Top Chef Texas, Week 14: Hot for Teacher
The chefs cook for their mentors.
By Melanie Haupt,
1:22PM, Sat. Feb. 11, 2012
Previously on Top Chef: Gimmicky gimmicky gimmicks and Grayson goes to purgatory, AKA Last Chance Kitchen. Welcome to the home stretch of Top Chef: Gimmicks. I mean, Texas.
The four remaining chefs – Ed, Lindsay, Paul, and Sarah – are hanging out in the backyard. Ed and Paul are smoking. Ugh. So nasty. I’m surprised they were able to complete last week’s cardiovascular-centric challenge without dropping dead of heart attacks. I mean, really, why would you deliberately compromise your health like that? Wait, hang on. Where did I leave my Girl Scout cookies? I can’t recap Top Chef without the assistance of at least one sleeve of Thin Mints.
Anyhoo, Ed speculates that Bev will be the victor of the final Last Chance Kitchen showdown, while Sarah reckons Grayson is the champeen. Ed wagers a pack of cigarettes. Sarah raises him a banana. Ed and Paul’s lungs shrivel up like raisins in their chests. Lindsay and Sarah’s hearts turn a slightly deeper shade of black. Everyone laughs. Thin Mints consumed: 4
The next morning, the chefs convene in the TC kitchen and are greeted by Tom, Padma, and five cloches. Here comes the big reveal! To no one’s shock and surprise, Bev enters and absolutely no one is pleased. Sarah is not interested in buying a ticket Bev-land, and also she really, really wanted that banana.
Padma announces that for the Quickfire, the chefs must select their ingredients while wearing a blindfold; Tom explains that a good chef can identify an ingredient by using all his or her senses, not just sight. The chefs have to use all of the ingredients in their baskets, so they must choose carefully. Okay, I get the rationale, but the way this plays out is more for comedy than for the demonstration of mad skillz. Padma has to direct Bev into the pantry, as she’s wandering out into traffic. Sarah is mandhandling the other chefs, “who is that?” “Does it matter,” asks Ed dryly. “It’s another person.” This is when I decided that I really, really like Ed even though he was kind of douchey at the beginning of the season. His wry wit just tickles the hell out of me. Bev gouges Paul in the eye, probably on purpose.
I don’t even care what these people make in this challenge, do you? All we need to know is that these folks make a huge mess and Ed winds up with pork casings and zucchini. My husband and I decided that he could have just stuffed a zucchini into a casing and called it veggie sausage.
Oh, and at stake in the challenge are either a Product Placemobile or an automatic spot in the final four. The top two are Ed (udon soup) and Sarah (peach mushroom soup). The winner is Sarah, who opts for the final four spot. Ed reckons that shows a lack of confidence. Oh, Ed. Sigh. Thin Mints consumed: 7.
Okay, this next part is a doozy. It’s hard to watch because some of it is so forced and uncomfortable, but part of it is just heartbreakingly sweet. Padma and Tom announce that for the Elimination Challenge, the chefs will be cooking for their mentors, who then enter the kitchen. The chefs must then introduce their mentors. Sarah luhurrrrves Tony Mantuano, who has competed on Top Chef Masters. Lindsay says that Michelle Bernstein taught her how to be a badass and a lady at the same time (um, maybe F-bomb Lindsay wasn’t paying attention during her lessons?). Chef Sarah Stegner was Bev’s first mentor at the Ritz Carlton in Chicago, and Chef Stegner is either a cold fish or feels the same way about Bev that everyone else does. Paul is a WRECK as he introduces Tyson Cole, and there’s not a dry eye in the house. (Thin Mints consumed: 12). Finally, Ed introduces the very jocular-looking (but probably very mean) Frank Crispo, who apparently disabused Ed of his long hair and bad attitude.
Sarah doesn’t have to cook, so she and Tony go get drunk. The other chefs go shopping. Bev still has the crazy self-affirming paper that declares she has won Top Chef. In the absence of fresh oysters (hello, drought, anyone?), Ed chooses smoked oysters. “Well, that’s it for Ed,” says my husband. Thin Mints consumed: 15.
Cooking, cooking, cooking. Paul calls his girlfriend (we are not falling for that stratagem, Editing Monkeys!). Dinner. Wine drinking. Bev does a very good Singapore-style wok dish. Lindsay does a seafood stew that she emulsified with cream and is worried about. The judges are not excited about the raw herbs in the dish. Tyson says that Paul is a quick learner and that he is a valuable addition to his staff whom he is happy to exploit. Back in the kitchen, we watch Paul edit himself as he plates his sunchoke and dashi soup. “Being able to recognize that your dish is where it should be takes a lot of experience and a lot of discipline,” he explains. When he serves Tyson, he greets him with “hi-yo,” which must be some adorable Uchi insider thing. Cute. Ed serves pork belly and smoked oyster crema. Tom does not care for the oyster sauce.
In the stew room, Ed explains over several Shiner Bocks that he is not a crier. Then he pretend-cries that he doesn’t want to go home. Everyone laughs. Thin Mints consumed: 16.
Does anyone wonder whether Healthy Choice has seen an uptick in sales since the beginning of this season?
At Judges’ Table, Paul and Bev are at the top. Tom loved Paul’s soup and commends him on his restraint. Gail congratulates Bev on her perfectly timed and flavored noodle dish. Paul wins a Product Placemobile! Bev has a really annoying laugh. ENOUGH WITH THE BEV ALREADY. I feel like her face is burned into my TV screen by this point.
That leaves us with Ed and Lindsay. I think we know where this is going, don’t we? Hughnibrow Acheson asks whether Ed’s oysters were canned. “Yeah, smoked, canned,” says Ed. Tom and Padma both fall back into their chairs because HAVE YOU NOT SEEN THIS SHOW BEFORE, ED? “Don’t get fixated on the recipe, figure out what’s great at the market,” says Hughnibrow. He’s right: you find fresh, you have your dinner. Know when to punt.
Ed is out. I am sad. Lindsay promises to drink lots of bourbon with Ed next time they see each other. Thin Mints consumed: 20.
On the next Top Chef, the final four are in British Columbia. I am pretty sure that Bev is going to “accidentally” kill someone with a spike (has no one else seen the murderous intent masking the bubbly, bumbling, ditzy dame act?)
Sign up for the Chronicle Cooking newsletter
If you want to submit a recipe, send it to email@example.com