The second episode of "Top Chef: Las Vegas" was calculated to up the stakes, as they say in Vegas, pitting brother against brother and pissing off the gay chefs with a wedding-themed challenge.
Chef Todd English, he of the movie star chin, was the guest judge. Have to give a shoutout to judge Gail Simmons' purple and yellow dress, I was thisclose to buying the same one at Anthropologie.
The Quickfire round was selected Vegas-style with a roll of the dice to determine how many ingredients were allowed.
I thought Mattin Nubila's aesthetically pleasing, minimalistic carrot-ginger soup with just four ingredients including a "4" garnish was lovely, but then I didn't get to taste it. Instead Michael Voltaggio's gazpacho with "compressed cucumber" won him the $15,000 purse and immunity.
Next up was the Battle of the Sexes, where the female chefs cooked for a groom and his bachelor party guests and the men cooked for the bride and the female guests. The feisty and ironically named Ashley Merriman wouldn't shut up about how steamed she was to have to cook for the straights who have the right to marry while she doesn't. Although chefs and caterers pretty much have to work weddings all the time, so what's the big deal?
She's really working the gay thing, but that's ok, because she's kind of cute in an androgynous way.
The top dishes for the Battle of the Sexes included Hector's tofu ceviche, proving that the judges don't have a prejudice against vegetarian dishes, they just want it to taste good.
When I first saw Bryan Voltaggio's odd sweet and sour lime macaron with guacamole and corn puree, I thought it sounded disgusting. But its uniqueness captivated the judges -- either that or the chance to give each brother a prize will make for some good drama for the coming weeks.
Here's the video of how to make it, if you're so inclined. As for the losers, the femmes were cocky going in but their dishes were judged to be boring and badly executed. Ashley's bizarrely conceived panna cotta dessert overly perfumed with bitter bay leaves earned her a reprimand, but it was Eve's shrimp and avocado ceviche that got her booted off the island. Strange, because that seems like it would be hard to screw up.
But I knew Eve had to go from the beginning -- her look and personality seemed bland, and as the New York Times' A.O. Scott memorably said recently, "40 is the new dead."
Sorry Eve, back to the garden.