Top Chef 9.9 BBQ Showdown

Barbeque, or BBQ, is the process of cooking meat through smoke. It’s not a high temperature, there aren’t a lot of flames, and you use specific woods. When you cut into the meat, you should have a gorgeous pink smoke ring that goes deep into the center of the meat. Mmm. Flavor country. Grilling is when you have charcoal or gas, you get it crazy hot, you slap some things on a metal grate, and the food cooks pretty fast. Example: we BBQ brisket in my house, and it’s about 18 to 24 hours until it’s done. We grill pork ribs, and that’s an hour and change. We grill steaks and it’s 7 minutes, because that baby better be medium rare when it hits my plate.

I say this, because a lot of the “cheftestants” used the words intermittently, and I was a afraid my husband was about to have a cardiac event. 

 

Heather is gone, remember, and Ed tells the group that she had used his cake recipe, the one where she won a challenge by making said cake recipe. The group is shocked, with the exception of Sarah, who thinks he’s playing dirty pool. She likes Heather, so she’s wanting to stick up for her. She wonders why Ed didn’t win anything with it, if it was so bad ass. Oho.

Back in their suite, a set of encyclopedias are dropped off: Modernist Cuisine. They’re the ultimate Get in the culinary world, written by the modernist food expert, Nathan Myrvold. He started the movement in the 90s with all of the cool scientific methods that the microgastronimists are so fond of. They all are encouraged to flip through them and study up for tomorrow.

Quickfire! Said fabulous expert author is there with Padma, who announces the challenge: Create a dish that best expresses modern food. A set of these books will be the prize.

Ty-Lor, who I’m liking more and more, is working with a powder that makes things into powder, but once it hits your tongue, becomes what it once was. He uses it for olive oil. Samurai-hair Chris is about to wet his pants over this challenge, as it’s everything he loves. Plus he wants to be super gimmicky, which is his schtick. Think about that: his schtick is being a schtick. Meta! Grayson, bless her, is just trying to figure things out. Come on, No-Job, pull it together!

Chris takes a moment to say that many of the techniques in the books – he did first. Um, you keep on dreaming, kid.

In the most amazing aside in Top Chef history, we take a trip back to Sgt. Handsome’s Malibu abode, where it is filled with pictures he’s painted of boobs. NO, REALLY. Huh. So he’s not gay. He’s really into the ladies. See? See all of the tah-tahs with their rosy tips? Damn, son. It’s like he was weaned on Nagel and velvet paintings of hookers.

Quickfire results!

  • Beverly Curry Whipped Cream, Flash Steamed Clams and Mussels, Mango Chili, Cucumber, Radish (She sprays the cream all over the judges, giggles nervously and digs around on the floor through pots and pans for I have no idea. So crazy, this girl. Also, it looks terrible.)
  • Sarah Breakfast Raviolo Pancetta and an Egg Yolk (This looked outstanding. So freaking delicious. The judges are very impressed, too)
  • Ed Compressed Watermelon and Brunoise of Radishes, Salmon Belly Sashimi, Orange Pulp (So very pretty. Nathan says, “Cool.”)
  • Grayson Trout Sashimi with Dill Caviar, Pickled Watermelon, Cucumber and Radish (She used the one technique she knows. He knows, too.)
  • Ty-Lor Watermelon with Vanilla Bean Honey, Saffron and Salted Olive Oil Powder (they seem intrigued. I am, too. I can’t tell if I think it would be awesome or awful.)
  • Lindsay Marinated Baby Octopus, Sea Beans with Togarashi (I have never heard of Sea Beans. It’s said to be “refreshing” by Nathan.)
  • Paul Endive Salad with an Egg Yolk (Bor-ing. Come on, Paul!)
  • Chris Miracle Berry, Lemon Wedge, Deconstructed Cheesecake, Soda and Lime (This dill-hole slobbers all over Nathan, one, then tries to “explain” how the Miracle Berry pill works – sweet into sour, vice versa – and Nathan cuts him off. “I grow this in my basement.” Chris then says, “I want to see your basement.” HEY. Put the lotion on your skin and chill out. This is just a big science project, it doesn’t seem like FOOD.)

Least favorite: Paul (too bland), Beverly (too spraying Padma’s face), and Grayson (she doesn’t know what she’s doing.)

Most favorite: Ty-Lor (wonderful spices and delivery), Sarah (it’s wonderful), and Chris (nicely staged. Padma rolls her eyes.)

The winner; TY-LOR! I’m glad, I like him! Plus, he’s not all about gimmicks, ahem. He’s won immunity and the encyclopedias.

