Welcome to Vegas

Welcome to Vegas

Lee Anne catches up on Episode 1.

The relay race, a fan favorite; Every season I have to give the producers a list of things that are visual and would be good for the relay race, like the whipping of the egg whites, butchering of the chickens. The clams, the prawns, the lobsters, the aged prime rib all represented a little bit of that big Vegas showmanship in terms of food. We worked with the M Resort, Whole Foods, and a few other suppliers to source all of the food for the challenges. It’s clear to see Jen Carroll is a badass, and interesting that two of the competitors had never opened clams before. The blue team wins and cooks off against each other. The clam ceviche, in its simplicity, is delicious. I also enjoyed Bryan’s beef dish.

Thanks for the ups Kevin!!! Yes, the Top Chef kitchen is stocked to the gills, though they always manage to ask about the few things that actually aren’t in the pantry, like a potato masher. It’s taken several seasons but now it’s a Rolls Royce quality kitchen, with just about everything you need to make great food, including a very detailed pantry of dry goods, condiments, fresh produce, and dairy. I usually stock all of the Quickfires with a wide array of extra proteins, produce, dairy, and dry goods so the contestants don’t have to go shopping. Sometimes I supply the specialty proteins or ingredients for the Elimination Challenge. Best part of the job, especially this season, is tasting the food porn. So here we go:

Mike Isabella’s halibut was great. Perfectly cooked with a savory sweet tomato concasse over an earthy eggplant and lots of lemon oil. Delicious. The butterscotch scallops were interesting, but really too sweet for me.The chicken liver ravioli sounded promising, but I wish they had more filling and flavor, more sauce.

Bryan’s steak and parsnip texture was pretty good, whimsical, and nice to look at, though the puree comment was pretty amusing, as it is dead on. Jen’s poached halibut with maitakes was brilliant and perfectly cooked. Another pro. Robin’s roulade of pork tenderloin and chorizo was actually pretty tasty and juicy. I would’ve liked the bacon gastrique, but the meat was well seasoned and the cornbread was decent.

Did I mention I love Maker’s Mark? That’s why it’s in the pantry. It’s GREAT to cook with. And apparently bourbon is a vice for a lot of people here.

Mattin’s Buffalo and Zucchini was strange, but not terrible. Ash’s halibut was gigantic; like a seven-ounce portion. I found it unwieldy. The candied bacon was good but the doughnuts were dense and chewy. Preeti’s Pork Tenderloin was really boozy, like she hadn’t cooked off the alcohol from the sauces. Ron’s crazy fish dish was distinctly Caribbean, but also tasty.
Mike V’s rack of lamb was sophisticated and thoughtful. Coconut foam, the cauliflower gnocchi, and tomato caviar, all made for a lovely combination. Kevin’s char with salsa verde was fork tender and full of flavor.

The giant pepper was just entirely wrong. With a traditional chile relleno, you need to roast and peel the pepper first. I’ve had vegan chile rellenos. They certainly were more refined than the odd, clumsy pepper that Jen Z. served. I found seitan to be an odd choice for a filling, and it was cut up in uneven, big chunks, which was even more unappealing. The hardest part for any of these contestants is the chance of getting sent home first. Our challenges are indeed hard and not everyone can think on their feet while shopping in Whole Foods for the first time. What I loved about Jen in final casting was her bubbly personality and her love for food. She’s totally sweet and I’m sure she’s holding her own in Philly. Best of luck to Jen. Just take that seitan stuffed poblano off your menu!


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