Trouble With Toast

Top Chef Las Vegas, episode 11 | November 12, 2009

Normally, I don’t just announce the eliminated cheftestant right off the bat.  However, Robin had it coming for SO long that I don’t feel bad about “spoiling” the episode.  I feel like now we won’t have to spend 15 minutes of every episode listening to her or someone else whine about whether she should or should not still be around.  Less talky, more cooky, that’s what I always say.

Anyway, on with the show…which I thought was a pretty good one, actually, and not just because of the end result.  The chefs head to a kitchen somewhere in the belly of the Venetian (my favorite Vegas hotel), where they receive a call from a bathrobed Padma.  She and Nigella Lawson (also bathrobed, and looking absolutely stunning) are chillin’ in their suite and want some room-service breakfast.  There is chaos in the kitchen, of course, because it is small and cramped and these chefs aren’t so good at sharing.  Robin goes first, and she serves goat cheese blintzes with grilled pineapple and berries.  Eli’s “reuben benedict” is next, and it gets props from Nigella for being great hangover food.  Mike does something he calls “huevos cubana” (don’t even get me started on the atrocious spanish subject-verb disagreement), and it seems to go over well.  Kevin serves steak and eggs, with some creme fraiche and aged cheddar, and it looks absolutely delicious.  Jen inexplicably decides to serve “shit on a shingle,” otherwise known as creamed chipped beef.  By either name, it does not sound appetizing.  It doesn’t look particularly appetizing, either, but it doesn’t cause any gagging.  Bryan presents an egg with corn polenta, crab, and asparagus, which would have been delicious but for its strange vanilla butter sauce.

Nigella announces that her least favorites were Robin and Bryan, and that her favorites were Kevin and Eli.  Go Team ATL!  Eli ends up winning, and for his troubles, his recipe will be the only one from the season to appear in the Top Chef Quickfire Cookbook.  Maybe he can get royalties and make enough money to move out of his mom’s basement!

Padma announces the elimination challenge, which requires the chefs to take inspiration from one of the casinos on the Strip in creating a dish for 175 party guests.  They draw knives to determine their casinos, and they are given some time to check things out and formulate their plans.  Mike goes to New York, New York, and he decides to do a fiery chicken wing in homage of the 9/11 firefighters.  Jen draws the Excaliber, so she takes in a show and a meal at the Tournament of Kings (think Medieval Times, multiplied by Vegas) and seems to enjoy drinking beer and eating with her hands.  However, she does not really have a clear vision for her dish.  Bryan is inspired by the shark exhibit at the Mandalay Bay, and he decides to design his dish around sustainable seafood.  Robin is immediately drawn to the Chihuly sculpture in the lobby of the Bellagio, and she decides to incorporate all of the beautiful color into a dessert.  Ruh-roh, Shaggy.  Kevin plays with dolphins at the Mirage and asserts his non-redneck-ness.  And poor Eli drew Circus Circus, which is the most craptastic casino of them all.  He says something about the aesthetic of the hotel, which makes me giggle, because there IS NONE.

There is a brief food flurry (they only had 3.5 hours to cook in the kitchen, and then one hour to get ready at the event site), and then the party begins.  Kevin makes a funny and says that he was going to put up a picture of his dish and then fill all of the bowls with sand (get it?  because it’s a mirage?).  Tee.  GO TEAM KEVIN!!!  The judges approach Jennifer’s table first, and she prepares her New York strip with beets, a red wine reduction, and truffles.  It sounds good, but it doesn’t look particularly refined (especially since the meat is tough, as is pointed out by Nigella and Tony).  Kevin is next, and he serves a lightly-cured salmon with a compressed veggie salad/slaw and a cucumber/tomato broth.  Everyone loves it.  Mike has turned basic chicken wings into a boneless chicken wing confit with a cold blue cheese disc.  The judges seem to enjoy the temperature contrast.  Brother Bryan also does well with his escabeche of halibut, despite initially turning the judges off with his description of a “parsley fluid gel.”  Robin’s panna cotta is too gelatinous and dense, and the spun sugar didn’t turn out well and couldn’t be served.  The curse of dessert lives on!  Eli’s caramel apple peanut soup seems to taste as bad as it sounds, though the judges appreciate his dedication to the challenge and his willingness to go all out.

Not surprisingly, Kevin and the Brothers Voltaggio are the judges’ favorites.  In the end, Mike pulls out the win and manages NOT to club Toby with his huge bottle of Terlato wine when he calls his food “effeminate.”  WTF?

The bottom three sullenly slink to the judges’ table and prepare for the verbal beating.  Robin seems to know her time is up, and admits to trying to “cook up” to the level of the other contestants.  Jen confesses to not having a solid concept for her dish.  Eli defends his concept and his commitment to the challenge, but he is slapped down by the judges who confirm that the dish was circus-like in its disastrousness.  Despite the fact that Jen says she’s ready to go (in the stew room, not in front of the judges, THANK GOODNESS), Robin is told to pack her knives and go.  She’s pretty emotional about it, which I’m sure she will also be when she sees the party that the other chefs throw to celebrate her elimination.

I saw Thomas Keller in the preview bit, and I was all excited and happy, and then there was a clip of Mike saying, “The food that Kevin cooks is the food that I cook…on my day off.”  Seriously, dude?  Why are you such a tremendous cocksucker?  Even if I wasn’t a flag-waving member of Team Kevin, I would think that comment was douchetastic.  I mean, just because Kevin doesn’t cook effeminate chicken wings doesn’t mean that he’s a hack.  Grrrrrr…



  1. I was so… pissed at Mike’s comment on the preview!!! I want to kick him in the nuts!!!! What an ass!!!

    Comment by Mom — November 13, 2009 @ 9:38 pm

  2. I’m hoping Mike’s comment was taken out of context because REALLY??? Fine, make cracks about people who suck but Kevin is kicking your ass. I’ll be the first to admit my Team Kevin bias but his food is delicious, he is a nice guy, and his tattoos aren’t stupid. Go away Volt brothers!

    Comment by Amanda Romano Marshall — November 16, 2009 @ 7:04 pm

  3. I just remember thinking, “Oh, you mean you make delicious food that everyone likes on your day off? How awesome for you!” We’ll see what the context was soon enough…

    Comment by bettyjoan — November 17, 2009 @ 1:48 pm

  4. I’m as glad as anyone that Robin is gone, but I don’t know if it was a fair choice this episode. I’ve heard judges/contestants say that each elimination is judged by that one alone, not previous performance. So the fact that Nigella said she wanted to spit Eli’s “clown vomit” out makes me think his dish was even worse than Robin’s.

    Comment by Jessica — November 18, 2009 @ 7:49 pm

  5. Jessica, I was thinking the same thing–I mean, they didn’t like Robin’s dish, but they didn’t want to forcibly eject it from their mouths like they did Eli’s “soup.” I think her downfall was that panna cotta is a pretty simple dish to make (allegedly), and she couldn’t even get the basics right. She also admitted that she continuously overshot things, in order to “cook up” to the level of the other competitors.

    Comment by bettyjoan — November 20, 2009 @ 2:19 pm

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