Iron Skillet

Culinary Punditry as Food for the Masses

Iron Skillet

Iron Skillet
United States
January 10
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SEPTEMBER 16, 2009 10:58PM

Fry It Up: Top Chef Las Vegas Episode 5

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Welcome folks!  We're here again for another liveblog!  Although tonight, it's an ALMOST liveblog, as an evening class schedule has left me unable to start the blog until the first rebroadcast at 11 p.m.  That means, you dear readers, will have the advantage on me in that you will know what happens before I do.

 This week's culinary adventures have been rather entertaining.  I started off the week making chicken in a mustard cream sauce, an adaptation of a fish recipe that I had never tried before.  One of the things I love about cooking is the fact that if you know what you're doing, it's like music.  You can take a recipe, look at its structure and components, and riff off of it, applying it to a different protein, or adding ingredients.  It's not quite Miles Davis playing "Freddie Freeloader" but it's still fun.

So let's recap what has gone before on Top Chef.....this season has been full of twists and turns.  So far, I have been pretty satisfied with the way things are going.  They have brought back some of the old favorite challenges (the mise en place challenge), and added new challenges that are inventive without being insulting to the chefs.

I also think we have some amazingly talented chefs this season.  My personal favorites in terms of cooking have to be the Voltaggio brothers, not only because they are damn cute, but also damn good chefs.  They are currently occupying the top of my list of people who will be in the final four.  Another one to watch is Kevin, who is quietly turning out very inventive food that is also accessible.

Last week was the "frenchie" challenge, where they were testing their ability to turn out sophisticated food.  This week, apparently, we are thrusting our cheftestants out into the middle of the desert to cook over open campfires.

I should explain that I have some experience cooking over an open flame. I go camping with my husband and we camp with people whose unofficial motto seems to be "Oh no! We might run out of food!"  Which means, of course, that the week is an endless smorgasbord of campfire cooking craziness in which everyone pitches in.  I have a corn pudding recipe in a cast iron kettle that is to die for.  And at least one meal during the week involves multiple shanks of lamb roasted in the fire.  I am anxious to see which of the cheftestants has the guts to take on the firepit.

So now, let's finally get to it....

11:00 p.m. -- Scenes from last week....Jesse goes home in the quickfire.  And the chefs are cooking for the best French chefs in America.

11:01 p.m. -- The prize package is so much "Glad" product does one person really need?  Ah well, welcome to the world of corporate sponsorship....

11:02 p.m. -- The chefs are now starting the process of developing opinions about each other.  Mattin cannot believe he was in the bottom last week.  Frenchie ego -- gotta love it!

11:03 p.m. --Ashley's brother had a new baby.  The phone call is emotional.  Apparently Ashley is a twin.  So she sympathizes with the Voltaggios I imagine.

11:04 p.m. -- Here comes the quickfire challenge.  Tim Love....ooooh!  Loves me some Tim Love! If you don't remember, I fell deeply in lust with Mr. Love during Top Chef Masters. 

11:05 p.m. -- Apparently the viewers are sadists.  The chefs must cook with cactus.

11:06 p.m. -- Mike Isabella is is talking about the secrets of cooking cactii.  It's all about the goo..... 

11:07 p.m. -- Mattin is SO out of his element cooking cactus.  Laurine has no idea what she's doing, but has the right attitude -- to be herself and do the best food she knows how to do.

11:07 p.m. -- Ash is screwing around with tortillas and longing for recently eliminated Hector.  Ron is hoping for an "upset." Dude, that does not bode well for you....

11:08 p.m. -- Kevin's cactus is "slimy." Ashely makes jelly doughnuts from catus.  How the hell do you do that?

11:09 p.m. -- What the hell is it with all the goddamn ceviche?  It seems like in every challenge at least two people do ceviche.  WTF?!?

11:10 p.m. -- Tim love doesn't love Ash,  and Michael Voltaggio, uncharacteristically. Ron also is in the bottom.  OTOH, Laurine is really shining here, which is different since she's been in the bottom a lot recently.  I think she's redeeming herself.  And Mike Isabella wins the quickfire.

