Team Top Chef

... It's not healthy to be this obsessed with 'Top Chef.' Bravotv.com's Editor breaks down the remaining six competitors.

Nov 10, 20090

Well, my little SOSes (That's Shit(s) on a Shingle, for those who have forgotten), this episode was certainly prime for our male viewers and our ladies who love ladies, wasn't it? Seeing Padma and Nigella in bed I'm sure was a dream come true for some ... too bad it wasn't for some of our chefs. I've only stayed in Las Vegas twice, one of which I stayed at The Venetian, which is probably one of my favorite hotels on the strip. When I stayed there, we were upgraded, and given these amazing rooms in a tower, far, far away. After we saw what a shlep the room was from the casino, we opted to have regular rooms that were closer to the casino, so I'm not exactly sure where Padma and Nigella were, but I believe they were probably in that second tower. I'm not surprised keeping the chefs' food hot was a concern — it truly is a hike from the main tower.

Anyway, the chefs all create seemingly standard breakfasts, except for Ms. Jennifer, who opened Nigella to the American tradition of chipped beef. I've never had this, and for some reason it didn't look too appetizing to me, but I liked that Jennifer was so into it. I think it gave her food a little "soul," something our top competitors have been criticized for in prior seasons. Bryan's dish was criticized for his overuse of vanilla. Although I don't love steak and eggs for breakfast, I applauded Kevin's desire to use meat. I looove bacon and find more and more that I need a little meat in my breakfast. In the end, Eli's take on a Reuben really worked out for him. I'm something of a Reuben connoisseur, and if it's on a menu, I'm ordering it. One of my fave things to do is dip the fries that usually accompany the Reuben into the Russian dressing, which is delicious! In fact, when I was younger, they used to have a Reuben on the TGI Fridays menu and my mother would always order it. She would order an extra side of cranberry sauce, and dip her fries in that. It was delicious! But enough about my gross eating habits, after the Quickfire, the chefs are told to draw knives.

They each draw a different hotel on the strip, and told that they will have to create dishes inspired by the hotels. I'm actually surprised we waited this long in the season to feature the strip hotels, but thankfully with so few chefs left, we really get a feel of each hotel. My favorite hotels on the strip are probably the Venetian and the Bellagio, which have a nice mix of the cheesy and elegant. Now that there are only six chefs left, let's give each their due attention, shall we?

Let's start with the top: Bryan was inspired by the sustainability of the fish at Mandalay Bay. We got to see a bit more about this hotel's philosophies and such when Rick Moonen was guest judge during Restaurant Wars, but it was nice to see more of the aquarium, etc. And, no, Bryan didn't steal that plush doll for his son, although it kind of looked like it. Ha! I believe Nigella described Bryan's food as "quiet and elegant," while Toby said his was very "professional." I think both of these words encapsulate Bryan and his style of cooking very well. I'm going to venture to say his food was probably "hot" too (wink!)

Kevin was able to go to the Mirage and decided to make a fish dish. I probably would have opted to make white tiger ... hee hee. His dish was pretty straightforward, and once again, landed him on top.

Finally, Michael won with his take on the NYC chicken wing. When I think of wings, I think of Upstate New York, Buffalo specifically, and not necessarily the city and its fire fighters, but that's pretty much only based on the fact that I didn't start eating wings until I went to grad school in Syracuse. Even as an undergrad in Rochester, they never did it for me, but now I'm addicted. It's actually a pretty horrible addiction. But Michael was inspired by his destination, New York New York, and brought something iconic and elevated it to his standards. I would love to try that blue cheese disc sometime. Kudos to you, Michael.

38 comments
JoAn_L
JoAn_L

I love Jen! She's smart and gritty, but warm and funny. I want her to WIN, despite the popular opinion that one of the Volt brothers or Kevin will take it home.

foto
foto

From the first series I have wondered why the females are perhaps less successful overall than the males in the show. As a woman it has perplexed me increasingly with every series. I was very pleased when a woman won the series before last because there is no reason that I can see why women should not be walking away with the title as frequently as the men.

So, I have pondered this for some time and have come to the conclusion that women and men compete differently and respond to different challenges. I believe the challenges on Top Chef while varied are fundamentally one dimensional: a box defined by head to head, time based walls, into which feats usually requiring much more time are squeezed. It is Jennifer's performance over the span of the series so far that makes me think it is about different styles of competing. She comes across as an accomplished, inspired and gifted chef, yet began to exude a sense of "why am I bothering with this ridiculous" competition?", until this week, when she rebounded.

