'Top Chef' Recap: 'Meat Natalie' And Power Rankings
Despite all the warning signs, we were supposed to be floored when the vegetarian twist was dropped right before the Elimination Challenge started. Well, if it didn't work on the audience, it sure worked on the chefs. The lucky few who got to the veggie section first called out their primary ingredient and started formulating new ideas. Those who lagged -- or lost an orange flip (no coins were available) -- were left with Chinese eggplant and raw garbanzo beans.
But it wasn't necessarily the ingredients that were the problem with the bottom-three dishes. The lack of imagination, flavor, and texture ultimately doomed them. Vegetarians aren't looking for bland dishes that feature whole, roasted vegetables. They're looking for new creations, something they haven't seen before.
Pictured: (l-r) Robin, Jennifer, Bryan, Michael, Michael, Kevin, Eli © Bravo
*Last week's ranking in parenthesis
1) MICHAEL VOLTAGGIO (1)
Banana polenta, asparagus salad, and tomato sashimi? Well, it was certainly unique. Michael was also referred to as "Picasso" for the second time this season and Natalie Portman even chimed in with this gem at the judges' table: "Who is his dealer and does he want new clients?" That actually seems like a logical source for Michael's wild imagination, come to think of it. Once again, his flair for the dramatic -- and the artistic -- is what keeps him atop this list.
2) KEVIN GILLESPIE (3)
It's easy to make a case for Kevin to be in the top spot; I mean, the guy has four wins apiece in the Quickfire and Elimination Challenges, including a clean sweep in last night's episode. Kevin deserves a lot of credit for taking the right approach with his vegetarian dish. It was the only one that actually looked like an entrée. Tom Colicchio said it best, "We didn't miss the meat at all." And that should be every chef's goal when it comes to cooking this sort of meal.
3) BRYAN VOLTAGGIO (2)
Bryan narrowly missed his first Quickfire victory with a thoughtful "M.A.S.H."-inspired meat loaf TV dinner, but it seemed like the first time in quite a while that he didn't finish in the top of the Elimination Challenge. In fact, Bryan was coming off a streak of three straight high finishes. Unfortunately, his vegetarian effort elicited this reaction as I watched from my couch: "Uh oh!" It was a sad-looking plate that had about eight small pieces of mixed vegetables, and to make matters worse, Bryan forgot to plate a fried component on his dish. Can't win 'em all, right?
4) ELI KIRSHTEIN (5)
The good news: Eli is in the top four for the first time this season! The bad news: the Fearsome Foursome is officially defunct now that Jennifer can't seem to get out of her own way in the kitchen. But her loss is Eli's gain. That's two strong showings in a row, and it seems as though Eli is peaking at the right time.
5) JENNIFER CARROLL (4)
Jennifer's constant worrying and lack of self confidence have finally caught up to her. Before, it was just something that made her kind of endearing -- she was a perfectionist who could never be pleased, no matter how great a dish was. Now she's constantly second-guessing herself and her food is suffering. Jennifer's vegetarian dish was described numerous times as a "garnish." Ouch.
6) MIKE ISABELLA (6)
As Mike would say, "Whatever." The producers were setting him up for a big fall throughout the episode, so his exit wasn't entirely shocking. He kept saying how he wasn't worried and how he has things under control. What should've worried him was serving a vegetarian dish that didn't have a protein component. I repeat, there was no protein component! That's appalling.
7) ROBIN LEVENTHAL (7)
Robin is ranked below yet another person who was told to pack his knives. If there was any doubt before, she definitely wins the "most annoyingly memorable person from this season" award. When people refer to season 6, they'll be like, "Remember the 'Top Chef' from Las Vegas? It was the one with Robin." To sum up her latest antics, Robin was in the bottom of both challenges this week. What a surprise.
Story by Phil McRae
Starpulse contributing writer
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