Top Chef Vegas: Chefs on the Range

You know what Top Chef has been missing all these years? A little cowboy action, that's what. They've served wedding guests, surfers, and rock stars, but in this episode they get to feed real-life ranchers, cowboys and cowgirls. Nice.

For the Quickfire, Padma trots out Tim Love, the renowned Texas chef known for his urban Western cooking. In a surprise twist, it's the Top Chef viewers (that’s right, you!) who got to choose this week’s Quickfire ingredient via mobile voting: kangaroo, rattlesnake or cactus. Snake seems like the obvious, most interesting choice to me, but for some reason the majority of viewers chose cactus. C'mon, guys, let's put a little more thought into this next time!

So prickly, slimy cactus it is; most of the chefs haven't worked with it before and struggle with the prep. Ash makes a nasty-looking, leaden "tortilla" to go with his cactus; Kevin makes a rather "slimy" cactus marmalade, according to Tim. Ashley makes the most innovative dish of the bunch -- cactus jelly donuts, which sounds pretty darn delicious. Unfortunately Ron makes a cactus dish with crab that tastes "rancid." Ouch. Mike I. seems to be one of the few who knows what he's doing; he salts the cactus to draw out the moisture and makes a Greek-style salad, and guess what? He ends up winning the Quickfire and the cash prize, though no immunity.

The chefs head out to the middle of the desert for their next challenge -- cooking a meal for a bunch of cowboys the next day. To get into the mood, they all spend the night sleeping in miniscule tents pitched under the stars. Appropriately and awesomely, they build a fire and make s'mores. Ashley, Mattin and Robin are all psyched to be spending time in the great outdoors, while Eli declares camping "asinine" and says that this is his "idea of hell."

The next day, a handful of suspiciously hipster-looking cowboys shows up for lunch; are they really from Nevada, or did Bravo import them from Brooklyn? In any case, they all dig in. Mattin's "ceviche, three ways" looks like a hot mess, and is so awful that Tom actually spits out his mouthful. Luckily for Ron, his version of coconut-lime ceviche is edible by comparison, so it seems like he'll be safe (though he makes an awful coconut mojito drink to go with it). Mike V. makes a rather odd Japanese dashi broth with black cod, which doesn't seem very cowboy-like but is a big hit nonetheless. Robin's salad with grilled romaine and shrimp also looks like a soggy hot mess, and the judges are not pleased.

Once again, Bryan wins the Elimination with his well-executed pork tenderloin, corn polenta and dandelion greens, narrowly beating out his brother’s Asian-style soup. The rivalry continues! Ashley finally gets into the top four with her seafood-y take on a club sandwich. Is she finally turning around and bringing her A-game to the competition?

In the end, it's Mattin and his nasty fish ceviche that gets sent packing. Not surprising considering the dish, but he's definitely more talented than Robin and Ron, who both end up on the bottom as well. I wasn't expecting Mattin to go home so early -- I thought Robin, Ron or Laurine would go first -- but hey, he was going to be eliminated eventually. I'm still betting on Robin or Ron to go home in the next episode.

Chime in: Did the right chef go home?

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