I would like to see the competition be more fairly structured to appeal to both male and female senses of competition. Perhaps you could run a survey to look at what men and women look for in a competition. What do they think really matters and what makes a truly rounded and imaginative framework for testing skill and creativity.

I must admit I am not sure what those things are myself but I am thinking about it....

Does any one else see my point or have anything to add?

Bekka
Bekka

First of all, I think it is a shame to sent anyone home until after the 3rd show. Allow the chefs to really show their skills. THEN, what was going on with keeping Robin on for soooooooo long. mercy. She must have been good for ratings, but not much else.

I am really rooting for Jennifer. Of course, the brothers or Kevin could also win. I think this season is the best one so far with the caliber of chefs (with a couple of exceptions.)

Nann
Nann

I love this show but am saddened by the remarks made and am taken aback by the way Robin has been treated by some of the men chefs. She has outlasted a lot of good chefs and no one deserves the attitudes and rude comments these chefs have given her. Kudos to her for hanging in there. Shame on the V brothers and Eli for dissing her, regardless that she can not control her tongue.

Carson Greene
Carson Greene

While watching the episode w/ Charlie Palmer I was truley offended when Lauren(?) said "CHRIST" and it wasn't bleeped out but Eli said "F**K" many times and it was!!! WHY!!!! Is it ok to take the LORDS name in vain????? I DON'T THINK SO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! VERY ANGRY!!!!!!!!!!!!GRRRRRR

Todd R
Todd R

I agree it was time for Robin to go home. Eli is next, and Jennifer is after him...the last 3 will be the Volt brothers and Kevin (hopefully he will "clean up his beard") While there are many comments on how "great" the Volt brothers are, I agree that they are chefs but they seem to be "caught up" in the "style over substance" thing that Tom mentioned on his blog a couple of weeks ago. I am also tired of their arrogance, rudeness and mean behaviors. Kevin has to this point acted a gentleman, been kind, and in my opinion also been really creative, and straightforward in his food and in his presentations. Of course I can't taste anything, I wish that I could...The Volt brothers are trying to create drama any way that they can do it...and they are rude...the world does not need any more rude people or people with attitudes.

DDT
DDT

I am looking forward to seeing The Voltaggio Bros and Kevin in the finals. Jennifer....if she can't handle this, she's not ready for a handling a kitchen and leading a staff on a daily basis.

I knew Robin would go sooner than later; she actually lasted longer than I expected. What was disappointing, however, is how badly the other chefs treated her. There is a reason for all of them being contestants; they all have talents and make great food. Even though she was not as educated and cooked "differently", I don't believe she deserved the negativity.

This by far is one of the best seasons of Top Chef with all of the chefs being so very, very talented. I do wish, however, there was more diversity and those who make super delicious simple food. Not all of us eat everything or even know what a lot of these ingredients are. It's all a little too pretentious at times. What's wrong with fried chicken, rice and gravy? Why not have a chinese food challenge? Why not have a soul food challenge? Why not have a hot soup challenge? That's what we're cooking at home, most of us ... especially in this economy. Show us how they would make the mundane fabulous with simple ingredients!!! Make 'em deconstruct hamburger helper ... HA HA!!!

A.
A.

I really hope Michael V. will win! He is a very good cook, vrey creative and not afraid to take risks!

Kevin is boring, not interesting.

Brian is also good, plays on the safe side though.

And Jennifer, although she seems promising in the beginning, now it seems she's done, time to go.

Telgar Brekke
Telgar Brekke

It's too bad, that it's not the best Chef that wins the competition, it's the one that can handle the lack of sleep and silly challenges the best that wins....

I am so routing for Jen!

My perfect final three is :Kevin, Brian, and Jen.

Why?

Because the best TV of all will be the histonics Mike will pull if he doesn't make it to the final three...I would buy ring side tickets to see that hauteur kicked to the curb.

Trew
Trew

Sorry, this is off topic but not sure where to post it. On an earlier season, the chefs had a competition where they had to work the grill during a rush in a busy diner. I'd like to see this competition become as regular a part of the show as restaurant wars. It shows each contestant's ability to organize, multi-task, and prepare basic food to order. Can you really be a Top Chef if you can't make it as a cook?

Deary Lane
Deary Lane

PULEEZE, get Jennifer Carroll out of the kitchen and into therapy. She moans and groans and is so un-interesting. How did she ever get hand-picked by Chef Ripert? What am I missing?

