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Ron Duprat's Top Chef Recap, Episode Five

Welcome back to the Ron Duprat recap, where we talk about what happened to Broward's own Haitian chef on the last episode of Top Chef. So far, Ron's survived four elimination and four quickfire challenges. But he's currently hugging the bottom rung of contenders. He's never been in real danger of leaving the show, but he's certainly not doing great. So how did episode five fare for Ron? Read on.

Episode five:

The show starts out with a lot of the chefs feeling uneasy about their positions, especially with a quality chef like Hector going home in the last round. But the quickfire is here fast. The chefs enter the kitchen and find Tim Love inside, chef and owner of the horribly named Lonesome Dove Western Bistro (gah, it hurts my ears!) and guest judge this week. Tim may have horrible taste in nomenclature, but he has great taste when it comes to cacti -- the spiky plant was chosen by fans as this week's secret ingredient.

As might be expected, most of the chefs have no fricken clue how to work with cactus. You see them spooning purees of the stuff around and it looks like snot-ridden baby food. Ron chimes in on his own ineptitude with the plant: "In Haiti cactus is so poisonous, we stay the heck away from them. So I've never cooked cactus before," he says. "I'm using it in a sauce. Can I pull

an upset? I dunno." Here's a hint, Ron. If the only way you're using the main ingredient is in a sauce, then no, you have no chance.

None of the chefs are very confident going into the tasting, except Mike Isabella, who has knows how to prepare the fruit without making it slimy. Ron's dish turns out to be chipotle swordfish with a mango and papaya crab salad... er, OK Ron, where's the cactus? "It's in the sauce," he responds to Padma. Then you probably should've called it cactus sauce. Tim takes one look at Ron and decides he's clearly sitting at the little kid's table. "Did you have fun?" he asks. All he needs to do is hand Ron a lollipop and pat his bald head. Ron is a teddy bear, after all, so he just smiles and nods in his joyful, agreeable way. Too bad that won't win him any points. At the judging, Tim calls Ron's swordfish overcooked and his crab salad rancid. And, of course, Mike wins with his slime-free cactus.

Now that the $15,000 sponsorship money has been dealt with, it's time for the elimination challenge. This week, the chefs are preparing

lunch outdoors on a ranch for two dozen cowboys. You can almost smell the gravy train now. Cowboy hats and bucking buckeroos, here we come!

Apparently, the chefs don't get the hint that they're going to be cooking outdoors in 100-degree desert heat, because 90 percent of them turn to seafood during the shopping portion. I don't know about you, but when I think Death Valley, I think sea bass. The chefs show up and, sure enough, the ranch they're cooking at sports a handful of tents, four fire pits, and a chuck wagon full of bulky cast iron pots.  

Most of the chefs are taking it in stride, and -- cue the goofy music -- so is Ron. They're playing something that sounds like the theme music to Eeyore the Donkey as Ron starts pulling trees apart and placing sticks in front of his tent, an apparent voodoo ritual to ward off snakes. Is there a voodoo ritual to ward off the judges? How about one to silence the comments from the peanut gallery? No? Ron?

The next day, tempers are flaring. Ron is making coconut lime ceviche, and he overlooked that he will need a Braveheart-style claymore sword to get his coconuts open. "I

have been on the bottom so much, today it's time for me to be on top." I pray for you and your ceviche, Ron. Mattin is also making ceviche, which means he'll have a direct comparison. They both are serving a drink with it too -- weird.

The ranchers come out as the chefs finish up. You can almost hear them yell, "New Yawrk Citay?!" as Michael V. explains his daisho fish. At the judges table, there are a couple of clear losers already. The don't seem to "get" the ceviche idea (neither do I); Mattin's is so bad, Tom leaves the table to spit it out. Likewise, Robin's prawns in her dish taste off -- not a good sign. Don't worry; they reserve some ire for Ron too. His ceviche is decent, but Gail takes a sip of his island coconut mojito and nearly vomits: "It's disgusting!" Wow, this could be the day Ron goes home. The chefs pack up and get the hell out of the heat, and now it's on to the judges table.

Back at home, Laureen, Ashley, and the Brothers V. end up on the judges' good sides for some kick-ass dishes, and taking home the prize for the third time is Bryan V. The team sends back in the obvious choices of Ron, Mattin, and Robin, and they head to meet their doom... er, I mean Tom and Padma and Gail.

"That drink was one of the worst things I've

ever tasted," says Gail to Ron. "It was bitter and acidic." Ron's survival instincts kick in as he pleads and promises to never make a drink again (a good thing, since he doesn't drink!). His OK ceviche was enough to save him, though, and Mattin ends up getting the boot for his nasty versions. The Frenchman is graceful in defeat, shaking the judges' hands and bowing out with a smile. I wonder if that's how Ron will go? It's clear his days are numbered unless he can come up with something fantastic soon.

Week five's in the books... tune in next week when Ron paint's his face up like William Wallace and goes apeshit on a food processor.

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John Linn

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