Top Chef

Top Chef: Mission Aborted!

Photo: Courtesy of Bravo

Top Chef started off all Real World (Jen in her bathing suit!) but quickly went Hell’s Kitchen, ‘cause it was time for Restaurant Wars (!!!!!!) with Champion of Conscientious Cooking Rick Moonen. But not before a “tag-team cook-off” wherein the cheftestants broke into teams of four, with each person on the line having to cook for ten minutes with no knowledge of what their teammates were thinking. Jen wanted her team to poach what she referred to as a trout (Moonen: “I’m pretty sure this is a sable fish or black cod”) but Kevin went rogue and butter-roasted it instead. On the other team, Robin prepared a yuzu-anchovy vinaigrette for Jersey Mike Eli’s steak, and Michael V. then used some xantham gum and an ISI container (obviously!) to create a whipped miso. Jen’s team won $10,000, but they decided to try to turn that into $40,000 during the elimination challenge.

Here’s where things got fun: Robin, Eli, and the Voltaggio brothers called their restaurant REVOLT (with a backward e), ignoring the obvious connotations of throw-up in mouth. Luckily, that was pretty much their only gaffe. With that thing gone from Eli’s lip, he could now throw on a jacket and pass for a maître d’ (he’s a “good f*cking talker,” after all). Michael put some jack boots on and took control of the kitchen, to the chagrin of Robin, who finally snapped and told him to [bleep] off and not mess with her pear pithivier or she would CUT him. At which point Michael told her to “relax, relax, relax, relax, RE-lax” (file under: How Not to Make People Relax).

Initially it seemed like Michael was throwing Rotten Robin under the bus when he casually pointed out to Tom that he and his brother were making two dishes each while she was only making one (as well as being “the go-to girl for extra things that we need,” a.k.a., his bitch). And yet, after Michael blabbed about Robin being out of her league, her pear crisp turned out to be a judge favorite (cue Michael looking like he’d been smacked by a spatula). Anyway, Michael assured us he has the biggest heart of everyone, and to prove it, he split the $10,000 he got for his winning dishes (a pressed chicken with calamari noodles, tomato confit, and fennel salad, and a cod with billi-bi-sauce croquettes). Aww. Somehow this lead to more squabbling with his bro, like that last episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, where Rosie O’Donnell ended up beating Larry David because he wouldn’t let her pick up the check.

Anyway, after that lovely pear crisp, the first thing the judges noticed was that there was no dessert on team Mission’s menu. Jen was right that desserts have been an Achilles’s heel for past teams, but are we remembering correctly that someone went home last season because of a completely savory menu? In any case, that was the least of Mission’s problems. Padma had to salt her arctic-char tartare despite the fact that Mike “seasoned it personally,” and her mood only got worse when Laurine wouldn’t explain to her what she was eating or why everything was taking so damn long.

So why was everything taking forever? Well, you knew something was going to pot when Tom asked Kevin why he was manning the entrée station alone. This probably accounted for some of the pacing errors that followed (along with the fact that Jen was steaming the mussels and clams that accompanied her Alaskan halibut to order, causing Moonen to wonder if she was out of her mind). For all of Kevin’s attention, the rack of lamb (with carrot jam and green-bean salad) still came out so severely underdone that Moonen said he couldn’t swallow it.

Apparently, Laurine was aware that Kevin had a tendency to undercook (“What I think of as medium-rare is what she thinks of as rare,” Kevin said before she brought it out) but she didn’t speak up enough, and didn’t ask anyone how they wanted their meat in the first place. Despite Laurine obviously being stressed out, it seemed Jen was going to go home for botching two fish dishes despite five years at Le Bernardin (Tom said “her mentor would not be happy with her” over the fact that the brown-butter emulsion on her Idaho trout was really just grease, and he also had qualms about the authenticity of her bouillabaisse consommé, though Moonen thought it was the best thing about her halibut).

She even started crying (more tears!), but in the end Laurine was sent packing for being a freakazoid on the floor. We’d get outraged about a chef going home because of their lack of interpersonal skills at the front of the house while Michael, as his own brother pointed out, got rewarded for his unprofessional behavior in the kitchen, but who really cares — it was Laurine’s time, just like soon enough it will be Robin’s and Jersey Mike’s time. And by the looks of the preview for next week’s episode starring Natalie Portman, it may soon be Jen’s time also.

Restaurant Wars