Saturday, September 19, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas – Camping Out And Poisoning The Judges

One of the guys is cutting his hair in front of the mirror. Oh sorry, that’s Robin. Why do they keep showing her every week and NOT sending her home?

Brother Michael is acting kind of snotty. He says some of the chefs that have left are more talented than some that still there, like ROBIN. He’s a jerk, (although I agree with him).

Michael says he, his brother and Mike I. are the most talented chefs there. What about Kevin? And AHEM! has he forgotten about his cooking partner from last week (whom he highly praised) – Jen, who’s my favorite, even though I think one of the brothers will probably win…if they can get over the school boy nonsense.

Michael V. also mentions that he won a Michelin star when he was 26. I have to check that out. Was it HIS restaurant? Okay, I guess he wasn’t really exaggerating. He was the Chef de Cuisine at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen when it earned its Michelin star. That restaurant looks gorgeous from the pictures on the website. But as far as I can tell, it doesn’t STILL have the star. Is Mike V. going to claim that the restaurant lost its star when he left?

Pepé le Mattin is saying something in his heavily French-accented squeaky voice. Whatever. Turn on your speakers and click here.

Somebody is pouring milk in coffee. Oh, that’s Laurine. I like her now. I forgot that Ashley (the girl) is still there. She basically says she wants to go home, because her brother just had a baby.

They go to the Top Chef kitchen, where Padma, accompanied by guest Chef Tim Love, tells them that the Quickfire Challenge is to cook with cactus and the winner will get $15,000 from The M Resort, but no one will receive immunity.

Mattin has never cooked with cactus before. Every other word is unintelligible.

Mike I. seems to know what he’s doing and says most people don’t know how to make it not slimy.

I love Ron (not to win, but just to listen to his crazy talk). He tells us that “WE”, I guess meaning Haitians, don’t EVER eat cactus, because they’re evil, oh wait, he said poisonous, but same difference. You can tell he’s handling it at arm’s length. He’s throwing it into a stock pot and hoping for the best.

The dishes and Tim’s reactions:


Cactus Salsa With Achiote Glazed Pork Chop

“The achiote is great.”


Pork Tenderloin With Cactus Marmalade

Are you sensing a pattern with Kevin? Bacon Jam? Cactus Marmalade?

“Little slimy but good.” I guess Mike I. knew what he was talking about.

Michael V.

Avocado Roll With Cactus Coconut Ceviche & Red Cactus Coulis



Cactus Jelly Donuts With Orange Crème Anglaise

(I don’t approve of donuts spelled that way, unless it’s a brand name.)

Ashley says she was trying to coax some sweetness from the cactus. “It’s a good DOUGHnut.” (My emphasis.)

Mike I.

Cactus & Tuna Ceviche With Pipián

What the heck is that? Oh, this.

“I’m not following the relish on the side of the too much, but the rest of the plate is nice.“


Chipotle Swordfish With Cactus Sauce & Mango Papaya Crab Salad

Padma says, “Where’s the cactus?” Ron says, “I kept that evil sucker away from me and only put it in the sauce. I didn’t want the spirits to get me. Okay, so maybe only the part about the sauce is true.

Tim says, ”Didya have fun?” (Say it low and slow like a cowboy. He’s kind of hot.) Ron grins widely and says, “Yes, I had a lot of fun.” “Perfect,” Tim says.


Halibut & Cactus Ceviche With Tempura Cactus

His brother made ceviche too. Maybe their mom ate that when they were in utero. (That’s verboten now, isn’t it?)

No comment, except “Have you worked with cactus before?” “I have not,” Bryan replies.

Ash (the guy)

Cactus “Grilled Cheese”

That sounds dumb and stupid.

NOTHING from Tim.


Warm Chorizo & Cactus Salad With Queso Fresco

Sounds good!

“Thank you.”

