Top Chef: Roughing It

Top Chef: Roughing It


Top Chef: Las Vegas

Here is a quick run down on the two challenges:

  • Quickfire Challenge: Viewer’s Choice: Cook with cactus
  • Elimination Challenge: Prepare a high-end lunch for Chef Love & two dozen cowboys

Some might complain that the camping challenge isn’t the best way to show how good a chef can be, but I argue it is just an extension of the quickfire challenges. It all comes down to thinking quickly on their feet and being as creative as possible. They are usually given a challenge where they only have seconds to figure out what they want to do. They did have their usual time to figure out what they wanted to make and knew it would be out at a ranch. They just didn’t know what they would have there to make it. It was similar to Thunderbirds episode where they didn’t know their kitchen or food products until they got there. At least they knew what food they were bringing!

Quickfire Challenge


The guest judge for the episode was Tim Love, who owns the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in Texas. The quickfire challenge was picked by fans of the show. They got to choose the ingredient the chefs had to work with: snake, cactus or kangaroo. Cactus was the winner. Tim said that not a lot of chefs work with cactus because it hurts and his piece of advice was, “Be careful.”  The chefs had 45 minutes to make a dish with the cactus. It was also a high stakes quickfire, so the winner would be $15,000 from the M resort. No one would receive immunity though.

Cactus Salsa with Achiote Glazed Pork Chop

Tim said it tasted great.

Pork Tenderloin with Cactus Marmalade

Tim said it was a little slimy but good.

Michael V.
Avocado Roll with Cactus Coconut Ceviche & Red Cactus Coulis

No real comment given.

Cactus Jelly Donuts with Orange Creme Anglaise

Tim said it was a good donut.

Mike I.
Cactus & Tuna Ceviche with Pipian

Tim said he wasn’t loving the relish on the side, but the rest of the plate was nice.

Chipotle Swordfish with Cactus Sauce & Mango Papaya Crab Salad

Padma had to ask where the cactus was and Ron said it was in the sauce. Tim asked if he had fun making it and he said he did. Tim seemed pleased.

Halibut & Cactus Ceviche with Tempura Cactus

Tim asked Bryan if he had worked with cactus before. He said he hadn’t. He made no other comments.

Cactus “Grilled Cheese”

No comment. Ash said to the camera later, “He kind of looked at me…pissed off that I made him eat this food.”

Warm Chorizo & Cactus Salad with Queso Fresco

No comment.

Breaded Cactus, Halibut with Tequila Picked Cactus & Red Cactus Puree

Tim said he was a fan of tequila.


  • Ash – Tim got no cactus flavor out of it. He said the tortilla was really thick and dry in his mouth.
  • Michael V. – Tim felt like it was two trains coming together. It just didn’t work. Michael seemed shocked he was picked for the bottom.
  • Ron – He said the fish was overcooked and the crab tasted rancid. Nothing with the cactus though!


  • Laurine – He said her flavors were very nice.  He thought it was a great dish.
  • Mike I. – Tim said he thought Mike was the only one that classically prepared the cactus with a nice sauce. He said it was a nice dish.
  • Mattin – He loved the tequila, but thought both Mike and Mattin were the only two that showcased the cactus itself. It was a well prepared dish.

Quickfire Winner: He said he had to pick the person that showcased the cactus the best: Mike I.

Elimination Challenge


The chefs would be making whatever they wanted for Chef Love and two dozen cowboys on a ranch. The food had to be high-end food though. The place was pretty “rustic” so they would be spending the night at the ranch. The next day, they had 75 minutes to prep and cook their food before serving it.  Chef Love said he expected it to be well prepared, well cooked and well presented. Ash said he liked how it leveled the playing field since everyone there was good cooks, but this would show who was a good innovator since they had no idea what they had to work with out on the ranch. Before the ranch, they got to shop at Whole Foods. Most of the chefs were doing a good job keeping in mind that they might not have a kitchen or a fryer. They might have a grill and hopefully some boiling water, but they just weren’t sure.

After shopping, the chefs headed out to the ranch, which was really some space in the desert with teepees. There were fire pits, cast iron pans, and metal camping plates. The pantry station was a chuck wagon. Ashley, Robin and Mattin were very comfortable with the camping situation. They had been very outdoorsy growing up. Eli thought camping was “asinine” and electricity should be used since it was invented. Ron started ripping up part of a tree and making some voodoo thing in front of the teepee that he was sharing with Ash. He told Ash that it would keep the snakes away. Ash was for anything that would keep snakes away.

