City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

“Top Chef” Recap, Episode 9: Revolt-ing

top-chef-season-6-warsSomewhere in the Nevada desert, Laurine sits by the edge of a pool, lolling her feet in the water, soaking in the sun’s unsparing rays and feeling happy that she’s “still here with the best chefs.”

Ha! Little does she know what cruel twists of fate await. A blindfold, a pot of boiling oil, whipped miso, a shoving match over a case of sparkling water, a roomful of exasperated diners and a withering summons from Padma to fetch salt.

“Padma wants salt!” Three words to strike terror in the heart of any chef.

Phew. I didn’t even get to Laurine’s little lamb. But before we find out whether it followed her to school or sent her packing, you must decide whether you can tolerate a SPOILER. I cannot decide this for you; it must come from your heart. And/or balls.

So the Brothers Volt go at it like scrappy puppies in the kitchen — the “eternal competition” as Kevin terms it. Poolside Laurine jokes around with bikini-clad Jen, who promises to perform the next Quickfire in her bathing suit and high heels. Aah, if only.

Instead, the eight still standing suit up in chef’s whites to march into Top Chef kitchen and face down the Knife Block of Destiny. Padma introduces guest judge Rick Moonen, and Kevin is thrilled! Moonen, who has two fish restaurants in landlocked Las Vegas, is the face of seafood sustainability, and Kevin is all about sustainability at Woodfire Grill. Even though Moonen could do delicious things to the world’s last bluefin tuna and charge big bucks for it, he chooses seasonal halibut.

(As an aside, Moonen is not a locavore, otherwise he’d have to feed his guests nothing but fried scorpions and cactus paddles.)

The chefs begin drawing knives and…

Nothing! Nothing and more nothing! What in tarnation is going on?

Finally Jen picks a knife that reads “first choice” and Mike V. gets one that reads “second choice.” These two must pick teams. Jen picks Kevin, Mike goes for big bro, Jen takes Mike I., Mike V. chooses Eli and…yes!

“I’m so happy I wasn’t picked last,” Eli admits in voiceover. Surely that shame would have brought back crippling memories of 5th grade dodgeball.

The chefs have a fun:

QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE: Tag Team Cookoff (Or: The Blind Leading the Bland)

The cooks in each team will have ten minutes to work on a dish before passing the baton to the next in line. But here’s the catch: Those waiting are blindfolded and have no idea what to expect.

Jen, Kevin, Mike I. and Laurine are the blue team. Eli, Robin and the Volts are the red team.

Good cooking “is about a line of people working in synergy,” says Moonen.

Synergy. Teamwork. Nothing should be easier for the red team, otherwise known as the Brat, Bad Mommy, Cain and Abel.

The challenge is fascinating to watch. Jen goes first for her team and grabs some sustainable black cod (otherwise known as sablefish). She starts simmering a sauce with chicken broth and cut-up shrimp and flavors a pot of simmering oil with thyme. Surely the next in line will know to oil poach the fish.

Laurine rips off her blindfold and finds the oil. “Is she frying thyme for a garnish?” she asks out loud. “No! She wants us to poach the fish. But it’s too soon, so I’m going to slice mushrooms.”

Mike I. attacks the mysterious doings next, reducing the sauce and sauteeing said mushrooms. Finally, Kevin (who gets the last spot because he has superior plating skills) finds the mushrooms, the sauce, the oil and fish. Does he poach? No, he pan roasts for better texture.

On the blue side, Eli’s sears strip steaks, chops mushrooms, cleans greens and gets hosannas from next-in-line Robin who is so thrilled with his prep that she reaches for the bottle of yuzu juice.

“Yuzu,” Bryan says, ripping off his blindfold. We’ve wandered into Asian territory. Time for some soy sauce, miso and green avocado business in the food processor. Brother Mike tears off his blindfold to finish the Asian steak and gets the idea to whip the miso.

isi_dessert_whip_1_pint_brushed_aluminum_zaccardis_com_smHow does one whip miso, you might ask. Simple. You put it in an iSi container — otherwise known as a whipped cream charger that aerates the contents with nitrous oxide. Looks like dessert topping, tastes like Japanese soup! Fun for the whole family.

