Top Chef 9.7 – Game On

A HUGE shock awaits us.  Huge. Also, there is a WALL OF TEQUILA in one scene.  Seeing that felt like my ancestors were giving me a standing ovation and Bradley Cooper soul kissed me. Before we get into that, it’s the last day in DFW and they’re remembering the FW portion of the locale.  Time to head over to Fort Worth, where the West begins: we’re cookin’ up wild game.

All of the chefs back at the W drink their pain away from the previous contest as Heather starts in again on giving Beverly shit.  Heather?  You’re about to get a major reality check for how much of a bulldog you are once you see yourself.  You are awful.  Nyesha sees her bird dogging Bev and bitches about it and how mean Heather is.  Stage: set.

They head to the Top Chef kitchen to see Tim Love, owner of an outstanding restaurant in Fort Worth (in the historic Stockyard District, where there still is to this day a cattle drive to auction.  It’s pretty bad ass seeing hundreds of Longhorns filling the street with cowboys driving them into the huge arena.

What I notice is the wall of tequila behind he and Padma.  Don Julio, the “first premiere” tequila, as they like to say. Well, the first good tequila they shared with white people, as I like to say.  Jalisco has had outstanding tequila for centuries.  I digress.

The chefs will pick a tequila (reposado, añejo, blanco, or their old school 1942) and then create a dish that pairs well with it.  Long time readers will automatically know what I’d pick. (Blanco.)  I laugh when Ty-Lor immediately talks about having been to Jalisco, because whatever the challenge has been, he’s done it or worked there.  (I like the guy, even if he has a pretentious umlaut in his hyphenated name.)  There is no immunity, but the winner gets $5000.  Time starts….now!

There are flashes of the chefs working, talking about whether they like tequila or not, and I make mental notes of who I could party with. Ty-Lor and Sarah and Sgt. Handsome for sure, as they three talk about sipping tequila all over the world.  My kind of people.

  • Ty-Lor – 1942 – Steamed clam in Thai-style caramelized fish sauce (uh, be in my mouth NOW.)
  • Heather – Reposado – Mango avocado salsa with rock shrimp (it looks like something from Chili’s $5 menu. Come on, chick.)
  • Beverly – Reposado – Cold-smoked green tea oyster (She makes beautiful food. They seem to like it, also)
  • Sarah – Blanco – Fennel Risotto with Grilled Shallots (hmm.)
  • Lindsay – Añejo – Salmon with fennel puree and brown butter squash (looks gorgeous even though I can’t get behind the idea of baked salmon and tequila, myself)
  • Ed –  Añejo – Bok Choy lettuce wrap with lamb (this also makes no sense to me with tequila, but it looks delicious on its own. I like Ed’s food.)
  • Chris – Blanco – Pan-seared chicken with lime vinaigrette (I’m going to call it: this guy is out in two competitions. All hat, no cattle.)
  • Grayson –  Añejo – Sesame cod with tequila brown sugar glaze (Well…she’s from Wisconsin and doesn’t drink tequila. So.)
  • Sgt. Handsome – Blanco – Raw oyster with tequila tapioca pearl and sea salt air (Calling foam air instead of foam is way more appetizing. Also, this is my favorite. It looks delicious. Simple, one bite, perched on a shot glass.  I could get into trouble with this dish, let me tell you.)
  • Dakota – 1942 – Lamb with medjool date pistou (eh.)

Worst: Heather for obvious chain restaurant reasons,  Chris for having dry chicken, and Sarah for having an undercooked risotto.  (She’s pissed he thinks it’s undercooked, she learned in Italy with masters, buddy.)

Favorites:  Sgt. Handsome and they totally got his vision of making it feel like you were on the beach sipping tequila (I love this guy), Lindsay for her fabulous salmon, and Ty-Lor for combining tequila with spice and greenery.

Ty-Lor for the win and $5000!  I like that someone that understands tequila (he went with the ultimate option, after all) won this challenge with something that looked like I would eat it.  (Although I was pulling for Pretty Chris and his oyster.  There’s a dirty joke in there if I was only willing to make it.)

Elimination Challenge: The chefs will have to prepare a course for Chef Love and his friends for their game night.  They’re not talking Sorry and Monopoly, they mean wild animal meat.  Little something about Casa de Piedra (Stone House): once hunting season starts, we eat game almost exclusively. To say I was excited to see new recipes is an understatement.

There’s a twist: his “friends” are world-reknowned chefs that work with game. And whoever the contestants are standing near, that’s their partner. (Heather, if Bev bothers you so much, why are you standing by her?) They’ll be assigned a type of game and have 3 hours to prepare, and an hour and a half before service.

The bottom three?  Here’s the other twist: they’ll be picked by the contestants themselves.  That won’t cause drama…  Oh. And final twist: both people on the team are out of there.  DAMN.

They hit the market, get back to start prepping, and Ed notices Heather bulldozing over Beverly, which pisses him off.  He likes Bev, thinks she’s a fine chef, and it looks like everyone is over Heather, but no one will get in her face. Beverly looks hen pecked and agitated.  She’s just not an aggressive person, nor does she need to be.

And then we learn that Beverly was in an abusive relationship (both physical and emotional) and one day when he was at work, she ran away.  Oh, Beverly.  You poor dear.  So she obviously has issues with being assertive, and Heather, I hope when you watch this episode your broken shame-meter is miraculously repaired.

They all head over to the Dove for the final hour and change, and it’s not a huge kitchen.  They’re all standing on top of each other, it’s July in Texas, so it’s a bit hot.  And it’s getting hot under the collar, too.  Heather keeps telling Bev how she’s not making Asian, she’s not making what Beverly wants, she’s making her dish, and Bev better compromise, etc.  Beverly is never shown standing up or being assertive.  This will be important.