Mike I.
Pork Gyro with Apple & Fennel Tzatziki

Mike called it a “ja-eye-ro” instead of “year-o”. I thought he said he spent time in Greece? Padma said he does Greek food a lot, so she didn’t think he stretched at all. Tim Love said that it was good, but not exciting to him. Padma agreed saying there was no “pizazz.” Tim said that he didn’t want to call his grandmother afterward to tell her, “Wow, you wouldn’t believe the sandwich, I just had,” which made Tom laugh a lot. Tim did say the meat was cooked well. One cowboy said it was good, but not as interesting as the other dishes.

Tuna Sandwich with Sun-Dried Tomato Mayonnaise & Radish Salad

Gail thought it was an odd choice for the ranch. Padma said it could use more flavor, especially the radish salad. Tim agreed saying that it brought nothing to the plate. One cowboy said the tuna was good, but the bread was pretty hard, so he couldn’t really eat it as a sandwich.

Sauteed Arctic Char with Tomatillo Salsa, Corn Salsa & Grilled Potato

Gail said it was flavorful. Tom said he really liked the salsa. Tim said he liked how she used the grill. The grill flavor really got into the food, especially the potato. Laurine was telling Jen that she felt it was pretty ballsy that she made a baked potato over the grill. Jen agreed.

Grilled Chicken Paillard with Corn Succotash

Tom said, “At least this dish is a little more sensible” compared to some other dishes. Tim thought the succotash was great. Tom said it had too much bacon. Gail said she could taste the bacon grease, which Padma agreed with. Another week where bacon does not make it a winning dish! One cowgirl said that the succotash was good “for a succotash”, but the chicken was “ehh.”

Ceviche Three Ways – Salmon with Apple, Spicy Tuna & Cod with Corn

Tim said the cod was too fishy. Tom took his bite out of his mouth and tossed it. He said it was too raw.

Grilled Romaine Salad with Drunken Prawns & Spicy Chicken Sausage

Everyone chewed in silence with unpleasant expressions on their faces. Then Tim said, “It’s terrible.” The others agreed.  Tim expanded on his thought by saying, “It tasted like I just sucked on a piece of chlorine.” Robin was very upset with herself since she had not tasted her prawns until she gave the plates to the judges. She said they were not good.

Roasted Pork Loin, Corn Polenta, Dandelion Greens & Glazed Rutabaga

Tim said Bryan’s dish was very appropriate. Tom said it was very nicely cooked. Gail said she would feel comfortable camping with him. Tom said it all comes down to having a good “game plan”, then the chefs can prepare a nice plate, even out in the desert. One cowboy said he loved the rutabaga and polenta.

Snapper with Duck Confit, Daikon, Carrot & Tomato Water Salad

Gail said the slaw was great. Tom agreed, saying it was perfectly cooked. Gail said she thought it through and it turned out well. Tim said it didn’t jump out at him, but everything about it tasted good. One cowboy really liked it.

Seared Halibut with Avocado Mousse, Bacon, Tomato & Braised Romaine

Ashley told the judges that she was inspired by her favorite sandwich, which was a club sandwich, so it was her take on one.  Tim thought the avocado cream was really good. Gail said it was the best thing that Ashley had done so far. Padma said maybe she was a dark horse. One cowboy said he was so surprised how much it tasted like a club sandwich.

Coconut, Lime, Mango & Tuna Ceviche & Haitian Coconut Mojito

Tim said out of all the ceviches they had all day, it was one of the better ones. Tom agreed, but did say it was a little sweet. Tim said the cocktail was terrible. Padma agreed saying it was disgusting. One cowgirl said it was one of the best ceviches she had ever had.

Roasted Duck Breast with Mole & Tequila Marinated Watermelon

Padma said the dish was really pretty. She loved his use of a mole in it. Tom and Gail said the duck was beautifully cooked. One cowboy said he wasn’t sure what it was, but he liked the tequila. His plate was also empty.

Michael V.
Dashi with Miso & Mirin Cured Black Cod & Watermelon

When Michael was giving the dish to a cowgirl, she asked if he had an Asian cooking background. He said he has an “everything cooking background.” Gail thought it was really tasty. She loved the shitake flavors and the broth. Tom said it was refreshing and he liked the dish. Tim said it was really unexpected.

