A little Tundra-whelmed: The Top Chef Texas recap

Boys? Girls? Don’t make me choose!


I think the most charming thing about last night’s episode of Top Chef was how geeked everybody got over a bunch of books. 
I felt like I was watching an episode of Little House on the Prairie where Pa had just trudged 80 miles through the snow, subsisting on nothing but water and tree bark, to bring books back to the cabin.
“Pa’s brought books! Pa’s brought books!”
I mean, not to be a killjoy, but you can find Modernist Cuisine on Amazon.com. (Although, in fairness, the whole set is over $600. I’m pretty sure the coffee table book isn’t supposed to be more expensive than the actual coffee table.)
The second most charming thing about last night’s episode? The fact that Nathan Myhrvold—fittingly—looks more like a science teacher than a chef. I kept waiting for him to give a pop quiz and send Grayson to the principal’s office.
The least charming thing about last night’s episode? Edward, who would probably tell Joe Theismann to rub some dirt on it and get his head back in the game (look it up). I know that we’ve established that Edward is the Chuck Norris of chefs and all, but harsh, dude, harsh.
Anyway, so the Quickfire challenge is to do some sort of molecular gastronomy wizardry. (For the record, I’m definitely a gastronomy muggle.)
This is basically the challenge of Chris J’s dreams. His entire existence has been leading up to this one life-defining moment.  He simply can not blow it.
So he breaks out the big gun—the miracle berry.
Now this is some seriously evil Willy Wonka shit. It’s a tablet that screws with your palate. Essentially, sweet things get sour and sour things taste like blueberry pie and dog poo smells like molasses.
Science, I fear thee.
It’s actually hilarious to watch Chris work, with giant plumes of white smoke billowing around his face, his little Pebbles Flintstone hairdo flapping in manic anticipation.
What he sets up is not so much a Quickfire as a junior high school science project: “The Miracle Berry and Its Effects on the Adult Male and Female Palate.”
He’s got lemons, he’s got fizzy water, he’s got Everlasting Gobstoppers.
What he doesn’t seem to have is much cooking, so he doesn’t win—but he does face-savingly make the top three, along with Sarah, and Ty-lor, who gets to use his real name this week (sans umlaut . . . I just can’t), because he was so much sweeter to Sarah than Edward was.
The Bottom 3 were Paul, Beverly, and Grayson. But at least Beverly provided us with a dizzy-heroine-in-a-rom-com moment where she squirted Padma with foam and clangingly dropped pots and pans in front of the judges. Katherine Heigl would’ve killed that scene.
The winner is Ty-lor, who scampers up to collect his set of Modernist Cuisine books like  he just won the lottery. I’m pretty sure Nathan Myhrvold didn’t even sign them.
So after this excursion into modernism, we now turn to the traditional—BBQ.
(Is it just me or does it seem like every challenge this season has been a BBQ challenge?)
The cheftestants will have to cook BBQ for 300.
The 3 teams are:
Team Blue: Paul, Grayson, and Lindsay
Team White: Beverly, Chris, and Chris
Team Red: Ty-lor, Edward, and Sarah
Chef Todd of the famous Salt Lick in Austin shows them his giant pit of meat, which is just bloody and meaty and intenstiney enough to make me briefly consider vegetarianism.
Then he drives them to the cooking grounds and it’s quite possibly the most extended, shameless, and obvious Toyota ad in the history of the show, which is saying quite a lot.
“Look at how much space there is!” gushes Sarah.
“This is a cool truck,” beams Umlaut, who has been briefly demoted from Ty-lor status for actually uttering this line.
“This truck is like sex in your mouth!” says Grayson. (Okay, not really.)
This is another all-night challenge, and they all have RVs and are wearing these spelunking-style headlamps, which gives the whole cookout a Breaking Bad kind of feel, especially when Beverly attempts to cook her beans in bourbon and almost blows up the camper. (Katherine Heigl would bring the perfect balance of terrifying smoke inhalation and madcap hilarity to that scene.)
Now seems as good a time as any to have our weekly (and, sniff, last) “What the hell is Malibu Chris’ sexuality, anyway?” conversation.