Moonen really, really likes his steak in its whipped and gooey-green Asian setting but finds it maybe just a tad underdone.

But he loves the sablefish with mushrooms in gingery shrimp chicken sauce. Even though Jen mistakenly calls it “trout” (these long days and bouts of illness seem to be getting the better of Ms. Sang Froid), Moonen bestows the win on the blue team.

“Great fish, very sustainable,” says the happily chewing chef. (By the way, this is a fish that lives in very deep waters and develops the same tender, unctuous texture as Chilean sea bass — an overfished species that Moonen would spit out.)

The blue team disengages from its group hug to discover they get a $10,000 chip. They can take the money and run off the to Keno tables or they can put it back in the kitty and each win $10,000 if victorious at the:

ELIMINATION CHALLENGE: Restaurant Wars (Or: What’s in a Name?)

Yes, kids, it’s time for that “Top Chef” mainstay in which two teams have a day to conceptualize and build a restaurant from scratch, and then feed a roomful of people.

Moonen offers up his two restaurants — and since he does want them ripping out sconces and Supergluing bolts of purple taffeta to the walls — the chefs do not have to worry about decor, as competitors did in years past.

Free of non-culinary pitfalls, our confident blue team gambles for the big money. We’re in Vegas, baby.

Moonen sends two from each team off to Whole Foods with $1500 and a Seafood Watch sustainability card. The other two go to Restaurant Depot, which sells both dry goods and fresh ingredients at non-Whole Foods prices. They’re even given phones from, presumably, a sponsor, and the chefs all gush about the clear reception, easy-to-read LED display and seductively contoured chassis on each device.

At Restaurant Depot, Robin gets the notion that Laurine has been spying on her from behind the display of #10 cans of crushed tomato and has — gasp! — stolen her brilliant idea to serve sparkling water. So she give her a shove and a warning. Laurine is all, “Crazy woman, do not touch me.”

That night, despite a little brotherly squabbling, we see actual teamwork from the red team — heretofore shaping up to be the most dysfunctional familial unit since the Joads. Pen and paper in hand, Mike shows Robin how to turn her humble pear crumble into a Frenchified pear pithiviers with an almond frangipane base and a lattice-topped puff pastry crust. He then turns to the camera and informs everyone that Robin is “out of her league.”

As part of the challenge, the teams must come up with something to call their restaurants. Robin, Eli and the Voltaggios make an anagram of their names to come up with — are you ready? — Revolt!

What a great name for a restaurant! They also kick around a few other intriguing monikers — Nauseate, Discharge, Filthy Sponge — but conclude that Revolt says it all. 

Cut to the confident blue team, which has decided to call its restaurant Mission to reflect the simplicity and clean lines of Mission-style furniture. Let’s just hope no one wanders into this Mission looking for Salvation rather than seared pork belly.

Per Restaurant Wars rules, someone from each team must work the front of the house. For the reds, it’s Eli, who goes ripping through his wardrobe for just the outfit that says “Revolt.”

What do you think, guys? The schlubby untucked purple shirt or the schlubby untucked striped shirt? “Looks great,” say the Volts.

The blue team, as winners of Quickfire get to pick which of Moonen’s two restaurants they’ll use. They go for the fancy one, natch.

No worries, say the Revolt-ing Quartet. We wanted the casual spot for our fun, edgy, casual food.

And then, boom. Three short hours to get it all ready. Jen is quickly in the weeds. Everyone is in the weeds. Even the censors can’t keep up with the bleeps as vulgar names and imprecations are hurled about the kitchen along with the sustainable seafood.

Laurine — in heels and a cocktail dress to work the front of the house at Mission — swings open the kitchen doors in horror.

“The lounge is full of people, and I am not ready,” she moans.

Lucky for them, the judges are upstairs in Revolt, where their untucked host, Eli, greets them warmly and ushers them to their table. Joining Padma (looking radiant, possibly preg-radiant, in black), Tom and Moonen is Toby Young.

First courses arrive promptly, and while the judges find the smoked arctic char with horseradish “one dimensional,” they are blown away by MVolt’s pressed chicken with calamari noodles and tomato confit.

