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There was very little drama in the last season of Top Chef, with the exception of the drama of whether or not Hosea’s head would actually transform completely into a giant thumb or if it would just remain thumb-ISH in shape and size. But for the most part, the not-as-talented chefs were eliminated early on and the better chefs remained to battle it out in a legitimate test of skill and/or whatever Hosea was up to. Everyone seemed like friends (or Hosea) and like they respected each other’s talent and hard work. This season there is even LESS drama. Kevin and the Voltaggio brothers have been DOMINATING from the start like a bunch of dominatrixusesii, and although Jennifer has definitely basically gone The Yellow Wallpaper over the past couple of weeks, is still obviously a great chef succumbing to the rigors and pressures of an intensive and invasive reality TV show. And everyone else has basically been left to fight over whose turn it would be to inevitably be sent home this or that week, with the possible exception of Mike, who seems pretty strong, and has been the only “surprise” elimination all season, and even that wasn’t that big of a surprise. To give you a sense of how little drama there has been so far this season, remember that this week there were five chefs left (Michael Voltaggio, Kevin, Eli, Bryan Voltaggio, Jennifer). Now guess which one got eliminated. NO SPOILERS, but I am pretty sure you guessed right. Like the teenagers say in their Facebook status updates, NO DRAMA!

Before the chefs head in to the Top Chef kitchen to compete in the final Las Vegas challenge before the exciting non-Las Vegas finale (what happens in Vegas eventually stops happening in Vegas, apparently), we get a classic glimpse of the nightmare garbage dump that is the Top Chef house. Broken hangers on the floor. Crushed shelves. (Don’t forget Jennifer’s bed.) What happens in there? It’s like Robin and Ash decided to have a wrestling match to prove once and for all who was the less-talented. “We will prove this through the horrifying use of our bodies!”

Meanwhile, Eli points out that his mentor is Richard Blaise. THE BLAISE-ANATOR, BLAISING COPIES! Eli was the best man at Richard Blaise’s wedding? What? For one thing, the delicious molecular gastronomy menu that delighted the guest’s tastebuds and imaginations was the best man at Richard Blaise’s wedding. For another thing: I did not see that coming. I wonder how Richard Blaise and Eli’s mom get along, and whether or not there is a tension there that is tearing Eli apart. “He’s my best friend, mom!” “Well I don’t understand why a married man with a successful career needs to sleep over.” “It’s my room, mom! I can have my friends over if I want!”

This week’s guest judge is 14-year-old Gavin Kaysen, executive chef at Cafe Boulud, and former contestant in the illustrious Bocuse D’or cooking competition. We are then shown scenes of what looks like the rodeo scene in Borat in which people wanted to kill Borat. What is that thing? Nothing says elegant fine dining like people in patriotic sweatshirts waving flags and screaming over the sound of rattling noisemakers. YUM AND ALSO REFINEMENT. Anyway, all the chefs are just like, “Oh man,” and Gavin Kaysen is like, “Yeah, I know.” For this week’s Quickfire Challenge, the chefs will need to recreate one of Gavin Kaysen’s dishes from the Bocuse D’or. Well, kind of. Gavin Kaysen created an elaborate and eye-popping “ballantine” in which crayfish was stuffed in chicken liver stuffed in a chicken, which took him four months to develop. So they have half an hour to put “protein inside of protein inside of protein.” So this is apparently the That Is What She Said D’or.

Everyone starts stuffing their protein into other proteins, and the protein is just flying, getting everywhere. If you took a black light to the Top Chef kitchens, it would look like a Jacks-Off Pollock! (Get it? Yuck, and I’m sorry!) Anyway, Eli makes a scotch egg, Kevin makes fried catfish suffed with scallops and shrimp, Michael makes a poultry terrine, Bryan makes a rack of lamb with sausage and something, and Jennifer makes a calamari steak wrapped around scallops and salmon. When Padma tastes it she tells Jennifer, “Welcome back.” Wait, where did Jennifer go? Oh that’s right: Crazy Town aboard the Flame Out Express. Well she is back now, and she wins the Quickfire. Congratulations, Jennifer! There is no immunity anymore, but she will get an extra 30 minutes to cook in the Elimination Challenge. (Neat?!)

