D Magazine’s Loren Means loves to watch Top Chef: Texas. Therefore, she volunteered to watch all of the episodes this season and write a recap. She’s reviewed episode one, two, three, four, and five. Today she reports on episode six which takes place in Dallas. Go, Loren.
Episode six of Top Chef kicks off with 13 cheftestants left standing. This is either lucky or unlucky, depending on your beliefs. I love the number 13 so I’m feeling pretty good and placing bets that Bev goes home and I can smile again. Still in the running to be the winner of Top Chef ninth season are Paul, Grayson, Ed, Heather, Sarah, Dakota, Chris J., Chris C., Whitney, Ty, Nyesha, Lindsay, and Beverly. They’re all hanging out at the W, sipping adult beverages, and joking about a boys vs. girls rivalry in the opening scene. Cut to a shot of the Dallas skyline (the view from their suite at the W), a shot of the DART in the West End, and then on to Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.
Padma and Chef Dean Fearing greet the cheftestants in the kitchen at Le Cordon Bleu. Dean is currently chef and partner at his namesake restaurant, Fearing’s, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Dallas and was the original chef at The Mansion on Turtle Creek where his famous tortilla soup was born. (You can find a very similar version of it at Fearing’s, as well.)
Paul feels at home, since he was trained at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Dallas but tells us he also feels a bit of extra pressure to perform. I immediately pray that he doesn’t have a performance anxiety snafu. Don’t they make a pill for that?
The chefs draw knives to reveal one of five “mother sauces.” For those of you who know what they are, I take my hat off to you. I love good food and appreciate the art behind it but can’t say I have an expansive knowledge of culinary terms or techniques. I love when this show provides me with the opportunity to learn more about food and cooking, not just opportunities to take jabs at Beverly.
We are told that Chef Antonin Careme was the first to classify all variations of sauce under one of the five mother sauces. Essentially, all sauces stem from one of these five basic recipes: Hollandaise, Béchamel, tomate (though this one came later), Espagnole, and velouté. I heart eggs benedict so I am very familiar with Hollandaise, tomate is sort of a freebie, and I have certainly had my fair share of dishes with a Béchamel sauce. But I knew nothing about Espagnole or velouté, much less the whole concept of mother sauces, so thank you, Top Chef. This episode is already much more enriching than last week’s.
It’s a sauce-off! The chefs must use the mother sauce they’ve drawn to build a sauce of their own. Nyesha is thrilled and shares of her dream of becoming a saucier, one of the most prestigious positions on the line, according to Chef Dean, as it gives the “wow” to the item. Grayson is also stoked as she has previously worked as a saucier. Chefs scatter and cooking begins.
Heather joins my bandwagon and starts picking on Beverly, who has managed to turn her Espagnole into an Asian sauce. This irritates Heather, so I let it irritate me. Once time is up and Padma and Chef Dean have tasted everyone’s dishes, he tells us that some were too sweet, some were too acidic, but overall the seasoning techniques were done well. The three he liked the least were Dakota’s Béchamel as the peach was too overpowering, Nyesha’s tomate had too many flavors going on, and Beverly’s Espagnole was overwhelmed by the use of too many other strong flavors.
The top three were Chris C., whose velouté had an excellent flavor combo, Paul, who made a great Espagnole with quail and pickled okra, and Grayson, who impressed Dean by managing to make ravioli in 1.5 hours. Since I’m in a betting mood I try to quickly guess who the winner will be. Paul’s quail with pickled and roasted mushrooms with garlic scapes and okra sounded like something right off the menu at Fearing’s, but Grayson’s scallop with charred corn sauce, corn ravioli and blueberry balsamic reduction…oh my heavens. Anyone who knows me knows that almost every time there is a stuffed pasta on a menu, I’m getting it. I also love all things corn and it’s no secret that I love a scallop. I’m rooting for Paul but I’m lusting after Grayson’s dish. Food porn is a real thing.
Dean must see what I see and announces that Grayson’s mother sauce was cooked to perfection. She’s the winner and has immunity this week. I’m sure when the camera crew left he gobbled it all up. Someone eats this stuff, right?
Padma announces that the winner of this week’s elimination challenge will not only have bragging rights but will also receive the keys to a 2011 Toyota Venza. Cut to Nyesha telling us she drives a truck that’s a real gas guzzler and she would love to win this car. Do I care? No. Why are we hearing this? Cut back to Padma as she tells the chefs “in Texas, steak is one of life’s most important pleasures.” I’ll agree with Padma but I think it’s more accurate to say that it’s not just one of life’s little pleasures here in Texas—it’s a way of life. We like our steak and we like it medium rare. Anything cooked above that is a damn cheeseburger, man.
