Thursday, September 17, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas, Ep. 5: I’m a Cowboy, on a Steel Pan I Fry

This week Top Chef opened with the contestants rising and shining from their beds. It was funny seeing Ashley first thing in the morning because she always looks like she just rolled out of bed, and this pretty much confirmed it.

Perhaps even funnier was Scarfy’s pajamas. His light blue tops and bottoms made him look like he was in hospital scrubs. It would have been great if they had opened this episode with the theme music to the show Scrubs, and when they got to the line about “I’m no Superman”, they could show Scarfy running around in his blue PJs, using his red scarf as a cape.

Anywho… each week it seems like the contestants don’t feel a lot of love from the judges. Well that would change this week, literally. The guest judge was Chef Tim Love. I can only wonder how many times this guy has said, “The secret ingredient is Love.”

First we had the high stakes Quickfire challenge, which would once again award the winner $15,000; however no one would get immunity this time around. The ingredient was based on a viewer’s poll in which cactus beat out rattlesnake. Freaking rattlesnake!! How great would that have been?

I could just hear the judges;
“This rattle is overcooked.”
“Mmmm, that venom marinade was really clever and tasty, but suddenly I don’t feel so good.”

So the chefs carefully descend on the table of cacti, trying not to get pricked while they prep. Most of the chefs are unfamiliar with the plant, except Mike I., who shares the secret of de-sliming a cactus; blanching it. (See, I learned something tonight.) The rest of the gang try a variety of things…
- Ashley makes cactus jelly donuts. Perhaps she would have won if she made crullers shaped like cacti, with sprinkles for thorns.
- Kevin made a pork tenderloin that was described as slimy. Should have blanched it, dude.
- Big Papi was leery of cactus because they are poisonous in Haiti. FYI, this guy has lived a harder and more interesting life than any of us. But he still finishes at the bottom.
- Scarfy uses tequila, another surefire ingredient, and ends up as a top finisher.
- Mike V. is one of the losers in this round. Will his temper and ego be his weakness or strength as the field narrows?
- Mike I. is sharp like a cactus, and wins the Quickfire. He needed that.

On to the Elimination Challenge. The gang must cook for cowboys. They head to Whole Foods to shop. It struck me that these people always seem to have such a better time shopping at Whole Foods than I do. Then it dawned on me… it’s because they are not paying.

Some of the chefs start buying pretty eclectic ingredients and I am thinking that they are missing the chuck wagon on this cowboy challenge. (For instance, Big Papi and Scarfy both make ceviche.) The group is then surprised when they are taken out to the desert and left to camp out in teepees. So they are cooking for cowboys, but sleeping like Indians.

Thoughts on the Elimination Challenge:
- Big Papi makes a voodoo barrier to protect his tent from snakes. Like I said, this man is far more interesting than you or me.
- Eli assumes the role of city slicker and whines about having to sleep outdoors.
- Mike V. assumes the role of kitchen slicker and whines about having to cook outdoors.
- While most of the other chefs bitch about the conditions, Laurine embraces it and happily cooks a hearty meal on the open fire. It’s the first time I really take note of her this season.
- I like Jennifer, but she needs to smile once in a while.
- Holy spoiled seafood, Batman. Robin makes a terrible prawn salad.
- Scarfy’s fish makes the judges sick. As a matter of fact, Tom spits it out. Never a good sign. He should loosen that red scarf, because he is choking.
- Robin, Big Papi and Scarfy end up on the bottom. Papi is there because he broke the golden rule; he made a second dish and it killed him.
- What’s with all of the backwards baseball hats? Is this Top Chef or Top Catcher?
- Mike V. (who harnesses his anger), Laurine, Ashley and Bryan end up in the winner’s circle.
- Bryan rustles up a cowboy win. It’s not just the desert heat, this guy is on fire.
- No surprise. Scarfy loses the challenge. We bid you adieu!! Pack your scarf and go.

Okay, it’s time for me to pack my knives and ride off into the sunset. Next week Penn and Teller magically appear as guest stars. I love those guys, so I am psyched.

Bon Appetite.

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