Top Chef Las Vegas Recapped: Tequila Shots for Everyone!
We buckled in for a season full of casino-themed Quickfires long before last week's Top Chef: Las Vegas premiere managed to incorporate vices, showgirls and blood. So we weren't thrown when Bravo dialed up their Vegas-theme quotient last night with craps tables, bachelor parties and general sleaziness (embodied by guest judge, celebrity chef, and date rapist-look-alike, Todd English). However accurate our Sin City expectations were, we did not foresee the stiff competition between blood-related chef-testants and another competitor's passive opposition to last night's elimination challenge.
In spite of all of the Vegas imagery generously provided by Top Chef set designers and the M Casino, this season's chef-testants are particularly bland. When spiky-haired lesbian Ashley, voices her opposition to the bachelor/bachelorette party challenge because she and at least two other gay competitors "aren't allowed in that institution," we feel that actual emotional excitement might await us. What could be a great C-plot to the episode if Top Chef allowed more heart (or if Carl's Jr. returned Padma's soul), and what could have resulted in at least one stabbing on Hell's Kitchen, lamely unravels in two segments before being snuffed out by bored editors because Ashley, who monotonically describes herself as being "fired up," was too uninteresting for screen time.
Just as quickly as Ashley identifies herself as the proud but passive gay, the other chef-testants distinguish themselves during the Quickfire Challenge. Each contestant rolls dice at the crap table to see how many ingredients they will use during the 30-minute competition (salt, pepper, oil and copious Gladware are freebies). Padma does her best to muster enthusiasm as she calls out each roll, "Ten! Eight!" and tosses her double fists in the air.
Ironically, the mousiest chef-testant, Limp Noodle Eve declares that she will make asparagus with blue cheese because she "love[s] a lot of assertive flavors." Kevin and Jennifer, who were both among the top four last week, are the calmest as they set to work. After thirty minutes, Padma and Date Rape Todd slink around the room, taste-testing various dishes as Todd offers a minimum of five, smoothly-delivered "interesting" observations. One of the brothers, Michael, wins the Quickfire $15G for his nitro gazpacho. Does anyone else think that Padma only tastes about every third dish while making general comments about the appearance of the entree?
For the elimination challenge, the chefs cater a joint bachelor/bachelorette party. The chef-testants are divided by gender and this is when Ashley first volunteers via confessional that she is gay and has "some personal feelings about the challenge. I am looking forward to the day when everyone is allowed to get married." Cut to Jolly Ginger Kevin, revealing that he "did have a bachelor party that was rather debaucherous."
The chef-testants are divided by gender (women catering the bachelor party, men catering the bachelorette party) and meet their clients, who would like the chefs to prepare at least two dishes for each of their favorite shots (Moscow mule, tequila and golden delicious). After a quick intro session in which chefs scribble down important information about their clients like, "Sweet tooth!" No seafood!" and "Spicy!" the chefs are herded to the nearest Whole Foods for their speed shop.
Back in the kitchen, Passive Protest Ashley elects to make a dessert in addition to her watermelon carpaccio, a "stupid" move, deems Jennifer. Insert a few glamour shots of the General Electric appliances and chefs packing their meals into Gladware and voila! Food preparation is over.
The next day the chefs set up their poolside food stations and the bachelor and bachelorette guests stream out for their mid-day party. The guests intermittently throw back shots and test the mostly seafood dishes that have been sitting out in the sun. The women strip down to bikinis while the guys toast "to the end of freedom." It's time for judges Gail Simmons, Tom Colicchio, Todd English and Padma to sashay onto the patio.
The judges politely inquire about the dishes before convening in a shaded cabana to test the food/shot pairings. Everyone is particularly offended by Limp Noodle Eve's ceviche ("That was pretty nasty") and Preeti's wonton crisp coriander & sesame crusted tuna ("It's just not professionally done." "This wilted shiso leaf is just sad.") Back in the studio, chef-testants Hector, Eli and brothers Bryan and Michael are called in to see the judges for the best dishes. Bryan's sweet and sour macaroons filled with guacamole, corn nuts and corn puree (paired with tequila) win and the men's team exits victorious.
Preeti, Ashley, Limp Noodle Eve and Jessie are called into the judging room next for their lackluster dishes. Both Jessie and Eve were among the bottom four last week, and after a few minutes of questioning, Padma tells Limp Noodle Eve to pack her knives. The episode ends as Eve justifies her elimination: "My combinations are more unusual and might not have made sense to the judges."
Diss of the night: Tom puts down Preeti's elimination dish as "about as pedestiran a dish you can make."