Top Chef: Texas 9.2 – The Final 16

I imagine there are a lot of back problems in the professional cooking world. Also, I bet this is why we end up with hair in our food.

Last week we met way too many people, fortunately sent five packing, leaving up with 10 assured with a place in the competition, and four left “in the bubble” to cook again. But there is another group of 10 chefs waiting for their Blue Coat and a little validation that they were smart to dropout of law school to play with their food. 

We get a little stock footage of the Riverwalk, and I’m constantly reminded that they stupidly filmed this season in July. In Texas. In our hottest month ever. Not gonna be a lot of fun on those outdoor challenges, is my guess. (Protip: skip the flan and iced puddings on those days.)

The last group come int the kitchen, excited and overjoyed to catch sight of Padma, Tom, and Hugh Atcheson, their judge for this round. We get a little intro to some of the chefs, but until I know they’re coming back, we’re sticking with nicknames.

Padma-Crush has had a picture of her for 15 years. I had to go look up how the hell he’d known who she was 15 years ago. Right, it’s probably from her role in Glitter. We also meet Mom-n-Chef, a cute Korean woman who is determined to win this (uh, they all better be, or they’re wasting our time, right?) First of the Austin chefs, Paul Qui, who is a bad ass and owns three food trucks that Anthony Bourdain loves. The other Austin chef is Andrew, and he’s just blessed to be here. Chef Franch, originally from the Loire valley, much older, but could be a contender. And finally, a couple of women that don’t immediately stand out to me (Chef Miami chick, Chef Pinup Seattle and Chef Southern Forehead.)

CHALLENGE:

There are 10 ingredients on a table, with a secret under a cloche. They’ll all determine what of the 10 they each get, and must prepare an outfit. Wait, wrong show. Food, right, they have to make a dish. Things like short ribs, duck, oxtail, squid, Brussels sprouts. And….pick!

Chef Austin Andrew and Pinup Seattle Rochambeau for the mushrooms, leaving Pinup with oxtails, but she ain’t bothered, her new husband is Filipino and his mother showed her how to make some great things. Nice!

Once they’ve all picked, they lift their cloches to find a timer, and there are three different times, depending on the dish. Oho! Oxtails gets 60 minutes, and mushrooms only 20, boom! Make it work! (Don’t you think a little Tim Gunn would be wonderful? Kind and loving support with an immense vocabulary?)

AustinPaul is going to knock out a trout dish in 20, Austin Andrew is going to properly cook mushrooms (because you want to sound superior when in a room of chefs, that’s not alienating at all) and Pinup realizes she doesn’t actually know how to use a pressure cooker.

Protip: Learn how to use every damn bit of cookery in every single kitchen on earth before going on this show. You know they’re going to have a Bunsen burner/campfire/coffee pot for braising/panini foie gras competition on a moving elementary school bus, so why set yourself up for potential disaster?

Chef Franch is making duck with a whole lot of ingredients. Hmm. Mom-n-Chef is going to make octopus just like her mama dis for after school snacks. Beats my Twinkies and “back off, baby, Mama’s watching her stories.” Padma-lover is going to whip up risotto in 40 minutes, causing hives to break out on every Italian in the world.

20 Minute Group

  • Chef Austin Paul‘s trout: It’s a favorite right off the bat, Tom’s still licking his plate clean. He’s IN!
  • Chef SousChef (she didn’t stand out) overcooked her lamb, plus it was greasy. Buh-bye.
  • Chef Austin Andrew: well, Mr. Properly cooked msuhrooms, they weren’t all perfect. He makes the HUGE mistake of saying, “I wasn’t proud of what I put out” (Tom makes a mental note) and they slap him on the bubble, and he joins the previous 4 bubble-chefs in the stew room.

40 Minute Group

  • Chef Padma Lover miscalculated his time (and someone offered to help! I think it was Southern Forehead?) and didn’t even get his risotto on the plate. He got it on a big baking sheet, which confused me, because why not just ladle it into bowls? He’s gone.
  • Private Dancer Chef had Spanish-inspired Brussels sprouts that inspired no one, as they weren’t fully cooked. Hasta la never.
  • Chef Short Ribs (eh) had no dimensional flavor to her dish, and it looked a little Mall Food to me. Out.
  • Chef Franch‘s duck was not as crispy as he would have liked, and the other judges feel there was too much on the plate. But he’s 51. He has an amazing resume. Tom puts him on the bubble.

