December 22nd, 2011
11:30 AM ET
There’s no place like home for the holidays, and on last night's “Top Chef: Texas,” the contestants looked back home for inspiration.
But first, the gang drove to Austin, and along the way we learned Paul was a weed dealer until he was 22. So you know he’ll KILL IT when they have that processed food challenge; dude’s surely a mad scientist with some Cheetos and Nutella.
Once in Austin, it was Quickfire time, wherein fans tweeted the instructions to the chefs. The first tweeted rule was simple - cook a dish with bacon. About 15 minutes later, the next rule was announced - cook a hash (“Ha, he said HASH,” Paul giggled, probably).
Things were fairly calm until the final rule came in: use an ingredient picked by another chef. Sriracha was the go-to “screw over my competitor” choice.
On top, hometown hero/dealer Paul and his bacon three ways beat out Beverly and Sarah, giving him $10,000 and bringing his total winnings to $30k. Man, that would buy a lot of– nevermind.
Next, the cheftestants grabbed some cocktails in their hotel lobby. And out came Patti LaBelle, taking a break from allegedly chucking water at babies to belt out “Lady Marmalade.” I shuddered, thinking the Elimination Challenge would involve making and jarring marmalade.
Thankfully, Padma sashayed out, informing us each chef must create a dish honoring his/her cooking inspiration. At which point viewers immediately regretted making that “drink every time someone cries” rule.
With only 10 chefs left, and no teams, there was really no impetus for drama in the kitchen. So let’s get to the tasting. Safely in the middle we had - ohmygod it’s Emeril! He’s alive!
OK where was I? Right, the middle grounders. Paul served up quail adobo with ginger rice and mango salsa which looked and sounded delicious. But he was docked points because Patti LaBelle isn’t a quail fan.
Ty-Lor was inspired by his Japanese nanny’s chicken tenders, so he went more upscale with duck fat-fried chicken tenders with pickled peaches. Lindsay pulled a similar classic-meets-modern move with trout spanakopita inspired by her Greek grandmother.
And then there was Pebbles, whose lemon-pepper steak stayed out of the bottom despite the inclusion of an A1-based demi-glace, which I’m pretty sure he lifted from a TGIFriday’s menu.
Now, for the favorites. Here we had Ed, Beverly and Sarah. Bev made Korean short ribs with edamame scallion puree, and it’s safe to say she bounced back from last week’s encounter with The Steamroller.
Ed placed with an Asian dish as well, making a clean-looking bibimbap with lemon-chili sauce. But in last night’s evenly matched competition, Sarah took the prize with sausage stuffed cabbage. As the judges said, she made the usually heavy dish very light and clean.
On the bottom, Pretty Chris, Grayson and Heather were trotted out. Emeril donned his “serious” face, which was like watching a dog wearing a Christmas sweater: you KNOW it wants to get it off as quickly as possible and start yapping excitedly.
Anyway, Pretty Chris made salmon with carrot puree. The fish was seared too quickly and thus leaked white albumin sludge, as if the fillet had a nasty head cold. Also, his carrot puree didn’t taste like carrots because giant spears of dill overpowered everything.
Grayson made a Fred Flintstone-sized rib eye with potato salad. Not only did she fail to modernize the steak-and-potatoes staple, but the meat was sinewy and spongy. Emeril said he expected a lot more from her. Um, he doesn’t even know these people, he’s been gone all season! He’s acting like the absentee father who comes home for a random birthday and expects the kid to listen. Gotta put in some face time before you can dole out some punishments, Emeril.
Lastly, we had Heather’s beef Stroganoff which was also stringy (this season’s cheftestants REALLY need to learn how to cook meat). Emeril couldn’t even tell what the meat was, to which Ms. LaBelle answered “it’s Bigfoot.” This was not a compliment, because Sasquatch meat is very gristly. In addition, Heather’s dumplings were dry and overcooked, so it wasn’t looking good for The Steamroller.
In the end, The Steamroller got steamrolled. Upon breaking the news to the others, Heather said, “Don’t be upset.”
“NOTED!” the chefs cheerfully exclaimed in unison (in my head).
So, the show lost its villain. Do you think Heather got a dose of karma?
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