Wednesday, September 30, 2009

All Top Chef Interview with Stephanie Izard

Season Four Champion, Stephanie Izard is very busy preparing to open her new restaurant, The Drunken Goat in February 2010. She is also writing a cookbook, traveling and representing Top Chef at Food & Wine events across the country.

Stephanie mentions that the "best meal she ever ate" was at Tetsuya's in Sydney.

Her favorite Season Six Chef is Kevin, but she believes that Jen is also very strong.

Click here for Stephanie's website.

Click here for the podcast.

Thank you Chef!


All Top Chef is having its first contest!

The Prize: One grand prize winner will win a copy of the Top Chef cookbook.

How to Win: Compose a short essay about why you love Top Chef. It should be at least 200 words. (C'mon - that's not so long. This blog post contains 158 words.) The All Top Chef team will choose the winner based on creativity and originality.

Deadline Please cut and paste your essay into an e-mail (please, no attachments) and send it to us at by midnight, Wednesday, October 7th. The winner will be notified by e-mail during the month of October.

The Fine Print: Contest open to anyone in the U.S. and Canada, except as noted. Members and family members of the All Top Chef team and NBC Universal are not eligible. All Top Chef retains the right to feature the winning essay here on the ATC blog.

Good luck, and get writing!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Stir Crazy in Sin City

Have you been watching the "Stir Crazy in Sin City" webisodes available on the site? Top Chef is a repeat this week, so they may be a little something to tide us over until next week. Or not.

Lots of shirtless chefs, but maybe not the ones we might want to see shirtless. :)

You can watch the rest of them here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Recap Roundup: Top Chef Las Vegas Episode 6

This week, we learned that while many chefs aren't that into deconstruction, almost all of them were really, really into Mattin. As it turns out, so were the bloggers:

Cliffieland watched the show avec Mattin, who accidentally gave away the ending and then had this to say: “Oh, sorry. We have a satellite and we saw what happened a few hours ago. I don’t know if you knew that he was the eliminated one already.” Oopsie!

Jordan Baker waxes poetic about Ron: "Oh Ron. Ron, Ron, Ron. The man with more back story per ounce than any cheftestant in history. The man whose vice was coming from Haiti on a boat. The man whose history included being some sort of chowder champion. The man who asked for a sword to cut his coconuts."

Minx Eats channels Mattin: "Hon hon hon! You cannot geet reed of me zat quickly! Zees ees Mattin, an I am honored to be doozing zees, how you say? recap."

Reality Check (Baltimore Sun) on - who else? - Mattin (I sense a theme): "It seems as if the remaining chefs miss him, too. Jaunty scarf time! They wear scarves in memory. How cute."

My Monkey Could Do That on deconstruction: "Generally I think deconstruction is in a class with molecular gastronomy: pretty cool but not something for all the time. And I’ve seen it go very, very, wrong on this show."

Reality Wanted on foreshadowing: "Eli doesn’t seem to think that Ron understands what deconstructing a dish means… we’ll see if he does when he faces the judges a little later on."

Reality TV Magazine on the problem with the Quickfire: "The chefs had thirty minutes to make two dishes that signified that concept of Angel and Devil, and sometimes you gotta wonder how they make the connection because I just didn’t see it in many of the dishes."

Premium Hollywood on Eli's pressure cooker disaster: "As they were cooking, Eli’s pressure cooker blew its top….and considering that he brought his own pressure cooker and the kitchen had plenty of their own, we had to wonder why he did this. And who travels with a presssure cooker anyway? Oh wait, my mom does, to make her famous mashed potatoes when she visits us."

Food and More (Atlanta Journal Constitution) on the Robin-hatin': "Who would the chefs rather have seen go? No secrets there. That motormouth, Robin. Why, she couldn’t microwave a Steak-uum to save her life."

Mama Pop on guest judge Michelle Bernstein: "I was distracted when Padma introduced Michelle Bernstein as the guest judge. She is a badass and plus I like her hair."

Creative Loafing on the winning dish: "Kevin, Atlanta’s best shot at a final four slot, won last night’s elimination challenge for his deconstructed chicken mole negro with a pumpkin and fig jam, impressing guest judge Michelle Bernstein with perhaps the prettiest dish of the night. Although not as fancy as Michael Voltaggio’s version of caesar salad, which was a magic show in itself, Kevin’s dish managed to seem hearty and yummy even in fine dining portions."

Max the Girl on Ron's losing paella: "Tom calls Ron’s paella a 'sad plate of food' (if Ron had tied Mattin’s scarf around that plate, it would’ve truly been a tear-jerker.)"

Express Night Out on the cancer card: "As she talks about her struggle, there is a palpable lack of sympathy in the room; in fact, the other chefs seems to be seething with resentment at her playing the cancer card. But none of them would ever admit their annoyance, right? Wrong. Both Eli and Laurine suggest Robin's win is cancer-related. Eli comes out with a direct: 'That's a pretty good way to win a quickfire — just tell people you have cancer.'"

Eat Jax on Jen C.'s freakout: "Jennifer C., who works for Eric Ripert, finally began to show some weakness in this round. She appeared frenetic and shaken, running from Chef Colicchio to avoid answering questions or losing time."

Clean Plate Charlie says a big South Florida goodbye to Ron: "We're going to miss Ron on the show, his big, goofy smile and lighthearted nature. But by this episode, it became clear that Ron's simple, seafood-centric cooking style was not making it with the judges."

Meal Ticket (Philly City Paper) with a theory about the Robin-hate: "Everyone’s saying that they want Robin gone because they’re not impressed with her cooking, but if you ask me, I think it’s because they’re scared she’s going to pull a Hosea, bumbling through the season unnoticed until falling ass-first into the Top Chef title."

Speakeasy (WSJ) on Toby Young & the loser's table: "Young, who wears his Britishness loudly, grouses about Laurine’s fish-and-chips (not enough chips!) and Ash’s shepherd’s pie (where are the potatoes?). Laurine and Ash are saved when they explain they didn’t want to send out food (burnt chips in one case; gooey mashed potatoes in the other) that doesn’t meet their standards, but Ron’s soggy rice had no excuse."

Slashfood on Ash's disastrous shepherd's pie: "As if that admonition wasn't enough, the young cook went so far as to confess that the only shepherd's pie he had ever tasted was his own, which brought to mind nothing so much as Jodie Foster in 'Nell,' living by her own special language that no one else could understand."

Teleburst on Ash and his custard(s): "Ash – custard? Really? In 45 minutes? Why not just cook a whole pig?"

