Oooh, our first shocker of Season 9!!! Hair gel Chris was a fatty. It is revealed in this hilarious exchange in the car as the cheftestants travel to Dallas. (Hmmm. . .I wonder what the make and model of that car is? I wish they wouldn’t leave us in the dark like this!)
Chris: “I was 70 pounds heavier three years ago.”
Paul (uncomprehending): “Like big? Buff?”
Chris: “No, like fat.”
Cut to a picture of Chris with flat bangs and non-ironic facial hair. It’s not just that he looked heavier, he looked like a completely different human being. (I guess every pound lost translated to one pump of hair gel.)
Apparently, Chris’s wakeup call was when his friends saw his picture in some chef’s magazine and said, “Looking good in that magazine, fatty.” (Yeesh, nice friends ya got there, Chris.)Color me surprised. But it stil doesn’t quite explain Chris’s confusing sexual orientation. (More on that in a jiffy.)
En route to Dallas, the gang gets pulled over by State Troopers and I think most of them know it’s a shtick, but Dakota is genuinely concerned because she has an outstanding ticket in San Antonio. (I’m pretty sure they execute you for that there. . . I kid, I kid.)
Not to fear, they’re just play actin’. . because Padma is standing in a field with. . .the most handsome man alive! (Well, according to Chris, at least.)
“You get this reflection off his beautiful white teeth and his hair blowing in the wind,” he says, lost in a reverie. “John Besh is a handsome man, I’m not going to lie.”
¿Quién es más bella?
That is a lot of specific detail for a man who claims to be straight. And coupled with last week’s “Padma is the next best thing to Fabio” moment, I’m not sayin’. . I’m just sayin.
So here’s the challenge: There are a bunch of survival kits in the trunk of the car (it’s a Honda of some sort, right?) and they have to make food out of the canned and tinned grub.
I’m always amazed that they’re able to concoct such pretentious sounding dishes out of tinned food.
Basmati rice with smoked trout?
Asian coconut soup with mackerel and dill pickle juice?
Beef Satay with Peanut Noodles, mango chili relish, and pepitas?
Duuuudes. . next time I eat Spaghetti-Os with franks, I’m calling it annelini with a roasted tomato reduction and pork ragu bolognese.
Anyway, the winner of this challenge is Lindsay, who made a tuna and sardine club in French onion soup with her father’s beloved Vienna sausage. So good on her.
The ELIMINATION CHALLENGE is to make a course for a progressive dinner in tony Hyland Park.
(Just a hunch, but one gets the sense that they rooted through old “Real Housewives of Dallas” audition tapes to come up with these doozies.)
Poor Dakota gets stuck with the third course (i.e. desserts) again.
“I’m pissed,” she says. “I didn’t come here to make dessert.”
So they all pile into the Hyundais and drive to what Chicago Chris called “Wisteria Lane.”
And then the second truly stupendous thing happens this episode. Whitney gets a backstory! Whitney gets a backstory!
“My background is very different,” she says. “I grew up with a fairly poor family. I lived in hotel rooms and not nice ones.”
She was poor everybody! I can now call her Poor Whitney instead of Whodat? Whitney. It’s almost like she’s an actual contestant on the actual show now. It’ll just a matter of weeks before I’m able to pick her out of a police lineup.
So House 1 (appetizers) are the Whitmans.
The cheftestants are Poor Whitney, Chicago Chris, Sarah, Paul, and Lindsay.
First thing you have to know about Mrs. Whitman: She is a lifestyle and entertaining expert. She has written books on the subject. Cut to a series of coffee table books spread out on the kitchen island—as one does—that give the vaguest whiff of “Self-published coffee table books of the rich and famous” (Amiright?).
“At first we were thinking of asking you make everything pink,” the wife says (that’s p. 125 of her book Color Me Entertained: Using Food Dye to Spice Up Your Next Party.)
The cheftestants stare at her in slack-jawed horror.
“But then we decided not too,” she adds in a voice that can only be described as breezily malicious.
The chefs laugh nervously.
Also, no bell peppers, cilantro, or any food that would have guests self-conscious about their breath (that’s p. 62 in That Stinks! How Smelly Food Can Ruin Even the Best Celebration.)
House 2 (entrees) are the Kloewers.
The cheftestants are Nyesha, Chuy, Heather, Umlaut, and Beverly
Mrs. Kloewer also doesn’t like cilantro—it almost feels like some sort of Junior League pact they all made—and while her laidback hubby likes spicy food and beef, she doesn’t eat meat and seems to favor food with none of this exotic thing they call “flavor.”
