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AUGUST 19, 2009 9:00PM

Iron Pundit v. Iron Skillet: Top Chef Las Vegas & TCM Finale

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Well, here we are again folks, getting ready for the grand finale, the final show for Top Chef Masters.  Tonight is also the premiere of Top Chef Las Vegas, which as a super special treat, I will also be liveblogging along with the TCM Finale.

 And apparently someone at Bravo has been reading my blog....the newest feature on their Top Chef website?  Photos of celebrity chefs, with the question of who's hot and who's not....didn't I pioneer this with the dating feature?

 Anyway, Top Chef Las Vegas is underway......


9:01 p.m. -- Padma (oh how I have missed you....) is introducing the new season and the new chefs. 

9:02 p.m. -- $100K in merchandise from Macy's? And our first chef coulda been an MIT grad, but chose cooking school...

9:03 p.m. -- Kudos to TCLas Vegas for going for some real diversity.  Ethnic and regional....

9:04 p.m. -- There is apparently some kind of Atlanta mafia going on.

9:04 p.m. -- Jesse doesn't think culinary school is a big deal.  She may find differently.  Self-taught cooks typically do not do well on this show.

9:05 p.m. -- And we have a James Beard nominee.  And a pair of brothers.  And a michelin star recipient.  We're talking about two guys here.

9:07 p.m. -- The Top Chef kitchen in Las Vegas is apparently INSANE.  Laurine is intimidated.  Caterers also do not do well in this competition.

9:08 p.m. -- Mise en place relay for the first quickfire.  And bring on the showgirls from the Stardust!  Yes, we really are in Vegas, Virginia.

9:09 p.m. -- Gold chip gets immunity.  Geez, this mise en place is a pain in the butt...lots of cleaning of shellfish.

9:11 p.m. -- Preeti can't open the clams....she's never done it before. and she's bleeding like crazy.  Her teammates are gonna HATE her.

9:12 p.m. -- Some sexist dick just said a "girl shoulsn't be beating him..."  Oh, he is so my whipping boy for the next few weeks.

9:13 p.m. -- Mattin is KILLING those lobsters.  It's like watching Hung with the chickens.

9:14 p.m. -- Preeti is STILL on the clams?  As the blue team wins.  Sexist boy lost.  HA HA!

9:19 p.m. -- One less old lady I have to worry about?  This guy is SOOOOO on my shit list.....

9:20 p.m. -- It's becoming obvious they are going to ramp up the twists and turns.

9:21 p.m. -- This cast is good.  Really, really good.

9:22 p.m. -- And the girl wins the $15K.  And they are cooking for Wolfgang Puck.

9:25 p.m. -- I am so happy to have Padma and Tom back.  You have no idea.

9:26 p.m. -- oh, and a side note from the jewelry designer in me....if you catch yourself liking the jewelry Padma is wearing, she's probably the designer.  She introduced a collection of fine jewelry this spring.

9:31 p.m. -- Salivating over the previews for TCM have the old judges back, and the old Top Chef winners....I SO want to eat in Harold's restaurant.

9:32 -- Mike Isabella...that's the name of the guy on my shit list.  He's a snarky jerk. 

9:33 p.m. -- Ron DuPratt is kind of amazing with his story.  He's gonna be interesting.  Anyone who survived the boat ride from Haiti by making fish for the other passengers (thus preventing his being thrown overboard) has got spunk.

9:34 p.m. -- One thing I can see myself doing is getting really excited about seeing behind the scenes of all the kitchens of Las Vegas.

9:36 p.m. -- doughnuts?  That might be a ballsy move. just stupid.

9:37 p.m. -- I think the girl with the pierced lip (Jenn?) is going to do well.  Chicken is nice and simple.

9:38 p.m. -- And Hector looks like he should be a cook in some drunken sailor's bar in some weird south Asian country.

9:39 p.m. -- Eve is so in the white wine for her sauce, overcooking fish...this will end badly.

9:40 p.m. -- When Wolfgang Puck is throwing your food, people, it is baaaad.

9:43 p.m. -- Mike...your worst vice is that you are a jerk.

9:44 p.m. -- I knda like Eli.

9:45 p.m. -- Deep frying the ribeye...I have to see what the judges say.

9:45 p.m. -- The deep frying does not go well.  Unfortunately, I think Mike is going to win.

9:47 p.m. -- A LOT of drinking vices.  Why has no one chosen my personal

9:48 p.m. -- I think I like Wolfgang Puck's point about purees is fantastic.  Mattin may be getting lost in translation.

9:50 p.m. -- Ron's vice isn't truly a vice, is it?

9:51 p.m. -- So it's the doughnut that gets hurled across the room.

9:52 p.m. -- Preeti's dish sounds good.

9:52 p.m. -- The other big chef vice apparently?  Procrastination.

9:53 p.m. -- Kevin's dish goes over well.  Eve's, not so much.  Michael is getting high marks too.

9:58 p.m. -- I think seitan-girl is seriously going home. 

9:59 p.m. -- This is going to be interesting....Padma is so funny when she calls the winners in.  She sounds so tired and in pain.