After Ellen on Top Scallop: "The challenge begins and Ashley, Eli and Jennifer all pick scallops. Hear that, chef Jamie Lauren? Scallops are the now the official ingredient of purgatory. You’ve been absolved."

Cooking Blog with the summary: "This week’s episode seemed like a flashback to high school, full of cattiness and cliques with a dash of deconstruction and molecular gastronomy."

Trouble with Toast with more on the cancer card: "There is much consternation amongst the chefs because Robin totally played the cancer card, which I can sort of understand because, hey, I’ve done that a time or two myself. Do NOT judge me. It’s one of the only GOOD things about having cancer. Anywho, I don’t think it really matters, since Michelle Bernstein would definitely tell you if your food tasted like crap, regardless of your medical status."

Procrastiblog on deconstruction: "Moving on to the episode, this might be a condescending way to look at things, but it seems a little, I don’t know, culturally biased to eliminate Ron on the “deconstruction” challenge. I mean, 'deconstructed' (actually 'decomposed') food should be an entry on Stuff White People Like. Ron clearly wasn’t with the program from beginning to end (though I wonder if Kevin and Eli’s pep talk didn’t send him off in the wrong direction, à la Tim “I am woeful, Johnny” Gunn)."

Limecrete on Jen C.'s smart realization: "The next day, Jenc interviews about how nervous she is. She appears to be the first contestant to realize that no matter how many times you're in the winners' circle, you're judged anew on each dish, so anyone could go. Thank you! I'm glad at least one of them gets it."

Poll - The Best Season

Top Chef Las Vegas marks the sixth season of our favorite culinary reality competition. How does it stack up when compared to former seasons? Is it at the top? Somewhere in the middle? Vote in our poll and tell us which season of Top Chef was the best.

Season 1, filmed in San Francisco and hosted by Katie Lee Joel, with permanent judges Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons, brought us memorable cheftestants like Lee Ann Wong, Tiffani Faison, Dave "I'm not your bitch, bitch" Martin, PITA sommelier Stephen Asprinio, and winner Harold Dieterle.

Season 2, filmed in Los Angeles, brought in a new hostess with Padma Lakshmi. We also met a cast of characters which included the hunky Sam Talbot, Spanish-all-the-time and eventual winner, Ilan Hall, the argumentative Betty Fraser and Marcel Vigneron, and slacker Michael Midgley.

Season 3, filmed in Miami, had Ted Allen subbing for judge Gail Simmons in some episodes, and introduced us to chefs who sweat in their food (Howie Kleinberg), chefs missing a testicle (C.J. Jacobsen), fan favorite Casey Thompson, and winner Hung Huynh. It was the first season in which the winner of the first Elimination Challenge didn't go on to win the whole thing (Tre).

Season 4, filmed in Chicago, featured bromances (Spike Mendelsohn and Andrew D'Ambrosi, Spike and Mark Simmons), a lesbian couple (Zoi Antonitsas and Jennifer Biesty), molecular gastronomist Richard Blais, and winner Stephanie Izard.

Season 5, filmed in New York, brought in Toby Young as Gail Simmons sub, and gave us a memorable liaison (winner Hosea Rosenberg and Leah Cohen), a chef who cooked by spirit guide (Carla Hall), and two Europeans, one charming (Fabio Viviani) and one clearly superior (Stefan Richter). Again, the winner of the first Elimination Challenge (Stefan) did not go on to be the grand prize winner.

So far, Season 6, filmed in Las Vegas, has aired six episodes but as of this date, there have been only three different Elimination Challenge winners: Bryan Voltaggio, brother Michael Voltaggio, and Kevin Gillespie. Kevin won the first E.C. - will he prove to be the ultimate winner? And everyone's favorite judge, Toby Young, is back for a second season.

Tell us - which season was the best?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

TC News & Information 9.26.09

Top Chef News & InformationSpike Mendelsohn is offering a new Obama-inspired "Michelle Melt" turkey burger at his Good Stuff Eatery in Washington, DC. If you can't make it to DC, try making the burger at home with the recipe here.

If you're in the Windy City this weekend, check out Chicago Gourmet, an upscale version of Taste of Chicago featuring the likes of Top Chef Masters winner Rick Bayless, Season 4 champ Stephanie Izard, and Season 5 cheftestants Radhika Desai and Fabio Viviani.

On Thursday night, Season 2 finalist Marcel Vigneron battled Next Food Network Star finalist Jeffrey Saad in a cooking competition. And we're happy to say that the Top Chef prevailed! Congrats, Marcel - I'm sure Jeffrey was a tough competitor.

Top Recipe, Top Chef Las Vegas Episode 6

If you want the written recipe, you can find it here.

And, if you're interested in Robin's Quickfire-winning apple crisp recipe, click here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Exit Interviews - Ron Duprat

All Top Chef Interview with Ron Duprat

Chef Ron Duprat talks about his experience on Top Chef, his South Florida restaurant and his charity work.

Click here for the podcast.

Thanks Chef Duprat!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Poll Results - Top Chef Las Vegas Episode 6

In our poll, Bryan and Jen were neck-and-neck with just under one-quarter (23%) of the votes each. But Kevin, trailing by 12 percentage points, was the victor with his deconstructed molé. Did you really think Bryan could pull off another win in a row? It's definitely time for Jen to win something.

For the next episode, we pick the PPYKAG'd chef! Stay tuned.

ATC Love to Chef Duprat

This week, we said goodbye to Chef Ron Duprat, the "Bob Marley" of the show, he of the affable demeanor and inspiring backstory. Chef Duprat was tasked with making a deconstructed paella, which the judges found not-quite deconstructed enough.

Though Chef Duprat had previous experience with paella, during this challenge, he struggled with the concept of deconstruction and with the preparation itself. The judges complained that Chef Duprat's seafood was overcooked and his rice wasn't cooked properly - it was dry, but not crunchy.

This post is only for positive words for Chef Duprat. If you have anything negative to say about him or another chef, please click here.

Congratulations, Chef Gillespie!

Chef Kevin Gillespie took home his second Elimination Challenge win this week (along with a big box of pots and pans) for his deconstructed chicken mole negro. After taking a bite, Penn (of Penn and Teller) said that he never wanted to eat a different mole again.

Chef Gillespie was naturally thrilled about the win, especially since he'd made a less successful, but similar dish, earlier in the competition. Ultimately, Tom Colicchio commented that Chef Gillespie's plate included a lot of ingredients, but they were all necessary and ended in a dish that was perfectly balanced. Big praise.

This post is only for positive words for Chef Gillespie. If you have anything negative to say about him or another chef, please click here.

