D Magazine’s Loren Means loves to watch Top Chef. Therefore, she volunteered to watch all of the episodes this season and write a recap. She’s a Texan and she’s on Texan stereotype alert. Here is her report from last week
Episode 2 of this season takes us back to San Antonio. We only know this because there was a brief glimpse of the River Walk early in the show. If you blinked, you missed it. We open in the stew room (The Bubble) where Molly, Edward, Grayson, and Janine are commiserating and placing bets on how many spots will be left after group three competes. Edward compares the stew room to being in prison, bonds with his fellow inmates, then jokes that if he was there much longer he’d kill the other five chefs to get a jacket. I’m guessing he’d start with Molly since he basically laughed in her face when she said she was a chef aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. When that happened, my hand flew to my mouth while my brain said “oh no he di-int.” Then I laughed out loud just like he did. I’m thinking I like Edward.
Just as a refresher: 11 chefs including Heather, Nyesha, Chris J., Richie, Sarah, Ty-lor, Keith (my current favorite), Chris C., Chuy, Whitney, and Dakota have coats. There are only five remaining spots with 10 chefs left to compete and four on The Bubble. The 11 chefs who have made it through are at their manse in San Antonio sipping Champagne and victory while the other 14 chefs try to avoid bleeding ulcers.
It gets crazy.
Padma, Tom, and guest judge/Top Chef Masters alum, Hugh Acheson, are in the kitchen to greet group three. Roll out the red carpet because there are two Texans in this group! Andrew shared with us that he was nominated for People’s Best New Chef by Food and Wine Magazine yet failed to mention where or whether he was currently employed. We do have confirmation that he lives in Austin. He said so. I was immediately worried for him. He seems awfully sweet and a bit timid. Next up, also representing our great state, is Paul who is the executive chef at Uchiko in Austin. While I have never eaten at Uchiko, I have had the luxury of dining at the sister restaurant Uchi several times. If you haven’t been there, you’re missing out on life. To quote another Bravo star, “I die.” I think Paul is going to make us proud. The remaining eight chefs of group three are comprised of a few executive chefs, some chef de cuisines, two sous chefs, a Frenchman whom I can’t understand but love to listen to, and (gasp) another private chef. Bless his little heart.
For the challenge, 10 ingredients are offered to the chefs and they must all agree on who will cook with which ingredient. The chefs calmly and peacefully make their selections. Of course, it wouldn’t be Top Chef without a twist, so the plates also have a dome covering part of each plate. The chefs are asked to remove their domes and BEHOLD – they find preset timers. Hearts drop across the kitchen as 20-minute, 40-minute, and 60-minute times reveal themselves. But there was no time for despair – the chefs’ times started at that moment!
Once the 20 minutes is up, Kim, Andrew, and Paul step forward. This is probably a bit awkward because Andrew and Paul are pals from Austin. They probably ride their Lance-like road bikes down to Town Lake and skip around keeping things weird. Kim’s lamb chop is overcooked and greasy and she’s immediately eliminated. No jacket for you! Sweet Andrew’s mushrooms are a bit gritty but roasted nicely so he gets tossed to The Bubble with the other inmates. Paul’s trout is deemed the best of all three by Tom and he is handed a chef’s coat. Woohoo! Texas representative in the house!
Twenty minutes later, the judges taste the food presented by Laurent, the Frenchie who sort of resembles Hannibal Lecter; Chaz, who has had a crush on Padma since middle school; Jonathan, the private chef; and Bernice, who did not stand out to me so I have no side remarks for her. She incidentally did not move on in the competition because her food was “uninspired.” Chaz, whom I was really beginning to like, was disqualified because his risotto did not make it onto the plate. I think he may have been more upset about losing Padma than losing the opportunity to compete in this competition. He’s married though, and has a fabulous personality so I trust that he’ll be just fine. He should call Fabio. Laurent’s plate had too many components for the judges with Hugh saying no, Tom saying eh, yet Padma passed him on to The Bubble. I think she, like me, just wanted to hear him talk some more. Truly, with that accent, he could say, “I present you with zee fried testicles of zee bull over zee monkey brains wizz light fish gut foam. Enjoy.” And I would. However, all in all it was a sad showing for this group.
An hour after the clocks started, we met Beverly, who’s a little bizarre and scares me a bit. Ashley, who is probably good friends with Bernice, and Lindsay, who seems cute and was smart enough to keep dodging Tom during the challenge so he wouldn’t steal up any of her cooking time. To hell with niceties – I’ve got veal to braise! It was a genius move by Lindsay as Tom “loved” her veal and she was handed a coat. Beverly’s Korean-style octopus was interesting to the judges and she too was handed a coat. Padma wanted to put Ashley and her oxtail on The Bubble, but Tom and Hugh but the kibosh on that and she was gone.
Now we have 14 chefs with coats and six chefs stewing in the stew room. Bring out The Bubbles! Molly, Edward, Grayson, Janine, Andrew, and Laurent are all competing for two remaining spots. The challenge – make anything you like with any ingredients you like in 30 minutes. Off they go! While the chefs are busy in the kitchen, we get a quick interview with Janine. Awkward. Am I the only that found all the over sharing uncomfortable?
Back to the kitchen people are frying, dicing, and slicing off their freaking fingers! From my angle, I saw blood literally squirt out of Edwards hand and thought for sure someone needed to find his phalange and put that thing on ice. He proved himself to be quite the trooper as he managed to keep cooking with one hand while the medic tried to stop the profuse bleeding and get him bandaged up. Ahem, Jamie, if you’re reading this – I hope your paper cut has healed properly.
At the judges table, he chefs are greeted by Tom, Padma, and Emeril Lagasse. Molly’s shrimp were overcooked, Padma thought the dish was bland, and so Molly was out. Sorry Molly, back to the open seas ye shall go! Edward’s major flesh wound was not addressed in judging, but his Asian duck dish won over the judges and he was handed a jacket. Grayson proved to be innovative with her bacon-wrapped shrimp with fig and also received a coat. Sweet Andrew overcomplicated his mussels and was asked to pack his knives. Finally, Laurent’s dish had too many competing flavors and he was out as well. Emeril was such a lovely judge that I’ve decided he is the nicest man on the planet. He was so gentle with all the chefs. It was like he was talking to children. He was full of compliments and always followed a negative with a positive. However, I do hope we get to see Anthony Bourdain and all his F bombs this season though.
Just when I thought we had our 16 chefs and it was my bedtime, Bravo revealed the secret “Last Chance Kitchen” competition, which I had to log on to BravoTV.com to watch. Say what?!? Oy. I’ll sum up quickly – Janine and Andrew have a pizza-off. They can use any ingredients and have 30 minutes to make their pie. Andrew goes cheeseless, which proves to be just ballsy enough for Tom, so Andrew beats Janine and has a chance to compete in the finals. Poor Janine, we learn that she was dumped by her girlfriend over the phone after a nine-year relationship. “A Post-It note would have been more touching,” she said. She loses a life partner and doesn’t get a jacket. Chin up, Janine. I’m sure Top Chef will sneak you back in somehow. Andrew still has a chance and each week he will battle the eliminated chef to hold his spot to return to the competition. I’ll keep you posted on the super-secret competitions as we go through the season. This way, when the show ends each week, you don’t have to get out of bed, get online, and watch another video. I’ve got you covered.