Sunday, November 1, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas: Insufferable Isabella Told To Pack His Knives And Go

It was good TV to get the insufferably smug Mike Isabella of my Top Chef TV screen. If my memory serves me correctly, each week Isabella would brag that he had whatever challenge in the bag due to his superior cooking skills. But I don't remember him delivering anything that was well received.

For his exit week Isabella was sure he would be on top because the Elimination Challenge was to create a vegetarian dish for Natalie Portman in Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak restaurant in the MGM Grand. Of course, the cheftestants thought they would be cooking a protein and were thrown a loop with the arrival of vegetarian Portman.

But not Isabella. He said he cooks vegetarian all the time in his restaurant. But somehow he did not know that when you cook vegetarian you combine certain grains and beans to make a complete protein. Instead, he thought it was immensely clever to slice leeks to make them look like scallops. He actually referenced, to the judges, the faux scallops as his dish's protein.

This episode started with the drawing of knives for the Quickfire Challenge. The knives had classic TV shows on them. The challenge was to make an upscale, update of a TV dinner, somehow reflecting that show. I really did not get how they were supposed to do that, but Kevin came up with a meatball TV dinner that won the challenge.

Kevin also won the Elimination Challenge, to the total upset of poor loser Michael Voltaggio, who felt his complicated dish, that included a banana infused polenta, should have won over Kevin's simple kale dish that Voltaggio claimed was something you learned your first day in culinary school. Or something like that.

Those Voltaggio brothers are a real intense piece of work. But there are moments when I find them amusing.

Poor nervous Jennifer really suffered this round. She ended up in the bottom again. She was so nervous and shaking so bad she spilled sauce on the judges. I like Jennifer. Both she and Kevin have grown on me. Especially Kevin. It comes through rather clear that Kevin is a nice guy. And a very good chef. I was surprised to hear him reference his wife. I want to see the wife.

It was particularly satisfying to see Robin survive Isabella. Mike was sure that he was safe as long as Robin was also on the chopping block. But it was clear from Tom Colicchio's blog that everything about Isabella's dish was bad and that Isabella stood by his untasty food. While Robin understood what was wrong with hers and Colicchio said that, unlike Isabella's, Robin's problem was not that it tasted bad, it just was not a cohesive dish that combined flavors into something you wanted to eat.

Anyway, good to see Mike Isabella go. Now if Robin survives Eli that will also be amusing.

Almost forgot. The repartee that followed Padma's remark about, I think it was a garlic flower, being like a "little prick in your mouth" was pretty funny. I don't think that repartee would have survived the censors on network TV.

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