Judges’ Table

Before Padma came out, the chefs were talking about some seafood did not smell right when they opened up the coolers. Ashley said she hoped it wasn’t hers when she smelled it. I am guessing that was Robin’s shrimp, but she wasn’t saying anything. Padma came in asking to see Laurine, Ashley, Bryan and Michael V. They all had the judges favorite dishes. Tom commented that Ashley had a big smile on her face. She said it was much nicer to be on the top. Tim said that he knew it was a tough challenge, but they all seemed to have fun with it.  Tom told Ashley that it is tricky cooking fish in that environment, but she did a nice job with it and it was probably her best dish to date.  Gail told Bryan she was impressed with how focused the dish was and how focused he was on the dish. She said it felt like a real restaurant-quality dish. Tim told Laurine that he liked the way she used the grill. He could taste the flavor coming through. He said it seemed a bit simple, but he thought the simplicity really made the dish shine.  Michael said he wanted to take white tablecloth ingredients and bring them to a non-traditional environment. He didn’t think it would be that non-traditional when they arrived, so he was nervous. Tom said he liked it a lot. He thought it was cooked well and the flavors went together really well. It was also very unexpected. Tim got to pick the overall winner. He thought all four dishes were good and they were all received well at the ranch, but one dish represented what he looks for and fit the criteria put out for the challenge, and that was Bryan‘s dish. He has now won three times. He said that he thinks whenever he goes up head-to-head with Michael, he seems to win so he thinks Michael was getting a bit upset about that.

They were asked to send in Robin, Ron and Mattin. Padma told them that they had the most disappointing dishes at the ranch.  Padma wanted to start with Robin. Robin started explaining her thought process of thinking of barbecue when thinking about cowboys and a ranch and wanted to play off steak and barbecue. Somehow that turned into her romaine salad with  sausage and drunken shrimp? Tim stopped her lengthy story saying that she seemed to be explaining a completely different dish than what they had. He said, “‘I wanted to play off steak, so I gave you sausage and shrimp. ‘ That’s ridiculous.” Gail said the shrimp was not good and it was to the point that they were worried about eating it. Tom said it could have been a good dish, but she didn’t put a good one together. Robin said she didn’t want to make excuses, but she was not proud by what she put out there. She said she was not surprised to be at the bottom when Tom asked her that question. She also said she would not be surprised if that dish could possibly send her home.

Padma asked Mattin if he was happy with his dish. Mattin said he was very happy and he was very surprised to be there. The judges were shocked. Tom asked if he tasted it. He said he did. Tom said there were chunks of cod that were still raw and other ones that were cooked. He said it was very poorly put together. Tim said he tried it first and he thought he might be getting ill from it. Tim told Ron that he thought his ceviche was pretty good, but he didn’t understand the sauce on the side. Tom said they found both the sauce and the ceviche to be sweet, but that aside, the drink was bad. Ron said he doesn’t drink, but he didn’t want the coconut milk to go to waste. Gail said that the drink was really bad. She said it was bitter and acidic. Tom said if he just made ceviche, he probably wouldn’t be there. Tim agreed with that. They were sent out.

Gail said of the three, the main component of Ron’s dish was edible. Gail said she didn’t mind the taste at all. Tom said it was a little on the sweet side, but it wasn’t that bad. The drink was bad. Tim said the drink was horrible and the presentation didn’t make any sense. Padma asked between Mattin and Robin, who had the worst dish. Tim thought Robin’s dish was completely uncomposed. Tom said she didn’t know how to make a dish out of those ingredients. Gail said her salad was a soggy mess and the shrimp had a really strange flavor. She said it has a sourness to it. Tim said once he took a bite of the shrimp, the rest of the dish didn’t exist to him. It was too overpowering. Gail said Robin knew it was poor but did nothing to compensate for it. Tim said she tried to cover it up with some bacon, and while bacon fixes most things, it failed for this dish. Gail was shocked at how clueless Mattin was about doing anything wrong with his dish. Tom said he was way outside his limits of what he is capable of doing and he doesn’t understand that. Tom said instead of giving them three things that are “half-assed,” he should give them one great dish. Tom said the big thing was he claimed he tasted all the ceviches and thought they were good. Tim said that was his biggest issue too.

The chefs were called back in. Tom told them that the challenge was to cook on the ranch. They had the night to sleep under the stars and think about what they would do to make their dishes, but maybe it was too much time to think and they over thought things. Tom told Ron that his ceviche was a little on the sweet side and the drink was not good at all. Tom told Mattin that the dish was not good at all. It was really fishy and not flavorful. Tom told Robin that somewhere in there was a good dish, but she wasn’t able to produce it. That coupled with the fact that the shrimp was really bad. Padma asked Mattin to pack his knives and go.


  1. Did you agree with Mattin being sent home for not getting why his food was bad over Robin serving horrible shrimp?
  2. Would you voted for cactus in the quickfire or one of the other choices (snake, kangaroo)?
  3. Do you think Robin will last much longer? I could see Mattin’s time was coming to end a last week so I wasn’t shocked, but wonder if Robin will last through next week.

Photos Source: Bravo

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