(Little Boy Beep) Mattin

Breaded Cactus, Halibut With Tequila Pickled Cactus & Red Cactus Purée

“I’m a fan of tequila.” Tim's smoky Texas accent IS very appealing.

The losers:

Ash (the guy) is at the top of the list. Tim says, “I got no cactus flavor from it, the tortilla was really thick. (There WAS no tortilla press.) It was really dry in the mouth.”

Michael (He looks stunned!) – “Unfortunately I felt like it was two trains coming together. It just didn’t work for me.”

Ron – “Not only was your fish way overcooked, but the crab tasted rancid in my mouth.” Eww. (Maybe that was just some voodoo powder to ward away the evil sprits from the cactus.)

The winners:

Laurine is one of the top finishers. (I told you I like her now.) “Your flavors were really, really nice.”

Mike I, who Tim thinks was the only person who knew how to prepare cactus. (Is THAT really saying anything?)

And MATTIN, who gives a little swagger…but not the manly kind. Tim thinks his and Mike’s dish were the only two that really showcased the cactus. (AGAIN, is that a big deal to know how to do?)

And the winner is Mike I. He’s very excited. Mike V. is such a jerk. He says (to us) that Mike deserved to win this one, but he’d rather be able to put together interesting flavors than take the slime out of cactus. I basically think the same thing but I would never SAY it out loud (well, just to you guys).

GREAT Macy’s commercial. (I always cry at the one with Johnny Carson. It’s the one where Kanye keeps his mouth shut.)

The Elimination Challenge is to prepare a high end lunch for Chef Love and two dozen cowboys. They can make anything they want, but they aren’t told what they have to cook with. I guess they’re each making a separate dish, which is good. They have 30 minutes and 150 dollars to shop with. They RUN into the store and start their shopping. They all seem to be buying fish.

They go out to a ranch in the desert. They see tents and realize that’s where they’re going to be sleeping. Gross. It’s a million degrees too. Mike V. says it looks like a scene from a horror movie. They’re at a place called Sandy Valley Ranch. I’m not sure this is the best advertisement for it.

They see fire pits. Robin is kind of psyched…for some reason. Where are they putting the fish? I think this is a recipe for salmonella and worse.

Do we really have to hear about Mattin’s camping experiences? Ashley says she grew up in the middle of the woods and she knows all about outhouses. I don’t think this bodes well for sanitary cooking conditions.

Eli doesn’t believe in camping and thinks it’s asinine. This is his “idea of “a living hell”. I’m with him.

Ron takes a tree apart and puts the branches in front of his tent. He says that will keep snakes away. It’s some voodoo thing he tells Ash, his tent mate.

Mike V. says he and Bryan (unsmiling) are competitive, but at the same time they want to support each other. I haven’t seen one sign of that.

They sit around a campfire at night and go to bed in these tiny tents. How pointless.

Next we see them sitting around in the blazing sun (IN their chef’s coats) waiting for 10 am to arrive when they can start cooking. WHERE exactly did all the fish go? This challenge has runny tummies written all over it.

Eli says they’re all just going to try to stay hydrated and conscious.

Bryan is confident. Ashley figures out how to cook effectively over an open flame by keeping cast iron pans over the heat to even out the temperature. Robin is running around, which doesn’t bode well for her final result. Mattin is making a ceviche to avoid cooking over the pits.

Ron is making a simple ceviche (too). Jen is concerned that Ron is “screaming for a sword”…probably to get rid of the evil spirits.

Michael is focused and says he doesn’t change his dishes depending on who he’s cooking for. He does what he wants and screw ‘em if the cowboys don’t like it (or words to that effect). I don’t disagree - completely – with that approach, but again I’m not sure I would say it out loud.

Laurine has lived on a ranch and is using the grill to its full effect, she thinks.

Robin is proud of herself for making a “hearty” grilled romaine salad. Isn’t that kind of oxymoronic? Robotic Bryan describes his pork dish with the enthusiasm of a cactus.

