Top Chef: Texas 9.5 Dallas Dinner Party

It’s the end of the chili competition where everyone’s been up for 30 hours straight, and Padma comes over to tell them they’re all going to slaughter their own pigs and smoke them in trashcans. No, she just tells them to go home, get a good night’s sleep, because tomorrow they’re road tripping up to Dallas, a short, 7 hour drive. Yay? (Definitely yay, Dallas is awesome.) 

Beverly tries to figure out why she knows that city, how about America’s Team, Bev? The Dallas Cowboys. (We all hate Jimmy Johnson here, too, guys, promise.) She also thinks Dolly Parton is from here and Tennessee weeps. As they all divide into cars for the drive, we get a little back story on a few of the chef-testants. Ed (Tennessee-Korean) just celebrated his 1rst year anniversary with his cute wife, Ty-Lor mentions his boyfriend, and Sergeant Handsome blows my mind with the fact that he used to be 70 pounds heavier. They show a “before” picture of him, and it’s like a totally different person. He said his friends used to tell him how fat he was, to which I say: you need new friends.

There’s a road block as they get close to the city, and the HiPos pull them over. Uh oh. Dakota apparently has a warrant out for her arrest in the state for not paying a speeding ticket, so they’re all paranoid. Um, the cameras recording this should have been their first clue. Or, you know, the picnic tables and Padma in the field to the left. Yep, it’s a Quickfire!

They notice John Besch, restaurant owner and Cajun, is there, and Sergeant Handsome goes on and on about his sparkling white teeth and windblown hair, and add this to his earlier “Padma makes me think of Fabio” and I am weeping for my team for our incredible loss. Team Gay? Quit hogging all the cute ones.  (I don’t know if he’s gay. But if he is, mazel. He’s adorable.)

Padma tells them to pop their trunks, there are survival kits back there. They’ll have 30 minutes to make the best dish they can from what they find, there aren’t any knives beyond Swiss Army, and GO! “Ugly Chris” as they’re calling Chicago Chris, races across the mud to the dried out husks of corn, looking for something “fresh.” Little tip from a local: it’s July. That’s all being grown for tax write offs and cattle feed. Sure enough, he finds out that it’s all dried out. Popcorn, anyone?



  • Chicago “Ugly Chris:” Fried chicken on lemongrass noodle (eh)
  • Chuy: Basmati rice with trout and black-eyed peas (a play on dirty rice)
  • Grayson: Pickled herring with hearts of palm, dates, and herring juice (dear god)
  • Lindsay: Triple-club sandwich with tuna and sardines in French onion soup with Vienna sausages. (Re-read that. It looks horrifying. It’s Saltine crackers, stood on their side.)
  • Ty-Lor: Black pepper chicken stew with garbanzo beans and rice (they admire his rice)
  • Sarah: Dried beef and pineapple rice with applesauce and hearts of palm (They say, “Dried beef?” trying to get her to admit it’s some damn Jack Links. They’re just messin’ with Sasquatch, it tastes fine)
  • Sergeant Chris Handsome: Spicy coconut braised garbanzo beans with tofu and crab
  • Whitney: Beer and peach glazed chicken with green bean casserole (beer in a survival kit? I approve)
  • Ed: Thai peanut soup with salmon, tofu, and fried hominy (damn, it looks really good)
  • Paul: Pork-n-beans spiced with coffee, and Basmati rice (it’s very pretty)
  • Dakota: Sweet and spicy noodles with crab meat and pineapple juice (Padma says it’s sweet)

The Worst: Whitney – the green beans were gross. Dakota – the noodles sucked and too sweet. Sergeant Handsome – the uncooked tofu sucked out all seasonings.

The Best: Ed – the attention to detail, like the nori-wrapped crab cake, was outstanding. Lindsay – aside from the presentation and the fact that there were canned Vienna sausages in there, it tasted delicious. Chuy – canned smoked trout? They were shocked by how delicious he made his dish.

