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Top Chef Episode 2: Bros before everyone else

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Michael (left) and Bryan Voltaggio both came out on top of “Top Chef’s” second episode.
Photo: Kelsey McNeal / BravoTV

Philadelphia may sport the moniker “City of Brotherly Love,” but last night on Top Chef Las Vegas was the town getting warm and fuzzy over a pair of sibling chefs.

The Voltaggio brothers, Bryan and Michael, took control of the second episode of Top Chef: Las Vegas, dominating both challenges with innovative dishes and stirring up their competitive instincts in the process. These two are both shaping up to be chefs to beat during the sixth season. (We’re not ones to brag, but we kind of saw this coming. For a full background on the brothers blond, click here.)

Top Chef Episode 2: Battle of the sexes

Episode 2 got started with two much-loved Vegas staples in the kitchen: a craps table and Todd English. The James Beard Award-winning chef behind Olives at the Bellagio is known for his simple, flavorful food and his, ahem, palatable appearance. Named one of People’s 50 Most Beautiful People, English almost managed to upstage Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi last night – no easy task.

Drawing inspiration from English’s pared down food philosophy, for the “high stakes quickfire” (the winner gets to bask in immunity from elimination and $15,000 from M Resort) each chef had to roll the dice on the craps table to determine the number of ingredients they’d be allowed to use. Salt, pepper and oil were freebies, but beyond that, it was on the dice or no dice.

At the top of the “quickfire” class, were Season 6 front-runners Kevin, Jennifer and Michael, once again conceptualizing and executing well – Jennifer on a nine-ingredient smoked salmon with spicy jalapeño emulsion, Kevin serving an asparagus and celery salad with 10 ingredients and Michael using eight ingredients to whip up (or would it be freeze down?) a nitro gazpacho marrying classic flavors with innovative techniques.

English gave Michael the gold star and $15,000 chip, which the younger Voltaggio happily accepted with a competitive jab at his older bro.

“Not only did I make my mark in the competition, but I’m one up on my brother,” Michael said. Ding, ding, ding! We have a storyline, ladies and gentlemen.

In the elimination challenge, the chef’testants took on a Vegas institution: the bachelor/ette party. Like the parties themselves, for this challenge the teams were divided by gender, and for Top Chef’s first battle of the sexes the chefs on each team were asked to prepare party snacks for the bride or groom to be. But that’s not all. The couple also selected three of their favorite shots to feature on the show – the Moscow Mule, tequila and the Golden Delicious – and each team had to prepare at least two dishes to pair with each shot.

The men and women brought two very different approaches to this challenge: While the guys went a more haute route for the challenge, crafting dishes like Bryan’s sweet and sour macaroon filled with guacamole and corn nuts, the ladies kept things comfortable, opting for strong flavors and simpler preparations like Moroccan lamb chops and Thai chicken lettuce cups. Both teams offered some pretty plates, but missteps like Ashley’s bitter, bay leaf panna cotta (a second dish that she wasn’t required to make), Eve’s lackluster shrimp and avocado ceviche and Preeti’s over-marinated sesame and coriander-crusted tuna cost the women the win.

So, the V went to the men and to the elder Voltaggio, in particular. While Hector’s tofu ceviche won English’s admiration and Michael’s apple sorbet with goat cheese cookie had the chef raving that he’d “knocked it out of the park,” it was Bryan’s molecular macaroon that earned top props.

Eve got the boot, a presence we won’t miss much, and neither, it seems, will Tom Colicchio.

“It’s going to be a fun season,” Colicchio grinned after complimenting the guys on a job well done. And a tasty one, too.

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