The judges arrive with the cowboys and gals. Ashley describes them as a motley crew, who have probably been growing beards (the guys) since they were 14.

Mike I.

Pork Gyro With Apple & Fennel Tzatziki

The judges think it’s okay, but he always does Greek food and this is kind of boring.


Tuna Sandwich With Sun-Dried Tomato Mayonnaise & Radish Salad

Padma says it could use more flavor. Tim Love on the radish salad: ”It brings nothing to the plate."


Sautéed Arctic Char With Tomatillo Salsa, Corn Salsa & Grilled Potato

Gael says, “Flavorful." Tom: “The salsa’s really nice.” Tim Love: “I like the use of the grill and I like the flavor that got into the potato.”


Grilled Chicken Paillard With Corn Succotash

Tom: ”At least this dish is a little more sensible.” But they all think it has too much bacon (and grease) in it.


Ceviche Three Ways – Salmon With Apple, Spicy Tuna & Cod With Corn

Tim: The cod “is a little fishy”. Tom SPITS out his food. “It’s really…it’s gross”.

Okay, bye bye Mattin. There’s NO way he can stay after that.

OMG, next they show Mattin saying it’s a great dish and that the judges are going to notice there was a lot of work in it. Yeah, they’re really going to be thinking of him, as they’re retching out the remains of his fish.


Grilled Romaine Salad With Drunken Prawns & Spicy Chicken Sausage

Tim: “It’s terrible. It tastes like I just sucked on a piece of chlorine.” Gael: “Yeah.”

Robin tells us that she didn’t taste the prawns until AFTER she’d given them to the judges and they weren’t good. WHY would she do that?


Roasted Pork Loin, Corn Polenta, Dandelion Greens & Glazed Rutabaga

Tim: “I think Bryan’s dish is very appropriate.” Tom: “Very nicely cooked.”

Gael: “I would feel confident camping with that man.” Okay, Gael, we get that you’d like to hit a tent with him, but what about his food? (Remember when the Contessa got randy in the tent with Jeffrey?)

Tom says if you have a good game plan, you can put together a nice game plan even out here.


Snapper With Duck Confit, Daikon, Carrot & Tomato Water Salad

Tom: “It’s actually perfectly cooked.” Gael: “Her slaw is great.” Tim: “It didn’t jump out at me, but everything about it tasted good.”


Seared Halibut With Avocado Mousse, Bacon, Tomato & Braised Romaine

Tim: “The avocado is actually pretty good.” Gael: “This is the best thing that Ashley has done so far.” Padma: “Maybe she’s the dark horse.”


Coconut, Lime Mango & Tuna Ceviche & Haitian Coconut Mojito

Tim: “Of all the ceviches we’ve had today, this is probably one of the better ones. Tom: “Yeah it’s just a little sweet, but other than that, I agree with you.” Tim: The cocktail’s terrible! Padma:” It’s disgusting.”


Roasted Duck Breast With Mole & Tequila Marinated With Watermelon

That sounds really good to me.

Padma: “This looks so pretty.” Tom: “The duck is nicely cooked.”

Michael V.

Dashi With Miso & Mirin Cured Black Cod & Watermelon

Gael: “Really tasty. I love the shitake flavor.” Tom: “Nice and refreshing.”

They leave the desert and get back to judges table.

We learn in the break that Kevin is (virtually) a championship horse-shoe thrower. He is totally sweet and cute.

The best dishes of the night:

Bryan's, Ashley's, Laurine's and Michael's

Mike I. looks so jealous.

Ashley is much happier being in the winning group than the losing one. Gael loved “the focus” of Bryan’s dish. Tim liked the way Laurine used the grill.

They compliment Michael’s dish, as Bryan looks over. Is that a smile or a grimace? Can’t tell.

The winner is Bryan. Michael looks over this time, not entirely thrilled. Bryan is such a dolt as he remarks that he always comes out on top when put against his brother. (Are brothers always so competitive?)

