Ron Duprat's Top Chef Recap, Episode Three
Welcome back to the Ron Duprat Top Chef Las Vegas recap, folks. To take a peek back at episodes one and two, click the links. Otherwise, read on to find out what episode three had in store for our Haitian homeboy.
The show starts off with the cast commiserating on what's gone down so far, mainly their last challenge. The girls are still pissed off about the whole battle of the sexes thing, especially Jennifer. There's a lot of anger brewing, and that seems to be the general theme of this episode. But the show doesn't linger there in "slowly exhale and count to 10 land" for long; it's on to the quickfire challenge.
Out comes chef Mark Peel of Campanile in California. A former student of Wolfgang Puck, Peel isn't just a catchy name -- he claims to have spent his tutelage peeling vegetables for the big man. And so the top chefs realize that they must take a mountain of potatoes, complete with several dozen varieties, and turn them into something memorable.
Jennifer talks a moment about making mussels with a potato sauce
and then... holy crap, they're showing Ron! Wait, how far into the show
are we? Only five minutes? Something must be wrong. I get an ominously
bad feeling as Ron tells the camera he's making sweet potato-crusted
yellow tail snapper. "I feel like Bob Marley with music, to me food is
peace and love," he says, all sentimental like. Uh oh. Peace and love
ain't gonna fly here, Ron. These chefs are hungry for blood, and not of
the pudding variety. I'm worried that Ron is getting this much air time
during the challenge because he might be going home.
everything the chefs are turning out looks pretty good at this point.
Ash Fulk does sweet potato ice cream, to him a wild dish. Jesse desides
on sweet potato soup -- how will she fuck it up this time? Resident
douche Mike Isabella has a fun idea: he's going to brunoise potato and
cook it like a risotto. Ashley is making gnocchi.
Then: MORE ANGER! GRRRR! Ron is scurrying around the kitchen while all
hell breaks loose on Ashley's side. A pot of water Kevin has promised
to Preeti goes missing, and Preeti just assumes she can use the one now
in its place to blanch some asparagus. Wrong! That's Ashley's water,
bitch. Ashley flips the hell out on Preeti, cursing and screaming that
she won't have enough time to complete her gnocchi. Jennifer comments on
how "nice" Ashley was being about it, and that she would've gibbeted
Preeti at sea for her indiscretion. Jesus. These chefs need a cocktail.
off to the tasting, and it's great looking stuff for the most part.
There are a lot of dishes showcasing "potato three ways," three ways
being the trendy new thing that sounds far more kinky and interesting
than the results. Peel and Padma get over to Ron, and Peel remarks that
his favorite part is the fennel and leek Ron has placed on the side.
then, the shoe drops. Eli's sweet potato marshmellow thang was his
least favorite -- far too sweet -- followed by Ron's fish. The big boy's
yellowtail was apparently bland, bland, bland yam on top of badly
overcooked fish, a combination that gets you far less points with the
judges than one would think. Perpetual underachiever Jesse follows suit
again with her heavy hand with cayenne; does this girl know how to
cook? Finally, favorite Jennifer wins with her mussels, and that makes
macho Mike mad. Mike calls it favoritism that she's
winning so much; probably because she's a woman and he's a reptile, amirite?
Hey, kids! Now
it's time for the obligatory military mess hall episode! Woo hoo! We
loved you on food network star and EVERY OTHER COOKING SERIES EVER. Our
guests today will be Colonel Dave Belote and 300 Thunderbird airmen.
Everyone looks sort of nervous, but Ron looks psyched. The camera
lingers on his face... is he going home?
Mike decides it's best
to split into teams of two and have everyone pick partners like it's
dodgeball all over again -- why does that not surprise me? Mike, were
you picked first or last every time? In this instance, at least Ron and
Jesse are left alone at the end to fend for themselves. You get the
feeling that the team is leaving the weak gazelles behind to get eaten by the
lions. Laurine is quick to point out they are Ron and
Jesse are indeed the "weakest two." Well, Ron's quickfire slip up was
really his first, but things aren't looking good now. The group asks if
the two are happy working together, and Ron sort of shrugs and stares
at the ground. "I haven't been on the bottom of an elimination
challenge yet," he says. "Jesse has been on the bottom a lot, so I feel
nervous. Very nervous." Oh no.