Reactions to Top Chef Las Vegas Episode 6

Another week down, another chef-with-an-accent sent home...

This week, our intrepid chefs found themselves back in the kitchen at the M Resort, cooking their little hearts out in the most theoretically-driven way possible. The episode began with an ode to Mattin, when the chefs revealed that they really, really liked Frenchie, donning red scarves to show it. At the same time, because it's all about duality, the chefs began to reveal, one by one, more than a little anti-Robin sentiment. Mike I. and Jen C. both thought she deserved to go home over Mattin and, basically, it sounds like they're all tired of hearing her chatty voice.

All of which was a grand set-up for her Quickfire win, which included immunity.

The Quickfire itself sounded like something all the chefs could get behind: a dish that shows good and evil. An opportunity to cook one dish two ways? Is that something chefs ever say no to?

Miami chef Michelle Bernstein helped Padma judge her way through the dishes (mostly scallops), finally naming Robin the winner for her apple salad and apple crisp - a dish that the rest of the cheftestants obviously don't think it is complex enough to win. Eli says what I bet a lot of them are thinking - that Robin's setup, which was all about her lymphoma, might have had a little something to do with the win. We'll never know...

Onto the Elimination. When the chefs return to the kitchen, they get two surprises (well, three, actually): Penn and Teller are here, and so is Toby Young!

Penn and Teller are kind of awesome and way more entertaining than the magicians on the Doogie Howser ep of Top Chef Masters, but the contestants are not at all psyched to hear about Mr. Young. They just think he's mean.

The challenge is to deconstruct a classic dish, which about half the chefs (the Volt brothers) are psyched about, while it sends the other chefs (Jen C.) into a tailspin. Seriously, Jen was crying. Little Miss Badass in the Kitchen. Tears.

The challenge revealed some things about the chefs, too. Mike I. doesn't know how to make eggs florentine (but he does know how to cook cactus?) Laurine and Jen C. aren't much on deconstruction. Ash likes shepherd's pie, but he only kind of knows what it is...and he has got a major problem with texture. Eli might be anti-cancer-milking, but he and Kevin have a nicer side that they showed when they coached Ron on his paella rice.

Ultimately, sweet Kevin from Atlanta won a brand new set of Calphalon pans for his deconstructed chicken negro mole, and he was psyched to redeem himself after last week. Ashley's pot roast, Jennifer's much sweated-over lasagna and Michael V's crazy caesar salad were also favorites, though Bryan and his reuben (which the judges also seemed to like, though Penn was less of a fan) were conspicuously absent from the winner's table.

On the less lucky side, Ash, Laurine and Ron were called in front of the judges for their unsuccessful dishes. Laurine's fish was overcooked and sorely lacking in the chip department, and Tom said he felt like she just couldn't make the challenge personal. Ash's shepherd's pie just kind of wasn't shepherd's pie, plus the lamb was cooked unevenly. But it was Ron who had to pack his knives and go, for a not-really-deconstructed paella with overcooked seafood and dry-not-crunchy rice. Isn't it always the rice?

As usual, this episode's left me with a few questions:
  • Robin - she's really not that good, is she? I thought she might have been in the bottom three, over Laurine, if she hadn't had immunity.
  • Scallops again. Why always with the scallops?
  • Has Padma EVER missed an errant bone? She found another this Quickfire. Is it a gift or a curse?
  • How many times will Ash unsuccessfully try to make something that has to set before he gives up and just focuses on smoothies? Love him, but seriously?
  • Who else thinks Padma was jealous when she saw Michelle Bernstein show up at dinner? Tom was smiling. Good thing Gail wasn't there or there might have been a va-va-va-voom-off.
  • Toby Young - a little toned down? Yes, there was the bull's testicle thing, but that was sort of funny, thanks to Padma and Penn. I was thrilled to be spared any and all "weapons of mass destruction" comments.
  • Toby Young says "pie-ella." Michelle Bernstein says, "Barthelona." Why can't we get a judge's ruling on "cev-eech?"
  • Has the reign of the Volts come to an end? Bryan had a crappy week this week, all things considered. Will he come back stronger for it? Or crumple?

But what did you think? Please leave a comment with your thoughts...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

TC News & Information 9.23.09

Top Chef News & Information
Jesse Sandlin dishes to the Baltimore Sun on Top Chef.

Leah Cohen left Centro Vinoteca to travel, and now Hosea Rosenberg has announced a 5-month sabbatical from Jax Fish House. Coincidence? They'll never tell! Starting October 1st, check out Hosea's new site to find out what he'll be up to over the next several months.(source)

Top Chef Masters finalist Anita Lo takes the confusion out of fusion cuisine here.

Toby Young reports on his experience at the Emmy Awards for Gawker. "For the third year running, Top Chef was beaten by The Amazing Race. A clip was shown in which a deaf contestant told the host that being in The Amazing Race meant the world to him because it proved that deaf people could achieve their dreams, too. This proved to be such an emotional moment that both the deaf man and the host broke down in tears. Cue rapturous applause in the Emmy auditorium. In the bar afterwards, I told Tom that if we wanted to stand a chance next year we'd have to get some contestants with disabilities.

'That's why we hired you Toby,' he said."

A Real Quickfire

Check out this behind-the-scenes look at a REAL [quick]fire that occurred when a microphone battery pack exploded in the Top Chef studios:

Stephanie's Take

Please welcome Season 4 champion Stephanie Izard as All Top Chef guest blogger!

well, i finally got a chance to catch up with season 6 and see what i have been missing! with all my traveling, it seems way too many hotels are missing bravo, so i was a bit behind, but thanks to on demand i am all over it. plus when you watch it on demand you get to see tom's diet coke commercial at least five times per episode. bonus.

so the new season. i am of course as impressed as everyone else by some of the talent they snatched for this season! as with all seasons there seem to be a few standouts who are just a tier above the rest, but you never know. someone may surprise us, and all it takes is one mistake…. turns out i have actually met two of the women from this season. one, eve, has already left the show but i would like to give a quick shout out to. although she did not shine during the challenges, i have had the pleasure of eating at her place in ann arbor and it’s charming and also quite delicious. i wish her continued success there and if you are in my old college town, you should check it out.

i also had the pleasure of eating jen's food in philly when i was there with nikki for an event. we had a great meal and had a chance to chat with jen (of course not knowing she was going to be on the show...not sure if she knew yet or not). she is definitely a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen and is for sure the female power this season.

