Top Chef: Las Vegas “Vice”

Wherein we recap epidsode one and live blog episode two, of one of the best reality shows EVAR.

Exactly one week ago, a few of you joined me for the season premier of Top Chef: Las Vegas. Together, we good-foodies watched with breaths abated as Google’s Executive Chef, Preeti Mistry, took on a ginger who blew off MIT for cooking (he’s like the anti-brown!) and Michael Isabella, whom I know by name because I’m devoted to his restaurant, Zaytinya, even if he’s shaping up to be this season’s honorary representative from Massengill. Speaking of that currently-beloved epithet, this amusing blog thinks Preeti is one of three “Contenders for Top Douchebag”. Wow, not only are we a post-racial nation, we’re living in an era where a woman is nominated to be a “top” DB. That’s…something.

Like last week, you are invited to join in the chant by tuning in at 10pm, when you will be able to crash this live-blogging party:

Now about that Mise-en-place relay race from last week, which is ALL people can mention when I bring up Preeti…The Mise-en-place relay is a beloved Top Chef “Quickfire” challenge– they even made the Top Chef Masters do it, because it’s nerve-wracking and thus fantastic to watch. The seventeen chef-testants are divided in to teams of four– I know how your brown minds are working…you cannot escape your mathematical proclivities. How DO you divide 17/4? Easy. One lucky Chef who drew a golden chip gets to sit the drama out. Aside: get it? They drew chips instead of knives? Did you know they were in LAS VEGAS? DID YOU? HUH??

The first leg of the relay is to shuck 15 clams; second, peel 30 prawns; third, clean up five lobsters; and finally, butcher two chops from a slab of prime rib. Sounds like the makings of a good Vegas buffet! When someone thinks they’ve completed a leg, they yell “check,” and Tom comes over to approve the work and let the next team member move on to the next task. First team to finish all four tasks wins [link].

Sounds straight-forward enough, yes? Well it was, until Preeti turned to her team and asked, “It’s the same as an oyster, right? Clams?” Though I’m a life-long vegetarian, I had the sinking feeling that the answer to her question was a fat “NO!”. At that low point, I took a deep breath and started to give up on Team Brown.

Virgin clam-shucker Mistry, an executive chef at Bon Appétit Management Company who runs Charlie’s Café at Google in Mountain View, fell so far behind that her team never recovered.
“I wanted to do the beef,” Mistry told SFoodie. “After all, I was the sous chef at Acme Chophouse when I applied to be on Top Chef — Traci des Jardins suggested it to me, and when Traci says something, you listen! I gave it a shot, and when I made it, Fedele Baccio, the CEO of Bon Appétit, was really supportive.”
As for the clam debacle, Mistry said it really wasn’t as bad as it seemed — Bravo’s edits made it look worse than it was. “I did get through them all,” she said. Mistry’s now back at work, overseeing more than 2,000 meals a day at Google. [link]

After that disastrous Quickfire (not being able to shuck is one thing, hacking open your hand, like another contestant did, is another), the first episode’s Elimination challenge was to create a dish which was inspired by each Chef’s individual vices. As basic and boring as that “challenge” was, some Chefs still couldn’t follow through. Not our girl, though:

Preeti’s vice is a Maker’s Mark Manhattan. Did they pay for this product placement or what? Anyway, her dish is pork tenderloin with bourbon sweet potato puree and sautéed dandelion greens in vermouth. At least she followed through on the idea with both the bourbon and vermouth incorporated. [link]

Incidentally, a friend of mine who works for Google reported that last Friday, Preeti made everyone at the company her “Vice” dish. Fun!

I’m praying that Preeti actually gets to Shine (like a Coconut Moon) tonight, while using ingredients she’s comfortable with…though I know that wouldn’t make for great reality television. I don’t care, I want her to succeed and no, I don’t want to hear about how you were watching the sneak peek of this season like a HAWK, and you didn’t see her faux-hawk like, ANYWHERE in future shots of the show. I already heard you, loud and clear, on Twitter. Speaking of that micro-blogging service, Ms. Mistry tweets, too. I wouldn’t expect any spoilers, but the good Chef does display a hearty sense of humor about the competition; neither editing nor her performance last week has caused her to “clam” up.

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