JosephSh
JosephSh

Watching the quickfires, I had two awesome fantasies competing for my attention - 1) being served breakfast in bed by these amazing chefs, and 2) waking up in a Vegas hotel room with Padma and/or Nigella.

TimC
TimC

In response to some of your inquires and comments in other blogs. I enjoy the human element of the show. Watching Jen fade is disappointing, but makes me realize what a grind this competition is. I hope she rebounds. Watching the chefs behavior towards Robin also seemed more pent up stress than actual reaction to her( though she did seem a little irratating. Everyone seems to be down on Mike V. For being arrogant, but I for one was very impressed that he gave $7,500 to his team mates after restaurant wars. I thought that was an amazing display of appreciation and generousity. I think his comments about Kevin are another example of frustration. No matter how much nitrogen, torches, antigriddles, etc. He employees, He can't seem to overcome Kevin's less flamboyant southern style cooking. It seems as if every loss to Kevin is a direct blow to his pride. Kevin is fun to watch . He really enjoys cooking and food. He seems to relish all the new experiences. He never has anything derogatory to say about anyone, and displays great intelligence,and enjoys hiding it behind his "domn home" southern demeanor. No wonder Mike is frustrated! So,don't change anything about the the show. This is the best season in a long line of great seasons. Best show on TV. How about doing next season in Orlando,Fl.? Top chef meets Disney? Gotta love that idea!!

V
V

Answering your question, I believe Jen is mentally ready to go home. Eli will definitely be the next one and the “grand finale” will be among Kevin and the handsome V brothers. PS: I miss Ashley so bad, she was always so enthusiastic about every new challenge. Ashley although I am straight, for your personality, simplicity, and humbleness, I am your biggest fan. V

V
V

Answering your question, I believe Jen is mentally ready to go home. Eli will definitely be the next one and the “grand finale” will be among Kevin and the handsome V brothers. PS: I miss Ashley so bad, she was always so enthusiastic about every new challenge. Ashley although I am straight, for your personality, simplicity, and humbleness, I am your biggest fan. Vivi

Jantina
Jantina

I guess Robin's time was finally up. I thought she should've gone home when she served the shrimp that had gone bad in the desert heat. I thought chefs could tell good food from bad just by sight and smell.

What has happened to Jennifer? Is she still ill but just not complaining?

Eli went into the elimination challenge with a negative attitude. In fact, his attitude has been poor for the last few episodes. My grandmother always said, unhappy cooks make unhappy food. If he doesn't perk up, he may be packing his knives next week.

MatthewAbel
MatthewAbel

It was time for Robin to go. I haven't seen the first few eps this season, but every single show seems to have Robin saying "I wasn't proud of my effort." WTF? I think she has a lot of passion, but needs to step back and focus on her capabilities and take smarter risks.

Thus far, it's looking like Kevin and the Volts in the final - if things pass as they passed last.

TCViewer
TCViewer

PeachPie thanks for correcting on Buffalo being in WNY not upstate NY. Being from Buffalo myself it really annoys me when people call Buffalo upstate. On to this challenge I wish Brian or Kevin had won, I felt like Michael was really reaching with the NYC connection to wings. JMO

Hollybea
Hollybea

Yeah, Jen.....does this meltdown have ANYTHING at all to do with Mike Isabella??? Something, perhaps, personal...relationship-ish?? What WAS that long goodbye when he was cut from the show? I could not help but notice the looks on the judges faces that night. Don't get me wrong I do not want to ever see a repeat of that aweful development between Hosea and Leanne last year. That has no place in a reality cooking contest and I appreciate not having all that weird drama this year. I was just wondering "on the side" so to speak about what has happened to Jen.

Sooz
Sooz

As a die-hard TC fan since the beginning, I am shocked to discover that I don't really want to see the remaining episodes of this season! I'm glad Robin is gone, but, for me, the top 5 are all winners and I dread seeing any of them go home. I'd really, really love to see the top 5 compete in all of the remaining challenges and just have one win at the end (pleeeez?).

For me, this truly has been the best season of TC by far. Never before have I thought I'd like to actually seek out a cheftestant's restaurant. I am definitely planning to do that with these 5.

Oh yeah, and I'll DEFINITELY watch the rest of the season - I know it'll be bittersweet no matter what happens, but I have to see. I wish I could tell all 5 that they have raised the bar for TC in the future.

Thank you for the best show on television!

LeighBee
LeighBee

I must confess that when Michael said he was going to be inspired by the NYC Firefighters, I instantly said, "He's going to do a take on chili." Firefighters are known for having excellent cooks, as they spend most of their day waiting for the alarm to go off, so they have learned how to cook healthy and satisfying meals (and how to cook meals that you can just turn the heat off on and leave).

