Top Chef Texas:

Disclaimer: This is in no way, shape, or form a “serious” recap/review of Top Chef Texas. Instead, my self-imposed assignment is to bring to light how the State of Texas pissed away somewhat over $400,000 of taxpayer funds, with the City of San Antonio adding another six figure amount to the pot. If you are looking for “real” recaps of the show, I would suggest you check out Kate Shellnutt’s post on the subject over at chron.com’s Tubular blog, or – if you prefer your recaps on the spicy side, liberally seasoned with f-bombs – you can try Katharine Shillcutt’s recap over at Eating Our Words.

[Update: After I hit "publish", I realized I didn't finish out the title. Upon further thought, I figured that this may well have been what I intended. Seriously, these two episodes left that little of an impression on me.]

Sorry for not getting my “recap” of last week’s episode out in a timely fashion. [Actually, no I'm not.] However, I was out of town on a business trip, and actually didn’t get a chance to see the entire episode until today. And, though I could probably write these things up (except for episode-specific details) without having to watch the show (the story line is very formulaic, you see), I don’t feel it is quite… right, somehow.

Six Chefts Compete – Cat Cora and the Block Party.

Anyway – last week, we had a team challenge for the QuickFire Challenge, in which the six remaining chefts paired up for a variation of the mise en place relay race. Eliminating the “relay” aspect, the teams had 30 minutes to prep and cook three ingredients (corn, shrimp, and homemade pasta.) No Blessed Immunity was offered, but the winning team (Grayson and Chris) got to split $10,000. How the teams were chosen wasn’t disclosed, but it was Team Asians vs. Team Ladies vs. Team Nerdz. No overtones here, no-sirree!

Then, it’s on to the Elimination Challenge. The erstwhile teammates are now bitter enemies adversaries, and their task is to agree on a dish and a side, which they will each prepare their own take on, to serve at a “block party” for 200 people. The teams choose dishes that are, to say the least, odd: Grayson/Chris opt for chicken salad sandwiches, Lindsay/Sarah go for meatballs, and Ed/Paul choose Asian short ribs. Remember, this is happening in San Antonio. During the middle of one of the hottest summers on record. And yet, two of the three dishes are hot dishes, with the third one being a dish that has mayo as a main ingredient – not something I want to eat in the heat.

Apparently, the producers judges noticed that these were somewhat heavy dishes, so they threw a curveball into the mix: the chefts would have to produce “lighter, healthier” versions of the dishes (and while they didn’t set specific criteria as to what constituted “light” and “healthy”, I think that “low fat” was mentioned. Oddly enough, no mention was made of “low sugar”.) Of course, the fact that Healthy Choice is a sponsor of this episode is brought up.

At the party: it seems the block party is taking place at a brewery (yes, we have those in Texas.) And, it also seems the party is a fund-raiser for one of the feed-the-hungry programs in existence.

There’s not a whole lot to say about the cooking/eating portion: nothing especially Texas was featured here. So, let’s move along to Judges Table.

Out of each competing pair, one went to Winners Table, the other to Losers Table. At Winners Table: Grayson, Paul, and Lindsey. Paul wins (no big surprise there), but what I took notice of was the interchange between Tom Colicchio and Grayson. When Tom asked if Grayson thought she could actually win this with a chicken salad sandwich, then went on to say that her dish was up against others that were “perhaps more exciting”, she shot back “Like what… meatballs?”, to which Tom had no response (except for a chuckle, as he realized she had a good point there.) The other three were sent to Losers Table, where Chris’ luck finally ran out, and he earn the PPYKAG award (and the trip to LCK) for the evening.

Five Chefts Compete – And Have An Excellent Adventure!

OK – where last week was just sorta ho-hum, this week was actively distasteful. And, a large part of it was due to the presence of the guest judge – Paul Reubens, a.k.a. Pee Wee Herman. I know a lot of folks have fond memories of his shows, but I was an adult before he appeared on the teevee, so I don’t have that bit of nostalgia. However, I do have a reaction – a very visceral one – whenever I see him. Pee Wee Herman, to put it mildly, creeps me out. His mannerisms, his voice, the things he says, they all give off the aura of a creeper. In addition to this, there is the matter of his two arrests on sex-related crimes. And yes, I realize the second arrest – the one for possession of images of naked teens – was not prosecuted, as they DA appears to have agreed with his explanation. That’s OK – but he still creeps me out.

So, holding my nose, let’s do this thing.

The QuickFire Challenge: the chefts are met by large stacks of pancakes, which are used to introduce the guest judge. I think they are also a slam on Texas, since we are so overfed we eat breakfasts the size of skyscrapers. However, did someone mention that they looked like the Dallas skyline? Aren’t the chefts still in San Antonio? I am so confused… I don’t remember who won the challenge, so let me look it up… OK, it was Ed. Something about making a special dish featuring the “dots” of batter that separate from the pancake and get all burnt to a crisp crispy in the pan.

And with that, we are off! to what is probably the most inane, idiotic, lame-brained Elimination Challenge EVAH! on this show. Their assignment: serve lunch in the Alamo (Texas tie-in, obvs) – after riding around San Antonio on a bicycle, shopping for ingredients, and finding some semi-random restaurant/kitchen in town which will let them “borrow” a cook space. Pee Wee gives them some helpful hints as to what he likes to eat for lunch (which appears to have gone in one collective ear and out the other, since pretty much everyone served him chicken), and tells them their bicycles are awaiting them back in the dorms.

I just realized something “Texas” that is featured on the show: there is a small clip of Western-style “music” (as in “the kind of background music one might have heard in a Western movie circa the 1950s-1960s”) that is whistled at several times during the show. It is so very, very annoying.

The chefts pick up their bicycles, and head off. Riding through San Antonio, during one of the hottest summers on record. On old-style bikes, without turn signals or even gears. But, at least they gave the chefts safety helmets!

True fact: Paul got in a bike wreck some time ago when he hit a manhole, and injured his head. As a result, when he drinks, one side of his face turns red.

As the chefts pull up to their “kitchens”, the whole charade is exposed. I mean, a person walks into your restaurant, all sweaty, and asks to “borrow” your kitchen, while you are either serving breakfast or prepping for lunch service, and they are accompanied by a camera crew? And this is supposed to be “organic” and not planned, somehow? Now, if they wanted to show off the real Texas,  at least one of those chefts would have been met with the muzzle of a 12-gauge pump shotgun, followed by a trip to the police station for violating some article of the Food Service regulations.

I also noted several examples of (NOT!) safe behavior during all this. Ed decides to leave his chicken slightly undercooked (yeah, RAWR CHICKEN on a hot summer afternoon is what I want to eat!), while Grayson holds her food (and balances it) with one hand, while using the other one to control the bike! We also see folks jumping the curb to get into the street, blowing through intersections, riding 2 and 3 abreast, and engaging in all sorts of behavior which could have ended very, very tragically. [Children: these are NOT trained professionals! Even so, do NOT try these stunts at home!]

They came, they ate, they seem not to have gotten sick. Lindsay ended up with the W (her first personal win in an Elimination Challenge), in part because she stood out as being the one chef who did not serve a chicken dish. On the other side, we had Grayson, taking that long, final walk down the Hall of PPYKAG, off to the LCK, where she faced Beverly to see who would return to the competition.

Speaking of LCK: After Grayson left, Padma calls the Final Four back to Judges Table, where they are informed of the existence of the LCK. They are shown a montage of the various challenges, culminating in the end of the Grayson-Beverly matchup, which leaves me with one question:

“Do the Elves really think we believe that the chefts are left hanging in the Stew Room until after the LCK challenges have completed?”

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