11:13 p.m. -- It's really interesting to see Laurine come into her own with this challenge.  It's interesting more generally to watch contestants come to grips with the fact that they are not naturally at the top of the class.  For some, like Laurine, it's a challenge to step up and put yourself out there.  For others, like Roy, it's a reason to hide, to do "just enough" to get where you need to go.

11:16 p.m. -- The pictures of Las Vegas in the daytime are interesting.

11:17 p.m. -- They are being challenged to make "high end" ranch food. 

11:17 p.m. -- I LOVE Padma's's gorgeous.

11:18 p.m. -- Ashley is smart about her planning.  She realizes she needs to plan for limited resources.  Laurine is also looking smart for this....

11:18 p.m. -- Eli wants to make potato chips in the desert?  He's way to citified. 

11:19 p.m. -- They roll in -- it's tents and rudimentary shelters.  And the chefs begin whining.

11:2o p.m. -- Cast iron pans, fire pits, and a chuck wagon pantry.  Some of the chefs are thrilled.  Others are horrified.  Mattin thinks this is like camping in France.  Ashley is talking about her background in poverty.

11:22 p.m. -- Eli is the biggest whiner of all....he's asserting he's not camping.

11:32 p.m. -- And Ron is doing weird voodoo shit to his tent.  Ash, his roomie for tonight, is more than a little disconcerted.

11:23 p.m. -- Ash was an "animal psychologist?" You gotta be shitting me.

11:24 p.m. -- The chefs go off to bed... and in the next segment, Tom will spit out someone's food.

11:26 p.m. -- THe sun rises over the ranch, and the chefs are all dreading this challenge. 

11:27 p.m. -- The rush is on...the chefs are busy trying to get everything done in an hour and 15 minutes.  They are scrambling to get pots and pans.

11:28 p.m. -- And again with the fucking ceviche!  Three ways, even!  Geez guys, can you do something else.

11:29 p.m. -- And RON is doing a ceviche and wants a sword.....if one more cheftestant does a ceviche I just might scream.

11:30 p.m. -- Laurine is confidently getting right into the grill. 

11:31 p.m. -- with 3 minutes to go the chefs are scrambling.  And here come the ranchers out of the corner of our eye....actually, they are the judges, AND some rancers.

11:32 p.m. -- Ash does succotash.  And comedy.

11:33 p.m. -- Sandwiches from Eli and Mike I.  They don't go over well.  No "pizazz."

11:34 p.m. -- Laurine does really well with her food.  Working the grill really paid off for her.

11:35 p.m. -- Robin's prawns look a little odd....and Mattin's ceviche is raw.  That does not bode well for him.  Mattin, however, is not noticing this.

11:36 p.m. -- Jennifer seems a non-entity this weeek. 

11:37 p.m. -- Bryan Voltaggio serves it up right. Again.

11:38 p.m. -- Ashley's dish goes over really really we...  And Kevin once again includes some weird shit -- Tequila flavored watermelon..

11:39 p.m. -- Michael Voltaggio wows again, by thinking outside the box.

11:40 p.m. -- I just noticed that Tom Colicchio is sporting a "soul patch" -- a little spot of facial hair just below the middle of the lower lip. And I HATE it.  I'm not a big fan of facial hair on men to begin with, but this particular species of it irks me beyond belief.  Tom, you are a grown man, one of the best chefs in the industry.  You do not need to have tired, trendy facial hair.  Yuck.

11:45 p.m. -- enough with the suspence.

11:43 p.m. -- Apparently Kevin is a BIG horshoe fan. And he's really good at it.

11:46 p.m. -- They are determined to drag this out...and I am starting to fade.  If this blog devolv es you'll know what happend.

11:48 P.m. Mike V. and Surprise! Ashley make it in to the top!

11:49 p.m. -- And Bryan Voltaggio wins!!                                                                                                                                    

11:50 p.m. -- Ron, Mattin and Robin are in the bottom.  This is no surprise.  Robin's shrimp dish was completely bad.  Ron's was confused.  Mattin's was (according to Colicchio) inedible, given he spit it out.

11:51 p.m. -- Mattin made Tim Love sick.  This is not good, Mattin.