The losing dishes are Robin, Ron and Mattin.

Mattin should go home for poisoning them, plus he looks soooooo geeky.

Robin gives some long-winded explanation of what she was trying to make which has nothing to do with what she did make. She admits she’s not surprised to be there and Tom says THIS could be the dish that sends her home.

Mattin says he was very happy with his dish and that he’s surprised to be there. Tom is amazed and says that some of the fish seemed cooked and some was raw and that it was really poorly put together.

Tim says he actually GOT SICK from the cod ceviche. (This reminds me when Mario ate raw partridge and got REALLY sick when he was “On the Road” in Spain with Gwynnie. She was too smart to eat it.)

They all said Ron’s ceviche was pretty good, but that the cocktail was one of the worst things they’ve ever tasted. Then Ron yells back, “I don’t drink. I didn’t want the coconut to go to waste.” He gives his Buddha-like smile.

The judges agree that Ron’s dish was the most edible of the three. Robin’s was awful and she knew it, but did nothing to fix it. Mattin, though, was completely clueless about how bad his dish was. Well, that settles it for me.

Okay the loser is…Mattin. Well, THAT was overdue!

Mattin says maybe the ceviche wasn’t a good idea for cowboys. He says he’s sure the other chefs will miss him. Maybe THEY will.


Toby Young: It looks like a couple of bull’s testicles.

Padma: I’ve actually had bull’s testicles.

Penn: I’ll bet.

Hmmm, something to look forward to.

For some reason, I’m hating people less. I thought Laurine was sweet, Ron was a riot, Kevin is precious. It’s only the brothers who are annoying and they’re wonderful chefs. Bryan is clearly the one to beat. Seeing Michael’s face won’t be fun though, unless you’re working through your own sibling rivalry issues.


DebCarol said...

Had Robin's prawns gone off BEFORE she cooked them? Or did she just prepare them badly? I couldn't figure it out. ~ I'm not a huge fan of watching them cook outside the kitchen. I thought last weeks show was much more fun, watching them in Daniel Boulud's kitchen.

Tiffany Green said...

Sue, I just love your blog! I've been lurking for quite some time, but I decided to finally post. (As an aside, I visited the Atlanta Craft for my birthday, but never got around to sending you the picture of my birthday dessert! LOL)

Anyway, I find myself somewhat missing Stefan this season, just because while he was arrogant, he had charm. The two brothers are clearly talented, but they're so arrogant and supremely uninteresting (other than their food and their looks). I knew it was bad when I started to become as annoyed with Bryan as Mike the 'feminist'. LOL Despite Mike's comments, I agree with you that Kevin and Jen could easily have a place in the final and I am rooting for them!

I also have to admit that I was ready for Mattin to go home. He kept talking about being raised in Basque country, but I never saw any evidence of that! And serving poor Tom ceviche he had to spit out? Topped off by failing in the French challenge when he bragged about basically having it on lock?

Anyway, I like seeing chefs outside of the kitchen myself--it really shows how creative chefs can be under different circumstances. I would agree that cooking outside in 110 degree heat is not the best for food safety though!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Fish in the dessert was a bad idea. Why not concentrate on vegetarian dishes or something else that keeps a little better in the heat?

I was kind of annoyed with some of these people. They didn't want to cook over a fire? Boo freakin' Hoo! I liked how the underdogs seemed comfortable in the outdoors while the prima donna types were complaining about camping. Too bad not everyone fared well with the advantage.

Both Mikes are arrogant douchebags. I hope neither one of them walks off with top prize.

I still want to do Bryan.

Emily said...

I can't wait for tonight's episode! It looks good.

I agree with everything you said. I like Jen and Kevin the best, I think. Kevin won points when I discovered he could play horseshoes. Ron is pretty funny. We like to call him "Big Ron" in a caribbean accent.

It was definitely time for Mattin to go home. Cactrus is not cactus!