There are some other struggles in the kitchen, though.  Nyesha, who has not only cooked game, but gets it herself (hell yeah, lady!) is paired with Dakota, who has seriously undercooked their frenched-rack of venison. Grayson and Chris are having a problem as this “amazing technique” Chris wanted to do – he swears he’s done it a million times before – will make a gorgeous side dish of sweet potato “chains.”  Guess what didn’t work out? His solution is to make sweet potato fries.  Really, bro?  Heather bitches at Bev for everything, including the lack of rendering that’s happening.  Well, Heather, it’s hard for her to work when you’re always yelling at her.

Let’s get to what everyone is making.

Team Boar: Lindsay and Sgt. Handsome: Roasted wild boar with Kohlrabi slaw and Farro fried rice.  (It’s gorgeous, they also frenched the rack, but the guests think it might be a touch too sweet.  True fact: wild boar is way more flavorful than conventional pig, so you have to use a light hand with any sweetness.  We eat more wild boar in my house than just about any other meat. I love it.) This is their play on an old school BBQ.  Hmm, it seems safe, even if it has a gorgeous presentation.

Team Duck: Heather and Beverly: Five-Spice duck breast with creamy polenta and pickled cherries.  Uh… I love all sorts of things, but I don’t know about the pickled cherries, gang.  Neither do the guests.  Also, they complain about the lack of crispy skin on the duck and that more fat wasn’t rendered. Uh oh.

Team Elk: Grayson and Chris: Juniper roasted elk with sweet potato and bouquet of citrus greens.  Huh?  First, I don’t know about juniper and elk, that’s a lot of turpentine and copper in a bite.  The fries are ridiculous, and what’s the deal with the bouquet? Are they supposed to eat it? No one knows. Chris starts to tell them that he messed up when Grayson gives his arm a pinch, telling him to shut up. Ha. The guests like the meat, even if it looks like Betty Crocker 1982.

Team Quail: Ed and Ty-Lor: Sorghum quail with pickled cherries and eggplant. Again with the pickled cherries. They did something different, though, as the guests all love this dish.  It’s earthy, flavorful, and really lovely. It looks great – I love quail.

Team Venison: Nyesha and Dakota: Roasted rack of venison with Kabucha squash and beet gratin. This was super rare.  Like, Pittsburgh. (That’s the temperature before rare, in case you didn’t know – seared outside, raw inside.)  They’re eating most of it because the flavor is outstanding, the sides are impeccable (Nyesha did the gratin) but… it’s almost raw. Uh oh.

Team Squab: Sarah and Paul: Squab breast and sausage with nectarine pickles. (Again with the pickles.) Sarah had a minor freak out about her sausage – she’s a perfectionist, it wasn’t just how she envisioned it, and she has a bit of a melt down after service. Aww, it’s okay, honey. The plate looks pretty spare, half of the guests love it, the other are just “meh” about it, but the all like the flavor, if not the presentation.

As each team served to the guests, the chefs in the back were tasting their dishes to pick the worst.  So no pressure.  Padma calls back Ed and Ty-Lor, and everyone congratulates them, assuming they’ve won.

Judges Table: the winner is Ed and Ty-Lor, no surprise.  They get $10,000 to split, and Ty already earned $5K, so he’s doing all right today.  Ed is hilarious, saying that he’s just glad he didn’t make an ass of himself in front of chefs he admires.  I like these two.

They go back to decide who the bottom three teams are.  No one is happy that they have to do this.  They hem and haw until Chris takes initiative, calling out the various meats and a yay or nay vote.  Bottom three: Elk, Duck, and Venison.

Tom asks them why they’re here and Heather says that clearly the other chefs are jealous of her win last competition.  UGH, someone give her a ladder to help her get over herself. Dakota is honest – our food, while tasty, was raw. Chris is chastized  for his stupid potato thing.  He should come up with good food first and not sacrifice everything for a technique.  Learn this, chefs!  This has been the case for some time, now.

Tom then asks Beverly why she’s here and just as she starts to answer, Heather cuts her off and answers for her!  Christ, woman! She throws Bev under the bus from last week, how she spent two days on shrimp, has horrible work ethic (something that hurts Beverly worse than anything, because she works hard, she doesn’t work hard FOR HEATHER) and the judges are shocked at the vitriol.  And how it’s about a week prior. Way to make yourself look like a jackass.

Dakota jumps in to defend Beverly. Aw, you’re good people, Dakota. Beverly is just not the same kind of personality as Heather, she’s not a bad person. (No, you’re not.  Just wimpy.) Then, and my husband jumped off the bed to shout, “What the hell?” as Heather says, “I feel like I had no say in this dish.”  It was all her say! All of it!  She never let Beverly put herself in there, because Heather is anti-Pan Asian. Grayson tries to shut her up, but Heather is on a roll. Damn.

They’re sent back, Padma clucks her tongue and tells the group that this competition must finally be getting to them when Tom laughs out, “It’s irrelevant. I don’t care.”  Ha! Papa Tom is pissed, gang.

It’s pretty obvious to them who’s going home, so they quickly bring everyone back and Tom tells them all the same thing about their dish that they already know.

And Padma says, “Nyesha and Dakota, please pack your knives and go.” Nooooo!!  Oh, I love Nyesha! She’s so talented and passionate, and she’s clearly devastated, but not as devastated as Dakota for being responsible for her leaving.  Oh, girls. I’m so sorry.

But there’s still the online competition, right?  They’re going to fight against Whitney (shouldn’t be a problem) to see who gets to be the wild card that comes back, so I’m pulling for them, Nyesha in particular.

Next Week! They head down to Austin for the remainder of the competition, and I’m super excited because Austin is a great town.

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