There's not much for the six remaining “Top Chef” contestants to whine about in the opening sequence of last night’s episode now that misogynist egomaniac Mike Isabella is gone. It’s a big deal, according to Jenn C., who thought he would be there till the end, but actually it’s just a big deal because it means Robin is still there. (In case it wasn’t clear in the previous ten episodes, everybody hates Robin.)
In other news, Bryan Volt misses his wife and 22 month old son. We all cry a tear for the humble soft-spoken daddy, who is only on “Top Chef” to get security for his family. Right. So that’s why he’s always getting his wrinkle-free tighty whities in a bunch when younger bro Michael beats him – because he just wants security for his toddler! It's always about the darn kids. Just ask Eli's mommy and daddy.
So the chefs are - surprise surprise - not heading to the M resort today. They are going deep into the catacombs of the Venetian... dun dun dun! I'm not sure why it's so scary, but apparently the chefs are really freaking out about it. While the cheftestants try to figure out who they might see today (Eli’s big head is spinning around like a top looking for Jedi Knights), they get a phone call from a robe-clad Padma for room service. It’s her best Quickfire look yet. Maybe she should steal it from her hotel room to wear over her onesies?
Today’s guest judge is chef, cookbook author and British sensation Nigella Lawson, who Eli describes as “a modern, updated, less French version of Julia Childs.” In other words, she is nothing like Julia Childs. At all. He also informs us that Gordon Ramsay named a turkey after her which apparently makes her legit. It really has nothing to do with her cookbook or fabulous skin or silky hair or charming British accent. For the record, we love Nigella. We really and truly do.
For this week’s Quickfire, which will not offer immunity, the chefs must cook Padma and Nigella room service breakfast in 30 minutes. Because the kitchen is small, only two chefs will cook at a time. First up are Eli and Robin. Eli prepares a fried egg Reuben Benedict with Thousand Island hollandaise. He’s pretty confident about his dish, but confesses to Nigella and Padma that he doesn’t usually eat breakfast because he’s not usually up by that hour unless there’s a Star Wars convention or his mom needs him to take out the trash.
Robin is a mess as usual – her cheese blintzes fail to impress the “beautiful” Nigella, and Robin berates herself for being a spazz when she presented her plates to the judges. “I always just ehhh trip.” She’s doing an excellent job of pinch-hitting for Mike I. with all these self-inflicted insults.
Up next are wonder boys Michael Volt and Kevin Red Beard. Michael’s pissed because Robin left a mess in his station, and when she comes in to clean it up, he snaps, “I’d rather you just be gone right now.” Don’t we all, don’t we all. The boys impress Nigella with their substantial dishes – Michael with his Huevos Cubano with banana puree and crispy bacon, and Kevin with his gussied up steak and eggs. Surprise, surprise, that Kevin Red Beard likes a hearty breakfast! Fortunately, so does Nigella.
Jennifer and Bryan are the last to present. Jennifer makes SOS creamed chipped beef that has Nigella wishing she could call an SOS so she wouldn’t have to eat it, and Bryan makes a warm fermented egg with vanilla. Nigella is not a fan – “I couldn’t cope quite with the vanilla,” she declares oh so cutely. I scratch my head – is she talking about the flavor or Bryan's personality? Eli ultimately scores the Quickfire victory for his Reuben Benedict that slapped the jet lag right out of her. He gets nothing for the effort, but knows his win is legit because it’s from Nigella the turkey.
For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs will be celebrating the crown jewel of Vegas – the Strip, by creating dishes inspired by six of the hotels. Bryan draws the Mandalay Bay, Eli draws Circus Circus, Jenn draws Excalibur, Robin draws the Bellagio, Kevin draws the Mirage, and Michael draws New York New York. Rather than filling the middle hum-drum part of the episode with the usual tomfoolery at Whole Foods, we instead get to see each chef case their assigned hotel for inspiration. It’s not very inspiring. Bryan does buy his son a stuffed shark from the gift shop at Mandalay Bay, which I know is supposed to make me go “aww,” but I refuse to allow my emotions to be manipulated by anyone except Kevin Red Beard. And maybe Michael V. when he’s not wearing his backwards hat.
After finding their inspiration (or in Jenn’s case, no inspiration), the chefs have three and a half hours to prep for service. They will be catering for a party attended by 175 of Las Vegas’ elites on the roof of the World Market Center. Things are not looking good for Jenn who isn’t really sure what she’s doing, but likes the “Sword and the Stone,” and Robin who took one look at the artwork at the Bellagio and decided that gelatin would be involved in her dish. Shudder. She’s making panna cotta which she hasn’t really made a lot, but she’s still way excited about it because she looooves sabotaging herself. And we looooove watching her sabotage herself. Until someone else sabotages themselves even worse and she somehow manages to not get eliminated. Again. And again. And again. And again.
Eli’s depressed because apparently there is no circus at Circus, Circus, guys, and he has to wear dirty undershirts as t-shirts since his mommy isn’t there to do his laundry for him. He’s making caramel apple peanut soup with popcorn and raspberry froth, which sounds like a terrible idea because it is a terrible idea. Nigella declares in her prim British accent (again, love her!), “I’m more frightened than I can say and I’m not going to be the first to go in.” Padma makes a yucky face and says, “I don’t like it at all.” The soup, along with Robin’s panna cotta disaster and Jenn’s tough NY strip steak with roasted beets and red wine reduction are predictably awarded the most visceral comments from the judges.
On top are Michael V., whose spiked out hair makes me miss the baseball cap, Kevin Red Beard for his wild sockeye salmon with compressed vegetables and cucumber broth, and Bryan for his halibut that has garlic chips and a lot of other fancy words involved. Apparently, fancy words make his dish legit. Of course, not as legit as having a turkey named after you, right Eli? Michael V. ultimately wins a really big bottle of wine and a trip to a vineyard in Napa for his righteous crispy chicken wings with a twist. Bryan goes and hugs the stuffed shark in the corner.
Jenn, Robin and Eli are then lined up in front of the judges to receive their lashings. Robin forgets that it’s Tom’s job to make her feel like an incompetent fool and says, “I was playing with something I hadn’t done again. I’m such a jerk.” Fortunately, the judges don’t need much convincing. In spite of Jenn’s tough steak that Nigella likened to a stone, and Eli’s major soup fail, Robin is finally sent home because her panna cotta didn’t’ “quiver like a young courtesan’s thigh.” It’s an anticlimactic moment. No cheering. No chest bumps between Eli and Kevin. Sweetheart Jenn even walks poor grandma to the door. For a moment I miss Mike I. – he’d know what to say! But then the moment passes. Ding dong, the purple witch is gone.