Hopefully the chefs understand this, since they’re responsible for creating a four-course dinner, two of which must involve steak, for the 200 guests attending the Cattle Baron’s Ball. They will work as one team and organize themselves into groups and courses. They have 30 minutes to plan and then they hop in their Venzas to head to Whole Foods. Again, Nyesha chimes up and comments on how spacious the car is. What is going on? I don’t care. Ooooh. Toyota totally slipped her a couple Benjamins. It’s the only thing that makes sense. I vow to tune out all Toyota comments for the rest of the season.
Sarah, Beverly, and Dakota take over the first course and decide to serve gazpacho. Chris J., Ed, and Paul get together for the second course of sirloin. For the third course, Nyesha, Ty, Whitney, and Chris C. decide on ribeyes. Ty worked at a steakhouse in New York City for two years and feels very comfortable with steak. For the fourth and final course, Heather, Lindsay and Grayson decide to serve cake. Heather is the only chef trained in pastry so this makes the most sense to her. Interestingly enough, she chooses to make the same cake she made for the quinceañera. It’s actually Ed’s recipe, and he’s not happy.
Back in the kitchen, everyone is slicing and dicing and for the second time this season, there’s blood. Lots of it. Ty has stabbed himself in between two fingers with an oyster knife and needs a medic. The medic rushes in and immediately sees that he needs stitches. He refuses to leave and asks that she bandage up his whole hand so he can get his work finished. High five for being hard core, Ty. Here, I will resist the urge to crap all over Jamie again 1) because it’s old news and 2) because I call 911 when I get a paper cut.
Once prep time is up, the chefs head home and Ty heads to the ER. At 6 a.m. the next morning Ty returns from what I can only guess was Parkland Hospital based on the description. I could be dead wrong but 60 people in the waiting room, some of whom had gunshot wounds, sounds a lot like Parkland to me. If you know better, please feel free to correct me. I know that you will anyway. Four stitches and one hour of sleep later, Ty is ready to join his team for service at Southfork Ranch.
Inside the walls of Southfork, Heather has taken the lead and is running the show. She and Lindsay made the cake yesterday, so they are setting up tables and getting the room ready for service. Back in the kitchen, chefs are working their tails off, helping each other out and doing their best to stay on schedule. Ty is outside in the heat marking steaks that will be flashed in an oven just before serving. Beverly is in a corner peeling shrimp for the gazpacho, a chore that is taking too long for Heather.
“Beverly has been working on shrimp for two days…if that were my prep cook I would be through the roof!” she says. Heather then decides it’s her job to ride Beverly’s ass the rest of the day and I think it’s funny. Dakota calls Heather a bully but from where I sit, I totally get it. Aside from Beverly, everything is running like a well-oiled machine until it’s not.
The first course of tomato-watermelon gazpacho has gone out and is well received for the most part. The second course of New York Strip Carpaccio, heirloom tomato salad, and mushroom bacon goes out, and people are in love with the Strip. The salad left something to be desired but overall, it’s good. The problem is, people are still eating it and the chefs are panicking over when to flash the steaks.
Ed gets excited, flashes the steaks too soon, and a quiet hush falls over the whole kitchen. It’s bad. It’s really bad. “Flashing the steaks early is the same as when the meteor hit the earth and made the dinosaurs extinct. It’s that big of a deal,” Chris J. tells us.
The third course goes out and the steaks look bad and the potato gratin Whitney was in charge of is undercooked and looks a mess. The whole plate looks like bad room service. The judges— Padma, Tom, Dean, and Hugh Acheson—are not impressed. After Dean’s request for medium rare steaks at this event, his arrives medium well. In a restaurant setting, this steak would have been straight back to the kitchen as inedible. The standout on this plate was Nyesha’s compound butter, and it didn’t go unnoticed.
The final course of “Right Side Up” Texas Peach Cake is a hit. It’s light, moist and not too sweet and ended the dinner on a better note. Overall, Tom is disappointed, and Hugh feels that the theme of the night was “okay dishes done in a mediocre style.” Yikes.
Heather, Nyesha and Chris J. are brought in as the top three. Chris’s Carpaccio was done perfectly and was the shining star of the second course. Nyesha’s butter saved the ribeye dish and Heather’s dessert was spot on. Having delivered a great dish and played the role of leader, Heather takes the win and the new car.
Ty, Whitney, and Ed are brought in as the bottom three. We know their mistakes. After failing to deliver cooked potatoes after being given six hours to do it, Whitney is asked to pack up her knives. Hopefully someone also told her to stand up straight. Hasta la gratin, Whitney.
Last Chance Kitchen – Chuy vs. Whitney
In this episode of LCK, Keith, Andrew, and Richie are in the kitchen with Tom. Throughout the challenge they sit on the sideline asking questions and end up playing a role in judging. Whitney and Chuy each draw knives to reveal two proteins. Whitney pulls elk and Chuy pulls ostrich. They must use this protein to make a delicious burger. Because these meats are so lean the chefs must find a way to make a juicy burger. Whitney and Chuy both add ground pork for fat. In the end, Chuy’s burger was slightly undercooked and had less flavor than Whitney’s and he was asked to hand over his coat. Whitney now reins the LCK.