aside from jen, there are a few others that stand out. the two brothers, bryan and mike, are of course two of the front runners. they have both made some killer dishes so far and are very accomplished in the field already. i have to say if i were to choose one person to root for, however, it would be kevin. i love his personality. plus, he has made a number of strong dishes and has also received high accolades in his career thus far. hard to say at this point who the winner will be but i just have a soft spot for him.

there has been a lot of excitement and many surprises already. a little jealous of the 15k for some of the quickfire challenges...though since i did not win one until puerto rico i guess there would have been no golden chips for me anyhow :) on the other hand, sending someone home for a quickfire was pretty harsh. maybe not quite as bad as last season when that poor girl got sent home before even getting into the kitchen [Lauren Hope], but it would still suck. especially since it was right before one of the coolest challenges yet on the show. getting to cook for a table of some of the most amazing chefs in the world is an opportunity that may never come around again for any of the contestants. and lucky kevin got to sit and enjoy their company which again is amazing.

the girls are not having a very strong showing thus far, aside from jen. i think the first three to go home were all women which was a little discouraging. however, this week there were a couple of new faces to the top four dishes. ashley finally made it to the top with her seared halibut which seemed to really hit the mark. and laurine finally gained some confidence and pulled through with a simple yet tasty dish. i am a sucker for baked potatoes so i was all over it. of course the brothers were right there as well. mike's dish looked refreshing and creative though his brother just seemed to make a more fitting dish for the occasion.

all in all i had fun finally catching up on this season and am excited to see what happens. it always brings back crazy memories (maybe that is why i could not sleep last night) when i watch other seasons, but brings back fun ones too. best of luck to everyone on this season and look forward to meeting more of you, as we all bump into each other at one event or another. and enjoy the ride....

Don't forget to check out Stephanie's site at!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TC News & Information 9.22.09

Top Chef News & Information
Season 3's Tre Wilcox has taken the position of Executive Chef at Loft 610 in Plano, Texas.

Season 5's Leah Cohen will be leaving Centro Vinoteca to explore opportunities in Europe and Asia.

Here's Creative Loafing's episode 5 podcast.

Want to know more about the cheftestants' camping trip to Sandy Valley Ranch? Check out what went on behind-the-scenes here.

Richard Blais, Mike Isabella, and Bryan Voltaggio are among the chefs who will be doing cooking demos at the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show, November 7th and 8th, in Washington DC. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

Congrats to Mike Isabella!

On August 29th, 2009, Zaytinya chef and Top Chef 6 competitor Mike Isabella married Stacey Nemeth at the Mount Airy Mansion in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Read about their courtship and see more wedding photos on the Washington Post site.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Recap Roundup: Top Chef Las Vegas Episode 5

This week, our intrepid cheftestants went camping. And by "intrepid," I mean "super, super whiny and not into camping." Some food was made, some ceviche was expelled from Tom's mouth, Bryan V. took yet another challenge, and Monsieur Mattin went home. That's it in a nutshell. But what did the bloggers think?

Cliffieland on Michael V.'s take on things: "Chef BrotherMichael is most miffed at Hector’s eviction and makes predictions for the end, seeing himself, Chef DoucheyMike and Chef BrotherBryan as the only really talented chefs there.One wonders what Chefs Kevin Beardy McBearderson and Jennifer The Honorary Dude think of that assessment."

Jordan Baker describing my sentiments exactly: "But as an episode – you know, the human drama, the interesting food and all—it was kind of negligible. Especially when you compare it to last week’s festival of Frenchness and innovation and Magical Mushroom Kingdoms."

Minx Eats on Eli's attitude: "Chubby city boys don't much like to get all sweaty, do they?"

Reality Check (Baltimore Sun) on Mattin's writing on the wall: "Mattin laments about how he failed at the French food challenge last week even though he grew up in the French countryside and apparently had a best new restaurant award from Food & Wine magazine. He could have fooled us. (Justine ponders: if he already won an award AND owns a restaurant, why does he have to be on Top Chef?)"

The Celebrity Cafe on Ashley's childhood: "'The outhouse is familiar to me' said Ashley wistfully, reminiscing about her childhood growing up in the woods. A comment which only leads one to ask: where do the producers find these people?"

Fancast on the viewers' choice Quickfire: "Cactus. I’ll admit I didn’t vote, but if I had, I certainly would have picked rattlesnake or kangaroo (is that even legal?) instead, if only to see the look on guest judge Tim Love’s face when Kevin invariably presented him with 'candied rattlesnake jam.'"

Flat Hat News (the newspaper of William & Mary, aka my alma mater!) makes Glad happy: "In the ultimate yuppie moment of the week, they had to walk like lost lambs through the desert, holding their bags from Whole Foods. Like a freshly unwrapped leftover, they no longer had the protection Glad offers (little known fact: Glad requires that any analogy involved in 'Top Chef' features a member of the Glad family of products)."

Top Chef Examiner on cactus: "Just because something is edible doesn't mean it's good. And boy did the chefs struggle to make something tasty."

Gawker on strategy: "The red-face Voltaggio, tattooed and cocky, asserted that he wasn't going to debase himself for his hick audience. 'You don't change each dish for every customer as they come in,' he said, or at least something to that effect, 'they come to your restaurant.' The right choice considering a) it's true b) though the ranchers might be eating they certainly weren't voting c) despite the ranchers being ranchers, they aren't idiots and can certainly appreciate good food."

Slashfood on Ashley: "We wish we could just decide once and for all that Ashley is hateably high-strung and manic. But when she pulls a rabbit out of her hat like she did last night -- with a perfectly seared halibut atop a pile of bacon, tomato and braised romaine -- she reminds us of one of those brash, underachieving schoolkids who you know is capable of far better."

Frederick News Post on hometown boys the Volt brothers: "Judges said Michael's dish, based on a traditional Japanese 'fish fry,' was good and an 'unexpected dish.' Bryan's meal had many components including roast pork loin, corn polenta, braised dandelions and rutabaga. Judges said it was appropriate for the challenge and they would feel comfortable camping with Bryan as the cook. Both were among the top four favorite dishes but the challenge went to Bryan -- his third elimination challenge win."

Give Me My Remote on Jen and Kevin: "Kind of an off week for my favorites, Jen and Kevin, although I’ve gotta say that Jen made me laugh REALLY hard in her delivery during her talking head about Ron, when she’s so dry and saying, 'And then we’ve got Ron, looking for a sword.'"

Reality TV Magazine on cooking cactus at home: "The chefs then went about telling how us how to cook cactus in various ways and I am sure that will go great with the oatmeal I cook every other night. I mean, getting the water ready for the oatmeal takes it all out of me already."