60 Minute Group

  • Chef Southern Forehead whips up some Osso Buco in her time frame (impressive!) and Tom looooved it. She’s way in.
  • Mom-n-Chef and her octopus get a “hmm, bet she didn’t cook it right” when Padma asks her if she’s ever cooked it before. Nope, but her mom did, and fortunately they judges also loved this. She’s in.
  • Chef Pinup and her oxtail. Bless. It just didn’t cook enough and was tough. She’s out, and I bid her adorable red hair and glasses goodbye. (Southern Forehead also helped her figure out how to use the pressure cooker, so she’s good people.)

There is now only one spot left for the bubble folks. They’ve been in there waiting all day, too.

Chef Tennessee-Korean from last week finds out Blonde Whiner is a cruise ship chef and actually laughs out loud. He’s my sneaky favorite, gang. There are two spots left, Padma comes to get them, and Emeril has joined the crew of judges now.

Final Challenge

They’ll have 45 minutes to use anything in the kitchen and make the judges weep. One way or the other. Time starts – now! Minor bedlam (they’ll learn to trip and steal soon enough) as they grab ingredients.

Tennessee Korean notes that everyone is picking seafood, so he grabs duck. Smart. Except for how he cuts the top of a bottle off (for speed? Who the hell knows, just open it like regular folk) and cuts the hell out of his hand. He jams a glove over the mess (gag) until a medic comes over to clean him up and apply first aid. He doesn’t stop, by the way, just cooks one-handed like he’s Fabio. I’m totally fine with anyone reminding me of Fabio, by the way. Also, in your face, Jaimie, Miss I have to leave for two stitches.

The time ends, and we have everyone lined up, food waiting for the judges.

Judges Table

Can I say how disappointed I am that they didn’t take advantage of Ennio Morricone’s masterpiece, the theme from The Good, The Bad & The Ugly here for the suspenseful music instead of the normal faux-tension stuff from previous seasons? (I mean, if you’re gonna shoot, shoot. Don’t talk! If you don’t know this movie, then I just don’t know what to say. Get thee hie to Netflix and enjoy Tuco and The Man With No Name..)

Sorry. Food. Right.

  • Tennessee-Korean and his duck, cooked southern US and Asian style. Mostly good vibes from the judges.
  • Blonde Whiner and her stuffed jumbo shrimp, the ones that were over cooked. Mm hm.
  • SarcasticChick had seared scallops with watermelon and lime, they don’t know what was going on with the watermelon.
  • NoJob made classy shrimp-n-grits with polenta and bacon wrapped shrimp and figs. They’re wondering about her, because that’s unusual. We don’t know if it’s good or bad unusual.
  • Franch and his scallops two ways, cooked, and mangled (according to Papa Tom and Hugh – when someone describes your food as looking “grey,” that’s not a good sign.
  • Austin Andrew made mussels they loved. But why did he slap a bunch of other stuff on the plate? Literally on the plate, as the mussels were in a bowl on the plate.

They send them back to deliberate, because they have a full hour to kill on this episode. Emirl and Padma thought Blonde Whiner had bland and embarrassing food. Ouch. Tom and Hugh are thumbs down on that scallop tartare. Tom and Hugh were all over that duck, even if it was slightly over-cooked, something that is incredibly easy to do with duck. Tom and Hugh hated all the extra crap messing up the deliciousness of the mussels. Emeril was all over those figs, bacon and skrimps, because he’s been in the south long enough to know that’s a winner winner, chicken dinner. But everyone is weirded out by the random flaking of watermelon on top of the other scallop dish.

(And already we have scallop abuse. I love scallops, but move on to something else, cheftestants! Rock some cabrito! Dazzle us with some short ribs! Blow our minds with periwinkles!)

Again with the suspenseful music that should have the sound of bat-wing doors in a saloon, and fingers flexing over a six shooter, but isn’t.

Blonde Whiner: have fun over cooking shrimp on ships forever, pack your knives and go.

Chef Franch: too many flavors, au revoir, mon ami.

Tennessee-Korean: hells yeah with your one-handed duck masterpiece, you’re in!

Austin Andrew: oh, the mussels were wonderful! And then you added all the other stuff. Pack your knives and git along, little doggie.

Sarcastic Chick: Scallops were great. Something was missing. You in the house, boom! You’re out.

No Job: We shall change your name, because your new job is cheftestant on the show, congratulations for making it to the final 16!

 

This Season on Top Chef Texas: Pee Wee Herman, and do I need to say anything else? Okay, how about Padma saying there will be motherfucking snakes on some motherfucking plates? And they’re alive when they get them? LOVE IT. (For the record, I’ve killed and eaten a snake before. And it’s super delish. That will be a lot of fun.)

And in “the biggest twist of all” they’ll pit Sarcastic Chick and Austin Andrew against each other for an online competition, because one of them will be inserted back into the competition at some point. (Biggest twist? Making the other chefs cook and eat one of them would be much bigger, I’m just saying.)

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