There's an early wake up call
and then the team is off to the mess hall, where (of course) there's
nothing but lots of canned food and very little in the way of actual
burners, stoves, pots, etc. Just a lot of huge cooking vessels designed
to prepare food for hundreds at a time. We get some shots of Michael
V., who's not bitching at all, unlike some of the other chefs. Preeti
takes a moment to say she was inspired to be a chef by -- get this --
9-11. Aparently, when the planes hit those towers, she thought "molten
chocolate cake!" Just odd.
Of course, there's odd, and then there's hella odd. And Ron and
Jesse are threatening to tip that scale with Ron's idea to serve clam
chowder in 90 degree heat. He's banking on an easy dish that he knows
how to make well instead of being inventive: "I probably make one of
the best chowders in the world," he says. "I won the Montauk Chowder
Festival four times, so I feel very comfortable doing that with Jesse.
It is a risk to do a chowder on a hot day, but you know those troops
they love chowder. I think play it safe, it's for the troops, God
willing." Insert head slaping noise here.
Jesse looks very
worried about the amount of space they have to cook, and Ron is
concerned about timing. "There's only one skillet," he says, "Laurine
and Preeti are using it for their pasta salad and Bryan and Frenchie
(Mattin, lol) are using it for bechamel, so I guess we're gonna take
one for the team." Don't take one for the team, Ron. If history is an
indicator, demand what you want and throw a fit if you don't get it.
Because otherwise, they're all going to blame you anyway.
There are plenty
more arguments, more bad tudes, then it's off to the hangar to serve to
the troops. Everyone at this point is commenting on how clam chowder is
a bad call in the heat, and Ron and Jesse are looking very nervous.
Then there's Preeti and Laurine's pasta salad: it looks like something
you'd pick up from Publix. I think we have our loser.
The judges dig in. They love Hector's spicy chili, and actually think
Ron's chowder is decent. Tom doesn't like the choice, but notes that
it's good enough to make up for fact the chefs are serving chowder in the middle of a
smoldering desert. They cream themselves for a bit over Michael V.'s
pork belly, which is actually braised slab bacon on top of romaine
hearts. And Mike's shrimp salad earns some serious ire: the shrimp is
undercooked and the salad is bland.
There's a lot of quick shots of the troops loving the food, and then
there's some thanking of the chefs for doing something so good for
their country. "The emotion was so high, to me this challenge doesn't
matter if I win it or not," says Ron. Note to Ron, you want to win.
"To me i win because I'm cooking for the troops." He's almost in tears
and he calls it the best experience he's ever had cooking. A little
hyperbolic, but if he cries he might get to stay! (See last week's rule
about crying contestants -- they can never leave!)
Back at the
judges table, it's time to get serious. The judges call out Mike and
Michael, Kevin and Eli. They're not sure who to pick since the chefs
paired off in teams, so they ask who made what. Kevin and Eli shared
some duties, but Kevin is the one who made the pork they all loved so
much. And Michael V., it turns out, did the braised bacon almost
entirely by himself; which means Mike had nothing to do with the good,
and everything to do with that horrid shrimp salad. In an insane turn
of events, they award Michael with the winning honors and ask Mike to
return again for the losers' bracket! They pulled a switcheroo! Those
Joining Mike is Preeti and Laurine, which means Ron
is safe this week. Mike waffles a bit when the judges start bashing his
dish. "I wasn't 100% about serving it to tell you the truth," he says.
Before he can finish, BAM! Padma jumps down his throat, "Then you
shouldn't have served it," she says matter-of-factly. Damn, they just
rip him a new asshole. Mike is pacing and getting frantic, and now the
anger rolls to a boil. The judges are in a frenzy: who made chose to
make the pasta salad?!? Laurine and Preeti won't condemn each other, so
the judges start getting all Middle Ages Inquisition on their ass. "Who chose the
pasta salad!" they bleat, hot pokers in hand. "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE PASTA SALAD!" My God! Preeti makes a
feeble attempt to insist her dish wasn't as bad as the clam chowder,
which is a bad, bad answer. Even though the judges couldn't pit the two
against each other, it's clear Preeti is going home. And she's off.
Not surprising. Nothing Preeti did in the first three episodes was remotely Top Chef caliber. The shocking part is now three women have been let go in a row. Ron
survives this episode --barely-- but things are starting to look shaky
for the big guy. He and Jesse were only saved by how bad the other
dishes were. But at least he did get a lot of face time this week.
Till next week, Rasta man live up. Stay strong, Ron.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.