Ron Duprat's Top Chef Recap, Episode Three
The show starts off with the cast commiserating on what's gone down so far, mainly their last challenge. The girls are still pissed off about the whole battle of the sexes thing, especially Jennifer. There's a lot of anger brewing, and that seems to be the general theme of this episode. But the show doesn't linger there in "slowly exhale and count to 10 land" for long; it's on to the quickfire challenge.
Out comes chef Mark Peel of Campanile in California. A former student of Wolfgang Puck, Peel isn't just a catchy name -- he claims to have spent his tutelage peeling vegetables for the big man. And so the top chefs realize that they must take a mountain of potatoes, complete with several dozen varieties, and turn them into something memorable.
Jennifer talks a moment about making mussels with a potato sauce and then... holy crap, they're showing Ron! Wait, how far into the show are we? Only five minutes? Something must be wrong. I get an ominously bad feeling as Ron tells the camera he's making sweet potato-crusted yellow tail snapper. "I feel like Bob Marley with music, to me food is peace and love," he says, all sentimental like. Uh oh. Peace and love ain't gonna fly here, Ron. These chefs are hungry for blood, and not of the pudding variety. I'm worried that Ron is getting this much air time during the challenge because he might be going home.
Nearly everything the chefs are turning out looks pretty good at this point. Ash Fulk does sweet potato ice cream, to him a wild dish. Jesse desides on sweet potato soup -- how will she fuck it up this time? Resident douche Mike Isabella has a fun idea: he's going to brunoise potato and cook it like a risotto. Ashley is making gnocchi.
Then: MORE ANGER! GRRRR! Ron is scurrying around the kitchen while all hell breaks loose on Ashley's side. A pot of water Kevin has promised to Preeti goes missing, and Preeti just assumes she can use the one now in its place to blanch some asparagus. Wrong! That's Ashley's water, bitch. Ashley flips the hell out on Preeti, cursing and screaming that she won't have enough time to complete her gnocchi. Jennifer comments on how "nice" Ashley was being about it, and that she would've gibbeted Preeti at sea for her indiscretion. Jesus. These chefs need a cocktail.
We're off to the tasting, and it's great looking stuff for the most part. There are a lot of dishes showcasing "potato three ways," three ways being the trendy new thing that sounds far more kinky and interesting than the results. Peel and Padma get over to Ron, and Peel remarks that his favorite part is the fennel and leek Ron has placed on the side.
And then, the shoe drops. Eli's sweet potato marshmellow thang was his least favorite -- far too sweet -- followed by Ron's fish. The big boy's yellowtail was apparently bland, bland, bland yam on top of badly overcooked fish, a combination that gets you far less points with the judges than one would think. Perpetual underachiever Jesse follows suit again with her heavy hand with cayenne; does this girl know how to cook? Finally, favorite Jennifer wins with her mussels, and that makes macho Mike mad. Mike calls it favoritism that she's winning so much; probably because she's a woman and he's a reptile, amirite?
Hey, kids! Now it's time for the obligatory military mess hall episode! Woo hoo! We loved you on food network star and EVERY OTHER COOKING SERIES EVER. Our guests today will be Colonel Dave Belote and 300 Thunderbird airmen. Everyone looks sort of nervous, but Ron looks psyched. The camera lingers on his face... is he going home?
Mike decides it's best to split into teams of two and have everyone pick partners like it's dodgeball all over again -- why does that not surprise me? Mike, were you picked first or last every time? In this instance, at least Ron and Jesse are left alone at the end to fend for themselves. You get the feeling that the team is leaving the weak gazelles behind to get eaten by the lions. Laurine is quick to point out they are Ron and Jesse are indeed the "weakest two." Well, Ron's quickfire slip up was really his first, but things aren't looking good now. The group asks if the two are happy working together, and Ron sort of shrugs and stares at the ground. "I haven't been on the bottom of an elimination challenge yet," he says. "Jesse has been on the bottom a lot, so I feel nervous. Very nervous." Oh no.
