The Austin Chronicle

Top Chef Texas, Week 9: Things You Don't Say

By Melanie Haupt, January 6, 2012, 10:44am, On the Range

Previously on Top Chef: Heather is eliminated. No one is sad. Later, in their Driskill digs, Ed smack-talks Heather because she achieved success twice thanks to his genoise recipe. Sarah is not impressed, introducing a layer of tension between the two. This will be important later.

Room service arrives with a set of the Modernist Cuisine cookbooks (list price $625) and instructions from Padma that the Quickfire the next morning will be inspired by the books. Naturally, Beverly and her tattoos stay up all night studying the tomes. The next morning, she splatters curry foam all over Padma and the professorial co-author of the series Nathan Myhrvold. Sweet. Chicago Chris interprets “modernist” cuisine as using a miracle berry to alter the flavors of the food. Whatever. Miracle berries are so 2009. Paul Qui rightly talking heads that it’s a gimmick, but maybe that’s some ugly bitter buildup from landing in the bottom of the Quickfire?

On top: Chicago Chris and his miracle berry, Sarah and her egg ravioli, Ty-Lor and his watermelon and magical olive oil. Ty-Lor wins, and we all wonder how in the hell he’s going to get that behemoth cookbook collection home. Can he check that with his luggage? Does it count as a carry-on?

Padma announces that the Elimination Challenge is “the most traditional Texas food,” barbecue. (I seriously, seriously beg to differ on this point. While barbecue is certainly a central part of Texan foodways, to call it “the most traditional” food of Texas is to elide a troubled racial history connected to slavery and cotton culture and exploitation of workers, as well as completely ignoring Native Americans’ presence in Texas, as well as the cultural flows that pre-date barbecue, which brought Spanish, Mexican, Czech, and German foodways with them. What I’m saying is: KOLACHE CHALLENGE, MOFOS!!!!)

A barbecue challenge! Everyone squeals! “I love grilling!” Sarah squees. Ahem. A word, Sarah. We’ll be revoking your spurious claims to Texan heritage now, thank you.

Oh, look. The Salt Lick. “The best barbecue in Texas.” Ahem. A word, Top Chef. And that word is NO. Moving on. And a word about that pit: If you think that the meat you eat at the Salt Lick is cooked on that big pit in the main dining room, you are fooling yourself. That is a finishing pit. And true Texas barbecue isn’t swabbed/drenched with sauce (sacrilege!!!!) during cooking/finishing/plating. True Texas barbecue needs no sauce. Amen.

In yet another overnight stunt, the cheftestants must cook overnight for 300 people, with small-scale replicas of the main pit to “cook” on. They have caravans in which to cook/sleep. (As if.) This whole season is just one stunt after another, and it’s getting tiresome. Bev sets some bourbon on fire in one of the caravans, then nonchalantly stirs a pot on the stove, then takes the burning pan outside and sets it in the grass to burn, whapping it flaccidly with a towel. Ye gods, someone get this woman a brain. “Beverly is really book smart, but when it comes to common sense, she’s missing a few chapters,” says Formerly Fat Chris. Well done, Chris. Beauty and brains! You truly are the complete package.

Blue team (Paul, Lindsay, Grayson): Asian-style barbecue. White team (Chicago Chris, Formerly Fat Chris, Bev): beer-can chicken, Dr. Pepper ribs, crunchy beans. Red team (Sarah, Ed, Ty-Lor): Texas, Kentucky, Kansas City barbecue styles. Tom comes to do his sniff and sneer and Grayson tells Tom that they haven’t slept, then tells him that their barbecue will be like “sex in the mouth.” That's what she said?! (*weeps*)

Sarah’s heatstroke happens. Ambulances happen. Service happens. Ed’s meltdown happens; basically, if Sarah is not dead, she should be there with her team. I sort of agree. I worked at the Salt Lick my senior year in high school, before they had air conditioning, clad head-to-to in denim and bandannas. It was hot and it sucked, but you sacked up and did your job. Ty-Lor says “plate strokes.” Hee hee. Eating happens. Music happens. Judging happens. White team wins; this brings Paul Qui’s prize kitty to $35,000. Sarah’s grilled chicken didn’t taste like barbecue (go figure). Ty-Lor’s ribs were rubbery. Ed’s brisket was DOA. Chicago Chris wore an assholish t-shirt reading “I Eat Vegans.” Bev’s coleslaw was too traditional and didn’t show the judges who she was as a chef. (WTF? It’s coleslaw. It’s hard to have a point of view with fucking coleslaw.) Formerly Fat Chris’s Dr. Pepper-coffee ribs (that’s a totally legit rub, by the way) are apparently too salty, but my informants from the Salt Lick taping report that they were delicious. So long, beautiful, slender Chris. Who will Grayson rub up against in her sleepless delirium now?

Next week: Restaurant wars, boys v. girls. Snoooze.

Last Chance Kitchen: Nyesha retains her death-grip on her Top Chef jacket, knocking out FF Chris in a convenience store battle.

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