I love Top Chef. Love. In my list of “Five” (don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about) the Voltaggio Brothers rank at #4. Both of them. And I love food. I’m eating foie gras and wasabi spiked chocolate right now. (No, I’m not.) So when they announced TC was coming to Texas? Super excited. Then I read they were going to feature the important cities. Even better! San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas…and they skipped Houston.
It’s the fourth largest city in the country! The food is outstanding. I mean, okay, it’s a nightmare to drive in, and when you’re close to the bay you have to deal with all of the oil tankers, but still! So just as a shout-out to the land that grew my husband, places you should eat if you go: Haven, Kata Robata, Reef, Gatlin’s BBQ, and Branch Water Tavern, just to name a few.
There, I feel better. On with the show, because we have a new format this season!
They start off with stock footage of stereotypical Texas, our slogan “Don’t Mess With Texas,” – an effective anti-litter campaign, some cattle, rough lookin’ dudes in boots and hats, and the only car in the entire state with longhorns on the dash. They pull this guy’s Caddy out for anything “Texan.” Then they go to the Alamo, which…it’s pretty dinky, huh? It’s mostly gone. You should ask the docents there about the basement, they love it.
But hang on, that’s a massive crowd of chefs there, the hell? Duh, “everything’s bigger in Texas,” which is why the women are bowlegged [rimshot!] so they’ll start off with 29 folks and whittle it down to 16. And we have a new judge added to the permanent roster, Emeril Lagasse! I always wonder what other chefs think of him with his happy attitude, his BAM, and his products. But his food is really good, I have to say. He’s the Ryan Seacrest of the chef world.
The rules are explained to everyone, and since there are so many, and most are going home, I’m not going to bother to learn their names just yet. And come on, 29 individual dishes? I’ll link you to the recipes at the end for the winners. So we have Whiny Blonde who doesn’t like this new twist, Issac Hayes, aka Chef Chef who is nervous and has a voice like molasses over hot coals, and he can talk to me all day long, and they enter the Top Chef Kitchen (not at the Alamo. I assume.)
A couple of women eye each other appreciatively, and it turns out they’ve heard of each other, are impressed and excited to compete against each other. We have Bad Ass 1, who is older with longer hair, and Bad Ass 2, with short reddish hair. They’re a part of the Chicago Crew. Then we meet a chick with no job, which sounds really sad after everyone else mentions the amazing places they work, all of their accolades, and most of them seem to be James Beard finalists. Damn.
There’s an entire pig that has been broken down into a handful of sections with a helpful butchering chart behind them. The 10 major cuts need to be made, they’ll fight each other over what they get, and prepare a dish, all within an hour This will test their butchering skills, how they cook, presentation, and of course, it has to taste good. They race to the pig, and I gotta think the Chicago chefs will have an edge here.
No Job goes for the tenderloin, because that’s easy to cook. (Prediction: sayonara, you’ve lost my interest already.) We meet “Stone, Chef Tyler Stone” who is a personal chef to “the stars.” He submitted a cheesy Six Flags video of himself and somehow made it here. He’s pretty amazing, in his own mind, so he has that going for him. He will butcher his side of meat and give No Job her tenderloin. Big mistake.
See, Personal Chef doesn’t know how to butcher. He’s too important for that, of course. He also believes he has “all the time in the world.” How much do you want to see this guy fail? Oh, don’t worry, after totally screwing up the butchering (like we thought it would be otherwise) he ends up cutting No Job’s tenderloin into pieces. Ouch. Papa Tom wanders over, raises an eyebrow and says for him to go ahead and skeedaddle. DAMN. They’re not playing around!
Papa Tom tells No Job she just learned her first lesson: don’t trust anyone. And now she has 3 ounces of meat to serve to three people. That’s tough.
There’s a cut to a wooden sign for Laredo, and that’s a 2 and a half hour drive away from San Antonio! I don’t know either, guys. Back to the cheftestants! We see Vegan Chef from the PacNorthWest who is absolutely in over his head. Really, dude? You didn’t practice cooking meat before coming on this show? I’m over this hombre.
The Bad Ass Chicks are rocking it, meanwhile. Bad Ass 2 is making a particular type of sausage from Northern Italy to fill homemade ravioli. Uh, I’ll have some of that, please. She’s all excited about her food and happy, and I want her to go all the way already. Bad Ass 1 over-salted her grits [insert kiss my grits joke] so she dumps half out and adds more milk. She’s all Honey Badger, she don’t give a shit, she’ll roll with it. I like her, too.
TIME! Vegan is freaked by the buzzer and sloshes his soup over all the plates, and the judges see that and he’s gone. Come on, man, it’s a cooking challenge, and you can’t cook proteins? The judges explain that they need 2 votes to move on. If they’re undecided, the contestants are on “the bubble” where they’ll have to cook again.