The Elimination Challenge this week will also be based on the Bocuse D’or. The chefs each have to prepare either a lamb or salmon dish with complimentary garnishes that represent the pinnacle of elegance and classic French cuisine, and they will have three and a half minutes to do it. I mean, basically. This show loves taking something that is well-respected and important and turning it into a clownish disaster. I am sure that 83-year-old Paul Bocuse is hard at work building himself a grave to roll in. The chefs will serve their dish on the traditional Bocuse D’or mirrored-platter to 12 of the world’s greatest chefs. Really? The 12th episode of a heavily Las Vegas-themed season and we’re not going to make any cocaine jokes with these mirrored platters? You clearly dropped the speedball on this one, Top Chef.

Everyone is nervous for what is the most difficult and demanding challenge on the show thus far. How will Kevin meld his love of simplistic homestyle cooking with the elaborate presentation of the Bocuse D’or? How will Michael Voltaggio manage to turn this into a passive-aggressive pissing contest with his brother? How will Eli call his mom? There just might not be enough time! Perhaps Jennifer can call Eli’s mom for him with a few of her extra 30 minutes.

Cook, cook, cook. Kevin! Stop staring at those carrots and get cooking!

Kevin decides to sous-vide his lamb but he has never used sous-vide before. If he had been the best man at Richard Blaise’s wedding, he would probably have gotten a sous-vide in his gift bag, but no such luck. Bryan Voltaggio tells him exactly what temperature to set the machine for, because Bryan Voltaggio is a man. He knows that some people might backstab and sabotage, but he knows that in 10 years when his son is watching this on a hover-chip surgically implanted in his frontal coretex, daddy will have done the right thing. I was a little worried, though, that Kevin’s bold use of a completely new and complicated cooking technique might be the thing that got him accidentally eliminated. Let’s just say that doesn’t end up happening. It very much doesn’t at all. Some might say the opposite happens. NO DRAMA.

So, everyone wheels out their silver platters of beautifully prepared cocaine-encrusted lamb and par-boiled (in cocaine) salmon (if I have to do everything around here, Top Chef, I will) and the judges, including Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, and Paul Bocuse’s son, Cueball Bocuse, casually rip everything apart. Seriously, I think Cueball Bocuse was the basis for the Leon character in The Professional.

“I am going to cold-bloodedly assassinate your self-worth just as soon as I have watered my plant and one true friend, Francine.” There is basically something wrong with everyone’s dish, which obviously has more to do with the fact that this is a hilariously absurd challenge in terms of ambition-to-resources than with any flaws in their abilities to cook a reasonable meal. But sure. Top Chef don’t change its stripes.

So, Kevin wins. He gets $30,000, and a chance to compete to represent the United States in next year’s Bocuse D’or. And Eli loses. He gets to go home where his mom will be waiting for him 30,000 hugs.

Comments (27)
  1. hmm, technically i believe it is called a “ballantine” but protein inside a protein inside a protein is kind of like a little valentine.

  2. How was their no mention of Bryan’s creepy laughter? If I heard Bryan’s laughter in a dark empty parking structure I think Id marinate my pants.

  3. I’m just impressed with all of the chefs for not laughing when Gavin Kaysen smugly announced, “Here is a typical preparation at the Bocuse D’Or: We took a zucchini and wove a basket out of it.”

    Wow. That certainly does sound like a delicious way to prepare zucchini. I bet that zucchini tasted doubly wonderful, knowing that, before you put it in your mouth, it was in the shape of a household object. “Last year at the Bocuse D’Or, I carved a potato into the shape of a car, and then put whole truffles in the passenger seats, because that is fancy and classy.”

