for being simultaneously soggy and dry.

During the deliberations, Toby Young inexplicably chastises the other judges for trying to pronounce paella correctly.  Michelle Bernstein gets snippy and says she pronounces it correctly because she’s Latin.  Uh…Michelle Bernstein?  REALLY?  How silly of me to overlook your rich Latin heritage because of your totally white, Jewish name.  Just because you live in Miami does NOT make you Latin.  Annoying.  Anywho, Ron is sent home, and I have no idea what to expect for next week because my DVR failed me miserably.

What are your thoughts on this week’s challenges?



  1. I hate that Toby Young is back. Most cringe-worthy line was possibly Bernstein “I pronounce it like BAR-HEH-LO-NA” and the Latin declaration. Yes, I found that highly amusing as well. I speak Spanish to a decent extent. While I’m ethnically Chinese and look it, I must be Latin as well?

    I found the challenges odd. The Angels & Devils seemed to be one-off. It was interesting, but at the same time odd. Like while Robin’s food might have been very good or great, there’s nothing particularly creative about pairing a salad and a dessert. Sometimes, the sum of the parts is less than the parts themselves. Yet it was the winner. I would have chosen someone who used the same base components and did 2 very different dishes.

    The Deconstruction was even more odd if that were possible. Ron not getting it seemed to be impossible. I could think of a few ways I could deconstruct paellaI liked how Mike I did not know Eggs Florentine. It’s good that a challenge actually challenges a chef like how it frazzled Jen.

    Comment by Big Money Tony — September 25, 2009 @ 9:10 pm

  2. I hate Toby Young and wish he would go away permanantly…drown in “The Pond” on his way home? j/k. He is such a pompous ass! I will not miss Ron who thought that he was a shoe in to win every challenge, but was usually in the bottom. My DVR also prevented me from seeing the previews so I guess I’ll just have to wait! BTW I loved the Greys. Great story lines… Can’t wait till next week!!!

    Comment by Mom — September 26, 2009 @ 12:49 pm

  3. actually, turns out michelle bernstein has veritable latin heritage (first thing i did after she said that was to look up a biography). and i, for one, appreciate her attempt to rid the world of spanish-language butchering (especially from one who, as a food critic, should know better).

    Comment by jeanette — September 28, 2009 @ 2:05 am

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