Trouble With Toast

Top Chef Las Vegas, Episode 5 | September 22, 2009

Okay, I’m back from St. Louis and caught up on the ol’ DVR, so let’s jump right into last week’s episode before THIS week’s episode is upon us.  Frankly, I found this episode pretty meh (perhaps I’m still mourning the loss of Hector), but it needs a recap nonetheless.

At the beginning of the episode, there are arrogant musings from one of the Voltaggios (Mike, I believe) regarding the fact that talented chefs have been eliminated while mediocre ones remain.  The ingredient for the high-stakes quickfire challenge is cactus, and it was allegedly chosen by the viewers, though I do not recall Chef Colicchio calling and asking for my esteemed opinion.  Tim Love is the guest judge, and the contestants are generally concerned about the goo factor of cactus.  My favorite part of the challenge is Ron telling us that they have cactus in Haiti but that they stay the hell away from those poisonous fuckers.  Tee.  Mike I. is the only chef who seems remotely confident about the ingredient, and he scores a win with his ceviche-esque creation.  While he gets the cash, he does not get immunity.  Whew.

For their elimination challenge, the chefs must prepare a “high-end” lunch for some hard-working cowboys.  Seriously, that’s all the guidance they get?  High-end?  I feel like the broad, nebulous challenges are a lot harder than the super-restrictive ones, since it’s easier to go crazy and bite off more than you can chew.  Anywho, the contestants will only have an hour and fifteen minutes to cook at the ranch, but they’ll be spending the night there in order to get a feel for the environment.  After they scurry off to Whole Foods, they wind up at a campsite with a bunch of teepees, some fire pits, and a chuckwagon full of pantry supplies.  Again, Ron provides the highlight of the segment when he dismantles a tree and arranges the branches in a voodoo pattern in order to keep the snakes away.  Tee.  Eli asks for the keys to the car, which is exactly what I would do.

The next morning, the chefs run around like little headless chickens and prepare their food.  Two of them (Mattin and Ron) are making ceviche, as it does not require use of the illustrious fire pits.  I tend to think ceviche is a bad idea, especially on a super hot day, but whatev.  Padma rings the dinner bell to signify that their time is up, and the chowdown begins.  Mike I. serves a gyro, which he pronounces horribly incorrectly and which doesn’t really excite the judges.  The judges are equally meh about Eli’s tuna sandwich, but they really like Laurine’s arctic char, salsa, and grilled potato.

Ash presents a grilled chicken with succotash, which looks yummy but seems to get a mixed response from the judges.  Mattin’s ceviche is literally spit out by Tom, which methinks does not bode well for our kerchiefed little friend.  Robin’s grilled romaine salad and drunken prawns is universally lauded as awful.  Robin herself admits that she only tasted the prawns after she served them, and that they are pretty darn bad.  She expects to be in the bottom.  At least she’s honest with herself.  Bryan serves a roasted pork loin with polenta, greens, and rutabega, and it looks really tasty.  Jen goes with snapper and a daikon and carrot slaw, which also looks really tasty.  Ashley also cooks fish, riffing off of a club sandwich with her halibut (accompanied by avocado mousse, bacon, and romaine).  All three dishes are received very well by the judges, though Jen’s doesn’t really seem to wow anyone.

Ron’s coconut ceviche is a tad too sweet, but it is his accompanying cocktail that the judges really hate.  Kevin does a grilled duck with watermelon (marinated in mole and tequila), and it looks like it is cooked very nicely.  Mike V. presents a black cod dashi, which is the strangest cowboy food ever, but the judges really like its flavor and the fact that it is fairly unconventional (at least for THAT environment, anyway).  The top four are Laurine, Ashley, Mike V., and Bryan, and the latter’s pork loin ends up winning the day.  Honestly, this brother-on-brother competition is getting a little bit stale for me, so I hope someone else starts stepping it up.

The bottom three are Robin, Ron, and Mattin (duh).  Robin fesses up to her dish being lousy, though she does try to explain where she was coming from (and she fails miserably, as Tim Love points out).  When the judges tell Ron that his drink was awful, he cries, “I don’t drink!”  Ron is the winner of this episode in my book.  Comedy gold, my friends.  Mattin is the only chef who is truly shocked to be in the bottom, and Tim Love unapologetically blurts that he felt sick after eating the cod.  Ouch.  Not surprisingly, Mattin and his neckpiece are sent back home to the Basque country, which brings the “contestants I can’t understand” count down to only one: my buddy Ron.

It should be noted that my hubby and I both burst out laughing when, in the preview for the next episode, Padma says, “I’ve had bull testicles,” and Penn (or Teller?) says, “I bet you have!”  Tee.  Here’s hopin’ that’s not the funniest thing that happens during the next challenge…



  1. About half the total dishes this season have been ceviches! To paraphrase, “Is Top Chef, no Top Ceviche!” It’s like one person does something and it looks tasty and it’s on everyone else’s brain for the rest of the season.

    Also, Bryan V.’s dish was such a ripoff. Original? Miso-marinated black cod in dashi? It was original circa 1990 at Nobu. Now it’s in every Japanese restaurant.

    Comment by Barzelay — September 22, 2009 @ 7:08 pm

  2. Ron nearly fell at the axe of “extra dish” again. Sure, a cocktail is not really an extra dish, but they did not ask for a drink pairing! He’s lucky Mattin’s ceviche was so bad. though I think Robin is less talented, but we don’t see everything on camera.

    I noticed that this episode seemed to be the first that Jen seemed to stay mostly in the background. I don’t know why, but that seems to bug me. I think I’ve found her attitude attractive, which possibly explains my choice in women. Her non-appearance appearance seemed to just bring the episode down for me.

    Comment by Big Money Tony — September 22, 2009 @ 7:47 pm

  3. Barzelay: It has been VERY ceviche heavy, for sure. Nice shout-out to Fabio, by the way. 🙂 As for Mike’s dish, yeah, it was “interesting” in light of the limitations of the challenge and the dishes prepared by everyone else, but to be honest I’m getting a little sick of Mike V. and his holier-than-thou attitude. I much prefer Bryan, if I must choose a Voltaggio.

    Tony: I, too, am a big fan of Jen. I noticed her absence in this episode, and I was somewhat miffed by it, but I was also happy because chefs who are in the background rarely get axed, and I want her to stick around till the end. From the looks of the preview, she’ll play a bigger role next week.

    Comment by bettyjoan — September 22, 2009 @ 8:39 pm

  4. for half the episode, i found myself distracted wondering where the hell they were refrigerating all the damn fish they had just bought at whole foods! they rolled up coolers the next day, but perhaps this is why so many felt ill after the fish dishes?

    also, cringed at mike i.’s pronunciation of “gyro” – how can he call himself greek?!

    Comment by jeanette — September 22, 2009 @ 8:59 pm

  5. I hadn’t even thought about that, Jeanette. I guess I’m so used to suspending my disbelief for this crazy show that I don’t even consider food storage anymore. I’m always more skeptical about how they purchase all of those ingredients at Whole Paycheck while staying within their budgets.

    Comment by bettyjoan — September 22, 2009 @ 9:40 pm

  6. I’m not sure which I enjoy more, the episode or your critique and recap of it!! I look forward with anticipation for this post each week….there are always some laughs. I think I might not panic if I missed an episode this year since I can get a good synopsis from you!

    Comment by Mom — September 22, 2009 @ 9:43 pm

  7. Thanks, Mom! I swear, I don’t pay her to write this stuff. 😉

    Comment by bettyjoan — September 23, 2009 @ 2:31 pm

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