10:00 p.m. -- Kevin wins.  Clearly Mister MIT is going to be a force to be reckoned with.

10:03 p.m. -- Eve is really confusing.  I think she's a little weird. Maybe that's her vice?

10:04 p.m. -- Tom looks kind of sick to his stomach. 

10:06 p.m. -- Jesse is going to get a pass -- she knew what her mistake was.  Jen is going down.  That relleno was terrible.  It even looked bad.

10:08 p.m. -- Did they really have to make this an hour and fifteen minute episode?  Really, we all saw how bad the relleno with the seitan was....let's get on with it already!

10:11 p.m. -- Side note here....can't we all just admit that Real Housewives of Atlanta is a trainwreck?

10:11 p.m. -- Seriously, just tell us who's going home...

10:12 p.m. -- like no one saw that coming.....bye Jen.


10:15 p.m. -- Kelly Choi's voice is pissing me off. She's seriously not even close to competing with Padma.

10:16 p.m. -- They are going to the Getty home in Los Angeles.  This should be fun.  What a house!

10:17 p.m. -- They are creating a meal of THEIR lifetime based on their career as a chef.  First food memory, decision to become a chef, First restaurant, and the future. 

10:18 p.m. -- The chefs are so excited. Until they lear the Top Chef winners are judging.

10:19 p.m. -- Hubert Keller's memories are so interesting.  Rick is all about barbecue. 

10:20 p.m. -- Chiarello is about making gnocchi with his mommy. 

10:21 p.m. -- I gotta say that I really love this challenge.  I mean really love it.  It's so personal, so full of soul and feeling that the cooking is going to be wondrous.  It simply can't help but be.

10:23 p.m. -- Bayless's journey with food is so well-defined, so storied.  Hubert's journey is really interesting too. 

10:27 p.m. -- the problem with back to back Top Chef-ey goodness is that now I am really friggin hungry.

10:29 p.m. -- uh oh... one more twist....

10:30 p.m. -- the sous chefs send their love.  And Brian Enyart (Rick Bayless's sous chef) is Adorable....he's SO the chef I want to date!  And there he is in the flesh.....(Make mental note to get a reservation at Topolambopo next time I am in Chicago.)

10:32 p.m. -- Hubert has his truffles.   The other chef's are having truffle envy.

10:34 p.m. -- Hubert with that beard is really fascinating!

10:35 p.m. -- Chiarello has brought vines from home.

10:35 p.m. -- Rick is unhappy with his seafood. 

10:36 p.m. -- Hubert is about "recession flavors" -- somewhere, Juli is screaming.

10:37 p.m. -- Chiarello's imagery is all violent.

10:39 p.m. -- Water.  I need water.

10:41 p.m. -- Chiarello is funnin with James Oseland from Saveur, because he has never given Chiarello even four stars for his food.

10:44 p.m. -- This liveblogging two shows back to back is proving exhausting.

10:45 p.m. -- you put Kelley in the same room as Padma and she comes off as a hard-edged wannabe.

10:46 p.m. -- Hubert is charming the judges.

10:47 p.m. -- Hubert's stew is also charming the judges.

10:49 p.m. -- I have never wanted to BE a top chef judge more in my entire life.

10:50 p.m. -- Gail talks about bathing in Michael's dish and Ray (the long haired guy from England) just about starts to hit on her.

10:50 p.m. -- the mole sauce goes amazing.

10:51 p.m. -- I am so jealousing on the judges getting to eat this food.

10:53 p.m. -- A Hubert Keller dish falls flat.  Alert the media.

10:53 p.m. -- Rick does what he does best -- show people how Mexican food is supposed to go.

10:54 p.m. -- Rick's dish does not go over well.  The ribs that Michael did go over well. Oseland is not crazy about the truffles, Harold thinks the brain is overcooked.

10:56 p.m. -- Notice the Masters did not have to do dessert.

10:59 p.m. -- And here come the critics.....

11:00 p.m. -- Michael's fish dish goes over poorly. 

11:01 p.m. -- Hubert's stew is lovely.  But the low point? the lamb dish.  His risks came off as too risky.

11:02 p.m. -- Gael Greene does NOT like foam.  Ever.  But the mole is apparently heaven.  Note to self -- if, when you go to Topolambopo, you see mole on the menu....ORDER IT!

11:05 p.m. -- They go through Hubert's dishes.  Some good, some fail.

11:06 p.m. -- Rick's dishes.  They plotz over the mole.  The fish stew, not so much.   The interesting thing is that all the dishes are an amazing flow, an amazin story, each and every one.

11:07 p.m. -- so we're almost there.....they've got a decision.  My money is that it's not Hubert.  I think it may go to Rick.  I think Michael lost it on the fish, Hubert on the lamb. 

11:11 p.m. -- here we go with the infernal stars again. Diners give 4 1/2 to Rick, 4 to Hubert, and 4 1/2 to Michael.  So it will be down to what the critics thought.  I think Hubert is out of it.

11:12 p.m. -- it's almost a joke, but Oseland doesn't give Michael 4 stars either.  Hubert musters 16-1/2 stars, a half star behind Michael.

