When faced with a surprise vegetarian challenge, the Top Chef contestants were mostly useless.
Spoilers contained herein
Granted, it was kind of messed up the way they introduced the challenge. After telling the chefs they were cooking in Colicchio’s kitchen at Craftsteak, and letting them plan fantastic meaty meals, they dropped the bomb. Now, Natalie did say she was a vegetarian, and not a vegan. And I’m assuming that she didn’t stipulate further dietary restrictions off camera, considering there were murmurs of butter in the kitchen. So it would seem there was NO EXCUSE for the dishes produced from this most minor of culinary restrictions.
To blame the kitchen doesn’t fly either. I’ve been to Craftsteak. They have a huge sides menu which includes tons of vegetable dishes, potatoes, bread, and a gorgeous selection of mushrooms. I ate very well there. I even took home leftovers. These guys just have no idea what to do with vegetarians because they’ve never cared to cater to them before. Many of them claim to have experience with vegetarian dishes. Jennifer says she can cook a vegetarian dish “when she has to”, but soon proves herself wrong. Mike claims that his restaurant has 20 vegetarian dishes, but based on the crap that he produces, I would have to surmise that they are things like “celery stix and peanut butter” and “saltines”. There wasn’t as much shit-talking as I had anticipated. But given what Eli said about vegetarians being “lesser humans”, I bet a lot of people were holding back.
The one person who should have nailed this challenge was Robin. She’s from Seattle and she claims to eat vegetarian much of the time. But her dish was awful. Much like everyone else’s it was just a bunch of veggies throw on a plate.
Speaking of which, I’m glad Natalie finally said something. Where the fuck is the protein in all this? For that matter, where is any substance? A good risotto? Some eggs and cheese? Even if she did stipulate a vegan diet, she could still have eaten some grains or soy. Some rice to go with that splash of lentils to make it a complete dish. ANYTHING even remotely hearty would have been good. This must be the first Top Chef meal in history (after the Zooey Deschanel special that I somehow missed), in which the judges needed to hit the buffet after. And it’s not because it was a vegetarian challenge. It’s because all the contestants made the same ignorant mistake that untrained cooks make when they have no idea what a vegetarian eats. Give them nothing but vegetables. Make the portions tiny while you’re at it. And oh, why are you so skinny?
There were a handful of nuts here and there. Robin added a couple of chick peas but that’s not going to fill anyone up. I can only conclude from this that Robin is a terrible chef and under no circumstances deserves to continue in the competition. But she didn’t go home. Mike did. And even though I definitely think Robin needs to leave as soon as possible, I have to admit I was overjoyed to see that arrogant prick finally get the boot.
Speaking of arrogant, I can’t stand those sore-loser Voltagglio brothers either. Banana polenta is rather creative and I might even have liked it, but it didn’t look as good as Kevin’s dish. You don’t need to get super fancy with vegetarian cooking. You JUST need to leave off the meat. That is LITERALLY the only stipulation. It’s not that fucking hard. Kevin definitely deserved to win. His mushroom and turnip dish was the only thing I would have been excited to eat in that spread. But I still wouldn’t have been very full.