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 10: Carnivore’s Dilemma

Bring me my parsnips and confited eggplant

Bring me my parsnips and confited eggplant


Padmé, Padma. Padma, Padmé.

The “Top Chef” crew get a visitor from a galaxy far, far away.

Padmé Amidala, as you may recall, is the queen/senator/cradle robber Natalie Portman portrayed in three “Star Wars” movies and, as Eli informs us, this role is the “only important thing she ever did.”

Graduating from Harvard? Not important. Oscar nomination for “Closer?” Not important. Slapping on some kabubi makeup and a gilt head vise to share screen time with Jar Jar Binks? Vital.

So Padmé brings her entourage to meet Padma and her entourage over dinner in a steakless steakhouse, where they nibble on various slivers of beet and puddles of pureed turnip, and they talk about, um, oral prickling sensations.

But before we get to that — and rest assured, we will get to that — we have a lot of handwringing and angst in the desolate McMansion that was once so full of life and kerchiefs.

Bryan methodically sharpens his knife in the kitchen, thinking he could just plunge it into his brother’s heart and be done with this whole business. Jen of the increasingly wild hair and teary disposition is distraught with her performance and seems on the verge of self-flagellation. Robin, talking a mile a minute after her 57th cup of Seattle’s Best coffee says, “I know I’m here for a reason.”

Yes, Robin, that reason is called “naked ratings ploy.” You know, I know, we all know, you could microwave a Twinkie and still eke by.

Over in Top Chef kitchen, Padma greets this glum bunch with her usual bag of tricks: pantsuit, semi-famous chef, silly prop, Knife Block of Destiny.

This time around the chef is Paul Bartolotta (cut to Mike I. with the boilerplate “he’s a stud in the food world” speech), the prop is an “I Love Lucy” era living room set, and the knives reveal names of television shows.

It’s time for the:

QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE: Make a TV Dinner based on a Classic Television Show (or: Do Double-Dipped Chips count?)

Kevin pulls….”The Sopranos.” Buonissimo!

Eli gets…..”Gilligan’s Island.” How oddly fitting!

On it goes. Jen? “The Flintstones!” Bryan? “M.A.S.H.!” Robin? A PBS documentary on the Donner Party!

Actually, Robin gets “Sesame Street” for her inspiration, and after deciding against a roast saddle of Elmo or piggy head cheese served inside a tiara, she comes up with a scheme to make some kind of hamburger thingie with a yolk in the center to look like Cookie Monster’s eye. I’m serious. Eyeball burger: that’s what we’ve come to.

Eli kvetches because “Gilligan’s Island” was so before his time but gets busy coconut-crusting shrimp.

(Quick aside #1: Don’t we think senile Baby Boomers will remember “Gilligan’s Island” plots long after they forget their grandchildren’s names?

Quick aside #2: Do we miss Ron here? Yes! He would have prepared some kind of fish and plantain business that would make Lovey Howell limbo from gustatory rapture. )

Jen, whose nervous breakdown seems to creep closer by the hour, finds the larder fresh out of brontosaurus meat. So she decides to make a Flintstonian chicken roulade. I do not understand this, because I never once saw a chicken roulade tip over Fred’s family sedan. i don’t even think Ann Modrock asked for chicken roulade when she played the Bedrock Bowl. Perhaps Jen was thinking of Wilma’s French twist.

Mike I., who has never seen “Seinfeld” and therefore can’t summon references to twice-dipped chips and imperious soup makers. So he makes sausage and peppers because, you know, Seinfeld is an Italian name.

Bryan? He updates good ol’ American cooking for our boys in Korea and makes crepinette-wrapped “updated meatloaf” and Mom’s tarte tatin.

Kevin thinks of his extended family, who all live on the same block, when he contemplates his filial Sopranos dinner. So he fills the compartments of his cool-looking porcelain TV dinner tray with meatballs, polenta, roasted cauliflower and a honey roasted pear.

Padma and chef Paul take their seats in the living room and begin their TV dinner feast. All that’s missing is George and Gracie.

They care not for Robin’s eyeball burger and Jen’s prehistoric roulade. But they thrill to Bryan’s M.A.S.H. loaf and Kevin’s meatballs. Kevin wins!

