Top Chef Texas 9.16 – Fire & Ice

One of them knows Asian food inside and out. And the other one is Emeril Legasse.

After last week’s Laughalympics (with Bev as Droopy Dog sent home) it’s time for some real cooking, right? Well, this episode didn’t disappoint. The three finalist, Lindsay, Sarah, and Paul, are all buddies out of the kitchen, all business inside the kitchen. No backstabbing, no fighting, it’s got to be a Top Chef first. 

They’re in Vancouver now (a gorgeous city) and head over to Chinatown to meet Padma and Emeril for a Quickfire. It’s basically a chance to eek out another episode and throw more cash at them. And raise your hand if you’re as amused as I am that Emeril “Bam!” Lagasse is the judge of Asian Flavors for this particular challenge?

Three Top Chef Masters arrive: Anita Lo, Floyd Cardoz, and Takashi Yagahashi (Sarah knows him personally). The cheftestants draw knives and get paired up: Sarah/Floyd, Anita/Lindsay, and Paul/Takashi. For what?

Quickfire Challenge: Mash-up with three Asian masters. 40 minutes will be broken down to four 10-minute intervals. The Masters will start a dish, tag out, the contestants will try and work from there, tag out, etc., with the contestants plating and serving the final dish. The winner will be given $20,000.

Paul says right up front that he knows the expectation is for him to win because he’s Asian, but any time this comes up, that’s when he chokes. (Well, doesn’t win.) And then Takashi pulls out the geoduck and damn, Paul’s gonna have to hustle; those things are not easy to get down, if you’re not used to it. (I’ve only had it once where I thought I could try it again. It’s tough.)

Anita pulls out some gorgeous scallops (in the shell) and starts shucking while Floyd starts setting up a curry. Well that’s going to be tough for Sarah. (Is there curry pasta or risotto?) One thing I loved was when Takashi talks about how wonderful geoduck is when the guts are sliced thin with mushroom, and Paul – who has had no contact with Takashi at this points – immediately goes for mushrooms. I have hopes they’ll win. In the end, Paul worries he’s made his food too spicy, Sarah just wants to beat Paul, and Lindsay hates her presentation.

Quickfire Results:

Lindsay: Scallop Two Ways, Bok Choy and Chili, Red Roe with Sausage and Waterchestnut. (It looks delicious, I will say, even though the intent was for 3 types of scallop. The judges like the flavor and the crispy roe.)

Sarah: Pan Seared Cod with Coconut Curry, Crab Salad with Amaranth. (Everyone is crazy for the amaranth, Floyd thinks she did everything he wanted her to, and it truly looks delicious.)

Paul: Mirugai (geoduck) Sashimi with Fried White Fish, Scallions and Chili. (Exactly what Takashi intended.) Emeril and Padma, however, think there is too much heat in it. Uh oh.

Yep, the heat is Paul’s downfall. Sarah wins the $20,000, bringing her up to $30,000 in winnings. (Paul has still won something like 60K, so he’s okay.) The masters head out and we get to the Elimination round.

Elimination Challenge: Fire and Ice cocktail party with 150 guests where they need to conceive one dish and an accompanying cocktail (hooray!) that have both hot and cold elements, interpret as you will. That’s a lot of work for each of these chefs, dang! The winner gets a trip for two to Costa Rica as a sweetener.

Are you surprised that Sarah is making pasta? That is impressive, though. Handmade pasta for 150 people? Lindsay is working with halibut, not because she wants to prove that Restaurant Wars was a fluke, but because it’s the only decent fish they had at Whole Foods. Paul learned a technique from his Sous Chef back home (I love that he gives credit to them) with essential oils and buys a massive quantity of live lobsters for some stock. That’s some dedication to flavor right there.

While they’re going at it in the kitchen, I want to bring up something. TOMATO WATER. Can we talk about how disgusting that sounds? Is that just me? I always picture the water in my stock pot after boiling tomato skins off for canning. That, or the gelatinous fluid that surrounds the seeds. I’m also totally grossed out by most “foams” because it looks like someone spit on my plate.

Just putting that out there. Tom comes to scare everyone into thinking they’re doing something wrong, but Paul’s too busy cutting lobsters in half to kill them, and Sarah’s draping fresh pasta over her arm as it gets thinner. (And longer. And thinner….and longer! Who remembers the “Chinese noodle” how to from Sesame Street? Just me? Sorry.)

