Last night, the “Top Chef: Las Vegas” producers dropped a big present under the tree of all the Bravo viewers who were bored by the lovey dovey, drama-free aspects of “Top Chef Masters.” Gone were the hugs and “way to go’s!” Gone were the gentle eyes of teddy bear Hubert Keller that couldn’t contort into one of Jennifer Carroll’s glares if they tried. And gone were any illusions that this is all just a fun game among friends.
For the season 6 contestants on “Top Chef,” this isn’t just a game. It’s a battle. A battle against the gender stereotypes that Jersey boy Mike Isabella likes to prattle off like all those nicknames he has for his fellow chefs. (I’m still scratching my head over that “pickles” one…) It’s also a battle between brothers Michael and Bryan Voltaggio to see who, to borrow a phrase from the barely comprehensible Hector, has the biggest “cajones” in the kitchen.
Finally, if last night’s episode was any indication, it’s also a battle to see whose whine can shatter the glassware in the GM kitchen first. Jesse’s tears are pretty righteous, but my bets were still on good ole golly gee whiz Eve from Michigan until she had to go dig herself into another shrimp hole.
But to her credit, at least she pronounces “ceviche” correctly. I think?
The big drama of last night’s episode was not, however, about whether “ceviche” is “cevich-ay” or “cevich” as the scary yet wickedly talented Jenn C. pronounces it. The big drama was about the political correctness of an elimination challenge that required the cheftestants to pair food with shots for a bachelor/bachelorette party. Ashley, one of the three gay contestants in this season’s roster, was more than a little upset to be cooking for a wedding ritual that she cannot take part in because gay marriage is not legal in all states in the US. As to my thoughts on whether she was voicing a valid complaint or being overly sensitive, I’ll leave that can of worms to be opened at next year’s Miss USA pageant. I’m sure Perez Hilton will have a few words to share as well.
Moving on… the marriage drama and the sibling rivalry between Michael and Bryan Voltaggio were quickly established as the main story arcs. They also provided the only two nail-bitters of what proved to be a room temperature episode that lacked any real, un-manufactured sizzle. There was no question in my mind that the boys would best the girls with their fancy molecular gastronomy and more adventurous dishes. (Ladies, please lose the lettuce leaves and unfortunate garnishes.) There was also no question in my mind that poor confused Eve would be the one sent home for yet another incomprehensible dish.
What was less obvious was whether Ashley would be able to overcome her emotions and still come out unscathed by Tom, Padma, Gail, and Todd English’s well-sharpened knives. (Ultimately, no, due to an unfortunate decision to create a second dish – a savory sage panna cotta that failed to impress with its bitter undertones.)
Of course, for me, the main concern was whether dreamboat Michael would best Bryan in yet another challenge. I’ve already voiced my feelings (maybe a little too loudly for some) about him here, so I won’t digress/embarrass myself any further. Except to say, his wife is a very lucky woman. And I heart chefs with tatts and nitrate.
In the end, Bryan’s “whimsical” macaroons that I still haven’t quite figured out because I couldn't take notes fast enough (sweet and sour, what?) outshone Michael’s apple sorbet and goat cheese cookie, and Todd English pronounced him the victor of the second elimination challenge. Does this mean his “cajones” were bigger than Michael’s last night? Perhaps.
Either way, the Voltaggio boys are keeping things interesting. And not just because of their washboard abs.