Look at Your Life, Look at Your (Healthy) Choices: The Top Chef Texas recap

This is my sad face


It’s so nice that now that Bev has left the show all the rest of the cheftestants sit around singing her praises and talking about how much she’ll be missed and reflecting on her pluck and her indomitable spirit and reminiscing about all the good times they shared with her.

Or, uh, not.

Luckily, we are saved from the bitchfest by some bonus Charlize Theron who does that falsely humble thing that celebrities do when they encounter the little people: “You’re all my idols,” she says.
(Yeah, I’m so sure that Charlize Theron has a picture of Chris Jones hanging up on her wall at home.)

So Charlize is gone and our Top Chef world is just a little sadder and drabber and shorter because of it.
But no time to cry over lost glamazons, it’s time for the Quickfire Challenge.

Padma is standing in the kitchen with Emeril and Cat Cora, which would also be a great name for a villainess in a Bond film, by the way.
She—Padma, that is—puts the cheftestants into 3 teams: Grayson and Chris Jones, Paul and Edward, and Sarah and Lindsay. Those teams are not arbitrary, by the way. Padma—and by extension the show—has selected these teams. I mention this because it will come into play later.

Paul, for what it’s worth, feels “sick” that he’s partnered with his pal Edward. Every time they are paired together, Paul screws things up. (Self, meet fulfilling prophecy.)

This is a variation on the classic mise en place challenge (and by classic, I mean a Top Chef classic; as far as I know the mise en place challenge is not sweeping family game rooms across the country.)

The teams have to peel and de-vein butterfly shrimp, make a pound of pasta, and shuck a whole mess of corn.
Then they have to make a dish using those ingredients.

Hall monitors Lindsay and Sarah naturally finish first.
Then Paul and Edward.
Then sweaty, freaked out Chris and Grayson bring up the rear.

No sooner has Padma yelled “time!” that Paul realizes he forgot to add the shrimp.
It’s not like he and Edward were running around like maniacs. Quite the contrary, they were taking the time to decorate their plate with ornamental herbs.

“I forgot the shrimp,” Paul says, in such a resigned, fatalistic way that I begin to wonder if he’s actually part Jewish. (Yes, I’m allowed to make that joke.)

So the judges taste and they do that same thing they did to poor Beverly last week: Suggest that Paul and Edward would’ve won if only their shrimp dish had shrimp.
“But nice ornamental herbs!” says Padma. (Not really.)

Instead, the winners are  … Grayson and Chris!
Lindsay and Sarah respond in classic Lindsay and Sarah fashion.
 “Our dish was better,” sniffs Sarah. “It’s just that Cat Cora doesn’t like tarragon.”

Time for the Elimination Challenge, where they’ll be cooking head-to-head against their partner.
Now, I imagine the show did this to pit friend against friend, figuring it would ramp up the drama.
But here’s why it backfires: Everyone is so sickeningly supportive and nice to each other, the whole challenge becomes a ginormous snoozefest.
(It doesn’t help that it’s a lame challenge to begin with—create a healthy dish for a block party to benefit the San Antonio food bank—that seems more intended to placate a show sponsor—Healthy Choice—than generate some actual culinary fireworks.) (Just sayin’)

Now, if they really wanted excitement, they should’ve pitted crazed perfectionists Lindsay and Edward against each other and pitted Paul’s quiet intensity against Sarah’s loud intensity. (By default, Chris Jones and Grayson would’ve stayed partners, but let’s face it, they’re kinda filler at this point anyway.)

To Whole Foods they go, where Grayson has the entire staff doing her bidding: One employee is trailing behind her with a giant cart of watermelon and the guys at the butcher counter are running around like madmen to fill her order on time. Whole Food is basically Grayson’s bitch.

Also, there’s lots of backseat cart driving going on:
Chris thinks Grayson is screwing up by using mayonnaise (he’s using emulsified tofu. . .yum! yum!).
Paul wonders about Edward’s use of actual shortrib (he’s using turkey).
And Sarah thinks that Lindsay’s veal and lamb meatball isn’t exactly the “Healthy Choice.” (See what I did there?) (Ugh.)

They have two and a half hours to cook and then the floodgates open.
For some reason, Chris’s station is being attacked by marauding gangs of yellow jackets, which is bad times, especially since  he’s allergic. (True story, I got stung by two yellow jackets on the bottom of my foot last summer and I literally crumpled to the ground in pain. Crumpled.)

“What’s the less healthy version of your dish?” someone asks Paul.
“It’s over there,” Paul says, jerking his finger toward Edward’s station. Heh.