Earlier in the show, we found out that Chris dabbles in (really bad) painting and that all his paintings are of naked women, which is either the most heterosexual thing he could do or the least. . .you make the call.
Now, cooking into the night, he has stripped down into a wife-beater, which Grayson is basically drooling over.
“Malibu, are you wearing a wife beater?” asks Lindsay.
“I know,” says Malibu Chris. And what do you think he said next:
a. I got hot
b. I’m bringing sexy back
c. It doesn’t match my shoes. Stop pointing it out.
The answer is C, people. C. #whatislife?
Then later, while Malibu Chris is attempting to cook some beer-can chicken, he asks Chris J: “Did I put it in the right hole?” #submittedwithoutcomment
Anyhoo, it’s getting late—3:28 p.m. is dramatically flashed across the screen (pretty sure you mean, a.m. there, Bravo)—and everyone is loopy, especially Grayson (all nighters serve as a kind of truth serum for her.)
“You’re going to love it,” she says to Tom C. when he comes to check out everyone’s progress. “It’s going to be like sex in your mouth.” (Really.)
As the sun rises, the Texas heat gets stronger and Sarah feels light-headed. She calls for a medic. They give her oxygen. We join the scene, already in progress . . .
“Okay, what month is it?” the medic is asking. (Clearly this has followed the failed “What day is it?” question.) So they cart her off to the hospital.
Lindsay is worried.
Ty-lor is sweetly concerned.
Edward is…annoyed?
“Is she okay? What’s wrong? Is she dead?” Edward says testily. “If it were me, I really would’ve pushed through it.”
(Okay, yes, he both talks the talk and walks the walk, but I’m pretty sure that even when his finger was a bloody appendage dangling from his hand he knew what month it was.)
Meanwhile, he and Ty-lor go into ragey panic mode and start prematurely slicing their brisket, because they can’t possibly slice to order when they’re down one man! (I haven’t seen over-compensation like this since I laid eyes on Malibu Chris’s nude paintings.)
Service time.
So basically, Team Blue took a chance on Asian BBQ and nailed it.
(Speaking of nailing it, am I the only one who has a crush on Paul at this point? And not just because he has $35,000 in prize money.)
“This chicken is sticky, sweet, spicy and delicious!” says Padma, adding, “If only I could eat it in my Toyota Tundra!”
Team White kind of failed with their beer-can chicken, which just tasted a lot like. . . chicken. The Dr. Pepper pork-rib was way too salty and the brisket was too chewy.
Sarah has shown up from the hospital, still a little light-headed, but ready to roll up her sleeves and help. Of course, Edward wants no part of it.
“Notice that she showed up just in time for service,” he grouses.
A real mensch, that one.
So the judges are underwhelmed (or should I say “Tundra”-whelmed?) (no) by their trip around the BBQ globe: Texas chicken, Kansas City pork ribs, and Kentucky brisket.
And the winning team is: Team Blue! Yay for them. I’m glad they won, because they took a chance and it paid off.
The judges want to see both other teams:
They are upset that Team Red didn’t slice their brisket to order. (Smoke is now literally coming out of Edward’s ears.)
But they are especially upset about Malibu Chris’s salty pork ribs.
They deliberate. Who was to blame for the salty ribs: Chris J, who grilled? Or Malibu Chris, who did the rub?
“It was salty beyond belief, there was nothing anybody could do to save it,” Gail said, sounding a bit like a character in a medical soap. (“Just breathe, dammit! Breathe!”)
So in the end. . .Malibu Chris is sent packing, much to Grayson’s dismay: “We’re going to miss our. . . beautiful person,” she says, still inflicted with all-nighter-as- sodium-pentathol syndrome.
But don’t mourn for our lovely Chris: I’m sure he had a gay old time. Or, uh, not.

2 thoughts on “A little Tundra-whelmed: The Top Chef Texas recap

  1. I always enjoy your recaps, but this one was hilarious. Hope you're doing Project Runway All Stars.

  2. Great recap. Cab “LOL” be hetero, or is it totally gay? (now you have me confused. no… not that kind of confused… more like tri-curious)#recapbetterthanepisode

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