Top Chef: Texas Recap (Part Two)
By David Mumpower
November 8, 2011
In a dozen minutes, one of the 29 would-be competitors on Top Chef is already gone. By the end of the episode, 20 of the other 28 will have demonstrated their wares for the first time to the judges. Some of them are already in difficult positions. Grayson Schmitz, who describes herself as currently between jobs, had entrusted the butchering of her meat with a player who may not have held a knife before in his life until that moment. Since our immediate suspicion is that Grayson was told that she had to pick one between her job and her ability to compete on Top Chef and presumably chose the latter (reasoned speculation on our part), this would be a brutal turn of events if she winds up eliminated.
Tom Colicchio shares our concerns. He walks up to the flush-cheeked New Yorker and states, “So, he hacked the Hell out of that piece of meat.” This is why we love Tom. He is never afraid to state the obvious, no matter how much it hurts. Tom inquires as to why Grayson allowed a complete stranger to destroy her protein. She acknowledges that someone else’s offer to handle the basic butchering would liberate her to handle further preparations. In other words, she believed that she had gained an assistant for the early portion of her first meal. Tom simply states, “Bad assumption.” Tom and Grayson both understand that she does not possess enough pork tenderloin to feature it in the meal. Grayson is already punting her initial plans and going to Plan B, a tactic that involves stuffing thin cuts of meat with mushroom to “bulk it up a bit”. If we were handling bets in Vegas, we would not put any money on Grayson surviving the first day of the competition.
Over the next several minutes, we learn a bit more about the participants of Group A. Sarah Grueneberg is a Chicago chef who worked for Top Chef Masters competitor (and one of our favorites) Tony Mantuano; she is impressively composed. Simon Pantet of Seattle strikes us as an outsider artist disguised as a cook. In his own words, he is self-taught and feeling a bit in over his head. Heather Terhune doesn’t talk about herself much, because her dish tastes like “a salt lick” and she is too focused on fixing that. Chris and Richie, who should evolve into the crime-fighting tandem of Nerdo and Bad Hawk, continue to enjoy their buddy cop routine, which seems like foreshadowing for the season. We expect them to move on.
Colin Patterson of Seattle is still nervous. Already faced with the difficulty of a vegetarian creating a meat dish, he has appeared skittish in all of his camera shots. As the clock runs down, he kicks into an entirely different level of panic. This proves fatal as he recklessly pours the contents of a pot all over the judging plates. He knows he is screwed and the judges don’t pull any punches. They have a lot of players to eliminate and there isn’t any point in wasting time on the dishes that aren’t on the bubble. At the 20 minute mark, we have our second elimination and the judges still haven’t taken a bite yet.