TV Squad on the Quickfire disaster: "The Quickfire Challenge lived up to the latter part of its name for most of the people, as was evidenced by Tim's obvious attempts not to vomit up half the dishes he tried (and I don't blame him. Those tortillas that Ash made looked pretty horrifying)."

Speakeasy (WSJ) on things coming around and going around: "I can’t help but feel as if karmic justice has been served, given the young chef’s ease at throwing Ashley under the bus at judges’ table last week."

Premium Hollywood sums up the losers: "Robin’s prawns were not very good, and some of the judges thought the shrimp may have been spoiled. Ron’s drink was awful, and the judges said if he had just made the ceviche, he would not be up for elimination. And Mattin’s ceviche, though he thought it was good, was described by Love as 'like sucking on a piece of flooring.' Wow."

Durango TV on sleeping arrangements: "I don't know how it was decided who was paired with whom in the teepees. But the brothers shared a teepee. It looked very uncomfortable to me. The teepees were small."

Clean Plate Charlie on Ron's situation: "Ron's survived four elimination and four quickfire challenges. But he's currently hugging the bottom rung of contenders. He's never been in real danger of leaving the show, but he's certainly not doing great."

After Ellen sums up the Quickfire results: "Love declares Ash (too dry), Mike V (too disjointed) and Ron (too rancid) on the bottom. On top, however, were Laurine (nice flavor), Mike I (classically prepared) and Mattin (tequila!). But whose was the best? Mike I. Ugh, no comment."

Left Coast Catering (Laurine's blog) on the advantage of being a caterer: "Catering can sometimes be looked down upon by restaurant chefs, but I had a definite advantage in this case. At its core, catering is adapting." on the whining: "The chefs cannot stop complaining about not knowing where they will be cooking. More like a feature in Food and Whine magazine, am I right?"

Meal Ticket (Philly City Paper) on this week's Frenchiness: "Why does this dude, who’s the second-Frenchest Frenchman that I’m aware of (the chien supérieur, of course, being Georges Perrier), insist on reaffirming his Frenchitude with such All Bran-like regularity? I feel a little less American every time I see his little face."

Procrastiblog on why Robin didn't go home: "Robin knew she screwed up and admitted it: 'I’m not making excuses. I’m not proud of what I put out today.' She didn’t have much to say for herself besides—she didn’t even mount an argument that the shrimp had gone bad out in the hot sun and she shouldn’t be blamed—but she also didn’t fight an uphill battle against the judges’, um, judgment."

Max the Girl on what we really lost this week: "Just when it became clear that Mattin mentioning his Frenchness was the most awesome drinking game ever (and a one-way ticket to AA), he goes and gets cut."

Limecrete on that voodoo thing: "Ron sets up a formation of sticks that he tells Ash is a voodoo method of keeping snakes away from their tent. Ash shrugs that anything done to keep snakes away is something he can endorse."

Best Week Ever on Mike I.'s sudden actual cooking ability: "How did Mike Isabella learn to cook overnight? Last week he was like, 'Dahhhhhrrrrr, bear knees???' then in the Quickfire, he was describing the process to properly cure cactus. When did he touch that talent ball from SpaceJam?"

Top Chef Las Vegas Episode 6 Previews

Top Chef at the Emmy Awards

Although they didn't win any awards, Tom, Gail, Toby, and Padma sure looked purty on the red carpet at last night's 61st Annual Emmy Awards.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Interview with Jesse Sandlin

Baltimore's Chef Jesse Sandlin got eliminated for serving the wrong single bite in the mini Battle of the Amuses last week. All Top Chef asked her a few questions about her experience on the show and here's what she had to say.

ATC: Did you think it was unfair that your elimination came down to an amuse-bouche, a single bite?

JS: yes. i could have gone home for anything else and been okay with it, but not for this...and i don't think that i'm so upset or angry that it was based on an amuse bouche, i'm angry that robin did not make an amuse bouche, a SINGLE BITE, and i was sent home instead of her....

ATC: It was tough watching you end up in the bottom every week, although by all accounts, your restaurant is fabulous. Do you think the pressures of cooking on the show were different from the pressures of cooking in a restaurant, and is that what threw you off your game?

JS: absolutely, it is a completely different thing from everyday life in general...the seclusion from your friends, not being able to break your headspace in any way, because there is no outlet...i just got on this mental downward spiral and i couldn't get out of it...i feel like if i could have done another week or even a couple of days, i would have done a lot better.

ATC: Overall, what did you learn from your experience on the show?

JS: i learned alot about myself, as a person, more than i did anything about being a chef.

ATC: What was your favorite part of the experience? Your least favorite part?

JS: my favorite part was getting to meet everyone and make some really great friends. my least favorite part were the interviews.

ATC: What was your favorite challenge? Your least favorite?

JS: my favorite challenge was the very first one, the vice. and my least favorite was the escargot challenge...daniel boulud made me so nervous that i couldn't even think of anything to say, and i was shaking so badly...

ATC: What did you think of the other cheftestants? Who was your best friend on the show?

JS: i thought everyone was great, we all got along really well, and everyone was so incredibly talented. jen z. was my best friend, probably followed by hector

ATC: What would you have done with the prize money had you won the title of Top Chef?

JS: i would have paid off my debt!! and then i would have put the rest of the money into the restaurant- just a quick face lift, and maybe a new ice cream maker!

Thanks, Chef Sandlin! We wish you much success in the future. And a new ice cream maker. :)

Top Recipe, Top Chef Las Vegas Episode 5

You can find the written recipe here.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Poll Results - Top Chef Las Vegas Episode 5

Funny...only five of last week's remaining twelve cheftestants got any votes at all in our poll - Mike V, Bryan, Jen, Kevin, and Ashley. And personally, I think that's the Final Four we're seeing there (plus Ashley). More than a third of voters thought Jen was going to take it this week. What? Bryan can't win two weeks in a row? :)

So why did you think Jen was going to win the camping challenge?

Exit Interview - Mattin Noblia

Video Interview with Tim Love

In honor of Chef Tim Love's guest judging appearance on this week's Top Chef, here's a great video interview with him sharing some info about how he got his start, his cowboy hats, favorite foods to cook and eat, last meal on earth and his experience on Top Chef Masters.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

All Top Chef Interview with Mattin Noblia

Photo Credit: Damien Miller of and 944 Magazine

Top Chef Las Vegas contestant Mattin Noblia talks to us about his experience on the show, his San Francisco restaurant, Iluna Basque, and his plans for the future.

Click here for the podcast.

Thank you Mattin!