They get bartenders on the job of making the cocktails, get the runners lined up, and the crowd of foodies show up.

Elimination Challenge Results:

Paul: Dish: King Crab with Lobster Broth and Lemon Snow; Drink: the “Pan Am” with Keffir Lime, Thai Chili, Palm Sugar and Rum. (First, I will be making that drink. After I figure out the proportions. Tom admits he’s not a fan of pairing food and drink, and I had to pause the TV to give myself a minute to boggle at that, then he says that the two things go wonderfully together. Except he’s livid over the random-ass piece of arugla on his plate. BUSH LEAGUE, PAUL. Tom wants no garnish. No garnish! Even though Paul didn’t intend it as a garnish, but it’s the little things, now.)

Sarah: Dish: Five Greens-filled Pasta with Garlic Chili and Spice Sformato; Drink: Gin, Kumquats, Mango cocktail. (Again, I’d be all over that drink, but that’s definitely a summer sip. The Sformato is frozen solid in most cases, and that pissed Gail off. She rolls up her sleeves and threatens Tom with a knife when Tom says, “Well, we said ice!” Gail presses the dull blade to Tom’s neck and says it should still be edible. Two security guards pull her back and give her another drink. Emeril is on his fourth and looking rosy-cheeked.)

Lindsay: Dish: Halibut with Fiery Celery Root Salad; Drink: Encindito – a play on a Bloody Mary, somehow. Eh, I’ve made a better Bloody Mary twist, I’m guessing. Lindsay always looks sour and irritated, and it’s no different tonight. Also, Tom sees another god damn piece of raw leafy green, some kale. After knocking dishes out of everyone’s hands to keep them from being torutured by it, he rips his shirt off to reveal a surprisingly muscular torso. Gail rolls her eyes and eats her tomato ice, because clearly she’s drunk from Sarah’s drink at this point and isn’t thinking clearly.)

Judges Table! They say that conceptually speaking, Paul’s is great. Good spice, good drink, but Tom throws a piece of arugula on the table, demanding he explain himself. “I thought the pepper and freshness were nice? Also, I want to cook the best meal of my life for you all, so please put me through to the finale. They may not let me back into Texas if I lose.”

Sarah’s pasta was pretty fantastic, it turns out, and her mousse was an offense to Gail’s family and heritage, and she doesn’t appreciate being lied to. Tom thought it was brave of her, because again, they’re all drunk from her gin-n-juice, as evidenced by Emeril playing with his lips and rubbing his belly. She says she wants to be kept because she wants to tell the story of food in the finale. (That’s a long-ass story, yo.)

Gail wanted to take Lindsay’s tomatoes and roll around in them until she felt whole again. Padma smooths her shirt and makes a mental note to get Gail to a healing spa for a week, stat. Tom, ready to throw down with Gail after the knife incident, tells her to go to hell, and take those overpowering tomatoes with her.

“Maybe I will!” she shrieked.

“Maybe you should!” he counters.

Emeril walks over to Lindsay and tosses her cocktail in her face. “How dare you,” he seethed. He then open-mouthed kissed the punch bowl where Sarah’s drink was sitting.

Padma motions to the security guards, then tells the contestants to be proud of themselves and go chill in the stew room while she tranqs the other judges. While the other three bicker, Padma waits for their bloodstreams to deliver the sedatives to their brains and then says, “I loved them all!”

Tom knows deep down he should fight that, but he just can’t lift his arm off the table…

Everyone comes back and Sarah is told she’s made it to the finale. She’s not the winner, though. That leaves Lindsay and Paul. Lindsay immediately scowl-smirks and wonders if Michele Bernstein is going to break up with her when Padma says, “Lindsay, pack your knives and go.”

THANK GOD. If Paul hadn’t made it through, I would have quit the show. (Not really, but I would have been unhappy.)

Speaking of, that means Paul won! He gets the trip to Costa Rica and the remains of the punch bowl of Sarah’s drink, if he’s willing to arm wrestle Emeril for it.

Sarah sobs over Lindsay losing (Honey, she’s with Michele, I’m sorry.) and says that she always knew it would be her and Paul. Oh, really? Whatever, Paul is walking away with this next week. TEAM PAUL!