The winner with immunity is….Lindsay. With Vienna freaking sausages. Ed echoes my thoughts whe he says it must have tasted amazing because it looked awful.



They will be headed to Highland Park (a neighborhood/municipality in Dallas that is , well, we’ll talk about them in a bit) for a Progressive Dinner. One house will have appetizers, another the entree, and the last will feature desserts. They’ll consult with the host and hostess on their preferences, then prepare their individual dishes at the homes for the guests and judges.

Okay, Highland Park. I grew up in a neighborhood next to Highland Park. Um… has anyone noticed that they’re in Texas and everyone’s been white? Like at the Tejas Rodeo in San frickin’ Antonio? And now they’re in Dallas, which is almost 50% Hispanic, let me add, and the couples and guests are all white. I don’t know if it’s still this way (read: probably) but it’s white in Highland Park. And people come together to buy houses if someone “undesirable” is looking to buy the house. (Read: not white.) So I don’t have a lot of love for Highland Park. The couples are perfect examples of what you’ll find there, too, it’s hilariously accurate.

After checking in at the W in the American Airlines Center downtown, (I’ve stayed there, it’s awesome. Also, Tom Colicchio’s restaurant is in the hotel. I see what you did there!) they freshen up and head out to Highland Park (and these are the tiniest homes in that town, I’m telling you. You’d be hard-pressed to find anything new that’s smaller than 5000 square feet.)

At the Appetizer House, they meet the gorgeous and perfectly pulled together Angie Harmon look-alike (Angie Harmon is from Highland Park, rainbow, the more you know!) and her goofy husband. Yep, typical Highland Park couple. She happens to be a lifestyle and party planning guru with published books that he lays out for them. So… no pressure.

She doesn’t like bell peppers (what the what?!) or cilantro (me, neither – just a little in salsa, y no mas, por favor) and she hates eating things that will stick to your teeth or give you bad breath. So you know, go crazy! And then she tells them that she’s not very adventurous when it comes to trying new things. So that’s good for a chef competition, right? Why on earth would the producers pick someone that isn’t a foodie!?

Off to the Entree House, with a far more typical “Dallas” lady: ironed, bleached blonde hair, tailored dress from Caroline Herrerra, and a shorter husband in a custom made dress shirt and fat Rolex. She also hates cilantro (seriously, it’s soapy. A little is all you need.) and doesn’t like raspberries. Husband loves beef, but the wife is a vegetarian. She’s pretty damn high maintenance.

Finally, at the Dessert house, it’s another blonde, taller than her husband who is also in a custom-made dress shirt and fat Rolex, she mentions that she loves fudge. And high-calories desserts. And he loves Gummi bears; his groom’s cake at their wedding was a giant Gummi bear in fact. (Oh, good lord.) They want something that channels their inner fat-kid. The camera cuts to Sergeant Handsome, and that was rude, editors.

Note on desserts: we freaking love desserts here. It’s not a throw away. My husband and I love to go to specific chef’s restaurants because they have so much fun with the desserts. Kent Rathbun and Dean Fearing especially love to play on old favorites from childhood with things like a crème brulee that’s a nod to a Butterfinger candy bar, or the like. YES, PLEASE. We always save room for dessert. Always.

The chefs race to Whole Foods, which happens to be based in Austin. Did y’all know that? Sorry, it’s hard to turn off the Texan in me. At the houses, they all share space in the (large-ish) kitchens. Over at Entree, the other chefs are grumbling at Beverly for hogging space and start calling her Sabotage.

App House:

  • Ugly Chris: Roasted Chicken “cigar” (wrapped in collard greens, oy, those won’t go over well in Highland Park) with sweet corn. The “ash” is sesame seed and cumin. (It’s clever looking, but?)
  • Sarah: Grilled Roman-style artichoke with date puree and pecans
  • Lindsay: Roasted and raw beet salad with chickpeas and Greek vinaigrette
  • Whitney: Seared scallop over sweet corn puree
  • Paul: Fried Brussels sprouts with grilled prosciutto (it looks amazing)

The Entre couple mentions that they were recently married, it was a small affair. Gail laughingly says, “Oh, what, only 700 people?”