Reactions to Top Chef Las Vegas Episode 5

This week, the Top Chef producers reminded us that the show's not all about fancy sauces and famous French chefs. It's also about barely-sanitary cooking conditions, unknown equipment challenges, and whiny chefs. Oh yeah, and it's about ceviche.

During the Quickfire challenge, Mr. Don't Mess with Texas, Chef Tim Love, judged the chefs on their cactus preparations. In most cases, the chefs had never worked with cactus before - and it showed, either in an oozy result, or in a timid dish that didn't showcase the cactus. In the end, Love awarded the Quickfire win (and $15K chip) to Mike I. for his "classic" preparation of cactus with tuna ceviche.

Then came the Elimination Challenge, aka Whining Chefs on the Range. While a few of the chefs were excited about the challenge - Ashley said she grew up poor and knows how to cook over an open flame, and Mattin said he grew up camping in Basque country - most were not so psyched when they saw their cooking, and sleeping, accomodations. Michael V. described the situation as "like something out of a horror movie" and Eli showed off his masculine side, whining that watching this episode might make his girlfriend think he's willing to go camping.

In the end, Mattin packed his knives for his inedible ceviche, but Robin and Ron were at Judges' Table alongside him. Apparently seafood wasn't the best choice for this challenge (unless you're Ashley or Laurine).

Laurine and Ashley got to see the other side of Judge's Table, along with the Voltaggio boys, and Bryan was awarded the big win for his focused, "restaurant quality" pork loin.

Overall, I found the episode OK, but not nearly as entertaining (or mouth-watering) as last week's Frawnch extravaganza. Some observations and questions:

  • Where was Jennifer? And where was Jennifer in Michael V's list of most talented chefs? Are the contestants seeing something we don't? Or are we seeing something they don't?
  • What are the chances that Mattin wore his little rouge scarf camping as a child? It's kind of a cute image - tiny Mattin with a tinier scarf and a petit campfire.
  • Ash is very quickly becoming Top Chef of My Heart. I love his "confessional" chats - you could be a rancher, Ash. You could. Also, does he remind anybody else of TC3 Dale? Who, coincidentally, also wanted to be a cowboy. Maybe this straight girl just has a thing for gay cowboys.
  • Robin and her "prawns." Everybody and their "prawns." Does anyone cook regular old shrimp anymore?
  • Could the South be more proud of Kevin? Southern flavors, bacon jam and now...horseshoes?
  • Has Top Chef ever seen a less flappable chef than Bryan Voltaggio? Is it possible that he's actually a master chef robot?

What do you think? A week of filler or a genuinely interesting challenge? Did anybody's reactions surprise you? Please leave a comment with your thoughts...

ATC Love to Chef Noblia

This week we said goodbye to Chef Mattin Noblia, who's ceviche three ways didn't stand up to the heat of the Las Vegas desert, earning him a trip home.

Despite Mattin's childhood experiences in the outdoors, Tom Colicchio called his ceviche both "fishy and not flavorful," so he was sent home, after admitting that ceviche was a poor choice for the challenge.

This post is only for positive words for Chef Noblia. If you have anything negative to say about him or another chef, please click here.

Congratulations, Chef (Bryan) Voltaggio!

Chef Bryan Voltaggio does it again, earning his third (!) Elimination Challenge win with his roasted pork loin served with corn polenta, dandelion greens, and glazed rutabaga.

The judges were extremely impressed with Chef Voltaggio's focus and planning, and his ability to turn out "restaurant-quality" food under less than restaurant conditions.

This post is only for positive words for Chef Bryan Voltaggio. If you have anything negative to say about him or another chef, please click here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

TC News & Information 9.15.09

Top Chef News & Information

Did everyone but me know that Gail Simmons is Canadian? She does an interview with the Canadian Food Network blogger, Food for Thought, here.

TC5's Carla Hall will be teaching cooking classes at Alabama's Wind Creek Casino & Hotel. Details here. Hootie hoo!

Top Chef Masters winner Rick Bayless answers questions about the opening of his new restaurant, XOCO, here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Interview with Hector Santiago

Chef Hector Santiago took the time to answer a couple questions for All Top Chef about his experience on the show.

ATC: Why do you think it took so long for the meat to cook? Chef Boulud said it should take half an hour. Was it a problem with the equipment? Did it not go into the oven early enough?

HS: Let's start with the fact that the "Chateau" was cold out of the cooler (no time for tempering the meat). As I hit the kitchen floor, I went first to sear the meat, after seasoning it with Kosher salt and a peppercorn mix. I seared all the sides on a wonderful plancha in Joel Robuchon's kitchen. They went into the oven on a sheet pan lined with a rack and topped with a "jacket" of beef fat to melt over it as it roasted (I think this is where my problem started... the fat melted over it, making it tasty, but it also insulated the heat, especially the center part of the loin, thus leaving the end cuts slightly exposed and cooking at a higher temperature.) My other mistake was to rely on the thermometer I used. I waited for it to come to 125° (I should have done the old lip test when I first realized it was taking a long time.) After I was eliminated, I boiled water to check my thermometer for accuracy and it was 208° or 4° under, so my meat got to 129° instead of 125° . From there the rest is history.

ATC: This was the second time you ended up on the bottom three for beef preparation. How do you feel about that particular protein now?

HS: I love beef, so I've got no problem with it. Maybe beef has a problem with me??

I felt it was mere coincidence and if luck has any part to play, maybe beef is not my "lucky" protein.

ATC: Overall, what did you learn from your experience?

HS: I know that my food it good enough, but for these timed competitions maybe I needed to simplify it a bit and not try to put "so much" on the plate. Maybe I try to overcompensate - for my accent, or heritage, even though I'm proud of it.

ATC: What was your favorite challenge? Your least favorite?

HS: My favorite quick fire was with Chef Todd English, where we had a limited number of ingredients to work with (by rolling the dice). My least favorite... I can't think of one. I went to cook in many different situations and with many restraints.

ATC: What did you think of the other cheftestants? Who was your best friend?

HS: I liked them all. We were so different from each other that it made it interesting in a freshman at school kind of way. I made good friends with Jessie and Jen, and Preeti, since we spent a lot of time together. Also Mattin and Ron and the boys from Atlanta. They used to call me "Papi".

ATC: What would you have done with the prize money had you won the title of Top Chef?

HS: It probably would have gone to finance the kitchen for my next work in progress - "Bodega Gastronomica", and the rest into my existing restaurant, Pura Vida.

ATC: What are you up to now?

HS: My restaurant, Pura Vida, keeps me busy, as always. Not even winning would have changed that. I also have Bodega Gastronomica in the works (Latino Luxe restaurant with only 12 seats). I've got an on going project and future book on chilies (one of my favorite ingredients). You can catch my progress on or follow me on

Thank you, Chef Santiago! Catch you on Facebook!

