Iron Skillet

Culinary Punditry as Food for the Masses

Iron Skillet

Iron Skillet
United States
January 10
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OCTOBER 21, 2009 10:00PM

Fry It Up: Top Chef Las Vegas Episode 9

Rate: 6 Flag


Voltaggio brothers

Well here we are folks.  It's the RESTAURANT WARS episode.  For the Top Chef uninitiated, it's the most interesting episode because it gives you some idea what folks might be like if they won.

10:00 p.m. -- For the record, there was a misprint last week: Kevin did indeed win.

10:01 p.m. -- Laurine is trying to forget "pigs and pinot." And apparently the Voltaggios, like many siblings, bicker like crazy.

10:02 p.m. -- Rick Moonen is about sustainability.  He was also on Top Chef Masters.  Kevin is also about sustainability.  The quickfire is about teamwork. 

10:03 p.m. -- Teams are determined by knives.   And the knives are blank. what does it mean?

10:04 p.m. -- They choose teams.  Jennifer and Mike Voltaggio are choosing.

10:05 p.m. -- Robin, of course, gets chosen last.  Each team makes one dish in 40 minutes.  Each team member gets 10 minutes and you're going to be blindfolded.  This is going to be crazy.  If Mike's team is smart, they will make Robin go first.

10:06 p.m. -- Eli is being told first.  Robin second is not a bad choice for second.  The other team it's a little easier, because there is no weak link.

10:07 p.m. -- Jennifer picks out fish to start.  Eli is taking some strip steak and mushrooms.  Jennifer is looking to do a sauce immediately.

10:08 pm. -- The second leg of the relay comes in.  Jennifer worries she's not followed.  Laurine goes after the scallops.

10:09 p.m. -- Robin and Laurine pass without major incident.  Mike Isabella looks confused trying to figure out what is going on.  It's interesting becuase Jennifer's team is really having to guess what jennifer wants.  Bryan is able to have a little more freedom, because there's more openness.

10:11 p.m. -- Kevin breaks away and butter roasts the fish instead of poaching it.  Mike is a little dynamo.  I love the way he just walks in and takes control.  He really is magnificent.

10:14 p.m. -- I know the chefs thought this challenge was crazy.  But it is very, very revealing as to who is really fast on their feet, and confident, and who is operating on muscle memory alone in the kitchen. 

10:16 p.m. -- The dish the red team comes up with is not what Eli imagined, but it's interesting.  Jennifer gets the fish wrong.  It's sablefish Jenn.

10:17 p.m. -- Blue team had a great stock, which really made it click.  The red team's dish had a great finish, but apparently not a good start. Blue team wins.  The Voltaggios are not happy, Mike especially.

10:18 p.m. -- And here comes restaurant may be an advantage to the team with the Voltaggios.  This year they get to not have to worry about decor.  What a cop out.

10:19 p.m. -- Apparently the front of house person does not get a chance to avoid cooking.  Everything must be sustainable seafood.  YAY.

10:20 p.m. -- I LOVE that they are doing sustainable seafood.  This is a cause that has been close to my heart for years.  And I SO glad to see it featured on Top Chef.

10:22 p.m. -- The teams are going to be interesting, and the new format for restaurant wars, where the chefs don't have to decorate, is going to be interesting. 

10:24 p.m. - The first decision for the blue team is no dessert.  And Laurine goes to the arctic char.  But there is no talk of concept.  The other team does spend time talking concept first.  I think that is a good thing.

10:25 pm. -- And the clash of the Voltaggios begins.  Eli and Robin, who have had their run ins, are off to the restaurant depot.  I don't think anyone gave a thought to sustainability.

10:26 p.m. -- Robin starts pushing Laurine.  And tonight's product plug is Sprint mobile.....

10:27 p.m. -- The decision to put Eli in the front of the house is a BAD idea.  So is calling the place "Revolt." Robin's first instinct is "revolting" and she may be right.  The other team is "Mission" -- I like that.

10:28 p.m. -- Mike spends some time to coach Robin on bringing some Frenchiness to her dessert.