Alas, Padma says, “Immunity is no longer on the table,” but Kevin’s Sopranos-inspired meal will somehow inspire the new “Top Chef” frozen food line by Schwan’s.

“Can I get my picture on the box?” Kevin asks. His sweet granny actually gets Schwan’s home-delivered frozen dinners, and he thinks she would love to see his face on the box. (That, or it might scare the bejeezus out of her.)

Padma sidesteps this request by announcing the:

ELIMINATION CHALLENGE: Cook at Craftsteak at the MGM Grand Hotel (or: What exactly is on the tip of Padma’s tongue?)

Sweeeeet! The chefs can’t wait to get their hands of the fine steaks and chops at Tom’s steakhouse, and so they all take to their beds and discuss the merits of sous vide as they lounge.

The next day is even better than they imagined as they discover racks upon racks of gorgeous beef. Hello, Kobe!

But then Tom arrives with guest judge Padmé, a.k.a. Natalie Portman.

“I love food, I love to eat all kinds of things, but I’m a vegetarian,” she says sweetly. “And if you serve me animal flesh I will thrust a light sabre through your eye.”

“Bleep. Bleep Holy bleep,” go all the chefs except Robin, who loves cooking vegetarian food, and Mike, whose mom was vegan.

Kevin recalls the grim feeling of meatless non-satisfaction during Lent. Eli denies vegetarians their humanity (”they’re lesser human beings”) and poor, poor Jen, at wit’s end, starts looking for a cat-o-nine-tails so she can beat herself. This is it, her goose is cooked. She is lost without meat.

But the chefs soon discover a walk-in cooler stocked with all manner of fantastic vegetables that Tom has procured from a LA. farmers market.

Eli and Jen must flip a dehydrated orange peel to determine who will get the tender Japanese eggplants. Eli wins, leaving Jen with the firm and suspicious Indian eggplants.

“I’m not happy I didn’t get the eggplants I wanted,” says Jen, smashing lemongrass against the side of a counter.

Mike I. is in his boastful/chill mood. He’s got it down. He makes veggies all the time at his Mediterranean small plates restaurant, Zaytinya. He’s got leeks. And some kind of orange mush. And pretty little purple slivers. Padmé will eat it up.

But his leeks don’t poach, set as they are in a warped rondeau. Jen spends so long beating her lemongrass, she barely has time to slice her inferior eggplant and fling it in despair on a plate. Robin is thrilled with her fresh green chickpeas but can’t get them on the plates in time and three of her guests must go chickpea-less.

Padmé brings Jar Jar and a few other friends to the table; Pamda arrives with Tom, chef Paul and Gail Simmons, who has returned in a green satin gown with frills crawling up her shoulders. She looks a little “Real Housewives” I’ve gotta say.

Robin is first up with her confusing dish of beets, possible chickpeas, a fried squash blossom and a chermoula sauce so salty that Padma says, “I can feel my ankles swelling.”

But Eli follows with confited eggplant over creamed lentils and an herbed radish salad that everyone loves despite the soapy lavender note.

Mike V. makes a fun and fascinating dish of asparagus salad with Japanese tomato sashimi and banana polenta. Not everyone loves the banana polenta, but they are charmed by the humor and originality.

Mike I serves his undercooked leeks and makes some big bouchedaggy claim that the leeks stand in for protein because they’re kind of cut to look like scallops.

“I want to like it more because I love leeks and purple is my favorite color,” says Padmé, reaching for her light sabre.

Bryan follows with a barigoule of artichokes in lemon sauce with garlic blossoms that startles everyone.

“I’ve got a little prick on my tongue,” says Padma.

“Don’t say that,” laughs Padmé.

Gail tries to bring back a serious food discussion and talks about the flavors lingering and developing in her mouth.

“So it went from a little prick to big in your mouth?” asks Tom.


Dear Top Chef, Thank you for this.

Just when things were getting a little tough to swallow, Kevin brings everyone back to the here and now with his fantastic if casual composition of mushroom, smoked kale, roasted turnips and turnip puree.

Without question, Kevin gets called to Judges’ Table, along with Eli (who hoots and hollers) and Mike V.

