We’re still in Big D when the cheftestants walk into the “Top Chef” kitchen and are met by chef Tim Love of neighboring Fort Worth. Behind him is a table or nine laden with tequila, and the chefs are told their Quickfire Challenge is to make a dish that pairs with tequila.
They cook for 30 minutes and present their dishes to Padma and Tim. Tim didn’t like Heather’s rock shrimp dish, saying it sounded and tasted like a “special” at a chain restaurant. Ouch. Nor did he like Chris J’s dry chicken breast. Sarah’s tequila risotto wasn’t a hit, either. He liked Chris C’s beach-y oyster, Lindsay’s salmon and Ty-Lor’s steamed clams. Ty is the winner, who doesn’t get immunity but does win $5,000.
This week’s Elimination Challenge pairs the chefs into teams based on who they’re standing next to at the end of the Quickfire, which seems a little contrived, doesn’t it? The producers place the chefs where they want them to get the shots they need, and now they’re pretending like they didn’t plan this? Especially pairing Heather with Sobby Annoyingstein? Fine, Bravo. We’ll play along. (She says, rolling her eyes.) They’re told they’ll be cooking a six-course game dinner for Tim Love’s friends — all of whom happen to be chefs. Here’s who’s cooking what:
Nyesha and Dakota: venison for chef Bryan Caswell from Reef in Houston.
Sarah and Paul: squab for Anita Lo from Annisa in New York.
Grayson and Chris J: elk for guest judge Love.
Chris C. and Lindsay: boar for Jon Shook from Animal in Los Angeles.
Heather and Beverly: duck for John Currence from City Grocery in Oxford, Miss.
Ed and Ty-Lor: quail for Vinny Dotolo, also from Animal.
Then, Padma drops the bomb: They also need to cook enough plates for their fellow chefs, because they’ll all be judging one another as part of the process. The chefs who cooked the three least-liked dishes will be up for elimination, with the Judges’ Table making the final decision about which team goes home. Whoa. The team that wins splits $10,000.
They shop at Whole Foods and start cooking. Beverly keeps her index finger squarely planted on top of her knife which is something most people learn on Day One in culinary school is improper technique. Heather bosses Beverly around, and Chris J. makes sweet potato fries because apparently he thinks this is a Cheesecake Factory challenge. Tim and his friends show up with Tom, Padma, Padma’s necklace from the “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves” collection and Hugh. The chefs serve their food.
Lindsay and Chris C. serve roasted wild boar with kohlrabi slaw and farro fried rice. Tom likes it but says it’s not exciting. Lindsay says it’s gut-wrenching to hear that; back in the kitchen, Paul thinks her slaw was a bit watery. I think it sounds like something I would love to eat.
Heather and Beverly present their five-spice duck breast with creamy polenta and pickled cherries. Hugh thinks the duck could’ve been rendered a bit more. Vinny says they played it too safe. I love pickled cherries but think their dish sounds boring.
Chris J. and Grayson deliver plates of juniper-roasted elk with sweet potato and citrus greens. Hugh says the meat is cooked well. Bryan says that when the plate was placed in front of him, he thought, “Oh, 1982.... banquet menu, boom.” So yeah, we know they’ll be in the bottom three, right?
Ty and Ed dish up sorghum quail with pickled cherries and eggplant. Everyone seems to love the quail and its surrounding ingredients.
Dakota and Nyesha serve their roasted (um, raw) rack of venison with kabocha squash and beet gratin. The judges recognize the meat was undercooked but love the texture of the gratin. I like me some rare meat, but that venison was blue. Also betting they’re in the bottom three.
Sarah and Paul bring out squab breast and sausage with nectarine pickles. Tom and Anita has reservations about it but ultimately say it’s “a nice plate of food.” Sarah cries in the kitchen over her sausage, and Beverly tells her, “It’s okay to cry.” Dakota gets teary, too. To distract myself from throwing something at all the crybabies, I fantasize about the nectarine pickles and count the days until stone fruit season (213!) when I can make them.
Padma comes into the kitchen and summons Ed and Ty to Judges’ Table where Tim tells them they’ve won the challenge and $10,000. Padma tells them they need to go back into the kitchen and consult with the other chefs for 15 minutes to decide which were the three worst dishes of the night. Together as a group, they hem and haw, until Paul steps up like the leader he is and says his choice for the bottom three are Heather and Beverly, Nyesha and Dakota, and Chris J. and Grayson. I agree with him. They piss around a little more, and Ty tells them the clock is ticking. Chris J. stands up and starts the voting process by making people raise their hands when he calls out the different dishes. The three teams Paul picked are the three teams sent before Judges’ Table.
Tom asks them why they think they’re the bottom three. Heather pulls the “they’re just jealous” card, which I find aggravating.
Nyesha and Dakota are told their dish might not have been on the bottom three, had they just cooked their meat properly. Grayson and Chris J. are told the sweet potato snafu might cost them the game. Tom tells Beverly and Heather their plate felt not like a “dish, but like a collection of ingredients.”
Heather trashes Beverly’s work ethic, and Beverly handles it with confidence and aplomb. Oh wait, I lied. She cries, of course. Then, Dakota gets weepy and says Beverly is a good chef. Heather says Beverly lacks confidence and the ability to push something through. They leave Judges’ Table and go to the “Dr. Phil” set where he tells them to man up and ... oh wait, I lied about that, too. They go back into the kitchen where Heather not-apologizes to Beverly — “I’m sorry if you think I hurt your feelings” — and the debate goes on for far too long, as all the other cheftestants stand around awkwardly.
Tom, Padma, Hugh and Tim rehash the food and the chefs who cooked it. They agree the correct three teams were sent to Judges’ Table. So, who’s going home? Dakota and Nyesha.
My prediction for the final four: Sarah, Heather, Chris J. and Lindsay. Or Paul.
Up Next Week: The show moves to Austin where Patti LaBelle makes an appearance. Because, you know, when you think of Texas, you automatically think of Patti LaBelle. But the good news is that Emeril is back. My TiVo listing for next week’s episode says that viewers will be using Twitter to guide the chefs in their dishes. Huh? Isn’t this a taped show? Guess it’s time to hop in the TARDIS and figure out some sort of space-time-dimension Quickfire where they can cook from the future, but in the past. Or something. The Elimination Challenge appears to be some sort of tribute dinner, in which the cheftestants have to cook a meal that honors their chef-teacher. I’m gonna need a week to think about what I’d cook for the two chefs who taught me everything I know. What would you cook for the chef who inspires or has taught you?