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.
Honestly the dishes really didn't do it for me this week, but the banter at the table did. When Padma put her foot in her mouth with the "prick" comment, I almost lost it! I know she won't be living that one down for awhile. And Natalie's "Who's your dealer and does he need new clients?" comment at Judges' Table had Tom in stitches. You can tell that everyone was really enjoying themselves. Except for, well, maybe Mike Isabella. He obviously thought Robin should have gone home before him, and maybe if this competition was judged cumulatively she would have, but it's not. His dish just looked gross, and although hers was prettier, apparently it didn't taste much better. And honestly maybe I'm just in a bad mood, but if she mentioned the fresh garbanzo beans one more time I was going to lose my mind.
Anyway, in the interest of full disclosure, next week is a new episode, but it's a special! Your favorite Top Chefs come back to have a dinner hosted by Season 5's Fabio Viviani. They cook together. They laugh together. They yell at each other. Overall, a good time. "See" you then!