Elimination Challenge: Oh, did every one know that Nathan, who also was a founder of Microsoft and is a go-zillionaire, also won the World Championship of BBQ in Memphis? Because he did. And this is important, because they’re all going to divide into teams of three and BBQ for 300 people, with three types of meat (chicken, brisket and pork ribs) and two sides (whatever they want.)

Blue team: Ty-Lor, Sarah, and Ed.

White team: The Chrises and Beverly

Red team: Lindsay, Paul, and Grayson

They’ll have all night to cook and service will be tomorrow. They hit Whole Foods and a bulk meat supplier and load up with flatbeds of food. I’m a little concerned by the Chrises wanting to make baked beans with Anasazi beans. What the hell, guys? No. NO.

They head to Mother Trucking Saltlick in Driftwood, Texas. (Suburb of Austin, essentially.) Guys. GUYS. I have dreams about this place. And they are scented. You can smell the place before you get to the place. There’s a massive pit right in the center – it’s been there for over 100 years – and the smoke goes up through the ceiling and everything in there has the most delicious smell. They have music, it’s BYOB, and if you ever get the chance to go, you better go. Trust me.

The owner sets them up at a table with family style fixin’s and lets them taste the real deal. There’s a lot of moaning going on. He then piles them all in his Dooley, loaded down with a full cord of wood (live oak) and takes them out back to a location that has three good sized pits and three campers for the kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping, I’m guessing.

Paul, because he’s Texan and knows things, wraps all the briskets in foil and jams them in the smoker before anyone else even gets to it. (Oh, some time, poke holes in the meat and fill them with jalapenos, then wrap it up and smoke it. Oh. My. God.)

Now, keep in mind that they filmed this in July. In Texas. When we had a record heat wave every single day. It was miserable. 114 degrees was not uncommon. We also had fires all over the place, millions of acres burned to the ground. And they get to spend all day and night out in it. I do not envy them.

Bev goes into the RV to whip up a bourbon sauce and almost immediately burns the kitchen down. She races the flaming pan of doom outside, and I saw a few sparks hit the dry, dry grass, and I about passed out. I wonder if she is the one that started one of the fires out there…

Grayson and Paul find that their briskets rotisseried right off the rack onto the ground, but because Paul wrapped them in foil, they can be popped right back in. A quick check to the low burning fire and the gorgeous smoke billowing out, and they’re back on track.

“I’m So Modern” Chris takes a moment to try and explain beer can chicken to everyone. Buddy? This is a NASCAR nation, you don’t think most of America has known about beer can chicken for some time? Also, I would like to point out that he is not BBQ that damn chicken, he is grilling it.

Sun’s up the next day and no one’s gone to bed. They’re getting a little loopy. Grayson is stabbing at the wood under the pits with a flat-end shovel like a boss, keeping the temperature even so it’ll smoke and not flame up. They’re all sweating like pigs, poor things. Sarah is looked mighty peaked. Grayson just tells Tom, who shows up, that her food will be like sex in his mouth. Ha, oh, honey, drink some water and put a wet cloth on your head.

Sarah, who is standing downwind of the smoke (why) starts losing it. She looks like she’s going to faint. The paramedics come, decide she needs to be taken in, and an ambulance hauls her off to who knows where. Ty-Lor is worried for her, because he’s awesome, and Ed grumbles that it’s “might convenient.” Bro? People died this summer. It is HOT.

It’s decided for some reason that there’s no way they can cut the brisket to order with just the two of them, so they cut it up and put it on the steam table, insuring it won’t be good. (It gets rubbery.) Ed has a mini hissy fit with lid slamming, but then they build up a groove and get to it. (They should have set one brisket aside and cut to order for the judges.)

Sarah shows up to serve the judges, then wanders back to a seat. I can see why Ed’s pissed, but I also know how serious heat stroke is, so…

Elimination Challenge:

  • Blue Team: Paul’s Asian flavors blow people’s minds, and the brisket is called phenomenal. The Brussels sprouts they tried to roast weren’t even close to being done, however.
  • White Team: It isn’t BBQ chicken, there is no smoke inside. How you feeling about that beer can chicken now, hombre? It’s good and juicy, but it’s not BBQ. Then they poured sauce all over it, so you don’t get the crispy skin. Tsk, tsk. Also, I was right on those Anasazi beans – they’re not even close to being cooked all the way through. Then the killer: there is way too much salt in the rubs and sauces Sgt. Handsome made. Uh oh.
  • Red Team: The beans were pinto and well-received, and they served white bread for sopping up sauce (very Alabama of them, and that better have been Sunbeam bread!) Their chicken is decent BBQ, in that it has smoke flavor. The ribs needed more time, it seems, and the brisket is a disappointment because it was cut too soon. Tom can’t figure out why they did that.

