Top Chef Vegas: My New Girl Crush

In this episode, Jennifer Carroll was the big star, and I've decided she's my new girl crush. I love her cooking skills, her straightforwardness, and I love that she can easily run a kitchen of 14 other competitive, hotheaded, stressed-out cheftestants and make it look easy. She's definitely my pick to make it to the finals, and could end up winning the whole thing.

Michael V. is also impressing me; I initially pegged him as too impulsive and crazy. He'd be the chef who had brilliant, creative ideas but couldn't quite make them work. Well, I was wrong--he does come up with some crazy concoctions, but somehow manages to pull them off, wowing the judges every week. Brother Bryan is super-talented as well, but he seems to play it a little safer and isn't quite as creative. And I have to admit, his personality comes across as kind of...flat. I'm definitely on Team Mike these days.

But let's get on to the episode. During the Quickfire, an extremely genial guest judge Mark Peel (of Los Angeles' Campanile) helps Padma taste the chefs' "out of this world" potato dishes. Maybe I missed something, but I'm not sure why they were called "out of this world" or what that even means. I'm assuming it's some kind of sponsor tie-in that went completely over my head. Chef Peel, whom you may have caught on Top Chef Masters, is one of the nicest judges to ever hit Top Chef -- he finds something to compliment about everyone's dish, even if it's just, "The leeks are my favorite thing on this plate." The implication being, of course, that he didn't like the fish wrapped in potatoes that was next to the leeks. But he accentuates the positive instead of the negative; nice, Mark, nice!

Once again, Jesse ends up at the bottom with her over-cayenned sweet potato soup (which Mark says has "beautiful" color and texture). I'm getting tired of Jesse's constant screw-ups. She always knows what she does wrong, but she's not able to fix her mistakes or -- hey, here's an idea! -- to give some thought to what she's doing beforehand so she can PREVENT her mistakes. I think Jesse needs to go; she's had too many missed chances to redeem herself.

So my girl Jen wins the Quickfire and the immunity, which means for the next challenge -- feeding 300 Air Force servicemen and women -- the team decides she'll serve as executive chef for the kitchen instead of creating her own dish. I think that's pretty smart, and she does her job so well, it seems like a premonition. Let's just end the competition now and make Jen the next Top Chef, shall we?

In the end, Laurine and Preeti make a weak pasta salad that lands them in the bottom, along with Michael Isabella and his undercooked, underseasoned shrimp salad. Shrimp seems to be the Achilles' heel for a lot of these chefs. But the pasta salad? Honestly, it looks like something I could make at home in about 10 minutes. There was no creativity and no thought put into it.

At Judges' Table, Laurine admits she's embarrassed to have served it, while Preeti sticks to her guns and insists that it was a good dish, as she does every week when the judges slam her food. Clearly, Preeti needs to raise her standards.

But alas, she won't get the chance, as Padma send her packing. Good choice! I'm putting my money on Jesse to go next. I think Mike I. also deserves to go home, but they'll probably keep him around longer for entertainment purposes.

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