10:29 p.m. -- The chefs take over their kitchens.  Michael Voltaggio has REALLY taken over his kitchen.  Robin, of course, doesn't like it.

10:30 p.m. -- Laurine is doing front of the house.  I think they have done okay with the sustainability with the fish.

10:32 p.m. -- The cod may be a mistake, depending on its provenance.

10:32 p.m. -- REvolt is looking to be "playful" but so far I am not sure I see it.

10:33 p.m. -- I still think putting Eli front of the house is a big mistake for that team. 

10:34 p.m. -- Michael Voltaggio is denying that there is a leader, but truth be told, he is.

10:34 p.m. -- Jennifer is in the weeds.  And everyone is pressed for time.

10:35 p.m. -- Laurine is got a lounge full of customers. And she is not doing anything.  And Jennifer is totally not ready.  This could go very very badly.

10:37 p.m. -- It is unclear to me which team is in worse trouble here.  I think Jennifer's team, if service is slow, will suffer deeply.  But if Robin can't make it work back there on team Voltaggio, this might get ugly.

10:40 p.m. -- One thing is certain.  Real Housewives of Atlanta cannot be over fast enough.

10:40 p.m. -- Jennifer is really on the line here...if her team goes down, she'll likely take the fall.

10:41 p.m. -- the guests are confused by the name.  And Eli thinks he's a better salesman than he is.

10:42 p.m. -- The Voltaggios do the first course dishes ...the chicken goes over especially well.

10:42 p.m. -- Love Padma's sapphire necklace.  It's lovely.  The second course gets backed up.  A duo of beef, and a cod dish.

10:44 p.m. -- How do I get a seat at a table at Restaurant wars?  The beef course is cold.  Robin is very upset that she's not doing her dish solo.  And Mike gets pissed off.  Mike is of course a little emotional.

10:45 p.m. -- Robin's dish goes over very well.  Anyone who had fantasies that Robin would finally go home are dashed.

10:46 p.m. -- And service is underway at Mission.  And Laurine is not forgetting that. Good on her.

10:47 p.m. -- And what does Laurine forget?  She doesn't introduce the dishes or cater to the judges.

10:48 p.m. -- Second course is going slow.  Jennifer has too much on her plate with her fishe dishes.

10:49 p.m. -- The waiting is killing everyone.  I think this team is going down.

10:49 p.m. -- And Laurine has to be reminded to explain the dishes.  I think Laurine is ripe to go down.  I think it will come down to her and Jennifer.  The trout is apparently a disaster.  This is especially bad because she's usually so good. 

10:50 p.m. --  Even Kevin is getting messed up with the confusion.  Laurine's lamb dish is not going well, and Kevin is having trouble getting temperature right.

10:51 p.m. -- And the judges are missing the fact there is no dessert.

10:52 p.m. -- I love the sunflowers.  I think team Mission is in trouble.

10:53 p.m. -- I think at this point it's pretty clear that REvolt won the Restaurant Wars episode.  I think that the people who are on the chopping block are likely to be Laurine and Jennifer.  And it's actually kind of a toss up who goes home right now.  I think it's Laurine by a nose.

10:54 p.m. -- What this means is that Robin lives to cook for another episode.  And the other cheftestants are going to be very upset.  Hell, with that pear thingie she did, she might even win this challenge, which would chap everyone's hide immeasurably.  But it was one of the best dishes of the night.

10:57  p.m. -- I don't think that there was a clear winner or loser in the Mike Voltaggio - Robin conflict over the dessert.  They were both oversensitive and out of line.  Sometimes it just happens.  But apparently it happens a lot with Robin. 

10:59 p.m. -- The room has gotta be interesting, because I think the folks in Mission have got to know they lost, and the REvolt guys have to know they won from the beginning.

11:00 p.m. -- Eli really does look like a schlubb in that suit.  Really, he looks like shit.

11:01 p.m. -- Mike Voltaggio is trying to take credit for Robin's dish.  I am kind of pissed by that.

11:02 p.m. -- Mike Voltaggio wins and gets the money from the quickfire.  He's going to split it with the others.  Good man.