There's an early wake up call and then the team is off to the mess hall, where (of course) there's nothing but lots of canned food and very little in the way of actual burners, stoves, pots, etc. Just a lot of huge cooking vessels designed to prepare food for hundreds at a time. We get some shots of Michael V., who's not bitching at all, unlike some of the other chefs. Preeti takes a moment to say she was inspired to be a chef by -- get this -- 9-11. Aparently, when the planes hit those towers, she thought "molten chocolate cake!" Just odd.
Of course, there's odd, and then there's hella odd. And Ron and Jesse are threatening to tip that scale with Ron's idea to serve clam chowder in 90 degree heat. He's banking on an easy dish that he knows how to make well instead of being inventive: "I probably make one of the best chowders in the world," he says. "I won the Montauk Chowder Festival four times, so I feel very comfortable doing that with Jesse. It is a risk to do a chowder on a hot day, but you know those troops they love chowder. I think play it safe, it's for the troops, God willing." Insert head slaping noise here.
Jesse looks very worried about the amount of space they have to cook, and Ron is concerned about timing. "There's only one skillet," he says, "Laurine and Preeti are using it for their pasta salad and Bryan and Frenchie (Mattin, lol) are using it for bechamel, so I guess we're gonna take one for the team." Don't take one for the team, Ron. If history is an indicator, demand what you want and throw a fit if you don't get it. Because otherwise, they're all going to blame you anyway.
There are plenty more arguments, more bad tudes, then it's off to the hangar to serve to the troops. Everyone at this point is commenting on how clam chowder is a bad call in the heat, and Ron and Jesse are looking very nervous. Then there's Preeti and Laurine's pasta salad: it looks like something you'd pick up from Publix. I think we have our loser.
The judges dig in. They love Hector's spicy chili, and actually think Ron's chowder is decent. Tom doesn't like the choice, but notes that it's good enough to make up for fact the chefs are serving chowder in the middle of a smoldering desert. They cream themselves for a bit over Michael V.'s pork belly, which is actually braised slab bacon on top of romaine hearts. And Mike's shrimp salad earns some serious ire: the shrimp is undercooked and the salad is bland.
There's a lot of quick shots of the troops loving the food, and then there's some thanking of the chefs for doing something so good for their country. "The emotion was so high, to me this challenge doesn't matter if I win it or not," says Ron. Note to Ron, you want to win. "To me i win because I'm cooking for the troops." He's almost in tears and he calls it the best experience he's ever had cooking. A little hyperbolic, but if he cries he might get to stay! (See last week's rule about crying contestants -- they can never leave!)
Back at the judges table, it's time to get serious. The judges call out Mike and Michael, Kevin and Eli. They're not sure who to pick since the chefs paired off in teams, so they ask who made what. Kevin and Eli shared some duties, but Kevin is the one who made the pork they all loved so much. And Michael V., it turns out, did the braised bacon almost entirely by himself; which means Mike had nothing to do with the good, and everything to do with that horrid shrimp salad. In an insane turn of events, they award Michael with the winning honors and ask Mike to return again for the losers' bracket! They pulled a switcheroo! Those sly judges!
Joining Mike is Preeti and Laurine, which means Ron is safe this week. Mike waffles a bit when the judges start bashing his dish. "I wasn't 100% about serving it to tell you the truth," he says. Before he can finish, BAM! Padma jumps down his throat, "Then you shouldn't have served it," she says matter-of-factly. Damn, they just rip him a new asshole. Mike is pacing and getting frantic, and now the anger rolls to a boil. The judges are in a frenzy: who made chose to make the pasta salad?!? Laurine and Preeti won't condemn each other, so the judges start getting all Middle Ages Inquisition on their ass. "Who chose the pasta salad!" they bleat, hot pokers in hand. "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE PASTA SALAD!" My God! Preeti makes a feeble attempt to insist her dish wasn't as bad as the clam chowder, which is a bad, bad answer. Even though the judges couldn't pit the two against each other, it's clear Preeti is going home. And she's off.
Not surprising. Nothing Preeti did in the first three episodes was remotely Top Chef caliber. The shocking part is now three women have been let go in a row. Ron survives this episode --barely-- but things are starting to look shaky for the big guy. He and Jesse were only saved by how bad the other dishes were. But at least he did get a lot of face time this week.
Till next week, Rasta man live up. Stay strong, Ron.