The first episode of Top Chef: Las Vegas was a blur of chefs, tats, and bleeped out obscenities -- and there wasn't anyone as cute and charming as Fabio -- so let's focus on our home girl, Laurine Wickett. (She hasn't lived in these parts for decades, but once a Rochesterian, always a Rochesterian.)
We first got a good look at her seven minutes into the show, as the cheftestants are lined up in the kitchen for their first QuickFire challenge. She says she was 23 when she started her catering business and she is "completely overwhelmed and intimidated by the whole situation." Uh oh ... the people who go far in this competition tend to be badasses who thrive on competition. Not a good sign.
In the QuickFire challenge, a mis en place relay race, Laurine is on a team with a chef who began the race by making a bloody mess of her hands as she shucked clams. Laurine, second in the relay, started peeling prawns way behind the two teams ahead of her. The brief shot of her with the prawns didn't give a sense for how fast she was, but it didn't seem like she gained a lot of ground. Needless to say, Laurine wasn't in the cookoff for the win and the $15 grand.
The next shot of her is her saying "thank you" as she checks out Whole Foods. Ah, a true Rochesterian. If memory serves me right, the city was named one of the most polite cities a number of years ago.
For the elimination challenge, Laurine made donuts. I had a couple of concerns about that idea:
- Desserts are tricky on Top Chef. For whatever reason, they don't seem to get the same respect as dishes with meat and seafood.
- Wolfgang Puck is the guest judge and his restaurants serve the best dang donuts my husband and I have eaten. (Bear in mind his pastry chef is the illustrious Sherry Yard.) Laurine had to live up to a very high standard for donuts.
All that being said, bacon donuts with a Belgian beer sauce and a chocolate sauce sounds pretty wonderful. And you've got to love a gal whose vices are donuts, bacon, chocolate and beer.
When the judges analyzed her dish, they loved the bacon and her sauces. Puck said the donuts were like golf balls and threw one across the room. Ouch. "The donut should be fluffy. The donut should be a cloud," Wolfgang said, and in fact, the donuts I had at his place were indeed fluffy clouds. Come to think of it, I've got to give making them another try.
Laurine wasn't shown at judge's table, meaning she wasn't the winner or the loser. Good enough for the first round.
The loser: Laurine's teammate, who bloodied her fingers during the relay race, cooked with seitan, and didn't unpack because it was unlucky.
Even though Laurine's photo makes her look like Sandra Bernhard, she seems like a girl next door. Likeable. I hope she does well, but I'm not sure she has the cojones.
Chef Laurine has a blog and is chronicling her experience. Her recounting of the first episode is here.