    Seriously, on the basis of the descriptions given, the Bocuse D’Or doesn’t sound like high cuisine so much as a very pretentious episode of one of those novelty-cake shows.

  4. BTW, did anyone else notice that all the chefs went out of their way to praise Paul Bocuse, but not his son, who was sitting right there next to them? “This night was a wonderful tribute to the culinary genius that is… your dad. God, I wish he were here. Please tell him hello from us.”

    Fun fact gleaned from Wikipedia: In addition to overseeing the Bocuse D’Or, Jerome “Cueball” Bocuse “manages the Chefs de France restaurant inside the French Pavillion at Walt Disney World’s Epcot.” I am surprised that he didn’t mention that more often. “This caviar and salmon dish is beneath my standards. I would never serve it at my restaurant, in Orlando, at Walt Disney World Epcot. It is unfit to be accompanied by the animatronic Remy the Rat, from Ratatouille.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTBzvJeNwQQ

  5. Man, I’m so happy Kevin at least got a worthwhile prize this time. I was afraid he would win again and get, like a crate of 10,000 eggs and one wisk.

  6. Okay, I’ll say it – I was actually disappointed that Jennifer DIDN’T make a turducken.

  7. here’s an interesting
    fact, Eli was Blais’
    sous chef when he competed
    on Iron Chef America in its
    third season. it’s one big
    bunch of friends, this
    show.
    by the way, Blais is spelled
    without an ‘e’

    • They reran that recently, and I turned on the TV right in the middle. I was very tired, and I thought, “Oh good, Top Chef is on. I can watch that as I drift off into a nap.” (Gabe is right, this season is what I use to lull myself to sleep.) I watched for a full FIVE minutes before I was like, “Oh, this is not Top Chef.” I like to tell this story at cocktail parties also.

  8. HA, The Yellow Wallpaper reference made my day. That Jennifer, crawling around on all fours in the wall, no wonder her food had been lacking.

  9. According to Mike-Jenn has nothing left to do there-except make squinty flirty faces.

  10. Does anyone think that they eliminated Robyn last week because they knew she would be such an epic, embarrassing disaster with this challenge that they just decided to put her out of her misery? I mean yes her dish last week looked pretty terrible, but Eli essentially made a vomit parfait that two of the judges said they never wanted to eat again, ever. I would assume that even mediocre, but edible panna cotta would beat inedible vomit parfait. If that is the case, I for one am sort of sad. I mean Robyn would been HILARIOUS this episode and would have served up a salmon basket filled with cancer tears or something like that.

  11. My two favorite parts were when Michael Voltaggio said, “I’m not here to make brothers,” and how the camera always cut to Jennifer immediately after she put a fistful of Sour Patch Kids in her mouth.

  12. I am sad that Eli is gone and I haven’t even watched the last 5 episodes of the show. I just know I am going to miss the hilarious Eli and his mom jokes in the recaps.

    Hopefully they bring him back as a sous chef for the finale (and his mom says that is okay)!

  13. I think Eli will be ok. His band, NOFX, is going on tour soon.

  14. Frankly, I got a little excited when it seemed like Michael V. was going to be packing his knives. I am so sick of his haughty “if they had told me to make a ballantine I would have made one and it would have been so wonderful they’d rename the Bocuse D’Or the Backwards Hat D’Or and also I would have done it on my day off” crap. What a prick. I’m picking Kevin, Bryan, then Jen for the trifecta.

  15. None of the dudes wanted to joke about stuffing their protein into Padma?

  16. Having my mom wait for me with 30,000 hugs actually sounds really nice.

  17. “Bocuse D’Or” sounds like a person’s terrible attempt to fancily say “beaucoup d’or” at an art gallery or something.

  18. INDIGO MONTOYA! Really, Eli? Indigo?

  19. Speaking of refinement, I secretly got so excited when Jen said she was making turducken.

  20. Why has there been no mention of Michael Voltaggio’s douche-tats? He cooks Kevin’s tasty meat-food on his day off? Yes, while Ed Hardy clad, I’m certain.

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