Karen1952
Karen1952

My comment isn't about the show, it's about the web page. I cannot read the black wording on the dark blue back ground. I recently lost an eye to cancer so it could just be me.

TimC
TimC

The interesting question at this point is ,who will the chefs turn on, Now that Robin is gone? They collectively seemed to blame her for all the stress they faced. I also hope Jen gets it back together . She was cooking with such confidence earlier, sad to see her miss her chance now. Can't wait to see who goes next. Bet it's Eli

dc
dc

I would have liked to see Eli go home simply because the judges hated his dish and wouldn't eat it again yet they ate Robin's and he hated Robin.

Robin has not been annoying as some of the other chefs, also the things she is yelled at about the one brother has done several times, ie swearing at another chef, leaving things a mess, Robin even said she was told to come back and clean up and she was not in his way. He made it seem like she was. I hope Eli goes home next.

Capt. Photon
Capt. Photon

If you ever visit Colonial Williamsburg, make sure you have the Peanut Soup at the Tavern. The flavors explode on your tongue! When made well, it is an amazing dish. I suspect that either of the Voltaggio brothers could have taken Eli's concept and made it sing. I also think Kevin is correct that that dish probably requires a lot of trail and error before it is ready for the public. At this point, while I'd like to see Jennifer make it to the finals, the front runners are Kevin and the Voltaggio brothers.

Lisha
Lisha

I agree that it was Robiin's turn to pack her knives and go, but I'm not at all surprised that she made it as far as she did. Every season, except Season 5, there's ALWAYS at least one chef in that last five or six chefs that makes you wonder how they made it so far; Season 2 we have Mike, Season 3 Sara from Jamaica, Season 4 Spike and Lisa. I didn't see Season 1 and by Season 5, they managed to get the riff-raff out by the time they were halfway through the competition. This season, to me, is how it normally is, but the bottom line is, the best dish wins, the worse dish gets the chef eliminated. Robin just managed not to have the worst dish, although I thought they were all close to going home last night. I do think we have the creme of the crop now, so I hope Jen can get her groove back; it would be nice to see her in the finals with Kevin, and Bryan.

Debster
Debster

I think Jennifer simply doesn't find inspiration in some of the more ridiculous challenges, i.e. last night's expectation that various venues would be inspiring. The Robuchon challenge was superbly conceived and inspirational both to the participating chefs and the viewers, as was the pigs and pinot.

Also, it is ridiculous the way Bravo coops these people up together in a house with lots of alcohol and no media (books, mags, TV, radio). This show is at its best when it is about the cooking and when the conflict is about food not feelings.

Finally, since the show credits make it clear that the producers are involved in elimination decisions, it would be nice if your and/or Tom's blog specified exactly what role the producers play. Because it strains credulity to believe that Robin got as far as she did without their help.

BruceMpls
BruceMpls

I find it interesting how many contestants wanted Robin to leave because she "couldn't cook" but no one ever mentioned Mike I., one of her biggest critics. If you take their records on the show they are almost identical. Both won an individual Quickfire challenge and one team Quickfire challenge. Mike was in the winners bracket twice to Robin's once, and Mike was in the bottom bracket twice to Robin's three times. Also, don't forget that Mike managed to do what no one else had done before: he was placed in the bottom bracket even though his teammate won the challenge. I can't help think is was more a personality conflict than cooking skills.

As far as the finale, I would love to see Jennifer there and she just might. These shows like to edit in ways to throw us off.

mmc
mmc

I truly think Robins dish was better than Jens or Elis. Having said that I think it was only a matter of time. I hope Jen gets her act together as she seems totally exhausted.My favorite is Kevin with Bryan and Jen(if she gets herself on track) a very close second.Michael is good but too arrogent for me. He truly becomes his own worst enemy.This season is terriffic.Where is Gail and I love Toby.Good luck to all the chefs. To make it this far is an accomplishment in itself!

PeachPie
PeachPie

This is trivial, but I can't let it pass without saying something. Buffalo, NY is located in the very western part of NY. People who live in NY state loath that those who live in NYC call everything that's not in the city "upstate". Even Governor Patterson got called out for it.

That being said, I agree with you on all counts. Though when I thought of Eli's soup, I was thinking Thai peanut sauce so I could see it maybe tasting ok, but as it turned out, it wasn't.

What a great season!!! I'd love to see Kevin and the brothers go for it in the finale, but we all know it's anyone's game at this point.

