Top Chef: Texas Recap

By David Mumpower

November 23, 2011

So long, Keith. We hardly knew ye.

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Previously on Top Chef, either none of the 16 participants was eliminated yet or 13 out of 29 participants were eliminated, depending upon one’s perspective. Rather than start the season with a fixed cast, the producers of our favorite reality show took the unusual step of making each finalist earn their chef's coat. The result was a remarkably tense pair of episodes to begin Top Chef: Texas. We also have the added bonus of knowing several of the Sweet 16 prior to the beginning of the real competition, something sorely needed in past seasons.

This week’s episode begins with an odd revelation from Beverly Kim. She has a well folded piece of printer paper that says the following: “Congratulations, Beverly Kim Clark!!!! You have won Top Chef Season 9 and $125,000!!!!!” She has also signed her first name on the document (is she a notary?). This leads to several questions, most of which involve her mental stability and ego. For now, the one that matters most to me is why there are only four exclamation marks after congratulations but five after $125,000? What do you have against symmetry, future Top Chef champion Beverly Kim Clark?

After a few moments of introspection from James Beard nominee Keith, we skip to the mutual admiration society aspect of the early season. Chris states how impressed he is by the level of competition this season. Top Chef has reached a point where it has become a career aspiration for many of the top young chefs in America and the current season represents this fact
We will find out over the next dozen episodes how this cast stacks up against seasons four and six, the greatest ones to date. Thus far, this appears to be a very strong group, though. The season may as well be sponsored by James Beard.


Today’s Quickfire challenge is not for ophiophobiacs, people like Keith who have a fear of snakes. The chefs are presented a popular local ingredient, rattlesnakes, and asked to create a dish featuring it. Padma is afforded the opportunity to deliver this line: “When time is up, I better see some motherbleeping snakes on some motherbleeping plates.” Bravo is cable television! What’s with the bleeps? Anyway Johnny Hernandez, an expert in wild game cuisine, is the special guest judge for today’s challenge. Also, there is a priceless moment of trepidation as all of the chefs are presented boxes that contain their ingredient. None of them is certain whether their box is *ahem* moving. To the frustration of BOP webmaster Tony Kollath, the snakes are in fact dead, which he maintains drops ratings for the episode by 20%.

Much has been made over the years about the importance of winning the first competitions. The elimination challenge is always more important than the Quickfire, but each one represents the initial opportunity for a chef to establish dominance. You do not want to be on the bottom of the first Quickfire challenge as a rule. Then again, most people do not cook snake often, making this less relevant than most. Still, the bad news crew includes Paul, who did not feature the rattlesnake, Richie, whose punch overwhelmed the snake flavor, and Nyesha, who simply overcooked her protein.

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