Marcel Vigneron

Marcel Vigneron has been in these chefs' shoes before ... in more ways than one.

on Sep 10, 2009

As a former contestant of Top Chef, a former resident of Las Vegas, and a former cook of Joel Robuchon, you could say that I’m a little bit of an expert on these topics. Blogging, I must admit, is something I’m relatively new at.

As soon as I saw Daniel Boulud in his Brasserie at The Wynn, I can’t say that I didn’t see that escargot Quickfire coming. Regardless, in this “High Stakes” situation it doesn’t matter what you anticipate but rather what you execute once the challenge has begun. Which is why it’s logical and comfortable to cook from the heart and return to your roots in these circumstances.  Escargot with grapes, garlic, parsley, white wine, butter and sea salt … Anyone? Therefore, I was glad to see Mike Isabella cook with a little bit of his heritage, using Ouzo and creating a dish inspired by the little Greek island of Crete.

Cooking at Joel Robuchon in The Mansion of the MGM Grand during this is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, especially considering they where cooking for the Chef of the Century himself (AKA The Unicorn), not to mention all of the other highly revered French chefs that were present during this Elimination Challenge. I remember the first time I donned my whites and entered that brand new kitchen, with my knives sharper than the devil himself, and my nerves more shaken than a fresh Polaroid. The jet-black Molteni induction island with gold trim gleaming, the aura of excellence and elegance exuding from the beaming black and white tiles on the walls, I remember it like it was yesterday. That was the kitchen I was working in before and after my tenure on TC, so forgive me if I get a little nostalgic with my description.  

Two teams seemed to overcome the pressure and truly rise to this momentous classical French cooking occasion, both of which coincidentally included a Voltaggio. These two brothers are obviously a force to be reckoned with, and I predict they will be the chefs to beat this season! They both have skills deeply rooted in classical cooking but have the capability of transforming dishes into modernly refined masterpieces. Mr. Robuchon himself said “J'aime beaucoup” when referring to the hunted rabbit dish that Jen and Michael created together, which in itself bodes very well for that team, considering I have personally seen Mr. Robuchon abrade and belittle the most confident of chefs for their inability to create perfection.

In regards to my predictions for this particular episode, I’m going to place my bet on Volt and Isabella as the winners! I assume they are going to take this pot for their ability to respectfully recreate a classic combination using their wit, personality, and modern technique. They were able to express themselves as chefs by not only playing homage to a classic, but by reinventing both the trout and béarnaise preparations with their own style, which is a sign of a great chef.

As far as who packs their knives and goes, I think there are several options. The arrogant Frenchmen, who thought “they created a challenge just for him” and who put bacon in a veloute, should be sent home merely based on principle. Not to mention I like the irony of seeing a French chef go home during a classical French challenge. The two other candidates I presume will be on the chopping block are Mr. Bloody “I didn’t have time to rest my meat” Fillet and Mr. “I threw my sauce in the air and hope it landed on a plate during one of the most important meals I’ll ever cook in my life” Au Poivre.