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Top Chef: Las Vegas - Welcome Back Jen!

Top Chef: Las Vegas - Welcome Back Jen!

With lackluster chef Robin gone at last, it's anyone's game this week on Top Chef. All of the remaining five competitors are strong. Any tiny mistake could spell the difference between making it to the finals or getting sent home.

With lackluster chef Robin gone at last, it's anyone's game this week on Top Chef. All of the remaining five competitors are strong. Any tiny mistake could spell the difference between making it to the finals or getting sent home.

In the Top Chef kitchen, Padma introduces the contestants to guest judge Gavin Kaysen, a former representative of America in the
'Olympics' of food competitions - the Bocuse d'Or. For the Quickfire challenge, Kaysen tasks the chefs with creating one of his own dishes
from the Bocuse d'Or, a ballotine, which is basically a protein stuffed in a protein stuffed in a protein. That'll make your arteries curl up just thinking about it.

Sometimes the editing on Top Chef is a bit too clearly foreshadowing of what's about to happen in the kitchen. When Michael disses Jen by saying, "I don't think there's a whole lot left for [her] to do," you just knew Jen was about to kick his ass. So it wasn't all the much of a surprise when Padma took a bite of Jen's calamari steak stuffed with scallops and salmon and said with a grin: "Welcome back." I swear, Jen looked like she was going to blush at Padma's delighted remark.

My partner and I cheered when Jen took the Quickfire win and landed 30 extra minutes to cook in the Elimination challenge. She's kind of been our favorite from the first episode, so it's nice to see her finally getting her head back into the game. It was also sweet to see Michael get a slap in the face right after dismissing Jen. That boy is too damn arrogant for his own good.

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For the very last Las Vegas Elimination challenge, the chefs were told they would be competing in their own mini-version of the Bocuse d'Or by creating a protein and two garnishes for the judges. All of the chefs seem intimidated by the challenge, especially when they hear they'll be serving their dishes to the likes of famous chefs Jerome Bocuse, Alex Strada, Traci des Jardins and Thomas Keller.

Once again Voltaggio brother Michael gave a tip off to what was to come at judging panel. Michael snarkily calls Kevin's style of cooking "the food that I cook on my day off," which pretty much means Kevin is going to end up in the top of the pack. Sometimes it is a bit annoying when the Top Chef episode editors give TOO much foreshadowing.

For the quote of the evening, we have to award the prize to Eli for saying he wanted to make his lamb "small and sexy and tight," which literally had me in giggles. A friend of mine used to say men like their meat the way they like their women - large and beefy, clean and lean, etc. So I guess we know how Eli like his girls!

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Although she pulled off a terrific win in the Quickfire, Jen didn't quite rise to her previous level of mastery in the kitchen for the Elimination challenge. Her salmon was cooked unevenly and the seriously deadpan judges were not impressed. We're still hopeful, however, since she seemed to have a lot of her drive back in the kitchen this week and put her back into the challenge, even if it didn't turn out successful. Eli, however, fared even worse and was sent packing over his undercooked lamb, which actually caused at least one judge to grimace while attempting to eat it.

Predictably, due to the too-clear foreshadowing earlier, Kevin pulls down the win in the Elimination challenge for his 'too simple' but ultimately delicious dish. Although he doesn't get immunity for his win, he does land $30,000 as a bonus and the chance to represent America in the Bocuse d'Or.

Overall, last night's episode was a bit too serious and subdued, with the judging panel coming off as a collection of cooking high priests judging the sins of lesser mortals. It was nice, however, to watch the chefs really having to work it to compete at such a high level. Most enjoyable was watching the Voltaggio brothers actually have to sweat and neither one taking the top prize they seemed absolutely sure they were going to get.

With the final four chefs truly representing the best this year's crop has to offer, we can't wait to see what happens next week.

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Laura Vess