There's no sugar-coating it, folks: This was the episode of Top Chef Las Vegas where Ron cooked his last. After six challenges, a few of which he ended up in the bottom three, Ron was eliminated for his "deconstruction" of paella by a panel of judges that included none other than Michelle Bernstein. We're going to miss Ron on the show, his big, goofy smile and lighthearted nature. But by this episode, it became clear that Ron's simple, seafood-centric cooking style was not making it with the judges. So how did it all go down?
This one starts off with the chefs talking about Mateen, another contestant they feel was too talented to leave so early. In a show of solidarity, they decide to each wear one of the French chef's signature red bandannas around their necks. Just when you think the move shows loyalty and friendship, a bunch of chefs, led by Mike and Laureen, start laying into Robin, saying she basically sucks and should've gone home instead.
For the quickfire challenge, Padma is joined by Florida's own Michelle Bernstein, a James Beard winner and owner of four restaurants in the area. The pair explain the challenge as a duo of dishes, each representing the angel and devil on your shoulders. Many of the chefs choose to do scallops two ways, and Ron decides to stick with seafood and do Chilean sea bass two ways -- one with corn hash, the other with yucca. The show doesn't really explain which is the angel and which is the devil -- I'm guessing the white yucca is the angel, the reddish corn/carrot hash is the devil? Padma criticizes Ron's fish for having bones in it, even though Michelle says she didn't get any of that. Either way, it's clear Ron isn't winning this quickfire, which grants immunity. That honor, instead, goes to Robin, which pisses off the other chefs something fierce. Eli even throws a little hissy fit, claiming that it was easy for her to win when all she had to do was say "When I had cancer..." and the judges chose her. Thems are strong words from someone who has never been in the top three, Eli.
After the pity party, Penn and Teller show up to describe the next challenge. The pair of anti-magicians debunk and deconstruct a typical sleight-of-hand cup trick and, in doing so, describe the next challenge. The chefs must deconstruct a classic dish, creating something that resembles the flavor by combining separate elements on the plate. It's the perfect challenge for chefs like Kevin, Michael V., and Bryan, who are all adept at contemporary cooking techniques. Ron, however, has never shown anything other than straightforward dishes. He draws paella and looks excited about it, but you can sense there's trouble brewing.
After a trip to Whole Foods for ingredients, the chefs get to work prepping in the kitchen. Some are doing better than others; the pressure is really getting to Jennifer, who is now crying (the rule of crying on Top Chef states that if you do it, you get to stay at least another episode). Ron decides to deconstruct his paella by smoking chicken and doing a saffron broth. But his secret technique? "[I'm going to] put some garnish on the plate to make it look chic." It's so painfully obvious this is outside Ron's element, he's turning to parsley to win it for him. Things are not looking good.
Eli chimes in to say he doesn't think Ron understands how to do a deconstruction, in that removing each element of a dish and simply plating them next to one another is not a deconstruction. Sadly, he's right. When Tom Colicchio comes around to talk to the chefs as they prep, Ron looks flustered. He actually asks Tom for tips on how to do it, and Tom looks speechless. Ron, you pretty much bought your ticket home there, bud.
The chefs get back home for the evening, and Ron starts to sigh. "[Michelle] knows exactly what she's talking about. [Paella] is her dish on her fucking menu!" he laments. He seems almost resigned to defeat now, in way over his head and unable to float. Eli and Kevin try to lend a helping hand, telling Ron to make sure to crisp his rice nicely and keep it moist. But Ron looks lost and beaten.
Then: the tasting. Ron arrives to the kitchen scattered and disorganized and puts of a plate of paella that looks like... well it looks exactly like paell but also like a pile of excrement. After he serves it, the judges all agree: The rice was severly overcooked without being crisp, and it wasn't deconstructed in any way. Michelle says, "It's not interesting food at all." And you know she's right.
Winners from the service are Ashley, Kevin, Michael, and Jennifer, who each impress the judges with great deconstructions. Kevin's mole negro wins, and the judges each gush over it. In return, Kevin sends back Ron, Ash, and Laureen.
Ash and Laureen each know their dishes were shit, and you can sense Ron does too. This may be the first elimination challenge where all three chefs without a doubt deserve to go home for what they put out. But Ron seems to have the other two beat. Tom comments that he got stuck in his own head, and as a result he overcooked his components. Michelle says he didn't manipulate the dish enough, which would've at least been OK if he had made something that tasted good. Laureen and Ash at least tried to interpret the challenge, even if their dishes failed. Ron had no clue what to do and seemed lost. And so, they send him home.
Being the big, jovial bear he is, Ron smiles and thanks the judges and delivers a high-spirited speech: "It's been a good experience, I have no regrets. I came from Haiti, had no hope, came to America, became a top chef. If that's not the American dream, I don't think there is another. I had fun for me; that's
the beginning. If I can be a top chef, there's more to come. I will pick
up and move on and start bigger in life. I'm the luckiest man on Earth,
and that's something that no one can take away from me."
In the end, Ron had a relatively short but interesting tenure on Top Chef. He landed in the winner's circle only once, but he had a positive demeanor that kept him going the whole time. It's clear he wasn't going to win the thing, but he did seem to have fun being there. Check out a video of Ron talking about leaving the show on Top Chef's website.
Want more of Ron Duprat? Ron will appear at Whole Foods Fort Lauderdale to do a cooking demo of his Chilean sea bass recipe on October 3 at 6:30 p.m. You can RSVP for $25 a person, which will benefit FLIPANY (Florida Introduces Physical Activity and Nutrition to Youth), by calling 954-565-4138.
Thanks for reading the Ron Duprat Top Chef recap! We'll continue doing a regular edition recap of Top Chef each week on Thursday.