Thursday, November 24, 2011

No Brisket For You! The Top Chef Texas recap



You know what they like in Texas?
Texans!
You know what kind of chili they like to eat in Texas?
Texas chili!
You know why there’s no beans in Texas chili?
Because if you know beans about chili, you know that chili has no beans!!

Ugh. Can I borrow someone’s 10-gallon hat, holster, and gun so I can SHOOT MYSELF?

Look, I don’t want to turn this entire blog into a Texas-bashing zone. After all, Friday Night Lights was, like, an awesome show. And I’m sure there are tons of totally cool people who live in Texas—even outside of Austin.

But boy oh boy, was there even the slightest chance that Team Green—which made beanless chili and had Sarah, whose father was in the rodeo—was going to lose?

“One of them is from Texas…born and raised Texan”- Old Man Whitaker said approvingly of the Green Team, munching happily on their meaty chili.  Because dagnabbit. Food just tastes better when it’s made by hands born and raised in Texas.

But I digress. (A Texas-sized digression, you might say.)

The show starts with the gang discussing Keith’s exit.

“Did you guys turn against each other?” someone asks.

“I don’t think we turned against each other,” says Lindsay, eyeing Sarah. Do you, Sarah?”
(If you have to ask.  . .)

“Either have something good on the plate or shut the [bleep] up,” Umlaut says, in solidarity with the Mean Girls. (In the pack, it’s always best to be on the side of the alpha dames.)

Nyesha, meanwhile, is beginning to notice that happy time is over. Shit is getting real.

“It’s turned cutthroat all of a sudden,” she says. “It’s not so fun anymore.”

And with that, it's time for the Quickfire Challenge.

The task is easy: Create a dish highlighting one chili pepper. The hotter the pepper you use, the more money you win—up to $20,000. The wimps can use a jalapeno. The “go big or go home” types can use the dread “ghost pepper.” (In case you were wondering, this ain’t no friendly ghost.)

I love this challenge, partly because I learned something new (I’d never heard of the Scoville scale of pepper hotness . . . I wonder where Dr. Pepper lands?) and partly because I love me some hot peppers.
One of my constant complaints about living in Baltimore is that it’s hard to get really good hot food. Everything is watered down for the gringos.
(Although I did once make the mistake of ordering something called “Suicide Curry” at a Thai restaurant in D.C. I couldn’t feel my tongue for a week. File that under: live and learn.)

The two guest judges are Mary Sue and Susan from the Border Grill. (They are adorable and I would very much like to go around the country sampling hot sauce with them and getting mani-pedis.)

Turns out, only Paul has the cojones to use the Casper the Mean-Spirited Ghost (pepper).

The other chefs mostly go with habaneros and Thai peppers.

However, Beverly is the only one who gnaws on the raw peppers to see which one she wants to use.  (Mas macho!)

In the end, though, Beverly got a little cute and didn’t bother to cook her pepper (well, guess that’s one way to highlight its flavor.) So she lands in the Bottom 3, along with Chuy (ay carumba! Someone’s got some ‘splainin to do!) and Richie “Bottom 3” Farina.

The Top 3 are Heather, Grayson, and Paul.
Fittingly, Paul wins. No guts no glory. This is Top Chef, people. Not Top Hedge Your Bets.  (Or Top Scallop . . . never forget.)

Now time for the Elimination Challenge: A Chili cook-off! Fun!

The gang are split into five groups.

Red team: Whitney, Chris from Chicago, Dakota
Green Team: Chuy, Sarah, and the Not!Sexiest Man alive Chris
Black Team: Richie, Nyesha, and Beverly
Blue Team: Edward, Heather and Paul
White Team: Umlaut, Grayson, and Lindsay

They have all night to cook (at home) for the Tejas Rodeo. The winner will be chosen by the cowboys and rodeo regulars.

Nyesha is bummed to be paired with Beverly because she thinks she’s “meek.” Clearly she has never seen Beverly at the meat department of Whole Foods.

Speaking of which, the meat department is a frickin’ free-for-all—lots of grabbing and shouting and jockeying for position—it’s like the Kardashian sisters in the Lakers locker room. (Too soon?)

Dakota Weiss, who apparently needs to spend some time around my family’s dinner table to gain some assertiveness training, misses out on the brisket. (As the saying goes: “A tisket, a tasket—you’ve got no mother fucking brisket in your basket.”)
She settles for shortribs.

The house is free for all, part deux.
The refrigerator is under siege.
And maybe I’m on crack, but did I hear someone say: “Nobody touch my breast milk, okay?” (WTF?)

One of the few things I don’t like about Top Chef is when there aren’t enough stations for everyone to cook.
I like even playing fields, but there’s limited space in the fire pit. It gets a little ugly.
Also, Nyesha grabs all the beer. (Whether this is for drinking or cooking is never fully established.)

