Team Top Chef

Bravotv.com's Editor was pretty unimpressed with the chefs this week.

Oct 28, 20090

Hello my little vegetarian options! I know that you guys love our vegetarian challenges because it's probably the most commonly-requested challenge on our Web site, but I hate it for the simple fact that whenever we do one, I can't get Crash Test Dummy's "Mary Moon" out of my head (She's a vegetarian ... Mary Moon, Mary Moon.) We'll get to the lovely Ms. Natalie Portman in a moment though. First, the Quickfire: I was excited for this challenge because, well, I love T.V. (not just Bravo programming.) I wasn't surprised to see how little the chefs, especially "I don't know what Eggs Florentine' Mike Isabella, knew about the shows they drew. I can tell you from years of having our cheftestants fill out surveys and doing countless Q+As that chefs watch a very small amount of T.V. Our "prime time" is their work time. None of the dishes looked like complete disasters, but it seemed that Padma and Chef Paul Barolatta liked Kevin's meatballs the best. When Kevin told the story of how his grandmother gets Schwan's delivered to her home, it struck me how Kevin literally has a personal connection to EVERYTHING. Remember how well he knew the vineyard from which his Pigs and Pinot wine derived? Anyway, he seemed pretty psyched that his dish will be avaialble in frozen form. I will let you guys know more about its availability when I do.

Also, on a sidenote, I want to let "Virginia from NY" know that I'm not ignoring you! You are correct — we dont' have all of the Top Chef recipes that we once did on the site. We have changed our Recipe Finder to include a good majority, enhanced with other non-Top Chef chefs' dishes. I would suggest either buying the Top Chef Cookbook, or bugging your favorite Bravotv.com editor (that's me!) with any names of dishes you're dying for and I'll see what I can do.

OK — onto the Elimination Challenge. All of the chefs head to Tom's restaurant, Craftsteak at the MGM Grand. I'm never had the pleasure of dining at Craftsteak in Las Vegas, but the one in Manhattan is AMAZING. I highly recommend getting the rib-eye with the grits. Not sure if it's still on the menu, but the white chocolate rhubarb sundae is a wonderful way to finish off your meal. You'll be stuffed, but force yourself! Back in Las Vegas, the chefs obviously think they're going to be cooking with meat, but in walks Natalie Portman. The only connection I have to her is that someone I went to college with supposedly had the locker next to hers in high school (Syosset, Long Island,), so basically i have no connection to her. I have to say that she was maybe one of the funniest guests we've ever had. The chefs get very worried when they find out that they have to cook vegetarian dishes. I was really surprised at how much trouble the chefs had creating filling dishes. Even if Kevin's did taste the best, I cannot even imagine someone ordering a plate of kale for dinner. In my mind, these were all side dishes, not just Jennifer's. Even though Michael Voltaggio's was my favorite conceptually, polenta is a side. Where were the corn fritters? The tempura?  The vegetarian tacos? I'm not saying you have to fry vegetables to make them filling, but sometimes it helps.

35 comments
Jose António Olim
Jose António Olim

I would like to know how to participate in your program or how to make a better entry to see if I'm not not selected, I live in Portugal, and I'm chef executive of the kitchen, if necessary send you my CV. taste of your program and would like to participate as I said, this is possible? thank you for your attention and now wish and holy and Merry Christmas. Jose Antonio Olim Chef executive kitchen

mdegraffen
mdegraffen

Robin may not be the best, but at least she is better than some of the "more talented" chefs for the specific timeframes of the challenges. Although Mike I. struck me as an arrogant jerk from the first episode, he is obviously an excellent chef. It all comes down to who has a good or bad day, regardless of culinary school, reputation, or experience.

D
D

The highlight of the episode for me was the judges' comments. The whole "prick" & sizes ;) banter and reactions were hilarious. There should be more clips of judges' food related banter and reactions shown on the show (instead of the pointless "conflict(s)" in the house). Afterall, audiences depend on the judges to taste and smell the dishes. If you could pass this suggestion to the Magical Elves, that would be appreaciated.

Also, where is the rice ? I could prepare a delicious veggie fried rice in under 2 hours and I am not even a chef.

MatthewAbel
MatthewAbel

A week late, I may be, but I was very surprised by the lack of creativity last week. I found myself thinking I could have won this challenge - which is pretty much not my thoughts every week. Usually I'm thinking "Man, I wish I could cook like that." But veggie cooking basics? Just some fancy beans and rice could have beat half these dishes.

If you're cooking at a steak house, you could throw down some mushroom caps - a bit trite, yes, but still meaty in texture. No Risotto? The chefs even had ample time to make their own veggie stock. Some nice asparagus risotto with a grilled mushroom cap. Or ignore the "steakhouse" feel and rip up some stir fry - or pasta of some sort. You'd be rushed for time, but you could nail some ravioli. Grilled Romaine, Braised leeks (you fool, Michael!) and the like.

Where's the protein is a question vegetarians ask - as in, what is giving me the protein I need to keep this diet healthy?

