Top Chef: The Chefs Take a Gamble
Las Vegas has been a major character all season on Top Chef, but on Wednesday the chef-testants came face to face with something truly emblematic of Sin City when the six remaining chefs had to cook up a dish inspired by a visit to a classic casino. And in their Quickfire, they had to contend with another Vegas staple: room service!
Breakfast in Bed: With Nigella Lawson serving as this week’s guest judge, things got off to a luxurious start. The chefs had 30 minutes to make a dish in the basement kitchen of the Venetian, then carry it upstairs to Lawson and Padma, who were both wearing robes. Despite the light touch, the chefs who prepared the heaviest, meatiest dishes actually wowed the ladies the most: Kevin‘s play on steak and eggs delighted Lawson, but Eli‘s twist on the Reuben sandwich — using poached eggs — won the chef the Quickfire challenge, but not immunity.
Anybody’s Bet: After drawing knives, the contestants were assigned to a Vegas mainstay — think Circus Circus or the Bellagio — where they sought inspiration in the casinos. Then, the chefs had to translate that into a dish to serve for 175 during a banquet at the World Market Center. A high-stakes challenge, few chefs took actual gambles with their cuisine, serving up their usual meat or fish fare for the masses.
Taking a Gamble: Kevin’s lightly cooked salmon dish with tomato water showcased his technique — what are “compressed veggies?” — while Eli’s caramel apple and peanut soup, inspired by Circus Circus, was a flight of fancy taken too far. As Toby Young succinctly put it, “He has gambled and lost.” Better still Michael Voltaggio‘s play on chicken wings — he drew New York, New York Hotel and Casino — featured a cold dollop of creamy blue cheese dressing and crisp skin.
Judges’ Table: In the end, the judges awarded Michael V. the win, praising him for understanding the challenge. His brother Bryan fared well too. Less successful: Eli and Robin. While Eli’s confection frightened Nigella Lawson upon initial tasting, it was Robin’s way-too-gelatinous panna cotta that finally did her in. It didn’t help that the chef couldn’t serve her crystallized sugar — meant to resemble the Dale Chihuly glass in the Bellagio — because it didn’t set. So, after weeks in the bottom, Robin finally had to pack her knives and go. –Brian Orloff
Tell us: Were you sad to see Robin go? Which chef is going to be cut next? And who do you think will win Top Chef?Trae Patton/Bravo