Top Chef Las Vegas Episode 5 Previews

Monday, September 14, 2009

Recap Roundup: Top Chef Las Vegas Episode 4

And finally...we say goodbye to someone with a Y chromosome. And also: French, French, and more French. And bloggers:

Cliffieland on Quickfire details: "Since each of the chefs made snails -- and I couldn’t tell you what’s in a Provençal over what’s in a McDLT -- I’ll skip the details of each snail dish."

Jordan Baker on this week's losers: "Jesse, despite seeming like a nice kid, didn’t exactly cover herself in glory during the competition. And Hector.. . I don’t know. Something about Hector made me uneasy. I think it was the sideburns, and the general feeling of physical massiveness."

Minx Eats on the Frawnch: "Here's where the Frenchitude gets cranked up to 11: this meal will be served to Hubert Keller, Laurent Tourondel, Daniel Boulud, Jean Joho, and the magnificent, the stupendous, the Frenchiest French Chef of them all--Joël Robuchon..."

Left Coast Catering (Laurine's blog) with really nice words about the judging chefs: "Famous chefs like Joel and Daniel no doubt continued to refine their knowlege in the kitchen long after they’d grown quite famous. There is no question. The humility they showed us during the classic French challenge seemed to me a true testament to their mastery of our craft–a reverence for the human energy embodied in the meal and the knowledge that such precise execution is never a simple task."

Reality Check (Baltimore Sun) on love in the air?: "Did it seem to anyone else like Jennifer and Michael were flirting! Will they be this season's Leah and Hosea?"

Parties that Cook on the Elimination Challenge: "Each knife has a classical French sauce or a classical French protein. Mike smiles happily, as he has no idea what is going on because he knows no French. Cheers!"

TV Watch (People) on Jesse's final statement: "Perennially in the bottom, Jesse looked genuinely gutted to be leaving so soon. 'I’m pissed, I’m disappointed [and] I’m embarrassed,' she said. 'I haven’t felt like myself since I got here. . . . . The thing I want people to know is that I don’t suck this bad.'"

Poptimal on the big talkers: "Mattin talks a big game – because, you know, he’s French – as does Mike I., who has an advantage because of his Greek heritage (though Eli reminds him he’s not from Greece, he’s from ******* Jersey)."

Gawker on the ramifications of traditional French training: "Say what you will about the abuses of the European stage system —amply illustrated by sadistic twat-for-brain Michael Chiarello—it does usefully turn one into a batonnet, Bearnaise, sauce Americaine making machine." on Frawnch superiority: "The whole thing was about how French people are better than you. It's true. They cook better and can taste things better and their language is prettier and they invented delicious foodstuffs like frozen French Bread Pizzas (in France they just call them frozen Bread Pizzas)."

LA Times on Bacongate: "It is why bacon, a once-humble cured and smoked pork product, rules on the flavor scale. It is why it's so 'in' right now. There's nothing bland about it. Lots of fat, lots of salt, a little meat, a winning ratio. But can there be too much of a good thing? Looks like it. "

Grub Street on Robin's "amuse": "Curiously, Robin makes a soup, but it seems the judges decided to be less rigorous about their definition of an amuse than in previous seasons."

Slashfood on cockiness: "But on Wednesday night's tribute to the art of French cooking, awe quickly gave way to a swaggering show of braggadocio the likes of which we haven't seen since Eminem was doing freestyle rap-offs on the streets of Detroit. Chalk it up to nerves -- or ironic editing -- if you want, but when the headstrong, "I'm better than my brother" Michael V. seems the most shy and unassuming of the bunch, you know something's out of whack."

Time Out Chicago with a Quickfire summary: "The usual suspects—Ice Queen, Big Red and Jersey Boy—won. And the usual suspects—Robin, Jesse, Ashley—lost. The three losers had to cook-to-the-death via an amuse-bouche, which is a little like death by chocolate, only cooler. Jesse left. Frankly, I’ll miss that hot little fry-mama."

Las Vegas Weekly on the stakes: "It was time, as Michael Voltaggio dramatically put it, to cook the 'most important plate I’ve ever cooked in my career.'"

Speakeasy (WSJ) on gender balance: "The gender balance for the show is now four women gone versus only one man, a ratio that seemed a little off to me until I read head judge Tom Colicchio’s explanation of the situation in a blog post on Bravo’s Web site."

She Wired speaking for snail-haters everywhere: "Unsurprisingly, chefs Jennifer, Mike I. and Kevin manage to shine once again with their escargot dishes -- all of which I'd rather flush than even look at. Yes, I have a thing against eating things that produce their own slime."

Food and More (Atlanta Journal Constitution) on hangovers: "So we begin in the early morning in the kitchen of the suburban McMansion, and the feeling around the house is very Tony Soprano in his bathrobe scrounging for coffee and yelling at A.J. The chefs are dragging despite Hector’s cups of muddy Puerto Rican rocket fuel."

Rochester City Newspaper on mixups in the kitchen: "Ashley seemed to have another freakout in the kitchen - that happens to her a lot - and there was another inadvertent pan swap between Ron and Robin. That's two in two weeks; we've never seen that before this season."

Mama Pop echoing my thoughts on snails: "Listen, I'm a foodie and I am happy to eat a lot of weird shit. I have eaten my share of escargot, but it just makes me uncomfortable. There - I said it. Snails are creepy and you all know it."

Clean Plate Charlie on the big challenge: Tthey were informed they would be creating a six course meal for a few famous chefs who would be joining the judges table this week, namely Hubert Keller, Laurent Tourondel, Jean Joho, and chef of the century Joel Robuchon. Everyone had heart attacks and ran to the kitchen."

Whip Smarter with a handy acronym: "Almost all sauces, French or otherwise, can be derived from the “mothers.” The way to remember the basic sauces used to produce almost all others is to remember everyone’s good friend BETH and her V.D.–Bechemel, Espagnole, Tomato, Hollandaise, Veloute and Demi Glace."

Best Week Ever with a good life-rule: "Anyone who plans to go on Top Chef should be sure to specifically practice two or three go-to Amuse-bouches, cause they always come up. Memorize presidents before you go on Jeopardy, amuse-bouches before you go on Top Chef — that’s what I’m gonna tell my kids."

Meal Ticket on the winners: "Bryan and Mike I., who took a big risk — that paid dividends — by desconstructing a bernaise to go with trout. Bryan is selected as the individual champ, his second Elimination W. I still think they look like lifeguards, but it’s clear the Voltaggio brothers are serious, serious business."