Bad Ass 2 has the sausage ravioli, they loved it, she’s in. No Job cooked her dish well, there just wasn’t enough of it for them to decide, she’s on the bubble. Blonde Whiner – who guys? Cooked for the Royal Caribbean Fine Dining Room, okay? – is put in the bubble, too. The bubble chicks are in the stew room, grateful they’re not gone yet.
Bad Ass 1 fixed her grits, knocked out freaking baby back ribs in under an hour (those you cook for at least 8 traditionally) and knock the judges socks off, she’s in. Geeky Chef made a main course look like a dessert, they found it delicious, he’s in. Mohawk Sous made a soup out of pig ear. If he’s not in from the balls of that, oh, okay, he’s in, they thought it was pretty tasty. He needs to learn to not tell the judges what he thinks might be wrong with his dish, though.
Self Taught Chef with hard core tattoos on his neck overcooked his meat. Sorry dude, you’re out. Classically Trained Beautiful Lady made an homage to Tex-Mex with her French skills, and they loved it, Emeril especially. She’s in.
The folks that get one of the Top Chef coats to continue move on to their house, which is in a swank neighborhood in San Antonio filled with beautiful and spacious homes. They’re all pretty jazzed, and Bad Ass 2 immediately checks out the kitchen. That’s my girl. So that’s 5 out of 10 from this group, 11 spots left.
Group 2, and it’s the lovely Gail Simmons replacing Emeril for this round. We meet more of the chefs before the challenge is given. Chef Chef from North Carolina was a James Beard nominee. Sergeant Handsome doesn’t have amazing credentials like that, so he calls himself a “culinary artist.” Snarky Tough Girl next to him lists off her awards and says, “And I, too, am a culinary artist.” It got a laugh out of Papa Tom.
Chuy is a slight guy that’s young and has had his own restaurant since he was 23. Damn, son! It’s like everyone was “Best New Chef for [where ever they’re from]” in this competition.
Padma, who is thankfully not in that horrid denim dress from the promos, tells them that they’ll find the protein table filled with the judges’ favorite foods. They will all collectively pick one protein and each prepare that as their dish, getting only one hour. Time starts now!
They all calmly walk over there (you’ll learn, gang, you’ll learn) and talk for what seems a really long time about what to pick. Come on, guys, clock is ticking. They all decide it’s Wabbit Season and get to work.
Tennessee-Korean has parents back in Korea who aren’t impressed by being a “cook.” He hopes to win so they can finally be proud of him, getting choked up as he tells us this. Break my heart a little, why don’t ya? Sergeant Handsome tells us he’s like Richard Blais or the Voltaggio Bros. Go on. He’s experimental, you see. Also, he seems like a nice guy that is keeping to himself. Ty-Lor (good lord) has traveled the world to cook, and seems like an interesting guy. Well, I remember his name, at least.
Then we meet Chef Chef, who comes from a rough background. He says that he made some bad choices in life, ended up in prison, and learned to cook there. Now he owns his own restaurant on the ocean and I kinda want to hug him and see him go all the way to the finale, too.
TIME! Girl We Only Saw In Background forgot to put the rabbit on her plate. Wow, dude. She’s out. Longface Lady with sleeves (tattoos) made something they loved, she’s in. Chef Chef made something that got a “yum” out of Gail. He’s in, yay! Tennessee-Korean didn’t cook his rabbit enough for Padma, so she’s on the fence. Papa Tom also is on the fence – they can see he knows how to cook, so they put him in the bubble. He heads off to the stew room.
Ty-Lor changed his dish up before serving, which could be good or bad. It was a good decision to put the rabbit in fish sauce (who knew?) so he’s in. Chuy, who marinated his rabbit in adobo so he’s already won my heart, worries that there’s too much on the plate. Nope, they love it, he’s in. Sarcastic Tough Girl ran out of time and didn’t get her sauce plated. Oooh. That’s going to stick her on the bubble, as everything else was tasty.
Sergeant Handsome comes away with the best presentation of rabbit for the whole group. Good work! He’s in, and really, he’s a quiet guy. And handsome. Older Chick that looks Prissy But Is Heavily Tattooed (I need them to hurry up so I can learn their names) made something delicious that quickly earns her praise and a coat, she’s in. That’s 6 of 10, 2 in the stew room and the rest are out.
There are only 5 coats left, and we have the next group to go, but that will have to wait until next week. Meanwhile the bubble people have come up with a theory: none of them are tattooed, and the winners were all heavily tattooed. Sarcastic Tough Girl doodles a tat on her forearm. It’s going to take you remembering your sauce, sugar, not a Sharpie picture.
Next Week! Someone cuts the holy bejeebus out of their hand, and we whittle the group to the 16 that will begin the actual competition. The full list of dishes can be found here on BravoTV.com.