Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Top Chef Sin City (Episode 4): à double problème (Double Trouble)

How do you keep Sin City's Top Chef contestants on the edge of their knives? Change the rules in the middle of the game, that's how. I love it when the show mixes it up and catches everyone off guard and that's exactly what happened this week. "Survivor" does it all the time (not that I watch it anymore) but Top Chef has been pretty much on the straight and narrow path, providing very little surprises. For eg., when Padma comes in to call the first group of contestants to the judges' table, you already know, without a doubt, that they are the winners of the challenge. I just wished that maybe once, Padma would switch it up and stun everybody by calling the losers first.

So, for episode 4, the rules are tweaked a little. First, the show decided to eliminate 2 chefs instead of the usual single elimination. Not only that, it is the episode where everything is all French, all the time. You've got your snails (it's escargot, monsieur and madame!), your French classic sauces, your classic French chefs, poussin and at the end of it all, "lè guillotine" to the contestant with the worse dish! Sounds so delectable and so French!

First, the Quickfire. This one is held in French chef and restaurateur extraordinaire Daniel Boulud's brasserie at the Wynn Las Vegas casino and hotel. The chefs are asked to create a dish based on the VERY French ingredient, snai.....er.....sorry, escargot. Of course, this particular episode seem to favor none other than Frenchie himself, Mattin, the only French-born chef in the competition. Or so you would think. You could see Frenchie grinning from ear to ear when they are first introduced to Boulud and when escargot was announced as the secret ingredient, he would've peed in his pants and passed out (in no particular order) if not for decorum in the presence of master Boulud. OK...........moving on!

When judge Tom C. announced that it was going to be another high-stakes challenge, the contestants' eyes lit up, expecting another big $15K payday for the winner. (Cue the sound of tires screeching to an unexpected halt!) Not so fast, people! Nope, this time high-stakes mean just the opposite. Instead of the winner walking away with cash, the loser walks away. Literally! Yup, a chef would be eliminated at the end of the challenge. Snails....I mean....escargot would be someone's downfall. So, off they go, 45 minutes to come up with, as Boulud states in his very French accent, "sumtheeng I 'ave naver tisted before." Cut to the end and voila! what's her face, the one with the tats and piercings, gets "lè guillotine". No surprise there. It was only a matter of time, no? Jesse's been consistently bad in the past few challenges, always ending up in the bottom of the heap. And now she finally gets the chop! Oui!

The winner? Amish fat boy. Kevin (you could just see Frenchie sneering uncontrollably into the camera!), who is not only safe from elimination, he doesn't even need to take part in it. Instead, he'll be dining with la creme de la creme of French cuisine: big daddy Joël Robuchon voted French Chef of the Century (how's that for intimidating!), Hubert Keller, Boulud and a few other names that I don't recognize (just like Asians, all Frenchmen look and sound alike to me!) The other contestants were then asked to pick knives that had the name of a sauce or a protein printed on them. The chefs are then asked to pair up according to what sauce goes with which protein. As luck would have it, two of the strongest chefs, younger brother, Little V and Jennifer got paired up, while the older Voltaggio brother paired up with annoying Mike I. for the challenge. Again, Frenchie is in a confident mood, even after pairing up with dazed and confused Ashley.

The outcome is more or less a done deal at this point with only the bottom teams yet to be determined. As expected, little V brother Mike, Jennifer, Big V Bryan and Mike I. are declared the two winning teams of this challenge. The winner? Big V with his (ho-hum) cured trout dish which came with Mike I.'s deconstructed bearnaise sauce (actually, if I'm not mistaken, the deconstructed bearnaise was Big V's idea and Mike I was just executing on his direction). Actually, I thought Little V's and Jen's dish of rabbit chasseur with mustard noodle and shiso was a more exciting dining experience. But hey, what do I know, I'm not even from the same continent as these French masters.

The bottom teams turned out to be Ash's and Hector's Chateaubriand and Sauce Au Poivre and Ashley's and Mattin's dish of Seared Poussin and Ravioli with Sauce Veloute. Frenchie screwed up one of the mother sauces, an unforgivable sin in any Frenchman's eye and I was sure he was gonna get "lè guillotine." Fortunately for Frenchie, Hector's Chateaubriand, which was a bloody mess (literally!), was deemed a far worse sin for a Top Chef. It took 4 episodes but the first male contestant was finally guillotined from the show.

Wouldn't it have been a perfect and poetic end to an all-French episode if Frenchie would've gotten the boot? Oo-la-la!

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