Fancast on the teams: "It’s amazing that the teams seem to be relatively conflict free, with the exception of Ron and Robin, who are less full of conflict, and more full of crazy Robin. Hasn’t poor Ron endured enough discomfort in his lifetime?"

TV Squad on predictions (and everyone has the same predictions): "I don't know how it's happened this go-round, but the ladies have been just dreadful with the exception of Jennifer. She seems to be the only one who can keep up with the men. She's likely to be the only one in the final four, and if I were predicting now, I'd say the other candidates would be Kevin and the two brothers, Bryan and Mike."

Cultural Learnings on cutting dead weight: "There is some amazing talent in this year’s cast, and I think that’s the problem: the sheer gulf between those individuals and the rest of the field is so large that I want to be able to watch the next episode not because I’m desperate for more Top Chef but because I want them to cull the herd as quickly as possible so we can see that core group go head to head in what could be one of the most competitive Top Chef finales ever."

Procrastiblog on Mike I at Judge's Table: "Mike obviously learned his lesson last week. He didn’t go so far as to steal credit from Bryan for his 'deconstructed Bearnaise,' but he made damn sure the judges knew it was a collaborative effort to which he and Bryan contributed just about equally. The judges weren’t buying it—the top prize went to Bryan without much ado—but this time they let his coat-tail riding slide. (Aside: You know that sauce was damn good, because there’s nothing the judges would like better than to roll their eyes and sneer at a “deconstructed” anything.)"

Max the Girl on Mattin the Frawnch: "So Mattin was all in his element, because he’s French you know—even though I have secretly suspected that he is just faking it. I mean, if I were some kid from Ohio pretending to be French, I’d slap on a red neckerchief and say things like, 'Isn’t French cooking ze best?' But I digress. . ."

Limecrete with the Crete joke everyone makes: "Snail murder ensues. Mike is going for a Greek feel to his dish, because snail is a delicacy in Crete. I'm certainly not surprised that he wants to emulate a Cretan. Ba-zing!"

TC News & Information 9.14.09

Top Chef News & Information
Here's an interview with TC 5's Leah Cohen, "one of the most popular Top Chef contestants ever." :::raises eyebrow:::

For you C.J. Jacobsen fans: here are a couple of photos of him doing a cooking demo at the farmer's market in Tacoma, WA.

Here are excerpts from the day-after conference call with this week's eliminees Hector Santiago and Jesse Sandlin.

Check out this week's Creative Loafing Top Chef podcast here.

TC4's Ryan Scott did a cooking demo for...a beauty school. Details here.

Finally, Las Vegas Weekly lays odds for episode five here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Top Chef at Fashion Week

Top Chef Hostess-with-the-mostess Padma Lakshmi particpated in a designer cook-off at Bergdorf Goodman on Thursday, 9/10, as part of the festivities of Fashion's Night Out. Participants included cosmetic prodigy Edward Bess, plus fashion designers Cynthia Rowley, Peter Som, Gilles Mendel, Lela Rose, and Naeem Khan.

YumSugar has posted copies of the recipes, if anyone is interested.

Also on hand to celebrate Fashion's Night Out was Season 2's Sam Talbot. Life Magazine has a pic of the cutie with some friends.

Poll - Who Will Win Top Chef 6 Episode 5?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Top Recipe, Top Chef Las Vegas Episode 4

For the written recipe, click here.

And if you want to know how Kevin prepared his escargot in the Quickfire - not to mention the bacon jam - click here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Poll Results - Top Chef Las Vegas Episode 4

We had two polls this one, the usual, plus a quick one to see who you thought would be eliminated in the Quickfire this week.

Your Quickfire elimination pick was Jesse - more than half of you thought she would be asked to leave, and you were right on the money. As for your winner, 42% picked Jen. Only 11% picked the actual winner, Bryan. Why did so many think Jen would take it this week?

Exit Interviews - Jesse Sandlin and Hector Santiago

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Reactions to Top Chef Las Vegas Episode 4

Last week we learned about our cheftestants' heartwarming patriotism and ability to band together as a team in the face of mess hall adversity. This week: more teamwork and more respect, but this time, en francais.

This week's episode, helmed by guest judge Daniel Boulud (who could not be more adorable), showcased the chefs' technical skill and knowledge of traditional French preparations. Plus, a double elimination! And Joel Robuchon!

Tensions ran high in the kitchen during the episode, but only because the chefs were all nervous about cooking for a group of some of the world's most esteemed French chefs. Nobody turned out food that was a complete disaster, and Gail confirmed that this season's chefs are better than any other season's. Much love and sauce all around.

Ultimately, Jesse and Hector were sent home (for their tuna tartare amuse bouche and uneven Chateaubriand, respectively), Kevin won the Quickfire for his escargots with bacon jam, and Bryan won the Elimination Challenge and a week staging in Joel Robuchon's kitchen for the gorgeous trout he made with Mike I.

My thoughts:
  • I love Boulud and I loooove escargots, but Jennifer is right: snails are ugly.
  • The face-rubbing and cursing that follows the Quickfire elimination announcement reminds me, immediately, of season 4. Anybody else remember what a trucker mouth Stephanie had?
  • During the Quickfire judging, could Tom and Daniel be more stone-faced? And does Tom always take bites with his pinky out, or was it just for Mike I.'s dish?
  • Not to take anything away from Kevin's winning dish, but even he admitted that "you can put bacon jam on any plate" and it'll be good. At what point does the bacon backlash begin? Did we see it start with Mattin's Elimination Challenge veloute?
  • During the Quickfire cookoff, Jesse finally started sounding comfortable and confident. Which was obviously the producers' kiss of death.
  • Ron - has he lived 15 different lives? Refugee, Montauk chowder champ, classically trained chef who has prepared frog's legs at least 250 different ways? What's next, sung on stage with Motley Crue?
  • Happy birthday to Mattin. Happy pantsless birthday? Or was that my mind playing tricks on me? Also, is it just me or is Mattin kind of a jerk? Neckerchief or no, he very nearly "threw Ashley under the bus" (I refuse to use that phrase unironically).
  • Kevin's Quickfire win not only gave him immunity, it also gave him the opportunity to don a lavender tie and dine with the judges and Famous French Chefs. I wondered, though, if he wasn't bummed to not get to cook for them. Nerve-wracking, sure, but potentially career-making, too?

What did you think? Another episode devoid of reality TV-caliber drama? Or a testament to the power of good food and talented chefs? Please leave a comment with your thoughts...