Actually, the worst part of Edward’s dish is that he made homemade buns for his “open faced” sandwiches, but they are self-serve. He’s expecting each guest to dutifully take one bun.
But I think Edward has been in Texas long enough to know that “moderation” and “restraint” are not exactly in the state vocabulary.
Everyone is taking two buns and one little whippersnapper actually grabs three.
So poor Edward has to be, like, the bun-catcher, grabbing stray buns off people’s plates. It’s awkward.

Does everyone remember Ryan Scott from Season 4? No, me neither.
But he is now a “Flavor Ambassador” for Healthy Choice, so good for him. I actually minored in “flavor ambassadoring” in college, so it’s nice to see someone making a career out of it.

Dana Cowan of Food and Wine magazine is helping with the judging, along with Emeril, Tom, Padma, and Pussy Galore (I mean, uh, Cat Cora.)

This is another one of those challenges where the guests actually vote for their favorite dish, which seems a bit unfair, considering that the more fatty and flavorful dishes would naturally have an edge, even though the challenge specifically called for healthier preparations.

Despite Padma insisting that “two of the healthiest dishes were the two best we ate”—it doesn’t quite play out that way.

The fans vote Paul, Grayson, and Lindsay into the Top 3. Of the three of them, Paul was the only one who went with a lot less fat than his counterpart (Grayson used mayonnaise—olive-oil-based, but still—and Lindsay, as you recall, used veal and lamb, which, last I checked, is still yummier than turkey).

Tom starts out by asking Grayson if she really thought that chicken salad could ever be the winning dish.
“You have to win this against other dishes that are potentially much more exciting than a chicken salad sandwich,” he says.
“Like a meatball?” Grayson asks sarcastically.
“Right,” says Tom, staring at her.
“Right,” says Grayson, staring back.

Right about now, I half expect a Whole Foods employee to emerge from stage left and konk Tom in the head.

Anyway, it comes down to Lindsay’s Greek meatball vs. Paul’s turkey kalbi with eggplant and white peach kimchi.

And Paul wins!!!! Paul wins!!! (Extra exclamation points to denote an excitement that none of us are actually feeling at this point.) (Love me some Paul but his winning is getting a little old.)
Paul gets $15,000 for the victory. At this point, I’m pretty sure he could buy and sell Andy Cohen several times over.

Back to the holding room, where Grayson licks her wounds.
“They wanted me to do more. Duly noted. Maybe I should be in there—” and she points to the judging room where Sarah, Edward, and Chris are meeting their fate.

What was up with those dense rolls? Tom asks Edward.
I wanted to avoid using the “empty calories” of rice, Edward explains.
“Bread is empty calories, too,” Padma snips.
(When will these contestants learn that there is no pulling the wool over Padma’s eyes? First of all, she has X-ray vision. Also, she only wears cashmere.)

As for Chris, he totally should’ve made his sandwiches to order, because the bread was dry. Also, there were chunks of ice in Emeril’s watermelon and pineapple smoothie.

Chris reacts to this news as if one those yellow jackets actually made it into the mix.
“I’m sorry,” he says, practically banging his head against a wall in shame. “That sucks.”
Ice in a smoothie!! Why? Why?

As for Sarah, her meatball was probably not bottom 3 material, but they quibble over the inconsistent veggie distribution of her salad.

And. . . Chris Jones is packing his knives and his little Pebbles hairdo and going home.

He gets the “reverse Beverly”: His fellow contestants are genuinely sad to see him go. In fact, they’re all having a moment of self-immolation.

“Jonesy’s going home and it’s my fault,” says Grayson. “The chicken salad was all my idea.”
“It should’ve been me Chris,” says Ed.
“I’m sorry, who’s going home?” says Paul.  “I was too busy counting my money.”

Next week, squee! Pee-Wee!!!!

One thought on “Look at Your Life, Look at Your (Healthy) Choices: The Top Chef Texas recap

  1. “Hall monitors Lindsay and Sarah naturally finish first.” So, so true. Lindsay always looks like she has a stick up her bum, even when she is smiling. DEAR GOD make this season end soon so that Tom and Padma can get the hell out of Texas. Also, this week I was thinking about how p.o'd you'd be if you were one of the first chefs eliminated but you also had to exit your life every week (or however regularly they film “Last Chance Kitchen” (LCK)) to go back to the Texas to sit in the audience for LCK. What a joke. Having said that, those 7 internet minutes are the best of each week's episode. And are, of course, sponsored by Honda…or wait, was it that other car company. Sigh. This all wouldn't be so bad if the Project Runway AllStars wasn't painful beyond belief too. I'm about ready to resign myself to Chopped.
    Rant= over.

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