Top Chef: Save A Horse, Eat A Cowboy

You can tell that the competition is starting to wear the chefs down. Ashley’s older brother had a baby, but she couldn’t be there because she is in Las Vegas cutting carrots into fake poker chips, or whatever, to prove once and for all that she is the best at theme cooking under ridiculous time and resource constraints. She calls to congratulate him and almost breaks down. Admittedly, there must be nothing worse than wanting to congratulate your sibling on creating life only to have a producer hand you the one Sidekick II the show has allotted for one personal call per contestant every six weeks and guide you through turning “speakerphone” on. On the other hand, Mattin interviews about how he didn’t have a TV or any toys growing up in Basque country, which is why he wants to cook (naturally), so he’s probably doing fine with the stress of being cut off from the outside world. “Sensory deprivation, it no big deal. If anything it make you want to cook more. It is like 9/11 was for Pretti, life in Basque country is always 9/11.” Mattin knows all about stuff.

It is a very special Quickfire Challenge this week because it is an INTERACTIVE FAN PARTICIPATION Quickfire Challenge. It’s basically like that Gerard Butler movie that just came out that no one saw, Gamer. Running Man 2.0. WE control the chefs. Let’s make them shoot each other in a post-industrial nightmare wasteland while America cheers us on! Oh, I guess the only way to interact with this challenge was to have paid attention to one of the ridiculous phone-text polls that Bravo is constantly trying to pretend is a thing anyone actually participates in. Will technology ever catch up to mankind’s desire for televised murder?

The fans have selected “cactus.” Really, fans? Because no one knows how to cook cactus (or as Mattin calls it, cactoos), and while I enjoy a challenge as much as the next guy who modestly enjoys challenges, I also can just imagine the 10 sloppy dishes being created here. Each bite a slimy failure. Padma and guest judge Tim Love walk around from one station to the next with looks of horror. “Oh good, more poorly cooked cactus. I know I only have to take one bite of each, but what is the most number of bites I can take?” That is what Tim Love says.

Anyway, Ash, Michael V., and Ron are in the bottom three with their awful cactus dishes. It must have been hard to pick out the worst cactus dish. “If it were up to me, you would all be losers.” Guest judge Tim Love tries to use some of that classic Southern folk wisdom in his pronouncements, but he’s not very good at it. “Your dish felt like two trains coming together.” That’s it? I mean, for one, when two trains come together it’s called a train wreck. Even we northerners know that. And besides, where’s the charm? “Your dish was like two pigs trying to wrestle the gravy from the scarecrow.” Better (not better). The top three are Mike, Laurine, and Mattin. I’m pretty sure that if Laurine and Mattin end up in the top three of a challenge, you’re doing the challenge wrong. At least they don’t win, though, that would open a hole in the universe. Mike wins.

It is becoming clear that we are going to have to come to terms with the fact that Mike is pretty good at cooking. Almost as good as he is at hating women and being culturally insensitive!

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs will have to prepare a “fine dining” experience for cowboys out in the desert. They can make whatever they want, but they won’t know what the conditions will be like until they get to the campsite that evening. When they get out there, they discover four fire pits and a covered wagon for a pantry. They discover a bowl full of dysentery and all the axle wheels are broken because Oregon Trail. Mattin points out that there are cactoos everywhere.

Everyone begins explaining their personal philosophies on camping. Eli doesn’t believe in it.

Sorry to blow your mind, Eli, but camping exists. THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE. He thinks it’s “asinine.” Unlike bacon t-shirts, which are whatever the opposite of asinine is, I’m sure. Ugh, Eli. It is not going to kill you to spend a night in a tent. Stop your bitching. Meanwhile, Ron is breaking branches off a tree and making a voodoo forcefield around his tent.

He’s like Top Chef’s Mr. Ecko! Insofar as both he and Mr. Ecko are black, have accents, and do something superstitious with the branches of trees! (Do you think Mr. Ecko will be back for the final season of Lost? Do you kind of wish Top Chef was the final season of Lost?)

The next day it is time to cook and it is so hot! Everyone talks about how hot it is. Yes, guys. You are in the desert. Of all the surprises on Top Chef this season, the heat of the desert while you are cooking over a firepit is probably the least exciting. The cowboys arrive, and at first they are like “we’re cowboys, after a hard day’s work,” but as soon as they start eating they are like “I think these flavor profiles work really well together, but the foie didn’t have quite the mouth feel I would have expected.” What? What kind of cowboys are these?

Most of the dishes appear to be pretty terrible, which sort of flies in the face of what Tom said last week about how this is obviously far and away the best group of chefs the show has ever seen. I did not believe that then, and I do not believe it now. This is a perfectly average cast of chefs for this show, sir. And then there is the moment that has been used in all of the promos for this week. For the first time in Top Chef history, Tom Colicchio spits out a bite of food!

And just like that, we have entered a new, basically exactly the same era of this show. Seriously, who cares? That was a non-thing. Padma is like “let’s get out of this heat and back to the judges table,” which I think is code for “my alcohol is getting warmer than I like it. Let’s get in a temperature-controlled environment where my alcohol is the proper temperature.”

The winning chefs are Bryan V., Michael V., Laurine, and Ashley. Laurine again? Huh. It’s almost enough to make me think that I was all wrong about Laurine, but I know that I wasn’t. Enjoy it Laurine! In the end, Bryan V. wins the challenge with his classic Cowboy Dashi Cowboy Roasted Pork Loin on a Bed of Corn Polenta and Dandelion Greens, with a Side of Glazed Rutabaga, making it the third Elimination Challenge he’s won in five episodes! We haven’t seen a hot streak like that since Richard Blaise BLAISED a trail through the fourth season.

The bottom three are Ron, Mattin, and Robin. They are all contestants on Top Sad Face.

But in the end, it is Mattin’s spit-up ceviche three ways with a side of margarita that loses. Aww. AU REVOIR! I will kind of miss his red kerchief and his mincing bebe voice and his constant condescending references to how good the French food is that he isn’t even that good at cooking. But also, look at this picture from the Bravo website:

Haha. Yuck.