11:52 p.m. -- Ron's ceviche on the other hand, was well liked.  But his drink sucked.  I think this challenge lacked enough losers.  People did too much.

11:53 p.m. -- As bad as Robin's dish was, at least she wasn't clueless about it.  I think Frenchie is going home.  Mattin has no idea tha this dish sucked.

11:54 p.m. -- Mattin thinks his problem was lack of focus. I have news, Mattin, it was lack of cooking.  You're given a grill to cook over and you choose to make ceviche?  How stupid do you have to be.

11:55 p.m. -- My back hurts.  I hate my sofa.

11:57 p.m. -- SO here we are...who's going home....Ron?  Probably not...the ceviche he did was good.  Mattin was bad and clueless. Robin was bad, but at least she knew it.

11:58 p.m. -- And yup.  Mattin goes home.  Bye Bye Frenchie!

11:59 p.m. -- And the scenes from next week... Penn and Teller.  The chefs will perform "magic" and Eli's first trick is to explode his pressure cooker.  And Jennifer might be in trouble....

Well, that's all folks!  Thanks for stopping by.....I'll see you next week!  I'm going to bed....


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Thank you for staying up late to do this for the young and the Bravoless.
I feel that the elimination challenge was bullshit. First, the conditions are obnoxious. Now the contestants have only an outhouse - like that has anything to do with cooking.

Second point: Colichio insisted that the judges thought Ron's cerviche was too sweet, when at least one -- and I believe two -- stated that she had liked it. The man is dishonest or a bit of a bully.
I just didn't understand why so many of the chefs chose to do fish dishes. Although they didn't know the exact conditions where they would be cooking, they all knew it would be "cowboy" and outside somewhere. And yet, almost all of them chose fish? It just seems bizarre. It worked for Ashley, maybe because she was the only one who thought about whether the fish would cook well under variable conditions. But everyone else? I'm surprised more of them didn't have fish go bad, considering they had to drive for an hour or more out into the desert. (And were the fish really in coolers all that time? I get nervous about fish going bad in my car if I'm delayed 10 minutes getting back from the grocery store.)

It seems like fish (including shellfish) is the go-to food for most of the chefs. Every time they go into Whole Foods, they run for the fish counter. It just seems odd to me - not that fish isn't good, but it can be problematic when you're cooking in unknown environments with unknown refrigeration conditions.
I fell asleep with the cactus segment, so thank you Liz for a great summary.
I did think the conditions were obnoxious... the could have provided a bit more shade, I really don't want to eat food prepared by someone dripping fountains of sweat into the pans. However, I thought making ceviche was a cop out and everyone who came up with that idea should have gone home... So too with the sandwiches. Does no one know how to cook outdoors without stainless steel surfaces?
Agree that many of the food choices were bizarre. I would have expected to see chicken, ribs and steak with some creative trimmings.
Kathy, you're welcome! Love having you here!

William, surly, I actually didn't think it was that obnoxious. You know, cooking over an open flame has been happening since the beginning of For centuries cooks have made elaborate dishes using little more than an open flame and maybe an oven. I was actually really disappointed that most of the chefs did not get more into the spirit of this challenge. Sure, it was hot, but there was shade and I am sure plenty of ice. I've done food prep under exactly these conditions (outdoors, hot as hell, open flame, and no refrigeration) and it's not that bad, really. You can come up with some pretty sophisticated stuff if you try.

I agree with Karen and Silkstone that the chefs do seem somewhat fish-happy. A lot of times I think the attraction for fish is that it cooks fast, and it's a nice "blank canvas" for complicated show-off suaces and preparations. But I am growing weary of fish, especially ceviche.

This episode taught me a lot about the cheftestants -- which ones whine too much, and which ones pull their poop in a group when the chips are down.
Glad to see Mattin go. He never really lived up to his "I am French" and so much better than you attitude. Granted the French did give a standardized method of cooking and rules that have universal application, but that does not mean everyone out of France can cook.

I must confess I have little need for those on the show who define themselves by their location, national origin, or sexual orientation. Just cook and let the food speak for itself. I don't need a foodie soap opera.