The second course takes a while to arrive, and the judges get antsy. By this point in the evening, they should already have consumed at least 4,000 calories. But their wait is rewarded with “melt in your mouth” cod with parsley sauce and a Billi Bi (creamed mussel) croquette. Yum! It clearly bests BVolt’s cold beef duo with bland sauce that Tom dismisses as “meat and potatoes.” Even the nobodies at the other tables are aghast with their cold meat.

Meanwhile in the kitchen….

“This is my damn dessert!” shouts Robin, as she tries to wrestle a pear pithiviers from MVolt’s hands. “Screw off!”

They shout about conduct, about language, about portion size, and Robin once again feels patronized.

But the dessert is a great success, and Toby Young calls it the “best thing Robin has done.” Moonen says this dessert (or possibly the accompanying chocolate ganache cake with spearmint ice cream) is “like a good massage.” Deep tissue?

Happy and content, the judges are ready for dinner number two.

Alas, things are not good at all. Laurine proves to be a sullen and uncommunicative hostess of “sit here and I will ignore you” variety.

Plus, the blue team cooks have screwily decided to be responsible for a course each, preparing and plating every single dish, and ensuring a service nightmare.

Mike I. starts things off with underseasoned char squiggles with onion, and a simplistic asparagus and egg dish that do not knock Padma’s Spanx off. She summons Laurine to the table with a wolf whistle and demands salt. DEFCON 4!

Then the judges must wait and wait and wait for their next course, with nothing but that dish of fleur de sel to keep their tummies from rumbling.

“How long will it be?” Padma asks impatiently.

“Just a minute,” Laurine lies. The next course hasn’t even been fired.

Poor weeded, frazzled, near-tears Jen eventually puts out two fish dishes. The halibut is nicely cooked; the raw mussels in its consomme sauce are not. But her trout is “an absolute disaster,” Tom declares. Beige, flavorless and swimming in a greasy sauce. This poor species maintained its sustainability for this?

For the final course, the blue team superstitiously decides to eschew dessert — citing a curse from seasons past. “The team with dessert always loses,” they whisper.

But Kevin undercooks Laurine’s lamb racks, even as he puts a perfectly decent, Kevin-y plate of rarefied pork bits. The judges call it “lamb Jell-o” and leave the table with sour faces.

Red team, no duh, gets called to Judges’ Table first. Tom informs them it was ‘the best Restaurant Wars restaurant in six seasons.”

Mike, the leader, gets the biggest plaudits for his pressed chicken and cod, and he handily takes them for Robin’s dessert by informing the judges it was his recipe.

“There’s a fine line between being helped and being dominated,” grumbles Robin.

Mike is declared winner and receives an autographed copy of Moonen’s book, “Sustain This, Suckers.” But he also gets that forfeited 10K chip, which he generously decides to share with the team. Big bro BVolt doesn’t want the stinking money. “Keep it,” he sneers.

Blue team head to the chopping block and they all look aghast, especially poor Jen. When Tom berates her for her broken trout sauce, she responds, “I feel pretty broken right now.”

But Laurine, whom Toby says “looked like a deer caught in the headlights,” get the boot for her poor service and lousy lamb. I suspect that if the judges were playing by Queensbury rules, Jen would have gone for her lousier food. But she has proven herself admirable many times over, and I, for one, am glad she’s still around.

Laurine, for her part, is glad to go back to her life. No worries, no tears, no blame. A class act all the way, she packs her knives and skedaddles.

32 comments Add your comment


October 22nd, 2009
11:13 am

The thing about this episode that had me scratching my head was the cod served in the elimination challenge. What kind of cod is sustainable? Unless they are talking Black Cod, which isn’t really cod.


October 22nd, 2009
12:24 pm

black cod is sable

VoiceOf Reason

October 22nd, 2009
12:50 pm

What does fired mean? I kept hearing it last night, and now again in this article. Does that mean plated? Cooked? What?


“Just a minute,” Laurine lies. The next course hasn’t even been fired.”

(thanks in advance)


October 22nd, 2009
1:03 pm

I hated to see Kevin and Jen just fall apart. It was so hard to watch the last 20 minutes of the show last night. In the review above, it was mentioned that Kevin undercooked the lamb. You don’t think he did it on purpose? He has too much integrity, but I can see Mike, Eli or even possibly the brothers sabatoging someone’s else dish. Laurine needed to go, she is not of the same caliber as the other chefs. Also, why can Mike V cuss but Robin can’t? He deserved a ’screw you” for that move and then at the judges table to try to take some credit for her dish, well, that was low class. Maybe that ego will be his downfall.


