Loren Means has a lot of different jobs here at D Magazine. Only one is writing the recaps of Top Chef: Texas. I thank her for her volunteer spirit, especially this week because she is not feeling well. Now let’s get it on.
Something has blown into Dallas and assaulted my sinuses. I woke up yesterday surrounded by wadded-up tissues I don’t even remember using in the night. Feeling like a bobble head I stumbled to get dressed and ready myself for the day. Then while driving to work and throwing myself one hell of a pity party I was cut off by a Toyota Venza. (True story.) I practically had to pull a Jeff Gordon maneuver to avoid rear-ending Cruella De Vil. Thank goodness the Claritin daze hadn’t taken effect just yet. My day started badly and naturally, I blamed Beverly. I will try not to ooze negativity as I take you through last night’s episode of Top Chef: Texas. Too late? Hold please – I’m making an award.
Jump for molecular gastronomy, barbecue, and Austin.At the Driskill Hotel in Austin, the nine remaining Cheftestants are winding down from a long day in their hotel room. Paul, Ed, Chis J., Chris C., Sarah, Grayson, Beverly, Ty, and Lindsay are discussing the competition when Ed mentions that it might be time to stop playing nice and start sharing recipes. “Sharing recipes?” is the collective resonse. Ed goes on to explain how Heather won twice off of his cake recipe. Sarah tells the camera she thinks Ed is tossing low blows when he speaks up now instead of saying something to Heather’s face sooner. Pot, meet kettle. Sarah, why don’t you try telling that to Ed instead of telling it to the camera? Maybe we should start reading between the lines?
The doorbell rings and a delivery arrives for the chefs: Nathan Myhrvold’s newest collection, the Modernist Cuisine. According to the chefs, this is one of the most elite series of cook books ever written. Chris J. tells us that if he could be 1/5 as smart as Nathan Myhrvold he might be able to rule a small continent. I’m just hoping I can be smart enough to spell his name correctly without having to look it up each time I use it. And even then there is risk for error (see Claritin daze mentioned earlier). The chefs are told to study these books which are meant to give insight on new techniques and allow for more creativity in the kitchen. Beverly acknowledges that it would be impossible to absorb the information from all of these books in one night but she is going to give it her best shot.
Padma and Nathan M. (disrespectful to abbreviate or intelligent way to avoid error?) greet the cheftestants in the Cordon Bleu Cooking School kitchen. They are informed the winner of this week’s Quickfire will not only receive the entire collection of “Modernist Cuisine” (currently $625 at Sur La Table!) but will also have immunity in the Elimination Challenge. The chefs have 45 minutes to create a dish using modern techniques. Nathan needs some wow factor.
Paul can’t seem to pronounce “molecular gastronomy” and laughs it off. He claims he already uses some of the techniques. Chris J. is a lot more confident stating that he probably did most of the techniques listed in these books first. Chris C. feels confident too as he likes all-things-modern. He tells us his apartment is modern and he is also a modern painter. Cut to his application video where he’s in his loft with his artwork. And by artwork, I mean very rough sketches of naked women. Chris may be on to something: I doodle therefore I am an artist? I think I’ll start asking male models to pose nude for me while I paint them. When the end result looks more like a Kandinsky, I’ll just explain that my style is abstract but their presence is absolutely necessary.
Time is up and the judges are ready to see and taste inventiveness. Beverly is up first and accidentally sprays curry foam all over Padma and Nathan. It’s not what Nathan had in mind but he admits it’s definitely a first. Beverly is so embarrassed that I start to get embarrassed. Poor Beverly, she is so socially awkward there should be a new term to describe her. I’ll think on that one. And if you didn’t notice, just now, for the first time ever, I feel for Bev. The next seven dishes are tasted without incident. The last dish of the challenge is presented by Chris J. who seems to have traded his sunglasses in for a top hat. His dish is like a trip into Wonka World. First, the judges must eat the “miracle berry.” Next, they are asked to bite into a lemon. Padma exclaims, “That’s incredible! It tastes like the most intense tangerine.” I giggle and start saying in my head “the snozberries taste like snozberries!” with the funny accent, of course. What is this “miracle berry?” Will it make tofu taste like s’mores? Do I have to win a golden ticket to try it? Myhrvold reveals he grows them in his basement. I’m convinced this guy is a magician.
Sadly, Paul falls into the bottom three with Beverly and Grayson. Sarah’s ravioli somehow lands her in the top three along with Chris J. and Ty. Although Nathan felt Chris had a “helluva dish,” Ty takes the win for using maltodextrin to deliver olive oil. Maltodextrin has been added to my list along with albumin. Look it up yourself, lazy.