David P
David P

Let me chime in with LISN. I'm not interested in watching "The real housewives of Top Chef." The cat-fights and snarky personalities make for must-miss-TV, and I've almost canceled Bravo due to the utter lack of interesting programming outside of Top Chef.

In the words of so many before me ...

I'm just here for the food.

LISN
LISN

It's disappointing to miss a new episode of Top Chef because the powers-that-be think it's time to watch past cooks have a "reunion" dinner. Why is the season being interrupted again? I'm steamed to be force fed a rehash of the disgruntled losers mixing it up with the lucky winners. Who cares what their beef is? Not me!!

gcg
gcg

Have any of you fellow veggies used quinoa? It is a great protein.

uncle foo
uncle foo

I looked up the recipe for sweet potato soup with ginger and cayenne...there was no ginger in the recipe, of course we can guess but there may be a few vegitarians out there who can't. So it's fresh ginger grated to taste, right? Can you get the recipe updated?

Thanks, K

Aice
Aice

I'm a little tired about hearing how bad Robin is.....no, she hasn't been the most terrific chef but at the same time, if she was all that bad, how did she get on the show at all? Was everyone else she beat out mere burger flippers? I have my favorite Chefs picked out and Robin isn't one of them but still......lighten up people......

G7
G7

I'm still waiting for an episode where food allergies are the focus. Dairy allergies, allergies to casein and milk proteins, gluten sensitivities and true celiacs...it is virtually impossible for these people to go to a restaurant with family and friends without excruciating exchanges with the wait staff, hoping nothing is lost in the translation and the chef is up to the challenge of producing something with flavor and nice textures.

Jake Coughlin
Jake Coughlin

Robin is not my favorite cheftestant, but I was really impressed by her excitement toward the produce! That refrigerator looked like a farmer's market, but how many chefs went straight for the eggplant?

Ethnic
Ethnic

Can we please add more ethnic cuisine challenges? If Top Chef can devote a whole episode to French cuisine, why not have them do Chinese, the other major cuisine? Who cares if they don't know how to cook it, many contestants weren't trained in French classical cooking either.

I think it'd show how Euro/American centric Top Chef is when most of the contestants fail miserably. But you could at least give them the flavor profiles and major ingredients. For example, for Korean food, you allow them to use soy sauce, garlic, red pepper paste, sesame oil.

Jantina
Jantina

I was surprised none of the cheftestants made pasta. Where's Ashley and her gnocchi when you need her? She could have knocked this one out of the ballpark.

Vegan in Vegas
Vegan in Vegas

Once again, a pathetic attempt to cook veg*. If I see one more "chef" with a plate of just veggies, I think I might get arrested!

Before these veg* episodes, I suggest bringing in a veg chef to give these people pointers.

For Las Vegas, there are several formally trained chefs that could have been used as a consultant such as Aneesha from Red Velvet Cafe, Chef Rod from Raw Food Cafe or any of the other places listed on http://www.happycow.net/north_america/usa/nevada/las_vegas/

If only Bravo would do a series on VEG* cooking, not just a bit here and a bit there on a couple of episodes. I certainly cook a lot more interesting veg dishes at home than these "Top Chefs" ever could!

And don't even get me started on the "but where's your protein..." stupid question!

BGirl
BGirl

I agree with creekpaddler completely! This was wonderful challenge. Unfortunately, these chefs' ideas were unsatisfying to see (& possibly to eat). Hopefully, TC will keep some form of this challenge alive in future seasons and future chefs will better rise to the occasion.

Mary Jay
Mary Jay

I agree with your take on the dishes this week. Everything seemed so muted. Of course, I didn't taste it, so I always trust the blogs to fill me in. Also, for next season, please bring back the footage of the "Elimination House". I loved watching the eliminated chefs arriving and hanging out, without the pressures of competition. I'm sure others would agree. Keep up the great blog.

RML
RML

I love seeing the twists every challenge, but i wonder what happens when these chefs are faced with a patron like me. I'm allergic to peanuts, all seafood and shellfish, mushrooms, beans, and wheat plus am lactose intolerant. When I go out to eat, I have to call ahead to make sure they have something I could eat...you'd be frustrated with how often I am handed salad with some baked chicken on it.

I want to see what the creative chefs in your competitions do with those kinds of restrictions... I'd love some new ideas.

sac foodie
sac foodie

Listen, If Lisa (TC4) can make it to the finale with her attitude and (very often) lousy food, why not Robin, who has a wonderful attitude and usually passable food. Just don't give her Casey as a sous chef. I'm joking, of course. My vote for the three finalists is ... Jennifer, if she doesn't shoot herself in the foot first ... Kevin, who has the best win record and thereby the best food ... and Michael V. although his attitude sucks. Perhaps his brother needs to be there instead but I don't see both of them there. I would love to know what their mother thinks about all this. My theory as to why the producers are doing a reunion NOW instead of at the end is that I believe sweeps week is next week and someone thinks a reunion will generate more viewers. I'm just guessing.

creekpaddler
creekpaddler

I was totally surprised that not one of the chefs found any grains or legumes (other than the fresh garbanzos that Robin used or the polenta) nor did any of them try anything like a frito misto using vegetables, no flours to make such things as papadums or other types of flatbreads....I was really disappointed at the total lack of imagination of the chefs. When you consider that a huge proportion of the world eats vegetarian meals, don't you think they could have done something better? Also, none of them asked Natalie if she was lacto-ovo vegetarian--the things they presented were more vegan than vegetarian. Indian food, Middle eastern food, Chinese food, (think tofu), Mexican food....jeez, the list is endless!