It’s getting late and people are getting loopy. Chuy is a little tipsy—literally . . . he keeps falling off a wooden hobbyhorse. He also does a strange belly dance that I can now not unsee.

Some cheftestants go to bed, others pull an all-nighter.
Those who stay up all night judge those who go to sleep.
“I’ll just be here chopping cilantro,” Chris says disdainfully, as though his ability to chop cilantro deep into the night is a sign of superior moral character.
But I am firmly on Team Nighty-Night. I, for one, need my beauty sleep. And who knows. . .maybe they’ll be forced to cook again the next day to save their own asses. (Just wild speculation on my part.)

The next day, Whitney “even I’m not sure who I am” Otakwa gets one of her first featured lines of dialogue in the whole show and it's: “We hop in the Toyota Siennas and head to the rodeo."
(Fail.)

Some curious things happen at the rodeo:

First, Gail can’t open her beer bottle because of a “weird bagel accident” (?) (between that and the breast milk, I swear, I’m hearing things today) and she asks Tom to do it. He tries and fails and Padma impatiently yanks the beer out of his hands and opens it with her teeth. (Not really. She uses her strong, supple, supermodel hands.)
It’s an awkward moment, made doubly awkward by the fact that Gail says: “Never send a man to do a woman’s job.” Ouch. I’m sure that was bracing for Tom, although to his credit, his adorable smile never fades. (Let me comfort you, boo boo.)

Then Beverly cries again. (Obviously, Beverly crying at random intervals will be a recurring theme this entire season.) She cried at the Quincea├▒era because her father wasn’t there. Now she is crying at the rodeo, because. . . her husband isn’t there.
“There’s no crying in cooking,” Nyesha says. (Which also might explain how Tom C. kept such a poker face after being completely emasculated by Padma.)

Later, Padma comes out to announce the results of the vote, looking radiant atop a horse, and there’s lots of hootin’ and hollerin’ from the crowd.
Then Chris (hair gel, not Chicago) compares Padma to Fabio on the cover of a romance novel, possibly the gayest thing every said by an allegedly straight man on reality TV. (Until next week, that is, when he will exult: “John Besh is a handsome man!”)

And the winner is. . .well, I already ruined the surprise. Heh. Sorry bout that.
Team Texas! I mean Team Green.

And the bottom team is the Black Team. (And you thought Beverly was crying before. . .)
But there’s no time for tears. It’s time to suck it up. Because the Elimination Challenge has its own elimination challenge. It’s the Russian nesting dolls of Elimination Challenges. This could go on indefinitely.

Beverly, Richie, and Nyesha have to repurpose their mole chili into a new dish. And they have half an hour to do it.
I’ve never seen three contestants look so spent, so deflated, so completely over it. (See the sad little photo above).
But they have to snap out of it.

Meanwhile, every time Chicago Chris talks about Richie, it’s so patronizing, right?
“He’s my best little buddy,” Chris says. (I’m surprised he hasn’t dressed Richie up in a little organ grinder costume.)

Seriously, not to rag on Chris, because I haven’t fully figured his “deal” out yet  but I can’t help but feel that one of the reasons he wants “his best little buddy” to stick around is because he knows he can beat him. (Anyone else picking up on that? Or am I just a deeply warped and cynical human being?)

But in the end, Chris’s little buddy, the pocket chef, the man who puts the “short” in short order cook is going home.
(If you’re keeping score at home, the flavors on his pork were not as developed as Nyesha’s tiger shrimp or Beverly’s winning seared tuna.)

(Oh, and what was up with Padma when Tom confessed that he didn’t realize Frito’s were from the Midwest? “The Village next door called, they want their idiot back,” she retorted. Harsh! As if her beer-opening vanquishing of Tom wasn’t enough!)
(Also didn’t you get the sense that she had heard that line someplace—some chic, New York literary party filled with her fellow Beautiful People perhaps?—and was just looking for an opening to randomly insert it? Because Tom’s innocent Frito mistake hardly seemed to warrant such vitriol.)

Anyway, damn, Richie is so dear. Everyone is bumming. Eliminating Richie is like repeatedly kicking a puppy—or calling Tom Colicchio an idiot.

Richie and Chris hug, and their foreheads touch, which is so damn cute, I get verklempt, and I’m beginning to reconsider that whole “Chris is a Jerk” theory I had 3 paragraphs ago. (I’m fickle like that.)

Tune in next week to see if there’s more clues to his true nature one way or another.

Until then, yeehaw! I’m done like Texas toast.

2 comments:

Cliff O'Neill said...

Oi, I had blotted out most of the Texas clich├ęs from my memory of having seen this. I guess I'm lucky that way.

And had we established that this Hair Gel Chris is straight?

Big isn't the same as fat. said...

I heard the breast milk thing, too! Total head scratcher.

As for Tom's Frito emasculation, I missed his retort due to sketchy audio. What did he say in response? Regardless, I don't think a deep knowledge of the culture of the Midwest is anything to necessarily be proud of. Team Tom!