Gail loves Eli’s “beautiful garlic puree” while Padmé applauds the trippy delight of banana polenta.

“Who is his dealer and does he want any clients?” she asks.

But Kevin wins again! It’s a twofer! Tom applauds the “mouthful of flavor” in his dish. No one sniggeringly recalls earlier conversations, and Kevin wins a suite of GE appliances.

Mike V. is not happy that Kevin got the win for his sloppy plate of yummy stuff.

“I could have made that in the second year of my apprenticeship,” he grouses.

Mike I., Jen and Robin get the call for loser’s table. Wild-eyed, contrite Jen gets dinged for a dish that tasted like a good side but not a full vegetarian entree. Robin…well…she made Robin food.

Mike I. tried the old “chill out about the raw leeks” line, but Padmé pointed out the dish sucked in toto. He’s outta here.

After hugging everyone but Robin and never fully admitting his shortcomings, Mike packs his knives and slips a Kobe ribeye into the knife roll for good measure.

Neither the jerk nor the fine competitive cook he seemed to be from early episodes, Mike returned to his yogurts.

Six little Indians remain.

30 comments Add your comment


October 29th, 2009
9:06 am

I just hope they don’t carry Robin to the very end. I think the judge must be getting tired of trying her food too. But you Rock, John. Love the recaps. Snarky comments and all.

Love it!

October 29th, 2009
9:23 am

LOVE the comments (and the fast posting!) From the beginning I wanted Jenn in the final 3, but the girl becomes too easily ‘undone’ and its not gonna happen. Robin NEEDS TO GO.
Kevin ROCKS!!!


October 29th, 2009
10:31 am

Haven’t made it to Woodfire Grill prior to this, but I’m going to have to go now after all of Kevin’s success on this show.


October 29th, 2009
11:26 am

For all the attention paid to the chosen TV shows in the Quickfire, they may have well have called it “Pick a TV Show and Then Cook Whatever You Feel Like Cooking”. “Seinfeld” was sadly wasted on Mike I., who missed the perfect opportunity to make soup and a Big Salad (with lots of stuff in it).

The shot of Kevin watching Bryan sharpening his knife was priceless. Was he deciding whether to kill him last?

It seems not even the surprise entrance of a beautiful moviestar can shake Eli from his hipster coma. Or else he didn’t want to seem too excited, what with his Mom standing next to him and all.

Poor Jenn has been reduced from the Ilsa the She-Devil we witnessed in the first couple of episodes to a quivering ball of neurosis. I thought she was a goner, but I underestimated the damage done by Mike I.’s double-dose of superciliousness: first, the condescension implied in the claim that by cutting a vegetable to look like a protein, he was in fact rearranging the cell structure to make it so; and second, his introducing into the Judges Table lexicon the unfortunate phrase “whatever whatever.”

Deliberations probably consisted solely of Colicchio saying “Oh, no, no, no — eff YOU.” Jenn’s consoling embrace of the departing Mike I. was so affectionate that Gail was moved to clutch her bosom. This being a family blog…I’ll just stop there.

top chef fanatic

October 29th, 2009
11:38 am

A great recap Mr. Kessler….wow im so happy kevin pulled off the top chef version of a hatrick! good job buddy and glad to see you back in the game with a vengance. Basically it was his to loose once he had picked the Sopranos it was easy put a meatball on the plate with some sauce and you are a made man. You just became a Don of frozen TV dinners and i hope he gets a good cut from Schwans or Paulie or Tony will have a say!

On to the good stuff, the oral extacy of artichokes and garlic blossoms with a tart ending of lemon sauce …was enuff to make any Starship store in the ATL proud! I see an endorsement coming for Padma soon:) whats next maby guest judge Jenna Jameson? I was happy to see Kevin win and the Volt attitude was just another sign of weakness and lack of professionalism i dont expect to see mikey on top chef masters anytime soon. Im gonna end with this i was very disapointed not to see jen go and i feel that she is being delt strong favortism because of her mentor Eric Ripert and his endorsement. I do feel that she put out a garnish at best…they could of had a blackjack dealer from the M resort sauce up those plates better! That was dead and she should of got the boots for it, Besides this is fine dining and sauces at tableside should be in a sauce mode or atleast get a ladle. And yes i did think although lacking a few chickpeas Robins dish was better, She is clearly not TOP CHEF material JK but she still hangs on. I have never seen ANYONE in the history of this show be on the bottom soo much and still be here its amazing.

p.s. love the twinkie comment LOL
have a blessed day:)


October 29th, 2009
2:03 pm

Great recap JK!