James Bolger
James Bolger

Frankly, I get soooo bored with the chefcontestant's predictable protein choices that this veggie challenge had me excited. Vegetarian cooking is FAR more difficult than most people realize. A girlfriend of mine who I went to culinary school with was a vegetarian and an AMAZING cook. One of her tricks was to take off the labels in her spice cabinet. It forced her to be able to recognize everything by smell only. One day I went over to her house for a meal and she blindfolded me and tested me with about five spices. I FAILED miserably. I'll always appreciate that lesson.

w
w

I -- too -- miss the more expansive recipe collection I own the cookbook, but it seems like more has been taken off the site)

One small note -- is the video for Jen's skirt steak salad down?

Food Challenges
Food Challenges

I really enjoyed this challenge because I too have a challenge eatting out. I am gluten intolerant so I can't have wheat, which especially in itlaian food, is used heavily in ways we wouldn't think. Most chicken is flou coated before cooked, even is it's not outright breaded. So I definitly think it's a good challenge when the chefs have to change their meals at the last minute to accomedate food sensativities and choices.

Now I'm ready for Top Chef to do a gluten free challenge!!!

JLN
JLN

Yes, the prick comment had me in stitches too! What a fun group, that Natalie is a hoot! I like to fix vegetarian dishes even though I'm not a vegetarian so I too was disappointed with their dishes. What about veggie lasagna using eggplant? The possibilities are endless and I just felt all of the chefs let us down on this episode and I'm not even a chef! I can barely label myself a cook!

ABQrobin
ABQrobin

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for this episode! You highlighted the problem that ALL vegetarians have when eating out. Too many chefs out there think they know it all about food and yet can't come up with a decent vegetarian dish to put on their menu! Last month I was in Las Vegas and found that most restaurants had "eggplant parmesan" as their one and ONLY veg dish. Pathetic! I was shocked that these great "chefs" on Top Chef fell right into that same mold. Come on, people, vegetarians eat more than mushrooms and eggplant. There are soooooooo many lucious and incredible veggies and grains out there, and Kevin was the ONLY chef to actually attempt a real vegetarian dish. Sad.

Trudie
Trudie

Thanks Linda W. Wouldn't you think they'd have something like that on this site??!

Linda W.
Linda W.

To Trudie (1st post) - check out the Wikipedia link for TC6 - they have a great chart for Cheftestant Progress:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Chef_6#Contestant_progress

Essentially, Kevin's kicking butt - 4 Elim wins and 3 QF wins. I don't think any other cheftestant has had that kind of record at this stage with only 6 left in the game.

Trudie
Trudie

Is there somewhere on this site where we can see a scoreboard of wins and losses by chef? I mean other than checking out each episode recap?

Lynda S
Lynda S

Tonite's ep was a disappointment due to the chefs' lack of inspiration. Michael V was the only innovative chef. They all should have watched Top Chef Masters' vegan challenge to get ideas.

I do have one question regarding next week: why are you slipping in a random reunion of past chefs instead of continuing with the current season. Breaking up the season is annoying. We can view the banter between past cooks anytime!

mmc
mmc

I agree that this was an interesting challenge.It's so true that Chefs have to be on their toes at all times.I don't do vegeterian too often but I love to use mushrooms as they give the consistancy of meat.I'm anxious to go to Craft in NYC and I think I'll try a vegetarian dish and I'll see how it's supposed to be done.This season is so exciting!

HarryB
HarryB

The song is called "New Age Girl" and it's by Deadeye Dick.

Max Criden
Max Criden

Wow, now it's stuck in my head, too, haha.

Quincy
Quincy

Indeed, Monica...collectively, this was probably the worst showing by the cheftestants all season. Kevin and Eli to me were the only two that got it right and didn't just throw veggies together to make a "meal". I think the judges were just so flabbergasted by Mike V that they put him in the top three for the "Picasso" element of his food.

And damn, I hated that Deadeye Dick song. I mean, even the band's name...seriously? Deadeye Dick? THAT'S the best name they could come up with??

meat-eater
meat-eater

The song you mention is actually called New Age Girl by Deadeye Dick made "famous" on the Dumb and Dumber soundtrack; and until you mentioned it, the song was NOT stuck in my head. Thanks...

Editor's Note: Yes! I knew I had that song wrong. And, I apologize ....

tteach
tteach

Were the contestants allowed to use pasta or rice. It seemed that a vegetarian dish would have gone nicely with either of those sides