Padma tells the chefs they will be moving from modern to traditional for the elimination challenge and will be cooking the most traditional food in Texas. You guessed it – BBQ. The chefs are headed to the famous Salt Lick BBQ just outside of Austin. Before I continue, you should know that I was born and raised in Texas, but do not care about BBQ. Not at all. In fact, I consider traditional Texas food to be Tex-Mex and I could eat it every day. If I never ate BBQ again, I would be ok with that. I don’t hate it. I just don’t care about it. Is that worse?
Now that it’s out there and hopefully you’ve forgiven me my sins, you’ll understand why I make no mention of opinions or preference as far as rubs vs. sauce, vinegar vs. mayonnaise, etc. I ate at Salt Lick when I was younger and accidentally flung jalapeno juice into my eye. I still have use of that eye and only have to wear a patch occasionally (partially true story).
The cheftestants divide themselves into teams of three:
Ed, Sarah and Ty
Chris C., Chris J., and Beverly
Paul, Grayson and Lindsay
After a trip to Whole Foods and Restaurant Depot, Scott Roberts, owner of Salt Lick, takes the chefs to Onion Creek where they will have all night to cook using exact recreations of the pits used at Salt Lick. They must serve chicken, beef brisket, and pork ribs to 300 hungry people the following day. Scott wishes them luck and tears off in his Toyota Tundra.
I guess Bravo has run out of ways to create drama and is using the all-nighter shtick again. I’m over outdoor all-nighters. I feel like we are back in San Antonio sweating over chili. But this time it’s much less fun because there’s no mansion and Chuy isn’t getting hammered and telling stories. This does explain why Bev starts to flambé the trailer. Bravo put her up to it. She can’t be that moronic.
Morning comes and the chefs are deliriously tired. Additionally, it’s a million degrees outside and they are basically sitting in fire. It proves to be too much for Sarah and she calls for the medics. They “call it” and she is taken to the hospital for heat exhaustion. Her teammates handle the situation differently. Ty is concerned. Ed feigns concern but then gives himself away asking, “Is she ok? What’s wrong? Is she dead?” He is visibly annoyed that she is gone and left him with all the work. He goes into “oh my f*ck mode.” I like this term and find it very modernistic of Ed. I think Wizard Myhrvold would be proud.
Padma, Tom, Gail, Scott, and Nathan arrive for service. The Great Myhrvold took 1st place in the world BBQ championships in Memphis, so we assume he knows his barbecue. Chris J. is sporting a “I Eat Vegans” shirt and Ed is contemplating killing Sarah. I’m just assuming. He is furious because he chose to pre-cut the meat since they would be short on hands. “Once you precut meat and put it in that steam table, you’ve killed it,” he says. You’re doing the opposite of barbecue. You’re steaming meat instead of smoking it.” He felt it was his only option given the circumstances. Miraculously, Sarah recovers and returns to the Salt Lick just in time to plate her chicken for the judges. After they walk away with the chicken, she needs water and rest again. I know that heat exhaustion is no joke, but something seems a bit off. I’m irritated with Sarah too.
Paul, Grayson, and Lindsay put an Asian spin on their barbecue and the judges are really enjoying the flavors. Aside from the undercooked Brussels sprouts, things are good. The chicken that Chris C., Chris J., and Beverly put out is moist but has no smoke flavor. Their beans are undercooked and their ribs are incredibly salty. Sarah, Ty, Ed had the same issues with their chicken. The judges couldn’t taste any smoke. Rubbery brisket was their other pitfall. Beyond the judges table, other guests at Salt Lick were a little less critical and seem to be enjoying all the grub.
Paul does it again and he, along with Grayson and Lindsay, take the win and $15,000. The other 6 chefs are brought in for elimination. Ty has immunity so he is just really there to be scolded for his heavy seasoning. They all made mistakes but ultimately Chris C. is sent packing for ribs that were over-salted and inedible. I agree that this is a big mistake but Beverly under-cooked beans. BEANS! SHE HAD ALL NIGHT! Seems like cooking 101. I doubt The Great M even covers beans in his books because they are so elementary. In an effort not to isolate Beverly, I would like to say that I don’t know how Lindsay has made it this far. It’s been interesting to watch her go from trying to run the kitchen to doing whatever Paul asks. Till next week…
Nyesha vs. Chris C.
The chefs must use ingredients from a gas station to prepare their dishes. They each have $20 to shop. Nyesha makes beer-glazed smoked sausage with pork rinds that Tom thinks looks like a restaurant dish. Tom says Chris C.’s tomato soup doesn’t taste like it’s out of a can and enjoys his spin on a Cuban sandwich. In the end, Nyesha takes her third win in the LCK and will compete again with next week’s cast away.