I can’t say that I’m disappointed to see Mike I. go this week. I knew from show #1 that his arrogance was going to come back to bite him in the boootaaay. No one likes a cocky know-it-all. As far as I’m concerned, he deserved to be tossed after admitting he never watched Seinfeld! CLEARLY, how un-American!!! (I bet he has seen an episode now!)….”No more soup for MIKE!”



October 29th, 2009
2:10 pm

Poor Jen seems to be suffering from what the kids on the Amazing Race forums call The Killer Fatigue.

Rule .303

October 29th, 2009
2:28 pm

Haven’t watched in a couple of weeks, but I gotta say, the Volt brothers have about as much personality as the pair of dirty socks lying on my bedroom floor. Shoot, the candidates currently running for GA Governor are more inspring, but not more inspiring than my socks.

That was quite possibly the most boring episode of the most boring Top Chef season.

Rule .303

October 29th, 2009
2:30 pm

Oh, and as always — John’s summary is much more entertaining than the show itself ;)


October 29th, 2009
3:04 pm

I still don’t see the value in keeping Robin!! She’s not a good Chef!! And nowhere near Top Chef material!!


October 29th, 2009
3:39 pm

I can’t wait for the after-the-show real talk episodes when someone at last explains why on earth Robin is still around. Give me a break. I wouldn’t pay one red cent for her food; unless, of course, i had to raw leeks! Good riddance.
I can’t wait to see the other little brats, Mike and Eli, hit the road, too. Their arrogance and bad attitudes are annoying. There’s one red-headed jolly fellow, who is a helluva cook, left. Go Kevin!

DeMarcus the carcass

October 29th, 2009
3:47 pm

That Padme is very annoying and needs to get her nose out of the air. Good thing for you Top Chef fans she is nice to look at but that is about all she brings to the kitchen. Has her baby daddy been revealed yet? He is a married man so her and that trailer park Kim from the “Duluth House-trash” should get together.

Steve Brown

October 29th, 2009
3:50 pm

The over-complicated stylings of adolescent cooks masquerading as chefs is beginning to bore me. These people are not creating cold fusion, they are cooking. I would have made an eggplant parm with pasta and my “secret” (for dramatic effect) marinara sauce . It would have tasted great but I’m certain its common nature would have been looked down upon. These shows may be hurting restaurants more than helping by exposing the dunces doing the cooking.

Steve Brown

October 29th, 2009
3:54 pm

I believe I read somewhere that Kevin was accepted to M.I.T., on the prior show he didn’t know the difference between rare and medium rare rack of lamb. Give me a break!

[...] via and [...]


October 29th, 2009
4:44 pm

JK love your weekly recaps!

Kevin is the bomb! I’m thrilled he has done so well….and with real class. Too bad Mike I. was incapable of seeing how much farther demonstrating respect and character can move somone who has talent.

V brothers are starting to bug me….I wish they would just chill out and cook!

uberVU - social comments

October 29th, 2009
6:32 pm

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by jdkess: Padma meets Padme for meatless fun. #topchef #atltopchef…

M.I.T. Graduate

October 29th, 2009
6:54 pm

Steve Brown,

We obviously have a very gifted chef and highly educated epicure in our midst.. Kindly, please share your credentials! I’m dying to know more about someone who can make such mean-spirited and caustic comments… You must be a wonderful teacher and coach! I take it that you’re so disgusted with the show’s dunces that you won’t be watching next week and thus… won’t comment. One can only hope!