 

Judges Table:

Blue Team is called in, they’re the winners! They will split $15,000, which means Paul has earned $35,000 dollars so far. People loved the chicken, the best brisket, hands down – people couldn’t believe it has an Asian profile. It was just plain delicious BBQ. Also, the judges liked that they weren’t traditional with anything. And yet it still felt like an old school BBQ. I am so hungry right now, I can’t even.

They call back the other teams for the bottom elimination.

Red Team: The chicken was moist, there wasn’t much – if any – smoke. Come on, Katy, Texas! You know better, Sarah. The ribs weren’t tender, and they’re mad at Ty-Lor for having immunity. Ed’s called out for the weird orange mint he put in the coleslaw, as it fermented and was off-putting.

White Team: Beverly’s cole slaw wasn’t acidic enough, the boring chicken was flat out grilled, and worst, the food was so salty that it was practically inedible. Also, the beans were tiny pebbles in a Bourbon glaze. Why the hell didn’t they put those in a pan on the pit outside all night long?

Tom says Chris failed on all the proteins for the White Team, but Sgt. Handsome was responsible for all of the seasoning.

Padma looks sorrowfully at them and says: SERGEANT HANDSOME (Chris Crary), please pack your knives and go paint breasts. Magnificent breasts. He’s so pretty. But he’s just not that great, is he? Too many mistakes. Grayson is sad to see him leave, and tries to drape herself over one of the benches, asking, “Paint me like one of your French girls!” but he sadly leaves.  Farewell, Malibu Chef.  Farewell.

 

Next Week: Restaurant wars!

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  • Vyola

    Ed lost me with the, “I would have pushed through it.” Some things cannot be pushed through and it’s real easy for someone who has never experienced one of those things to be flip about it.

    Anyway… I discovered a local BBQ place up here in Northern Virginia that has the best beef ever. I do not say that lightly, given that during my years in Plano and Austin we’d go out on the weekends and try out the BBQ some little town’s Lions Club or Optimist Club or heritage festival had spent two days slaving over a pit preparing and it was almost all uniformly amazing.

    But this local stuff — it’s like it was designed just for me. The smoke aroma hits me and I start to drool. All smoke, no burning. It’s just as good cold (and just as smoky) and with or without sauce. (I’m starving just writing this.) And their whole chicken! That pinky-red meat all packed with flavor. My friend ordered her Thanksgiving turkey from them and her San Antonio-bred husband was in love.

    … I may need to go get a snack.

    • Oh, exactly. You don’t push through heat stroke unless you want someone to push through to a coffin. I’m a HARD ASS and as unsympathetic to whiny behavior as it gets, and even I was going, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Someone put a wet towel on her head NOW.”

      Ahh, but I do like a little (a lot) burn. Mmmmm, jalapeno! :D I will be staright out and say the best BBQ I have ever had in my life is Dreamland BBQ in Tuscaloosa, which is the Rolls Royce of BBQ. Period.

      • Vyola

        Spice burn = ok. Ash burn = not okay. I’m talkiing that wonderful smoke where you can taste the the wood, hickory or mesquite or apple or whatever, and the spices and that indescribable thing that is smoke itself, but there’s no acrid char to overwhelm and obscure.

        And though, as you point out, grilling is not BBQ, burning the damn meat is WRONG, YOU MORONS, regardless of the cooking technique.

        Not that I resent how meat has been so shamefully mistreated this season., no.

  • Steph

    The “I would have pushed through” thing always bugs me on these shows. There are some things that I’ve watched and gone, “Y’know, I probably would have tried to get through that,” but having suffered from heat exhaustion before (curse you, North Dakota summer!), I probably would have been happy that she hadn’t fainted/thrown up before she got attention.

    I am, sadly, BBQ-deficient. Seattle is fantastic for a great deal of food-related things, but BBQ ain’t one of them.

  • Brunettepet

    This is the challenge these chefs should have seen coming as soon as they were dropped off in Texas so I don’t understand how they could have done so many things wrong. Undercooked beans, un-smoked meats, underwhelming side dishes? Unbelievable!

    I’m not a big fan of The Salt Lick though I love to bring out of town visitors there because it really is an awesome space and the BYOB means we get a cooler full of local beer to taste around the table.

    Ed is winning the whiny bitch trophy hands down.

  • Ed was a total asshat. I can’t stand it when people get all wimpy and shit, but Sarah was seriously ill. And I abhor the way he treated her. Dude. Uncool. Grow up and let’s not kid ourselves, if the roles had been reversed, Ed would have expected to be treated like a king.