11:13 p.m. -- it all comes down to how much Gael Greene likes Rick.  He gets what he needs.  He is the Top Chef Master.  Congratulations!

You know, I don't think he ever went to culinary school.


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Time zones screwed us up. I am waiting for it to come on.
Hi P-F...I know you were secretly corresponding with your new pen pal.... ;)
Love your liveblogging. Truly adds to my enjoyment of the show. And I agree that Chiarello is a bit of a dick, but he is also fascinating. It is great to see these experts at the top of their game.
Hi Bonnie! Welcome!
My money's on Rick at this point. Though it sounds like Chiarello wowed them at the end. BTW - I own two autographed copies of Chiarello's cookbooks and a set of his cookware - my video of Tale of the Turducken won the Epicurious contest. As you would expect, the cookware is too heavy for me to lift - macho cookware? But it is the most magnificent stuff I will ever own.
Gael didn't like it but I loved Chiarello serving one dish in the sealed glass jars. If I were richer (and my house weren't so cluttered), I would experiment with that approach. I suffer from asnomia - no sense of smell. So I have fantasies of what it would be like to open a jar and have the smells waft into my nose. So what's your best guess? I am thinking Chiarello might have pulled it off with those short ribs.
Bonnie, is it the copper stuff? I think I've seen it in the catalogs. It looks heavenly, but yeah, probably requires a forklift to take off a stove.
I kind of think it's Rick, actually. None of his dishes were abject failures. His primary crime was using foam.
I am sorry the show is ending. It's a ride I have truly enjoyed. But I will be back each week for your blogging of TC LV. I guess the Open Salon Editors go home about 6 pm - they should have had this billboarded on the home page tonight,
Osenman just killed Chiarello - I think.
If Osenman had given Chiarello the extra star he probably deserved, it would have been a tie with Bayless.
Make that Oseland - I have just committed the journalist's biggest mistake,.
Wikipedia already lists Bayless as the winner. You;re right - no culinary school in any of the bios.
Thanks again for your liveblogs of TCM, Liz. I've especially appreciated them on the nights I am without Bravo, as is the case tonight. You have a gift for making the episodes come to life without the tube. . . and for making everyone enormously hungry for more.
I have never eaten either Bayless' or Chiarello's food. I have eaten at Keller's Fleur de Lys twice. The first time in October 2002. I was visiting San Francisco alone. That night I had what is still the best meal of my life.

When I told my waiter that this was the best meal of my life, he invited me to meet Chef Keller. Chef Keller came to just outside the kitchen door. He clearly had been cooking that night. He was in his cooking clothes. He was extremely kind.

In late April 2004, my then-fiancee (now wife) and I were again in San Francisco. We ate at Fleur de Lys. It was a great meal, but not as great as my meal in 2002. We both met Chef Keller, who was very gracious. This time, he was in a suit in the front of the house.

I was rooting for Keller, but Bayless is such a nice guy that I am not too disappointed.
True confession: I started reading this before the episodes air on the west coast and I...I..could not make myself stop! A great read as always, Liz (and comment crew!). I will watch like the Oracle at Delphi: with foreknowledge but enjoying it all the while. Oh boy, almost time...
I want those short ribs.... those had me drooling like a dog....
I've eaten at Frontera Grill and Topolabampo, Bayless's sibling restaurants in Chicago. Both are outstanding, of course, and not at all intimidating like some classy restaurants can be. I also have his cookbook, and his recipe for mojo de ajo seafood is one of the favorites in my household. I'm happy he won.
Great recap. I absolutely loved the Masters final competition idea, too. And I've never seen chefs so excited about their assignment. And I also wished that of all the meals I've seen on TC, that that was the one I'd want to be at. (Since the judges don't tend to finish the food to save room for everything -- esp at a meal this big -- I always wonder if they tell the waiters to save their plate so they can nosh on it later. I know I would!)

I think Rick won by a mole. I was glad to see Chiarello lose after he behaved like an ass last week, but I really thought Hubert would win, and I've been quite taken by him over the weeks. For such a hot and French-trained chef, he seems very humble and also has a great sense of humor. I liked Rick a lot, too, though. I'm just surprised he managed to beat Hubert, who has killer skills.
Wasn't rooting for anyone in particular, but it was quite apparent throughout the series that Oseland had no kindness in his heart for Chiarello. Not once--including the final judging--did he ever give Michael over 3.5 stars. . .and I doubt it was because of the food, despite all protestations that might be given. All three seemed worthy, though Chiarello was the most entertaining to watch.
As always, I was not taken with the new crew at all in the first episode. I know they will grow on me.They always do. As for masters, I had fallen a bit in love with Hubert and was sad he placed low, but I absolutely love that Rick won. Why did Michael rub me so wrong? He just seemed so inauthentic. I'm glad to see Padma again too,but Tom is who really turns me on. Love this!
Love your blog - disagree about the girls - I so love Kelli and not so much the Padma who is all about Padma.
Talk about a blow by blow!

I often wonder how well I'd fare on a show like that. I'm not a chef but I can make anything out of anything...and right quick. I wish there was a lower grade, more practical show that could showcase my skills in the kitchen.