Also, randomly enough, she hates raspberries.
House 3 (desserts) are the Wescotts (are they making these names up, or what?)
The cheftestants are Edward, Chris, Dakota, and Grayson.
“We want something that’s worth every calorie,” says the wife.
“Channel your inner fat kid,” says the husband.
And with that, Chris runs out of the room crying. (JK).
So Tom, Gail, Padma, and Chef Dreamboat roll up in a Kia and the progressive party begins.
Chris has gone full-on gimmick, creating a roasted chicken “cigar” with sweet corn, collard greens, and cumin “ash.”
Is that a roasted chicken cigar or are you just happy to see me?
As for the rest:
Sarah-grilled Roman style artichokes with date puree
Lindsay-a salad of roasted and raw beets and charred chickpea
Whitney -seared scallop over sweet corn puree
Paul -fried brussels sprouts with grilled prosciutto
(Slightly off topic aside: One of the many triumphs of the American food revolution is that Brussels sprouts have been saved from the scrap heap of “icky vegetables kids don’t like” and placed on their rightful pedestal as “king of the sprouts.”)
The general consensus is that some dishes work (Paul’s sprouts; Sarah’s artichokes) and others not so much (Chris’s cigar).
“So would you say, it’s close but no cigar?” Tom says, barely able to conceal his pleasure over his own clever joke. (Who’s the Village Idiot now, Padma?)
Next up: Entrees
Beverly -seared scallop with creamy polenta
Chuy -sockeye salmon stuffed with goat cheese
Heather-garlic and rosemary grilled lampchops
Nyesha-roasted filet of beef
Umlaut-grilled pork tenderloin with summer slaw
Chuy’s sockeye salmon is declared dry and the goat cheese is mealy. (Anyone who screws up goat cheese is on my list. Just sayin’)
Umlaut’s grilled tenderloin on a big pile of ungainly slaw is way too unfocused.
Chris- strawberry cupcake with banana custard (and sprinkles and marshmallows and gummy bears and ju ju beans and candy corn and glitter)
Dakota -banana bread pudding with banana mousse and banana date milkshake.
Edward -panna cotta with cantaloupe consomme
Grayson – chocolate sponge cake with carmelized bananas and chocolate covered pretzels
“I found Edward’s dish a bit jiggly looking” Mrs. Wescott says.(You should see his jaw!)
Most of the desserts are pretty great except for Chris’s cupcake.
“My mother always taught me, if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all,” Tom says. (Thank goodness he doesn’t adhere to Mama Colicchio’s advice all the time, because otherwise this would be one helluva boring show.)
Padma asks to see Sarah, Grayson, Paul, and Daktoa
“The four of you. . .served our favorite dishes!”
The look of utter relief and gratitude on their faces can only suggest that they’ve NEVER WATCHED THE SHOW before. (That’s actual shock registering on Dakota’s face in the photo above, even though it looks like fake, bad-acting shock.)
Anyway, so much for desserts being the kiss of death. Two of the four finalists made dessert. (Is it premature to lift the Dessert = Dunzo rule of Top Chef? Yes, I think it is. But it’s a step in the right direction.)
And. . . Paul wins! A victory for Texas, foodtrucks, and the formerly maligned Brussels sprouts the world over!
Now for the bad news:
Bottom 4: Chicago Chris, Hair Gel Chris, Chuy, and Umlaut
So Tom says that Hair Gel Chris’s cupcake was like something a kid would make at “make your own cupcake bar.” (Gee Tom, why don’t you just get in Chris’s face and yell, “Fat kid! Fat kid!” while you’re at it?)
Umlaut’s pork was out of proportion and demonstrated “poor knife skills” according to Chef Dreamboat.
Chuy elicited snears of contempt when he mentioned that he served this salmon dish at his restaurant.
And Chris Jones was accused of making a novelty dish. (Also, Chris, that Pebbles Flintstone hair is another novelty you might want to reconsider . . .)
“Eating a giant greasy cigar with your fingers in a cocktail dress is the last thing anyone wants to do,” says Gail. (LOL.)
“It’s a progressive party and for one of you the progression ends here,” says Tom. This time, instead of looking pleased with his pun, he almost looks disgusted with himself. (Hey, at least they didn’t add a “Progresso soup” product placement.)
And Chuy is going home. (I wonder if he’ll take a Chu-Chu train?) (Both Tom and I agree, that was beneath me.)