BGirl
BGirl

Robin's time was beyond up. Although she seems like a pleasant person, she simply never displayed good cooking chops. Each time she ended up in the bottom 3, she conceded that she wasn't proud of what she put out and knew she could do better. For all those 2nd chances she received, it didn't happen. Her perpetual excuses were similar in tone to Ash. That said, Eli's disaster seemed far worse than Robin's bland p.c. All the judges found it disgusting. Regarding what happened to Jennifer: I really wonder why she went from cool, calm and collected, to insecure, uninspired and disorganized. What DID happen to her? She was on cruise control and suddenly stopped with a screeching halt...

The Reginald Dwight
The Reginald Dwight

Answering your question, I'm sure it will be either Eli or Jennifer packing their knives next week. I think Eli is an excellent chef but I feel strongly that the other four have more talent as well as more experience. I love Jennifer and would absolutely love to try her food someday. That said, she looks almost completely burned out now--very much like Leah did last season an episode or two before she finally got eliminated. Remember Leah saying,"I don't care..." after knowing she had messed up her dish during one of the later challenges, or not even attempting to finish fileting the fish during the quickfire challenge? Well, Jennifer seems to be just as burned out, if not moreso, at this point in the competition. She actually said,"I'm ready to go..." in the waiting room this episode. I'm rooting for Jennifer to make it to the final four because I honestly believe she is a better chef than Eli, but I think Eli wants it more and is in a better state of mind to succeed at this point. As for the others, I just can't see any way Bryan, Michael, or Kevin will falter to the point where one of them is sent home instead of Eli or Jennifer. I guess we'll see next week.

jonesco
jonesco

The "common knowledge" about medieval cooking to which you refer is a myth. Heavy spicing was used because it showed off the fabulous wealth of the feudal lord - there is no actual literature that suggests that meat was turning by the time it was cooked. It's a myth that takes particular resonance in this day and age, however, because we associate successful meat minimalism with high skill. We think that a simply salted and grilled steak tastes elegantly beefy and should not be messed with. A medieval diner would likely characterize that the same steak to be bland, and likely from the kitchen of someone not rich enough to show off. To a medieval diner, more is most definitely more.

I rather like peanut soup, and am surprised at how many people around teh interwebs have already jumped on Eli for the concept. I think the execution probably left a lot lacking, but I honestly don't think the idea of a peanut soup deserves as much revulsion as it seems to have inspired.

Finally - panna cotta. First we had Jay Raynor on Masters saying that it was supposed to wobble like a woman's breast. Now Nigella and a comparison to a 17th century courtesan's thigh. The hell?

Bonesette
Bonesette

"I don't think we've ever seen so intimately how this process takes its toll on the contestants until this season. Are you guys enjoying that or would you rather not know?"

I think it would help us understand why a chef who seemed promising didn't turn out a good dish. However, I wouldn't like to lose any of the actual cooking and judging to make room for it. On the other hand, if you want to cut the arguing and backstage melodrama, that would be great.

Jason L.
Jason L.

In your blog you ask if your viewers if we are enjoying the insight of watching the contestants getting worn down by the process. This is an interesting theme to develop. I'm very intrigued about Jennifer's future. I got on the blog hoping to read other viewer's opinions as to weather she can turn it around or not. It seems that the producers are creating a showdown between Michael V. and Kevin based upon soundbites from Michael. I can see Jennifer taking that 3rd place in the finals as the come-from-behind chef. It would be dramatic and make for good television. I hope she can refocus and continue making inspiring dishes.

Aud
Aud

I will miss Robin's enthusiasm for the challenges. Many of the other contestants are always so negative and act put out when asked to do something different.

Kenn
Kenn

Who will get the ax next? Were this based strictly on kitchen skill, I'd bet that Eli would be next. He's not a bad chef, he's just not the same caliber as Brothers V, Kevin, or Jennifer. However -- Jennifer, who has all the skills needed to win it all, has lost her competitive edge ,, her stamina; thus, she could be the next casualty. I would really like to see her in the finals, but unless she sucks it up and gets "second wind" she's not going to make it.

Michele B.
Michele B.

It was definitely Robin's turn to pack up, but, I have to applaud her for lasting as long as she did. She's an interesting person, so, the show may lack the same chemistry and tension without her, but, it was pretty hard to watch her claiming to reach for the stars, but, in reality, failing to grasp many basics. Still, she has nothing to be ashamed of. She had tons of courage to go up against these sophisticated chefs this season, and so better than most of the fallen.