October 22nd, 2009
1:04 pm

“A class act all the way”? Are you kidding? Laurine was a poor cook with a nasty mouth, at least as shown in an earlier episode. Saw that coming a mile away…


October 22nd, 2009
1:09 pm

Fired means it isn’t even being cooked yet, like it’s not in the skillet or what have you.

John Kessler

October 22nd, 2009
1:16 pm

Pika: according to Seafood Watch, non-trawled Atlantic cod is currently a “good alternative.”
Voice: yes to what Hannah said, plus: when the chef fires the next course they start cooking it with a, say, 7 minutes or so to plate and serve. The implication may have been that Laurine didn’t give them sufficient warning to go ahead and start preparing.
Me: I refuse to believe Kevin sabotaged Laurine’s lamb. He’s in the Order of the Tattooed Pig and had taken an oath of fair conduct.
Jed: True, but: she stayed out of other’s people’s business, did her work without complaining, knew her weaknesses. She never bothered me.


October 22nd, 2009
1:19 pm


Firing is restaurant parlance for starting to cook the next course of a meal. For instance, once the first course hits the table, you “fire” the next course – the kitchen starts preparing it so that there is not a huge wait between dishes. In many restaurants the server will ring up the entire order at once so that the chef knows what will be expected over the course of the meal. The server then comes around and tells the kitchen when it is time to fire each course: appetizer, salad, entree, dessert, etc. Don’t feel too mystified – you would only know this term if you had worked in a higher end restaurant, which is not experience that everyone has. Bon appetit!


October 22nd, 2009
1:20 pm

Absolutely love your recaps of the show.


October 22nd, 2009
1:37 pm

I knew it was a mistake to chose Laurine as the hostess. She’s too shy for that! Of course I was rooting for Kevin’s team. Too bad they all did poorly! Isabela and Robin need to go!!! I love Top Chef!


October 22nd, 2009
1:39 pm

Laurine needed to go. Robin needed to go weeks ago. She is not in the same league as the others. I am hoping for a Kevin/Jen showdown. I ran into Kevin at Whole Foods 2 or so weeks ago and he wouldn’t spill. He said the experience was really cool and that Mike I. is not as big an ass as the earlier shows made him seem.


October 22nd, 2009
1:42 pm

Thanks Ellen. Good info.

top chef fanatic:

October 22nd, 2009
1:58 pm

Alast …restraunt wars! another great article Mr. Kessler and i really have to say that this episode was like a good football game on the gridiron. Eli played special teams as front of the house , just confirming that he dosent have the nuts and what it takes to step up and dominate this bigtime competition of restraunt wars. And the untucked shirt further shows that the king of fatboy cuisine is more of a talker than a professional chef or host. He even said it himself he is a bullshitter. And i confirmed that myself seeing him outside on the patio at ENO talking to table of 6 at prime time service last month on a ride bye.

Onto the good stuff Jen in the bikini was the BOMB! I just wish she had asked Padma to borrow those shoes that she wore to the restraunt, Then she would of made any judge proud:) I was very dissapointed in the way the team of Mission fell apart, And its just an example that on any given wensday …any team can win . Because team Mission had a bad gameplan and played very selfish and without thought of execution. Kevin finally saw the bottom group and finally showed his tail , which i thought was great payback to the dynamic duo of the volts. Hang in there it only gets tuffer.

Robin stepped up again for herself which says alot about her character,Because when your working with team volt…its there way or the highway . And i dont care that mikey won cause its was like the cereal commercial , Lets give it to mikey he likes it. Bogus team leadership and self centered attitudes dont make it in this buisness and i wish robin maced him with the whip cream cannister of miso. So to me it was clear who was going and it was a very bad nite for alot of my favorites and honestlly Jen used up another life from the queen of fancy feast catfood Laurine and although you like her JK im not sold on it that she has what it takes to be Top Chef . Its clear there will not be a woman winner this year. Too much testosterone in the terrine of contestants. Im gonna end with this JK the only one who has had a worthy enuff crush on Padma to father her child is …season 3 contestant CJ the 7 foot tall monster who chased Padma like a blood hound…lol . I had to give you my pick .

have a blessed day :)


October 22nd, 2009
2:34 pm

John K.: That’s weird. I have a Seafood Watch card in my hand right now, and it lists “Cod: Atlantic” as an “avoid”. I haven’t had cod in about ten years, but if the status has changed I may run right out and order some.