11:02 p.m. -- I think Laurine is going home.

11:03 p.m. -- Bryan Voltaggio is not taking the win well....he's kind of upset at being upstaged, and about Mike being so dominating.  It's interesting, the sibling thing is really coming to the fore.

11:04 p.m. -- Mike Isabella dissects what went wrong with his course well.  He'll be safe.  Jennifer's fish courses get slammed.  And she has no excuse or defense.  The lamb dish is really in a bad way.  Kevin may suddenly be in the line.  Laurine may  be saving his ass....she pretty much admits she didn't take her own dish in hand and that she was overwhelmed.

11:07 p.m. -- Jennifer's decision to steam to order was crazy.  And the trout sucked ass.

11:08 p.m. -- I think Laurine is the one who needs to go home.  Jennifer maybe, but it would be a tragedy, because she's one of the best.  I think morale in the competition would be irretrievably damaged if Jennifer is sent home right now.

11:10 p.m. -- I can't wait to see the previews for next week.  I feel that Robin's continued presence in the game, the fact that she is rather outclassed and everyone but her seems to know it, is going to produce some serious drama soon. 

11:11 p.m. -- apparently Bravo viewers like Bryan Voltaggio more than Michael.

11:12 p.m. -- Tom sets up the end of this well.

11:13 p.m. -- Laurine is going home.....I knew it.

11:14 p.m. -- Next week.....Natalie Portman is on.  And This is going to be weird. 

Thanks everyone for coming!



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I suspect that this comment will meet with strong disagreement, but I feel it was wrong to send home Laurine. In my view, either Kevin or Jennifer should have gone home. I admit the problem, however: both Kevin and Jennifer are in among the top three chefs in the competition. If either had gone home, it would have changed the remaining contest drastically.

I am starting to dislike Padma. I thought some of her comments crossed a line. I doubt that her ex would have made such churlish remarks about the name "Revolt." Of course, he appreciates language.
I think there's validity in sending Jennifer home -- she did an awful dish, and was about as much of a leader of the failed Mission as anyone. But I do think in the end Laurine was the right choice. Not only was her lamb poorly done (and even if Kevin had a hand in that, the fact is she was responsible for that dish), but she really failed to run the front of the house with anything even approaching competence.

I don't think it was wrong to point out that the very natural thing that comes to mind when you think of the name "revolt" is the adjective "revolting" -- I mean, Robin actually identified it too. It was actually my immediate thought as well. Some of her other comments might have been harsh, but I'd need another example.
Have you ever seen a worse Restaurant Wars episode? I couldn't believe what a fail the blue team was, with so many talented chefs, and no need to decorate as in early seasons. I agree Laurine was the right person to send home, as her failures permeated the loss for that team, but Jennifer dodged a bullet, and she knows it. Given the advantages these particular teams had with space and facilities, both of these restaurants should have been stellar. It's a telling episode.