October 29th, 2009
7:46 pm


Another stellar recap! I was otherwise occupied last night so I “TIVO’d” the episode, watched today and then read your tome… How’s that for devotion? LOL! I must echo the comment of several of our merry band, this year is starting to be a bit of a snoozer!! Your blog is always more exciting than the actual show. I did like the classic TV quickfire challenge but, I guess we’re beginning to show our gray hairs when such classics as The Flintstones, M.A.S.H. and even, Seinfeld, are not familiar to the up-and-coming Generations X, Y and Z… Talk about an opportunity for great comedic food preparation… I had mixed feelings about Mike I’s departure… I guess in the end I thought he added more than he detracted and additionally, I thought he was a better chef than some of those still standing… but this is a show, that more than probably any other, relies upon subjective judgments… I’m just hoping that those subjective judgments will carry Kevin to a win!!!! Despite it all, I can’t wait for next week… We’ve got to figure out how we can get a food element into American Idol so that you and Rodney Ho can go at this year-long.

[...] "Top Chef" Recap, Episode 10: Carnivore's Dilemma | Food and More … October 29th, 2009 | Author: admin On to the good stuff, the oral extacy of artichokes and garlic blossoms with a tart ending of lemon sauce …was enuff to make any Starship store in the ATL proud! I see an endorsement coming for Padma soon:) whats next maby guest judge … Here is the original: "Top Chef" Recap, Episode 10: Carnivore's Dilemma | Food and More … [...]


October 30th, 2009
8:35 am

JK…aka, de-Snarked Snark God (what a hi-larious, albeit somewhat uncomfortable scene) – loved the recap. Of course, waiting 24 hours to read all the comments seals the deal for me – we are a devoted and sincere bunch.

I think Jenn’s gonna pull it back together. Mike I. has taken his low-class, insecure remarks to bouchedag heaven where he belongs. Mike V….you said you could have done that dish in 20 minutes as an apprentice. Fact is – you could have done it in the elimination challenge with only 7 contestants left…..but you didn’t. Eli – you’re so….young. And lastly, I can resist: Gail Simmons – stuffing yourself into a circa 1982 emerald green prom dress with absurd floppy flowerettes was a decidely unfortunate choice. Snark snark.

Steve Brown

October 30th, 2009
10:30 am

M.I.T. Grad-painful to have any serious discourse with people afraid to use their real names. Go back to your reality shows – there is little hope.


October 30th, 2009
12:09 pm

Thank you for pointing out the ridiculous comment from Eli about Star Wars being the only important thing Natalie has done…how insulting! Thanks for the insight from the momma’s boy. Also point: we cannot accurately judge the food because we cannot taste it! So if Robin has survived this long, the judges must taste something we’re not. However annoying she is.


October 30th, 2009
4:40 pm

This commentary on Top Chef is, quite possibly, the best one I have ever read and I have read them all. You made me laugh out loud. Thank you.

Rodney Ho

October 31st, 2009
12:08 am

Nobody can beat John Kessler in recap skillz! Certainly not me! Yes. Reading his recap is often far more fun than watching it. Poor Jen. I really thought she was a certain lock for the final four but now I’m not so sure.


November 1st, 2009
9:32 pm

Pleae get a life. This show is contrived and FAKE. And you can have my steak when you pry it from my cold dead hands.

John Kessler

November 2nd, 2009
10:36 am

Thanks very much, all. I really enjoy these funny comments despite the outbreak of vitriol (Steve, MIT Grad: please jointly solve the Pythagorean theorem, have an ideally medium rare lamb chop and make up.)
Sansho: did Mike I really say “whatever, whatever?” I need to start using that phrase. Or perhaps “hipster coma.” And it is “Jenn” with two n’s?
Jim: Thanks for the dinner invitation! Sounds like the food will be better than the conversation.

top chef fanatic

November 2nd, 2009
2:16 pm

I have to agree with you mr. kessler its become sorts of a chatroom in this blog! I dont appreciate the spam, the hatred and the childish games …lets just keep it real and blog about TOP CHEF !

On a lighter note i gotcha on the jenn with 2 nn”s

have a blessed day:)

top chef fanatic

November 3rd, 2009
12:07 am

i would like to ad that i do not know or endorse swag sod dope in any way

anastasia beaverhausen

November 11th, 2009
9:44 pm

Sitting here watching repeat of this episode; I realize Gayle’s dress makes her look like a head of lettuce.