October 22nd, 2009
2:42 pm

More re: cod as a sustainable fish. I’m looking at the Seafood Watch page, and it has two entries for Atlantic Cod. Atlantic Cod from Iceland and the Arctic that is non-trawled is a “good alternative/yellow”, while Atlantic Cod that is wild caught from the U.S. Atlantic is an “avoid/red”. So, I guess the lesson is that you really have to ask a lot of questions when ordering.

Jo Yo Yo

October 22nd, 2009
3:38 pm

Padme’s baby daddy is a married man.


October 22nd, 2009
4:04 pm

Not really Top Chef – but Seafood Watch updates their regional guides every 6 months. So glad to see them get some national mainstream exposure!! It’s a great program. The printable regional guides are great and now they offer iPhone and (I believe) Blackberry mobile apps.

Steven A.

October 22nd, 2009
5:03 pm

I really thought Jen was going to go home last night. Tom had hinted in his blog that a surprising favorite might be out this week, and in the past even the most favored chefs have been sent packing when they screw up as bad as Jen did. But Laurine failed just as badly and did not have any previous success to temper that, so out she goes. As she said to a clearly shaken Jen on the way out, “You deserve to be here.” She’s right (but I’m still rooting for Kevin).

The tag-team quickfire was probably the best quickfire in the history of the show. It was riveting and creative. I’d love to see it used again, maybe even expanded into an elimination challenge.

Somehow, incredibly, I find myself actually kind of liking Mike I. these days. It’s probably just a trick of editing, but he talks way less, keeps his head down, and actually cooks some good dishes. I don’t think he’s on the level of Kevin, Jen, and the Volts, but I wouldn’t mind seeing him stick around for a bit longer.

ROBIN, GO HOME. You are not Carla.

pika: It’s been my experience when shopping that when a fish is sustainable, its origin is clearly marked. If you can’t find where/how it was caught, assume it’s not sustainable. Restaurants are a whole different story, and you usually have to ask, though some have gotten good about listing the origin of their seafood right on the menu.

The sustainability guide is available as a terrific iPhone app:


October 22nd, 2009
5:26 pm

Me, as Kessler said above, “Pen and paper in hand, Mike shows Robin how to turn her humble pear crumble into a Frenchified pear pithiviers with an almond frangipane base and a lattice-topped puff pastry crust.” So Robin should have been giving Mike props for the idea! Ego, yes, he has a huge one, but in this instance he was justified.


October 22nd, 2009
6:54 pm

Great recap John! Despite his good, yet not usual stellar performance last night, I’m starting to think that Kevin is going to win this thing. He’s obviously a great chef and is managing to stay out of the drama.


October 22nd, 2009
7:30 pm

My wife gave poor Kevin the 3rd degree when we ran into him at Antico Pizza Napoletana last week, (my 1st time there, Kevin’s 2nd) and he stayed mum to her too. Suspect that he is supressing his tour of duty with the KGB from his resume.


October 22nd, 2009
8:26 pm

quickfire kevin: “…i’m the one who is going to possibly wreck it for everybody.”

quickfire mike: “the most difficult part of this challenge is that i’m finishing other people’s food. that’s NOT what i do.”

mike v. is kind of the stealth villain of the season isn’t he. his arrogance beggars belief. goodness knows i love a villain (i actually like mike isabella for the same reasons i love larry david) but mike v. is just… ugh, i don’t even know where to start. he can swear up and down that he’s a great guy, but then you have KEVIN there as the real deal, the guy who can cook circles around everybody, standing next to him. i heart kevin in a big way and i’ll be really sad if he doesn’t take the crown.

