On this week’s episode, there was no crying (hallelujah!) but I noticed something about the opening segment that might be part of the reason this season feels like a dud. In previous Top Chefs, the show opens with a series of shots in which we see the cheftestants doing ninja kicks, being flirty with their jackets, wielding knives, other things that remind us who they are. In this season, the opening shots are all about Texas — not the chefs — which, to me, makes the statement that this season is more about the location than the food or the people cooking it. Ugh.
In this episode, the chefs travel from San Antonio to Dallas, home of Dolly Parton (according to Beverly) and during their travels we learn that Ed is happy married, Ty-Lor has a boyfriend, and Chris C. used to look like a fat Ashton Kutcher before he lost 70 pounds in two years. The chefs get fake-pulled over by a “state trooper” (e.g., the cameraman’s brother-in-law) into a plowed field where Padma, fresh from a Nair commercial audition, is standing with John Besh next to a cluster of picnic tables. Time for a Quickfire!
The Quickfire is all about being resourceful and inventive, and the chefs have to cook with what they can find in survival kits containing a small burner, beans, chocolate, dried fruit, canned meat and other dried and canned goods. Chris J. dashes across the field to a small patch of dried-out, half-reaped corn stalks saying, “fresh is best” because he clearly has no idea that what’s grown in that field is feed corn, and that corn for human consumption should still be on green stalks. The chefs start cooking, complaining and turning up their noses at having to use processed food. Chris’ feed-corn dish gets tossed into the field because “it’s too dry” and as much as I respect his work at Moto, I kinda wanna throttle him for not knowing anything about corn. That seems pretty basic, right?
Padma and Besh taste the dishes.
Besh tells the chefs he didn’t like Whitney’s beer- and peach-glazed chicken with green beans, Dakota’s sweet and spicy noodles with crabmeat or Chris C.’s spicy coconut braised garbanzo beans with tofu. He did like Edward’s Thai peanut soup, Lindsay’s play on French onion soup with a club sandwich and Chuy’s “dirty mouth dirty rice” (gah, he is so annoying). Ultimately, it’s Lindsay’s Vienna sausage and Saltine dish that earns her the win, along with $5,000 and immunity in the Elimination Challenge. Sore loser Ed and his wandering lower jaw slam Lindsay.
The Elimination Challenge takes place in a cush neighborhood in Dallas’ Highland Park, where a group of neighbors will host a three-course progressive dinner party hosted at three houses. Ty-Lor tells us all about all the experience he has “cooking for Bill Gates, rock stars, movie stars, so I know exactly what kind of expectations the client is going to have.” Which means he’ll be in the bottom three, right? The chefs are split into the following teams before meeting with their respective hosts to go over menu ideas:
Appetizers: Chris J., Paul, Whitney, Lindsay, Sarah
Entrees: Beverly, Chuy, Heather, Nyesha, Ty-Lor
Desserts: Dakota, Grayson, Chris C., Edward
Appetizers are hosted by Kim and Justin Whitman. Kim is a “lifestyle and entertaining expert,” and her Amazon-two-star-reviewed book is on the kitchen island in an effort to impress the chefs. She tells them she originally wanted the menu to be “everything pink” but changed her mind, and instead tells them they can’t use bell peppers, cilantro or any food that would get stuck in your teeth or give you bad breath.
Kari and Troy Kloewer host the entree course. Troy likes spicy food, Kari does not. Troy loves beef, but Kari won’t eat meat. Kari is also in the cilantro-haters’ club, and loathes raspberries.
Desserts are hosted by Kameron and Court Wescott. Court tells them he used to be fat, and that they both love cake balls and bananas. My inner 12-year-old snickers. Court also reveals he has a gummi bear addiction, and that their wedding cake was one big gummi bear. I feel uncomfortable knowing this about him.
The cheftestants shop at Whole Foods, the head to their respective kitchens where they cook and bicker. On the menu for this progressive dinner party are the following dishes:
Chris J.: roasted chicken “cigar” with sweet corn, collards and cumin “ash,” which no one really loved the taste or the look of, triggering the obligatory “close, but no cigar.”
Sarah: grilled Roman-style artichokes with date puree, which the hostess and judges loved, saying it was clean and flavorful.
Lindsay: salad of roasted and raw beets that bored Besh, but delighted a guest because it was “colorful.” Tom rolls his eyes.
Whitney: seared sea scallop over sweet corn puree, which I find as boring as the judges do.
Paul: fried Brussels sprouts with prosciutto, which the hostess, guests and judges seem to love.
Heather: garlic- and rosemary-grilled lamb chops with chickpeas and mint chimichurri, which is deemed to be overcooked, though one guests marvels at the fresh chickpeas because they are green.
Chuy: salmon fillets with goat cheese cream that are overcooked and stringy.
Beverly: pan-seared diver scallops with polenta, which is Boring City to me, but the guests like because she drizzled it with some chemical-y truffle oil.
Ty-Lor: spice-rubbed, grilled pork tenderloin with a guacamole sauce, that everyone universally agrees is dry, ugly and not that great-tasting.
Nyesha: filet of beef with vegetable melange, which grosses out one of the guests because she mistakes the red wine reduction for blood. Besh tries not to punch her in the throat with his mind.
Dakota: banana-peanut butter cup bread pudding with banana mousse and a banana-date milkshake, that was universally loved and sounds disgustingly awesome to me.
Chris C.: strawberry cupcake with banana custard and chocolate-chip ice cream, that the host said was the best cupcake he’d ever eaten. Tom kept his mouth shut, so as to not say anything unkind.
Edward: cardamom-scented panna cotta, cantaloupe consomme, and raspberries stuffed with basil pudding, which sounds kind of awesome to me but that the guests thought looked like a “jiggly Elmo.”
Grayson: chocolate spongecake with caramelized bananas and a poo streak of sauce brushed across the plate, which was “a little too rich.”
Padma and her cleavage call Sarah, Grayson, Paul and Dakota to Judges’ Table. They have the winning dishes of the night. Tom loved Grayon’s use of salt by including pretzels in her dessert. Besh loved Sarah’s artichokes and their clean, refined flavors. Gail loved the texture of Dakota’s bread pudding. Tom loved both the texture and flavor of Paul’s Brussels sprouts dish. Paul wins the challenge!
Up next before Judges’ Table are Chris J, Ty-Lor, Chris C. and Chuy with the worst dishes of the night. (Side note: Please let Chuy be sent home because his short man syndrome-derived arrogance is grating and annoying.) Tom thought Chris C.’s dish was too busy and had too much on the plate, making it “bad on top of bad on top of bad.” Ty-Lor’s dish had no visual appeal and was out of proportion, with “no finesse, no precision.” Chuy’s overcooked salmon disaster was unevenly done and mealy. Chris J.’s dish was too gimmicky and not well executed.
So who’s going home? Peace out, Chuy. (It wasn’t) Nice knowing you. But, small props for not saying “thank you for the opportunity.”
Up next week: Steak at Southfork, Ty-Lor goes to the hospital, and Chris J. keeps on rockin’ the sumo wrestler pony tail look.