Top Chef Episode 5- Camping

top_chef_tvThis week the Top Chefs traded in the immersion circulators for fire pits and left the M Hotel in favor of tepees in episode 5 of Top Chef: Las Vegas.

QUICKFIRE – Create a cactus dish

Guest Judge -Tim Love

Prize – This week’s Quickfire Challenge was a High Stakes Quickfire. The winner would win $15,000, but would not gain immunity from the Elimination Challenge.

The ingredient for this week’s Quickfire was selected by the viewers via text message. Viewers picked which exotic ingredient they would like to see used by the chefs. The choices were Rattlesnake, Kangaroo, and Cactus. Cactus won with 57% of the vote.

Jenn Carroll put together a Warm Chorizo and Cactus Salad with Queso Fresco. It went over well, but not enough to put her in the top 3.

Mike V. found himself in unfamiliar territory at the bottom of this challenge with his Red Cactus Coulis, Cactus, and Coconut Ceviche. Ron served some “rancid crab” alongside his Swordfish with Cactus Sauce. Ash tried to make some Cactus Sopes but his tortillas were so thick , it ended up being renamed “Cactus Grilled Cheese”.

Laurine reminded us of her presence with a Glazed Pork chop with Cactus Salsa. Mattin pickled his Cactus with Tequila and paired it with Red Cabbage Puree and Cactus Breaded Halibut in a dish that came out a lot better than it reads. Mike I. was most successful in his use of the cactus in his Cactus and Tuna Ceviche to gain his first Quickfire win of the season.

ELIMINATION CHALLENGE – cook an outdoor lunch for 24 cowboys.
The chefs spent the night outside in the desert in tepees before the lunch. Some of them complained (Eli), but others used of the opportunity to ward off snakes with voodoo (Ron). Ashley revealed that she once had an outhouse, so she felt right at home.

The chefs had a chuck wagon as their pantry and awesome fire pits to cook on. Not one chef made a beef dish, but seafood and ceviches were plentiful. Just the thing you expect to find in the desert.

Jenn went back to fish with a Snapper with Duck Confit, Daikon, Carrot, and Tomato Water Salad She recieved positive feedback on this dish as well, but again missed the top 4.

Top 4 –Laurine’s luck continued with Sauteed Arctic Char with Tomatillo Salsa and Grilled Potato. Mike V’s Dashi with Miso Cured Black Cod. Ashley’s Seared Halibut with Avocado Mousse, Bacon, and Braised Romaine. Bryan’s Roasted Pork Loin with C Polenta, Dandelion Greens, and Glazed Rutabaga.

Winner – Bryan

Bottom 4- Mattin was sloppy in his preparation of Ceviche Three Ways-Salmon with Apple, Spicy Tuna, Cod with Corn. Robin’s shrimp were suspect in her Grilled Romaine with Drunken Prawns and Spicy Chicken Sausage. Ron’s Haitian Mojito was “disgusting” next to his Coconut-Lime Tuna Ceviche.

Time to hang up the kerchief – Mattin

Random Observations

  • I find it hard to believe that Cactus won in a viewer poll about exotic ingredients against Kangaroo and Rattlesnake.
  • Mike Voltaggio Egotistical Quote of the Day : “When I was 26, I received one Michelin Star….I don’t brag about it….”
  • Power Rankings: We are down to the 11 remaining chefs and things are getting clearer week by week. Here is a completely unscientific breakdown of where we stand going into week 6.
  1. Bryan.-3 Elimination Challenge Wins. Quietly having the strongest performance so far this season
  2. Jenn.( 2 Quickfire wins,) She has never been in the bottom of any challenge and is clearly the strongest female in the group. .Has yet to win an Elimination Challenge, but it’s only a matter of time.
  3. Mike V. –(1 Quickfire, 1 Elimination Challenge) He has had strong dishes each week and continues to come out with new and progressive food in the context of each challenge.
  4. Kevin-(1 Quickfire, 1 Elimination Challenge)- Has struck a rare chord of refinement and comforting soulful food. Of all the chefs in this cast, his is the restaurant I would like the try most.
  5. Mike I.(1 Quickfire)- He is entertaining and his food has been solid. Maybe this Quickfire win will encourage him to go more Mediterranean.
  6. Eli – Came on pretty strong in the beginning and has since cooled off a bit. His dishes are fun and interesting but he isn’t yet on the level of the Volts, Jenn, or Kevin.
  7. Ashley This is where things seriously drop off. Hasn’t been anything spectacular, but landed in the top 4 this week and made some good gnocchi two weeks ago.
  8. Ash – Has pretty much blended into the background every week.
  9. Laurine – Maybe two strong dishes this week will be the start of a nice run.
  10. Ron – Voodoo, swords, and Rastian Hash. This guy is awesome. Maybe he can channel his magic into his food.
  11. Robin – May be on borrowed time after serving what was suspected to be rotten shrimp.

-Next week’s episode- Penn and Teller are guest judges, Toby Young returns, and Padma speaks of her bull testicle eating experiences.