Gregory M. Maddox

October 23rd, 2009
6:26 am

I can’t stand it when I hear comments like “Robin is Top Chef’s version of Omorosa … [she's only there to get on the other chef's nerves]“. Listen up, both Jen and Tennille (season five and six of Hell’s Kitchen) were also easy choices for elimination at first; but stayed until the final four. No, I don’t think she will be one of the three finalists, but I hope this episode reveals she is more than comedy relief.


October 23rd, 2009
10:21 am

So asking for salt is the kiss of death to a chef’s prepared dish? Yikes, don’t we all have varying needs where the deadly sodium intake is concerned? Just had to mention that after all the commentary on cod, V-bro’s, Jenn’s ‘kini look and the ongoing wretchedness of being Robin who must have incredible self esteem to “sustain” the other chefs’ ridicule. JK – your writing is my weekly treat!!!

John Kessler

October 23rd, 2009
10:31 am

TL: Thanks!
Ellen: Mike I. is neither the jerk nor the fearsome challenger I thought he would be.
Fanatic: Laurine seemed to be a lame culinarian but a pleasant, if foul mouthed, soul. Love the image of miso mace!
Duckie: Yes, thanks for pointing out that Seafood Watch does update regularly. It’s all about think of sustainable fish as seasonal commodities.
Art: Thanks, Kevin sure seems to have the chops.
SalMonela: Hilarious name. I read it a couple of times before I got it. You’re a made man and a foodborne illness!
Lizzy: Appreciate it.

top chef fanatic:

October 23rd, 2009
10:34 pm

I want to comment on the tight lipped opponents…they have to sign such a strong contract of confidentiality ,that they will be sued so bad if they even say 1 word about the show.If you notice them thats ok,but they cant even say they were on the show. I had a friend who i got my mocha latte and chocolate cream cheese muffins from at the flying biscut..and i noticed him on hells kitchen one day, His name was dewberry?? i said where you on hells kitchen . He replied yes but thats all i can say. Also i vacationed in miami and visited the TOP CHEF penthouse at the fountainbleu , And the show was just finished taping and i couldnt get a crumb of info from anyone in the hotel.So we will have to stick it out till the finale peeps! mums the word all the way.


October 24th, 2009
8:17 pm

BLACK COD IS NOT COD! It’s not even in the cod family. Black cod is better known as sable fish. Sable fish found in restaurants is typically caught in the north pacific. It is fully sustainable. Pay attention to the details when reading a menu or listening to a specials at restaurants. And if you’re wondering why they call use cod in the name it’s so it will sell better. For example would you order patagonia toothfish if you saw it on a menu? Probably not but a quick name change to Chilean Sea Bass and it flew off the shelves.


October 26th, 2009
2:43 pm

Thanks for the recap. I was on vacation last week — discovered a wonderful restaurant, by the way, called Canyon Grill just outside of Chattanooga but still in Georgia. I’d go back in a heartbeat, and it’s BYOB with no corkage fee! Anyway, needless to say, I missed Top Chef and thankfully had this to wrap it all up for me.
Please tell me why you think Robin is able to keep hanging on by a thread? Curious to hear your thoughts.

top chef fanatic

October 27th, 2009
12:35 pm

hey bravo….i checked out the restraunt and its a real gem , you gotta love a gem like that tucked away in the mountains. To answer your ? i think robin is still around because she is still cooking good food, and although she brings drama to the table its not about that. Its about winning and cooking good dishes. But i will have to say i dont think she will last long.

No Doubt

October 27th, 2009
9:13 pm

I still think Eli is a Douche…………Kevin FTW!


October 28th, 2009
2:20 am

========Top Chef Fanatic=Ultimate DBaggery

“Also i vacationed in miami and visited the TOP CHEF penthouse at the fountainbleu , And the show was just finished taping and i couldnt get a crumb of info from anyone in the hotel.So we will have to stick it out till the finale peeps! mums the word all the way.”

-Need I say more other than GET A FKIN LIFE!

And your endless pontification merits it’s own URL…………………………………..


October 28th, 2009
2:23 am

“hey bravo….i checked out the restraunt and its a real gem , you gotta love a gem like that tucked away in the mountains.”

So you actually flew your private Jet from The FB in Mia. to this Gem just to check it out?????????? Did you break in to the Chefs home to “Check It Out”?