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Vive La France: An Advance Review of Tonight's "Top Chef: Las Vegas"

Are you obsessed with Top Chef? Do you know your salpicon from your brunoise? Not freaked out by preparing velouté or escargot? You're in luck.

This season's chefs are as always a motley bunch but there have emerged several major contenders for the title of Top Chef this season and, despite it being only the fourth episode of the season, we're seeing some major culinary skills at play in the Top Chef kitchen in a fashion that's usually reserved for the final rounds.

I had the chance last week to watch tonight's outstanding episode of Top Chef: Las Vegas ("Vivre Las Vegas") and I have to say that not only is the best episode of the season so far but it will go down as one of my favorite episodes of the entire series to date.

Not only are many of the chefs working at the top of their game, delivering some inspired and inspiring dishes, but the master chefs who the producers have assembled to judge this particular challenge is awe-inspiring. In the past, such boldface culinary names such as Joel Robuchon, Daniel Boulud, Hubert Keller, Laurent Tourondel, and Jean Joho might have dropped by to guest judge the final round of the competition. But here, they're appearing in the fourth episode. Which should tell you something about the overall caliber of chefs competing this season.

It's not every day that you can see Joel Robuchon, Daniel Boulud, Hubert Keller, and Jean Joho sitting together at a table, much less weighing in on dishes prepared on the fly by Top Chef contestants, particularly when the chefs are tasked with preparing classical French dishes. While I can only imagine the honor experienced by the contestants, there's something gratifying and exhilarating about just being a fly on the wall for this challenge. The producers should be very proud about this installment, which not only entertains, but educates and inspires as well.

Are these French masters impressed with the performances of our cheftestants? Well, that would be telling. But suffice it to say that under some extraordinary pressure--and the opportunity of a lifetime--some of the chefs rise to the occasion and others... Well, others not so much. Just who falls into either category may surprise you, however.

And much will be made of the producers' decision to send not one but two chefs packing in this marvelous and memorable episode. One cheftestant will be cut before the Elimination Challenge and the determining factor will have many people shocked. Yes, the stakes are certainly high this season and the Vegas setting is enabling the producers to introduce an element of chance and surprise in a way that hasn't been done before. Yes, it was inevitable that an extra person would be cut (seasons with seventeen contestants usually cut two at the start) but the way in which it's handled is fantastic drama.

All in all, tonight's episode is custom-made for fans of Top Chef, francophiles, and lovers of classic gastronomy with a twist. As for the contestants competing under such scrutiny, you'll want to wish them bonne chance. It's one of the toughest challenges to date... and not everyone will make it through to the next round.

Top Chef: Las Vegas Sneek Peak -- Gotta Be Really Effin' Hungry:

Top Chef: Las Vegas Sneek Peak -- Joel Robuchon in the Flesh:

Top Chef: Las Vegas airs tonight at 10 pm ET/PT on Bravo.


Sara said…
This definitely sounds like an exciting (and tense) episode. To have all of those renowned French chefs in one room judging your food? It will truly be a test of both skill and courage!

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