Jaw Walking: The Top Chef Texas recap

The more I thought about it, the more I knew that Bev was going to walk through that door.
I mean, Top Chef is a TV show, after all—and where’s the drama in Grayson being a finalist? For one thing we already know she’s good, but slightly less good than Sarah, Paul, Edward, and Lindsay. Second of all, everybody loves her. How dull.
So yeah, door opens and in marches Bev, smiling that spunky, indefatigable Bev smile, which, as always, lives at the corner of Adorable Ingénue Road and Will Murder You In Your Sleep Boulevard.
Her arrival is greeted with funereal silence.
In fact, let’s just call this whole episode what it is: Awkward Interactions With Beverly.
“I am not happy to see Bev,” says Sarah.
“We were all excited because we thought we were the Final Four,” grouses Ed, glaring at Bev like it’s her fault she won Last Chance Kitchen.
Tom, sensing the tension—and loving every minute of it— chimes in with: “If Bev continues to cook the way she did on Last Chance Kitchen, you’re all in for some real competition.”
Hell yeah, it is ON.
(And just for the record, Bev was able to recover the “Congratulations Top Chef Beverly Kim” sign from the trash—so thank God for that.)
The Quickfire Challenge is some sort of cooking exercise/Three Stooges routine/1970s key party rolled into one: Everyone has to put on a blindfold and grope their way into the pantry to pick out their ingredients.
And grope is the operative word: Bev cops more feels than Larry King in a sorority house.
People keep banging into walls. Jars are overturned. Floors become Bon Jovied (slippery when wet). It’s a mess.
(And Padma and Tom laugh and clap their hands and say, “Dance monkeys, dance!”)
Tom asks Lindsay how she did blindfolded in the pantry and she says, “I hit some walls.”
“I hope you didn’t hit any metaphorical walls,” he cracks, and Lindsay gives him the kind of death stare usually reserved for Beverly.
It comes down to Ed vs. Sarah for the win and Sarah takes it.
I love the twist on the Quickfire prize: You either get a new Prius OR a guaranteed spot in the finals.
Seems like a no brainer, right? Take the guaranteed spot.
But that shit can play mind games with you: Did you truly earn your spot? Did you lose a little of your competitive edge by sitting one out? Will your competitors now see you as someone who fears them? What’s the gas mileage on that Prius?
The boys are all posturing that they would take the car because they fear no Elimination Challenge, but Sarah, quite reasonably I think, goes for the guaranteed spot instead.

Then, of course, she’s probably a little disappointed when she sees who comes waltzing through the doors: The cheftestants’ mentors.
For reasons not quite made clear, this turns into an enormous blubberfest.
Paul in particular really needs to get a hold of himself. Both he and his mentor—Tyson Cole—are doing some serious Stage 5 ugly crying.

Also, did anyone else get the sense that Bev’s mentor:
a. Barely knows her?
b. Doesn’t really like her that much?
Here’s the challenge: Make a dish that will make your mentor proud.  (Except for you, Sarah.)
Sarah’s mentor—Tony Mantuano (I also hear he’s a helluva disco dancer)—is there, too, but just for show. They end up going to the Golden Corral for dinner.
Oh, and here’s a little insight into the way Lindsay’s brain works: She seems very close to her mentor, Michelle Bernstein—I mean, like mother/daughter close. And  yet, this is the amount of crazy pressure she puts on herself: “If I don’t do well, I won’t have a job when I come back,” she says.
Girl, check yourself before you wreck yourself.
At Whole Foods, Edward goes looking for fresh oysters, can’t find them, and settles for smoked oysters instead.
Seriously, some sort of siren should sound whenever a cheftestant does that.
When will they learn: If it came from a jar, a box, a tube, a can, or the freezer section of your grocery store, RUN AWAY!!!
Dinner is served to Tom, Padma, Hugh, Gail, and all the mentors.
Bev comes out first.
She’s made gulf shrimp with BBQ pork and Singapore rice noodles.
And she cooked to order in a wok, which is apparently tricky, even though the guys in dirty undershirts at my local Chinese takeout seem to do it just fine.
Everyone is impressed and Tom appreciates the degree of difficulty. How he managed to not tell Bev that she took “a wok on the wild side” is beyond me.
Next Lindsay, who is already in the kitchen seriously self-flagellating because she added cream and dried herbs to her cioppino.
As expected, the judges like it but wonder about the emulsified cream.
“I’m firing that incompetent bitch,” Michelle Bernstein says. (Just kidding.)
Paul comes out with his chilled sunchoke and dashi soup with summer vegetables.
The judges flove it, and particularly take note of the restraint Paul showed in not adding unnecessary components. A sign of a very confident chef.
Next Edward’s braised pork belly with Chicken-of-the-Sea-brand oysters and pickled vegetables.  (Okay, maybe not Chicken of the Sea. But still.)
“My oyster sauce tastes funny,” Tom says.
But Gail likes the pickles almost as much as she once liked Mike Isabella’s pepperoni sauce. (And I wish I liked anything as much as Gail liked Mike Isabella’s pepperoni sauce.) (True story: I ate that sauce recently, when I visited Isabella’s Graffiato’s in D.C. It is definitely a sauce worth swooning over.)
So Padma wants to see everybody (except for you, Sarah.)
High praise all around, but “Beverly and Paul served our favorite dishes of the night.”

And the winner is. . .The Artist! (I mean, Paul. . . sorry about that. . . I have Oscars on the brain.)
But Bev is safe, too.
“It’s so much sweeter because I was at the bottom,” Beverly says, as Lindsay gives her the death stare usually reserved for, well, her.
So Paul and Bev scamper back to the holding room, where Sarah looks decidedly unimpressed.
“Oh my God I’m so worried about Ed and Lindsay,” she says.  Implication: It should’ve been you, Beverly!
In the end, if your oysters are smoked, you must be revoked.
Ed is out.
“Getting knocked out by Beverly,” says Ed. “It’s a bad way to go.”
Nonetheless, he’s super gracious as he leaves, congratulating everybody and telling them they deserve to be there. (I like Ed V.2.0—too bad I didn’t get to meet him sooner.)
Don’t worry, Ed. You’ll have a chance to redeem yourself on Last Chance Kitch. . . .doh!

3 thoughts on “Jaw Walking: The Top Chef Texas recap

  1. I think Ed had the best line when blindfolded Sarah demanded to know who she was touching (groping): “What does it matter? You're still touching a person.”… or something like that.
    P.S. Loved the 70's key party reference. Awesome.

  2. Just a fan letter for you… my daughter (age 19) and I have a weekly tradition. On Thursdays, we watch our previously recorded Top Chef episode. Then, we immediately run down to my computer to read your recap. Seriously, you're the best thing about our Top Chef tradition. DO NOT STOP.

  3. Thanks so much Ericka! Made my day.

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