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Top Chef: Texas, Episode 11 Recap

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 since it appears the show has really gone downhill. However, she loved the lastest episode!  Now let’s get it on.

Mortimer, we’re back! For the first time this season we get an episode that feels smart, interesting, and on point. It actually feels like Top Chef of yesteryear. It was either a really great episode or my expectations have dropped so low that I am now easily impressed. I truly hope it’s not the latter otherwise I am getting as dumb as this show. The seven lucky cheftestants who have made it far enough to laugh with Eric Ripert and bump elbows with Charlize Theron are Paul, Ed, Chris, Grayson, Sarah, Beverly and Lindsay.

QUICKFIRE

The chefs are greeted by Padma and returning guest judge and chef, Eric Ripert.  The chefs immediately pan the room. “I see this conveyer belt in the back. I have no idea what’s going on but I know it’s going to suck for us,” Ed says. I really love Ed’s attitude. I’m serious! He’s sarcastic and dry and I appreciate that. His one-liners have made many an episode bearable.

Jump.

The challenge: the chefs have 30 minutes to create a sophisticated dish (finally something is sophisticated). Ingredients will begin to rotate on the conveyer belt and as time passes the quality of said ingredient will increase. The catch?  The longer one waits for ingredients, the less time they have to cook. Each chef must use at least three ingredients from the conveyer belt and then anything else they like from the pantry. The winner will get immunity in the Elimination Challenge.

Time begins and everyone scurries. The chefs all have different approaches. Beverly attacks the pantry first and just starts cooking figuring she can fuse conveyer belt ingredients in towards the end. Meanwhile, Grayson and several others are standing around the conveyer belt waiting to get their three ingredients. Ed panics and finally grabs macadamia nuts. Then sauerkraut loops around and he snags it because he loves it. Not a well thought out maneuver, pal. I think this is only sucking for you. Grayson also gets anxious and just grabs goldfish. Chris thinks Beverly is onto something and follows suit hoping he can start cooking and grab some great ingredients at the end. Sarah begins to think it’s a trick and that there won’t ever be any good ingredients so she snags saltines, cottage cheese and artichokes.

When a bucket of lobsters circles out Chris goes running for it. He gets to the conveyer belt just as the crustaceans are going through the exit and misses them. He stands there waiting for them to circle back. They don’t. “They took it off. Those f**king bastards!” he screams.There’s more cussing and bobbing of the tiny pony tail on top of his head and then he stomps off with a final “bastards!” A few minutes later we see the bucket back on the belt. Chris catches a glimpse of them and goes running but just barely misses them again. I’m laughing. I’m convinced they are messing with him and Padma and Tom are laughing their asses off. The angrier Chris gets, the funnier it gets. As they say, third times a charm, and Chris gets a hold of the lobsters just as they are about to disappear again.

Cooking time is up and it’s time to taste these concoctions. The stakes are high and Beverly is deflated. Her spiced Rice Krispies don’t make it on her plate. The judges taste her dish and then ask to taste it as it was intended to be served with the Krispies. Once all dishes have been sampled Eric reveals that Beverly would have won the challenge and immunity had she completed her dish. The runner up is Lindsay who takes the win for her spin on bouillabaisse. Ed jokes, “Beverly should have just cheated to get immunity. I would have just chucked it in the air and hope it landed on the plate.” I laugh because I can actually picture Ed doing just that. Lindsay’s win is bittersweet but at least she wasn’t in the bottom with Chris, Grayson and Paul. All chefs mutually agreed that they were embarrassed to be serving this type of food to the great Eric Ripert.

ELIMATINATION CHALLENGE

Charlize Theron struts into the kitchen and Sarah goes gaga like a 15-year-old girl with Bieber Fever. Charlize is apparently starring in a new movie called Snow White and the Huntsman in which she plays an evil, serial killer Queen. I don’t watch commercials or ever get to the movies on time so I‘ve never heard of this movie. Maybe I live under a rock. I just watched the trailer and annoying girl from Twilight just ended any intrigue I had of seeing it. I feel the same way about Hilary Swank. I’ve gotten off track.

The chefs must prepare a gothic feast fit for a queen. Charlize tells them: “Each dish should be wickedly beautiful. Think like an evil queen and take out your competition.” Charlize leaves the kitchen, and so does her cheesy role playing, so the chefs get to work. Beverly is getting after it and Grayson makes note: “She’s like a bulldog. That girl is tiny but she crazy.” What a perfect description.

If you did not watch this episode I recommend that you do. The ingredients, techniques, and preparation for this meal was actually fun to watch. I can’t do it justice but it is proof that when talented chefs are given inspiration and then complete culinary freedom, they excel. The creativity in this group is impressive. All the ridiculous games group activities we’ve seen this thus far have not allowed anyone of them to shine. I’m so happy for this moment – we see artists.