p.s. Amen about those housewives in Atlanta. Begone.
Thanks, I didn't watch last night and then wondered what happened. Thank you!
When it became obvious that someone from Mission was going to leave, it also became equally obvious that it would be Laurine. Both Jennifer and Kevin are part of the "big 4" of this season and it is perhaps too soon for them to leave short of a major meltdown (which they each came close to having). The last couple of episodes, Jennifer seems to be effected more and more by the stress and is not handling it well.
I kind of like it that Robin got defensive--she is apparently weary of being dis-respected--however it a was ill-timed and mis-placed in that the Voltaggio's have focused on their role in the competition rather than on any competitors (unlike Mike I. and Eli--one of whom acts like a jackass and the other a bitch especially towards Robin).
Barring a major meltdown (again Jen is the most likely candidate for that) this is a competition between the brothers V, Jen and Kevin. Mike I. just doesn't have the "chops" or the temperment (and it would be hard to consider him a Hosea-like darkhorse).
Good piece. In the world of 10 p.m. shows I can stay awake for Top Chef much more readily than MadMen! Go figure.
I think Jennifer was off during both contests. Her Ripert-trained perfectionism did her in with the custom-cooked mussels ("moderation in all things"?).
But she is so talented I think that did influence the decision to keep her. Let's face it, the judges can't help the tiny bit of subjectivity in all these decisions.
Thanks for this, Liz. Not too rare. Well done. ;)
I loved how Bravo showed an extra Mike V confessional about how he is really a nice guy and respects people in the kitchen juxtaposed with scenes of him cussing at his brother. What a dick! Then to have the nerve to berate Robin about cussing at him? Can he be less self-aware? I thought at first Bryan's reaction to the win seemed babyish, but his comment about being tired of seeing Michael's outrageous behavior rewarded seemed on point. But then again, agressive male chefs are a dime a dozen. Gordon Ramsey anyone?
Loved the sustainability focus too. Here's a link to a handy little guide that I shop with
Kathy -- I have to say I do miss the times when decor snafus were part of the worries of the cheftestants. And part of what made Restaurant Wars THE episode to watch. Taking away that part of it really undermines it. If anything, I would have gone bigger -- given them two days and a slew of carpenters and designers to work with. But I suppose it's a lot harder to find blank spaces with chef-wothy kitchens attached to them that owners don't mind seeing built out than fully-realized restaurant spaces.

teresa -- I live to serve just that purpose. Thanks for dropping in!

Walter, I agree, Jennifer's perfectionism is really hanging her up these days as the challenges get more challenging and the traits that are most rewarded are the ability to do things on the fly, with little planning. This is why Mike Voltaggio does come off so well. He is a seat of the pants guy, working off of emotion and energy as much as culinary chops.

I do agree that Mike Voltaggios emotion is now becoming a liability too, because he is now digging into his competitors.

Amysssss - I don't feel qualified to make judgements about his level of self-awareness, but I do think he's riding his emotions more than his good sense these days, and that is both helping nd hurting him.

Lea, thanks. I do think that Jennifer did get an edge because her past performances are so good. i do think the judges consider consistency and will cull the weak from the herd when they get to the bottom of the pack like that. A top-flight competitor has to really stand alone in their fuck up in order to get "knifed." I don't think that's invalid. Bravo wants their Top Chef to actually BE a top chef, after all. There's a huge investment in the winner -- not only $100K but future appearances on the show and in other venues.

Wandering: The Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, and many other facilities around the country have adopted that seafood card, and I highly recommend it to EVERYONE. I carry one in my wallet too. :)
good recap. I saw it the way you and Kathy did, Liz. I think Jennifer and Kevin's prior work saved them, whereas Laurine has been mostly weak with a few bright spots. I don't think it's wrong for them to consider what the chefs have done in total, even though that's supposedly not the way it's to be done on the show. I hate that in past seasons really talented chefs have lost before the final rounds because they had just one bad competition meltdown. That's how you end up with mediocre winners like Ilan and Hosea (esp if they never take any chances and play it safe). I think the producers may also have decided that, and wanted to nudge things in the direction of a more cumulative opinion of the chefs as the season goes on. After all, a real chef doesn't lose his/her job for one bad dish or even one bad night or even one bad week - -it's about the pattern over time.

That said, I think Jennifer's beginning to crack and if she effs up again, she could easily and deservedly go home. I'd be most happy with Kevin winning but the V brothers have great talent too, even if they're not nearly as likable as Kevin.
You wrote:`
Thanks everyone for coming!
That's nice to say!
Yesterday I had a wonderful day.
I met Julia Jones.
Julia Jones knew famed Julia Childs.
She was Julia Childs book publisher?
Julia Jones:`Delight. Beautiful. Petite.
We spoke of Julia Childs Garden friend.
William Woys Weaver is a seed historian.
What a pleasure to meet good cook critiques.
Jane Black comes down from NYC to eat arugula.
Jane Black writes beautiful food post for her boss.
The Washington Post should give Jane Black a raise?
Thanks for the read.
Congrats on the EP.
Read Julia Jones?
Wow Julia's lovely.
I wish I was older?
What a Privilege.