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Top Chef: Las Vegas, Episode 5 – Comcast Strikes Again …


Ok, everyone. Who’s with me ? I am starting a mob. This mob has one purpose, to destroy the Evil Empire known as Comcast. Regular readers know that Comcast has been the bane of my existence for about a year, the entire length of time they have provided my TV service. It has gotten worse. Right now, I get random channels – no ABC, no CBS, no TNT, and of course, no Bravo. Add to it that my internet went out for a day, preventing me from downloading for $2 the latest episode from ITunes, along with the piecemeal postings of the episode on YouTube, I have finally just watched the latest.

For the record – excepting the obvious (Osama Bin Laden, people who hurt children, Rush Limbaugh, etc.), here is a short list of evil in my world: Comcast, ESPN anchors, Curt Schilling, Glenn Beck, people who text while driving in the passing lane, bicyclists who use the middle of the road and any mushroom-related food.

So, anyway, better late than never, as I have finally seen the episode, and well, eh. Not the greatest Top Chef ever, but clearly the best one to ever feature cactus as a theme ingredient.

No real theme stood out to me this episode, which makes it hard to focus much commentary. However, at least we finally started to see some of the bottom dwellers emerge and attempt to crack the Bryan/Hawk/Kevin/Jenn hold on the Final Four inevitability. Because that is what the season has been so far, the slow, grueling march to that Final Four. Seeing Laurine and Ashley get some judge love – especially from Tim Love, the guest judge – for the first time. Also, Tim Love and Jim Thome, long lost brothers?

Other than that, what did we have? Another win for Bryan the Robot, or BryanBot, and the culmination of the rapid decline of Flais from early contender to quick flameout. Finn and Fabio would be disgusted how their European legacy has been tarnished. There was the emergence of a new Top Chef gimmick – the fan-based vote for the Quickfire ingredient – cactus, over the much more interesting kangaroo and rattlesnake. Sounds like PETA had the text voting machine going. Whatever happened to People of the Ethical Treatment of Desert Plants? (PETDP)

Then the chefs were forced to cook in a location, which looked as if they were auditioning for a remake of Cool Hand Luke. All we lacked was Kingpin kicking the crap out of MM. I found it flabbergasting that multiple people chose to make uncooked fish in 100+ degree heat for cowboys. Seriously, Flais? Have you ever seen a Western? Cowboys are not known for eating cured fish after working all day outside in scorching heat.

I was also stunned to see a good many of the chefs fail to use the fire pit grills; it seems to have been an important part of the challenge. I find it hard to believe that talented chefs would be frightened to use the thing, or dainty enough to want to avoid the heat. Heck, these guys have as many tattoos as the new Dan Brown villain – pain or discomfort is probably not a problem for them.

So, another episode down, and we still have quite a bit of Cannon Fodder still to come. As Eli rightly said, there are many chefs left who have no business being there, where he was wrong was in saying there are some who have left who didn’t really deserve it. We will see a shocking boot at some point, but so far, as they say in sports gambling, it’s gone chalk so far.

Quickfire – Tim Love and Padma, wearing a puffy shirt and jeans (wow), judge the chefs on their cactus-based dishes. MM points out that you must cure the cactus to get the aloe-like sliminess out. I find it amusing that MM used the word “slimy.” By the way, my wife called it before MM pointed out the proper way of cooking the plant based on the one time, long ago, that she experienced cooked cactus. So proud.

Laurine. Cactus Salsa with Achiote Glazed pork chop – she gets a Love “great.”
Kevin. Pork Tenderloin with Cactus Marmalade – Love thinks it was good, but slimy.
Hawk. Avocado Roll with Cactus Coconut Ceviche and Red Cactus Coulis – just a shrug
Ashley. Cactus Jelly Donuts with Orange Crème Anglaise – Seems Padma doesn’t have a sweet tooth. I don’t believe it.
MM. Cactus and Tuna Ceviche with Pipian – Love digs it, but not the relish
Kingpin. Chipotle Swordfish with Cactus Sauce and Mango Papaya Crab Salad – Love asked if he had fun, not a good sign
Bryan. Halibut and Cactus Ceviche with Tempura Cactus – All he asks is if Bryan has ever used the ingredient before
Ash. Cactus “Grilled Cheese” – He thinks Love seems ticked off!
Jennifer. Warm Chorizo and Cactus Salad with Queso Fresco – simply a thank you
Flais – Breaded cactus, halibut with Tequila pickled cactus and red cactus puree – Love loves the tequila.

Bottom 3

Ash – no cactus flavor, and was dry and had too thick of a tortilla
Hawk – much to his surprise, Love found it to be two trains crashing
Kingpin – overcooked, and rancid crab. Ouch.

Top 3

Laurine – Very nice flavors
MM – Prepared very well
Flais – only he and MM really showcased the cactus.


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