Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012 | 7:27 p.m.
Tough as nails! Sweet as cherry pie! We got to see two sides of chef Carla Pellegrino in Wednesday night’s Thanksgiving battle in Seattle. It was the third episode of Bravo’s Season 10 of “Top Chef,” and Las Vegas chefs Tom Colicchio (MGM Grand) and Emeril Lagasse (Venetian) were judges and team leaders.
Carla wound up in the bottom three from the Quickfire Challenge, which had the cheftestants make dumplings from 17 countries. Carla had Fufu from Africa and was given a Kindle to track down its recipe and cook it in five minutes.
Carla’s bandaged hand from the previous week’s knife cuts caused her problems holding the tablet and cooking. “My hand is useless,” she yelled.” I’m hurting without it.” One of the judges had no pity and after tasting her chicken and lamb dumpling sneered, “It traveled from Africa via Italy.” I thought for a minute that Carla would explode, but she remained humble and sweet.
She didn’t mince any words, though, back in the kitchen, giving two of the male chefs a mouthful for calling her honey and sweetie instead of chef. Call it the Thanksgiving Tiff With Stefan. “Don’t ever tell me to calm down,” she blasted. Later, Stefan commented: “She freaks me out.”
“I love him; he’s crazy,” said Carla, but after the episode, she texted me, “I can’t have sexism in the kitchen. We’re all chefs and should be called and treated equally.”
Talk about role reversal, though, for the Elimination Challenge. It was Carla in first, and Josie, who had won for her dumplings, was blasted and blamed for the undercooked and underseasoned turkey served by Emeril’s team.
It had become Turkeygeddon or Turkeypocalypse. The judges didn’t cut back on their cruelty, slamming Emeril’s team, and it became an uncivil war. They raved about Tom’s turkey meal, saying “it was near flawless,” and unanimously named Carla’s carrot soup with turkey meatballs as the standout of the night.
She squealed with delight: “It’s amazing; I was cooking one-handed.” Even her 16 rival chefs applauded and cheered for her. We’ve got a sneak peek at next week’s episode where she’s back to her kitchen fireworks rubbing the chefs the wrong way in a flashback double-elimination challenge.
It’s a real squabble over squab, re-creating a 1950s menu from one of the best restaurants in America. Carla’s injured right hand also gives her plenty of trouble trying to deal with the two giant slabs of beef hanging from meat hooks in the Quickfire Challenge.
They’re the largest hunks of meat I’ve ever seen chefs tackle in the kitchen. Incredibly, Carla is teamed with Josie. Rivalry? Nah! Lack of sleep? Yes! On edge? Nah! About to explode? Yes! Those are the recipes for TV ratings excitement, and Carla is becoming America’s next reality TV star.
It’s not only Carla causing shockwaves. Host Padma Lakshmi has posed for Playboy’s December issue. No, she doesn’t go topless or nude, but the lacy lingerie wrap makes for sexy shots. She admits that while shooting, she gains as much as 15 pounds and has to spend 12 weeks between seasons working it off.
Meantime, head down to Carla’s new restaurant Meatball Spot in Town Square and demand the carrot soup with turkey meatballs. She’s celebrating Thanksgiving with Wednesday’s big win. Incidentally, Emeril will be the guest judge at the Venetian for the new Culinary Clash on Nov. 29; I will MC on Dec. 7.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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