Well. Welcome to Texas, honey. Angie Harmon-lite says they had 1200 people, and Gail can’t fathom knowing 1200 people. The cigar isn’t going over well, either, it’s being touted as dry and the ladies are just not cool with losing all of their lipstick.

Entree House:

  • Heather: Garlic and rosemary grilled lamp chops with garbanzos and chimichurri (I love chimichurri. Love. But the lamb looks overcooked)
  • Chuy: Sockeye Salmon filled with stuffed goat cheese (He plates it knowing the salmon is overcooked.)
  • Beverly: Seared scallops with a creamy polenta (Yum)
  • Ty-Lor: Spice-rubbed pork tenderloin with an avocado salsa. (It looks pretty bad on the plate, messy and poorly cut)
  • Nyesha: Roasted fillet of beef with red wine reduction and a vegetable melange (and I would lay on top of this dish and marry it, it looks outstanding.)

Tom can’t get past the overcooked lamb on Heather’s plate, so that’s not looking too good. The ladies at the party are morons and don’t know that there is a red wine reduction on the meat and that it’s not drizzled in blood. For crying out loud. Also, the meat is medium rare! There’s already blood there. John Besch looks like he wants to snatch the food away from them until they deserve it.

Dessert House:

  • Dakota: Banana bread pudding, banana mousse with banana-date milkshakes in a date shot cup. (I want to be polygamous and marry this dessert and make it the Fillet’s sister wife.)
  • Sergeant Handsome: Strawberry cupcake with banana custard and chocolate mint ice cream (Uh…that’s a lot of stuff happening on one plate.)
  • Ed: Panna cotta, cantaloupe consume, and raspberries stuffed with basil pudding (It’s gorgeous on the plate)
  • Grayson: Chocolate sponge cake, caramelized bananas and a semifreddo. (Add on another sister-wife.)

The Entree Wife is awful and stupid and is just bitchy because she’s probably been indulged by her Daddy. The couples like the strawberry cupcake, but Tom pleads the Fifth. Everyone says Dakota’s dish was worth every calorie and Tom wants seconds of Grayson’s dish.

The couples head out for cocktails and leave the judges to their task.


Padma, in a seriously Badaboom Ta-Ta dress that I covet shamelessly asks for the following chefs: Sarah, Grayson, Paul, and Dakota.

Favorites of the night! Sarah’s artichokes were perfection and flavorful, Grayson’s use of pretzels in her dish was Tom’s favorite, Paul’s Brussles sprouts were a crowd favorite, and Dakota’s desserts were ridiculously wonderful. John announces the winner, PAUL! Let’s hear it for the home-state boy. His dish showed the most focus and that he really listened to the client.

They have to send back the bottom four.

  • Ugly Chris: His cigar was better on paper than executed. Stringy collards, dry chicken, greasy, the ladies didn’t like gnawing on it.
  • Ty-Lor: Not satisfactory, the presentation was sloppy, the meat cut poorly.
  • Sergeant Handsome: Too much, too many things, no sense to any of it. “It was like a 3 year old’s party with all the fixin’s.” Ouch, Tom.
  • Chuy: He knew the salmon was overcooked, and there is no way to make the dish without the salmon getting overcooked! Also, the cheese was mealy.

And the person packing their knives to go…CHUY. I’m really sad about that, guys. That means no more amazing Papa de Chuy stories. Everyone is sad he’s going, he was fun to hang with. He’s proud to have made it this far, etc., but man. Too soon, bro, too soon.


Next week! Southfork Ranch, home of the exterior shots for the old soap opera Dallas. There’s gonna be steak!

(For recipes, click here at Bravo