SERVICE

Sitting at the gothic-inspired table are Charlize, Tom, Padma, Eric, and Emeril. The venue looks cool and doesn’t feel gimmicky to me. Charlize is still role playing so technically the evil queen is at the dinner table. It makes me slightly uncomfortable and I’ve decided she may be a bit on the strange side.

The first course of the evening is Ed’s dish. Ed inspiration was evil vs. good and he has made a tuna tartare with black garlic ponzu sauce on one side and an Asian pear vinaigrette on the other side. The judges are impressed. They like the concept and Charlize says it’s so good she could eat it every day.

The second course of the evening is presented by Paul who envisioned a forest with good and evil.  His presentation was stellar. His dish of foie gras with bacon, pumpernickel, pickled cherries, and beets was served curved around the edge of the plate and in the center of the plate; he used beet juice to make a bloody handprint. Emeril was thrilled. “I love Paul’s dish,” he said. The sentiment was shared by all.

Up next, Beverly presented a beautiful plate but it completely lacked the theme of the evening. Although her halibut was cooked perfectly, she didn’t embrace the creative side of the challenge.

Following the snoozy halibut, Lindsay presented a seared scallop over “witch’s stew” and dragon beans. Everyone at the table was amazed by the smell and the scallop was cooked to perfection. Tom was really enjoying this dish. “This stew is so damn good,” he said.  Who doesn’t love a short rib?

Sarah is ready to serve her dish and said this is the most proud she had been of a dish all season. She chose to make risotto and stain it with wine as she thought the queen would enjoy blood soaked risotto with lamb heart. I have never had lamb heart but Charlize thinks it’s phenomenal. Anyone have any good lamb heart recipes?

Grayson who takes things very literally went the gruesome route. She served the guests black chicken with beets, quail egg, and foie gras. She left the claw on the chicken and tells the diners that she wanted it to look like the chicken was slaughtered on the plate and the egg represents the baby that was inside her. A quiet goes across the table as everyone is deciding if they are totally creeped out or intrigued. Once the dish is tasted, everyone loves the flavors.

Chris has created the dessert and final dish of the evening’s gothic dinner. We all know Chris has a soft spot for strange and gimmicky foods so this challenge is right up his alley. The dish is set down and Tom gets a huge smile across his face. “Oh, god. Awesome!” he says. In front of the judges sits a “poisoned apple & cherry pie” with a fake worm coming out of it. He then circles the table serving everyone a dash of apple powder that is smoking like liquid nitrogen. A+ for presentation, Chris. You’ve come a long way from your stuffed cigars. Everyone loves it.

JUDGES TABLE

The judges are discussing and conclusively decide that this is the best meal and best food they’ve had all season. Uh yeah, you actually let them use their skills, knowledge and creativity this time. It’s weird how that works. You can’t tell Picasso “no brush” and expect a masterpiece.

Because everything was so amazing, the judges are having a really hard time with their decision.  They felt everyone nailed it so they have to start picking each dish apart. They found Paul’s dish to be flawless as it was a beautiful plate and the food was delicious and he is the winner of this Elimination Challenge!  Ultimately, Grayson is called out for her salty greens, Beverly is brought in for a strange, sticky sauce and Sarah has once again, undercooked risotto. I’m torn. I feel like Grayson may go home because she seems to be consistently in the middle or on the bottom. I kind of want Sarah to go home because of her personality but I think she has skills so I’d like her to stay. I have finally found a soft spot for Bev so I don’t really want her to go either but she gets the axe. And it turns out, I’m totally fine with that. I’m tired of the crying. Although, I think this is the one time it’s justified. She almost won immunity in the Quickfire and lost the Elimination Challenge. That’s a real kick in the nards. That said, I think the six remaining chefs may finally make this season interesting!

LCK – Beverly vs. Nyesha

Nyesha sees Beverly walk into the LCK and laughs. She says she’s got this in the bag. Tom asks the eliminated chefs who are sitting on the sidelines which chef they are rooting for in this duel. Not a single chef chooses Beverly. The chefs will be preparing local flare, black drum fish. They will be allowed one trip and one trip only to the pantry to get every single item and ingredient they need to prepare their dish. Once they have returned to their stations and are ready to go, Tom yells “stop!”  They must abandon everything they have chosen and switch stations. They are forced to use the tools and ingredients the other chef has selected. Nyesha is visible irritated and feels that she has set Beverly up perfectly. Time is up and Tom tastes each dish. Both are good so it comes down to seasoning and Beverly takes the win. I think this irritates me more than Nyesha. This challenge was designed to get Bev back in. I can’t wait to see who she will be battling next week.  Who do you think we will see in the LCK next week?