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'Top Chef: Las Vegas': The rise and fall of Jennifer

October 29, 2009 | 10:10 am

"Top Chef's" Jennifer What is going on with Jennifer? When this season of "Top Chef" started, she was a the blond dynamo from Eric Ripert's kitchen, boasting about making boys cry with her sergeant-general-style authority and wowing the judges with her sophisticated dishes.

But something -- and I haven't figured out exactly what yet -- happened to Jennifer over the course of the competition. She's retreated into her oversize chef's jacket, scared of messing up challenge after challenge. On Wednesday, she found herself on the bottom again next to two people she could easily trounce in better days.

So she didn't get the eggplant she wanted -- so what? That's hardly an excuse for making a dish that, to this viewer, looked like eggplant, some fennel and sliced tomato with some sauce. I'm not vegetarian (and I'm not too veggie friendly, as previously discussed), but even I know that I'd expect more if the contestants were given two hours to work.

There wasn't even a real curveball in this episode -- the chefs found out they'd be meat-free with two hours to go and not having prepped anything for the meaty dishes in their minds. They were working with clean slates.

Perhaps Tom is right: After lasting this long in the competition, some chefs get cabin fever and go batty. Jennifer's been sick; she's stuck in a house full of frat boys. But whatever her deal is, she needs to fix it fast. Kevin and Mike V. have got the right approach: All confidence, all the time. It's a competition after all. No guts, no glory. Increasingly, I'm thinking the end will be a Kevin-Mike V. showdown -- and I can think of nothing more exciting (unless Jennifer can Pull. It. Together.)

As for Robin and Mike I. ...

Why couldn't veggie guest judge Natalie Portman send them both home? Really, I'd like to fast-forward to the Final Four already. Now, we still have to wait through Eli and Robin getting the boot. As Mike I. would say, "Whatever, whatever."

I had initially pegged Mike I. as a possible dark horse, given his pedigree and first dishes, which impressed the judges. But he's devolved into nothing but a big talker, full of hot air and disappointing dishes.

The latest: Cutting leeks into medallions so they, I don't know, resemble the shape of a scallop and call them "a play on seared scallops"? Lazy, not to mention the fact that he screwed it up. He didn't even cook his leeks correctly. An undercooked leek is about the furthest thing from a scallop I can think of.

Then there's Robin, who keeps squeaking by week after week. The judges said this time her dish was all over the place and seasoned inconsistently. They should have sent both her and Mike I. home, period.

But I don't care so much about who's getting the boot between now and the Final Four -- Eli is memorable only for the idiot things he says to the camera; I can barely remember what he cooks. So what's going on with Jennifer? Any guesses? Is she just tired or out of ideas?

-- Denise Martin

Photo credit: Bravo