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The Jet Stream: The devil’s in the deconstruction

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Robin managed to skate through another <em>Top Chef: Las Vegas</em> thanks to a winning performance in the angel/devil duo Quickfire.
Photo: Trae Patton / BravoTV
Jet Tila

The Angel/Devil Quickfire this week was supposed to represent the good vs. bad or nice vs. naughty opposites of cooking. My angel and devil would have been a Thai duo, as I’m sitting in Bangkok writing this piece. I would make Thai chicken two ways. The first would be my devil dish, what we call Gai Baan, or home style fried chicken. You take some lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and shallots and mince then into tiny bits like breadcrumbs, then fry it until it becomes crispy. Then take farm-raised chicken – the type that actually gets to run around the farm and eat bugs and seeds all day and has a lot of texture and flavor – and start by dipping it in some seasoned flour. Next, it goes into an egg wash; roll it the crispy herbs, and then into a deep fryer. You get this amazing fried chicken with a golden herb crust. Yum. Then my angel dish would be a nice, clean Thai bbq chicken marinated with coconut milk, coriander, palm sugar and fish sauce.

Top Chef Episode 6: The breakdown

I don’t think any of us were blown away with the chef’testants this week with their Quickfires. The V brothers in usual form have slick ideas and made solid dishes. I think the show really blew by and didn’t give enough props to Bryan V’s angel, frozen coconut lychee, and devil, dark chocolate mousse. First of all, it was black vs. white, then cold vs. hot cooking and finally coconut vs. chocolate! Maybe I’m reading too deeply into this, but this was the ultimate angel/devil Dish. If I could rewind the clock and I was the lord of "TC," the win would’ve gone to Bryan!

Ash’s plate, as usual, well…looked like ass! I don’t know how he’s slid by this long. One custard in 45 minutes is hard enough, but to make two? Dude needs to settle in and stop trying to play the V brother’s game and find his comfort zone, if there is one. I’m guessing he’d be a great chef’testant in a local culinary school version of this show, because he is out classed here.

Great TV moments this week

1. The Quickfire win by Robin! It was like a hater “dirty bomb!” It sent the hater vibes into the air and it infected Laurine, Mike I and Eli like I’ve never seen. If this was "Top Chef" death match, Laurine would’ve taken Robin apart like a bad horror movie. Then Eli’s diatribe on Robin winning because of her sob story about having cancer… Dude, Eli, you win this weeks’ DB award!

OK, Robin is kinda annoying with her constant kitchen narration and elderly cooking prowess, but why the hell would you hate on her cancer story? It’s a Quickfire, man. Stop being such a little bitch! I keep seeing Eli in my mind like a big baby Huey complete with bonnet and big crap filled diaper. Homey, grow up.

2. Eggs FOREIGN-tine. OK guys, typical version of eggs Florentine is eggs, English muffin, spinach, ham or bacon and Hollandaise or Mornay sauce. That’s it. It’s culinary school month one after learning your mother sauces. Watching Mike I. wandering the kitchen asking advice on Florentine was painful! This guy has worked for Jose Andres? As what? A kitchen steward? Every week, he wanders around stealing knowledge from the other chefs and then gets his facts straight right as he puts out his elimination dish. I hope Tom “the lord of Top Chef” Colicchio catches him slipping. It’s only a matter of time; the judges will see his true colors.

3. Eli’s busted ass pressure cooker blowing up! That was hilarious! There is some of the best equipment anyone could ask for and he flies in his very well worn, held together by masking tape piece of crap! Pressure-cooking is not something to mess with. It’s kind of like a soldier saying, “Naw, I wanna use my janky hand grenade that I brought from home and forget about those new, really nice, safe looking ones.”

So it was deconstruction time. Very nuevo style of cooking/plating. It takes a lot of thought and creativity to make deconstructed food. Not easy if you haven’t attempted it or don’t do it on a regular basis.

Very strong week for some and the usual flop for others. This was a standout week for some of the chefs we started to forget about. Ashley’s deconstructed pot roast with seared strip loin, potato puree, crispy shallots and carrot foam looked amazing! Instead of doing her carrots, potatoes and beef in more of a stew form she really flipped it well. Potato became puree and carrot became foam. Nice.

Eli’s deconstructed tempura pork rillette with broccoli puree, sweet and sour sauce and broccoli salad was very cool! The man pulls out rillete for the pork, which was a stroke of genius. Any rillete is a protein (meat) cooked slowly in fat (usually its own) until it falls apart. He then takes that pork, rolls it into balls and fries it. Eli, you are officially back in this competition.

I’m a little worried about the holy trinity – the V bros and Jennifer. Being super strong early is a double-edged sword. Although you set the standard high, you have no choice but to maintain that standard throughout the entire competition. Any minor slip will be magnified, and the judges constantly expect the best. Whereas for the weaker chefs, any minor spark of inspiration will also be magnified and made to look like a stroke of genius! My prediction is one of the holy trinity will fall from grace in the next few weeks. I think we may have seen a little chink in the armor of Jennifer this week, even though she pulled it off by the end.

Big props this week to Kevin! He takes the toughest dish of the draw and makes it a winner! Mole is a Mexican sauce made of a ton of different spices, seeds and fresh ingredients. It’s very similar to constructing a curry. And he’s pulls black mole, which traditionally uses coco and/or coffee, not easy. Kevin was focused and had a clear vision of what he wanted to cook. He had seven components on his plate and they all had to work together. If there was a hall of fame for "TC" dishes, this definitely deserved to be there.

So alas it’s time to say, “Bye, Ron.” Was I the only one that felt he was always a little lost in this competition? This week was no exception. I don’t think Ron ever got what deconstruction really meant. His blah paella wasn’t deconstructed, nor even put together well as classic paella. I will personally miss Ron for his good attitude just being an overall nice guy, but this is a cooking competition, and there are a lot of better cooks than him.

Some predictions for next week:

1) I think it’s time for Mike I. to get spanked and exposed for hacking his way through this competition.

2) But it’s gotta be Robin’s turn to go home.

3) It was a quiet week for Voltaggio vs. Voltaggio. I think we are gonna see some fireworks between the siblings OR they are gonna unite to start tearing down the rest of the contestants. It would be great to see brother vs. brother finally!

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