Top Chef Las Vegas Recap

By Jason Lee

October 9, 2009

It will be less confusing without an Ash and an Ashley.

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Coming off a particularly un-dramatic finish to the last episode, when Ron was justifiably sent home for his failure to conceive of a deconstructed paella and to execute a good-tasting paella, there isn't too much drama going on in the Top Chef house this week. No Mattin-scarves being handed out, no trash-talking of Robin behind her back...just Ash, who spouts off some gibberish about wanting to prove that someone who didn't go to culinary school can make it on Top Chef. Yeah, you and 40 other chefs who have said the same thing on this show.

Incidentally, it'd be interesting to know how many previous Top Chef winners have lacked culinary school training. I remember Kacie making a big deal about not having culinary school training in the Season 3 finale (which she lost) but I can't remember anyone else offhand that didn't go to culinary school and ended up winning Top Chef. Any readers out there have an idea what this statistic might be?

Anyway, Jennifer is not feeling well. She looks wan and tired...and I'm immediately getting nervous. Her brusque, callous manner of going about her cooking has totally won me over, and I'll be rooting for her to the end. Thus, I find myself extremely worried when Ashley comments that, "If I were as sick as [Jennifer], I wouldn't want to cook food."

We head into the Top Chef kitchen and we see Padma, dressed in an emerald green dress that makes me wonder if she mistook Columbus Day for St. Patrick's Day, standing with the Food Network TV star, Tyler Florence. I know that Bravo is trying to mix things up with their guest judges, not always having a super high-level, esteemed chef in the kitchen all the time, but Tyler Florence? C'mon. You go from Michele Bernstein to Tyler Florence?


Apparently he's here as a representative of Macy's Culinary Council in one of Bravo's more blatant examples of their "Let's insert a corporate sponsor into our show!" mentality. The Quickfire Challenge, however, is very well conceived.

In the spirit of, some online resource for home chefs that I've never heard of, the cheftestants will pull the lever on a slot machine, which will spit out three keywords that they'll have to integrate into their dish. They each get one mood word (like stressed, adventurous and romantic), one flavor word (like spicy, tart and umami, a Japanese sour flavor) and one cuisine (like Asian, Latin American or American).

A couple of chefs seem to be struggling. Pompous Mike has no experience with cooking asian, Eli wants to use shitake mushrooms for his umami flavor but finds that everyone else with umami is going the same route, and Ashley has little experience with cooking Middle Eastern food but is giving it a go.

Meanwhile, Jennifer is trying to push through her illness, saying that she believes that a chef should keep her mood out of her cooking. Wow, I know a lot of past cheftestants, like Dale from Season 3 and Carla from Season 5, that would totally disagree with that sentiment.

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