Top Chef: Texas Recap
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
January 25, 2012
The pressure mounts with each course as everyone waits for some chef to make a mistake. Alas, this is not Sarah. Her plate of amarone risotto looks bloody disgusting in just the right way but then she manages to go over the top with lamb heart. Yes, Sarah takes a more literal interpretation by offering the evil queen the very heart of an innocent. For this idea alone, Sarah deserves not only to avoid elimination but serious consideration to win the evening. And we say that as people who are not fans of Sarah on a personal level. The judges agree with us and Charlize has an epiphany that maybe she IS the evil queen because she loves the flavor of the heart that much.
And then Grayson presents her dish. Look, we do not have the ability to declare winners and losers in Top Chef and we are ordinarily okay with that. Our disembodied voices may only travel so far, after all. Still, this is an instance where we have to give Grayson something, so we present her the honorarium of Dish of the Season. Yes, there are still some episodes left and it could theoretically be topped but we don’t care. What Grayson creates here is magnificent.
The dish is black chicken with beets, quail egg and foie gras. It is the presentation that shines through. Grayson includes a giant hook at the end of the chicken to ramp up the gothic factor and then she explains that the quail egg “symbolizes the baby that was inside her when she got slaughtered”. There are no words to aptly describe the creativity and malevolence of this dish. It is a hallmark achievement in the field of cooking’s heretofore unknown category of the black arts. The judges love everything about it, as they should. If Grayson were sent home for this dish, I would stop watching the show. Inventive cuisine such as this should be nurtured and cultivated with as much positive reinforcement as possible. Congrats on making the Dish of the Season, Grayson!
This leaves only one course remaining and since it is Chris cooking something involving liquid nitrogen, we anxiously anticipate his inevitable elimination. We like Chris but he has been hanging by a thread for several weeks now. Being devoured by the evil queen seems like his fitting end, really. But Chris surprises us by creating the best dish he has made all season. It is ostensibly a poisoned apple & cherry pie. There are “worms” crawling out of the apple, similar to the mistake he made with the cigar ash but for whatever reason, everything works this time. Cracking open the apple gives Tom a dining experience akin to Anton Ego at the end of Ratatouille. His boyish exuberance shines through and it is readily apparent that if Tom has his way (and he almost always does), Chris is safe.
Seven courses have been presented. Seven courses are celebrated for being among the finest in the show’s history. Everything goes so well that we are seriously considering going to see a Kristen Stewart movie next June. Still, this is a marketing tie-in episode, unlike the Top Chef All-Stars episode last year where no one had to be eliminated. As such, one of seven triumphant chefs will be executed by the evil queen for serving the best food ever for a losing contestant. This is brutal but true.
At this point in the episode, we honestly have no idea who has won or lost. All of the comments about each dish are positive with one quibbling exception about Paul. This makes us worry that the best player this season has lost but it proves to be misdirection. Paul wins yet again and will be walking the red carpet for the world premiere of Snow White & the Huntsman. Ed, Lindsay and Chris (!) are also informed that they are safe for the evening.
Amazing as it may seem, Grayson is in danger of elimination for what we consider to be the Dish of the Season. Enemies Sarah and Beverly are also on the bottom. As the judges state, a competition with this many outstanding performances leads to nitpitcky reasons for elimination and the other shoe drops for Beverly. As we stated above, her dish was a bit safer than the rest, which is a smart move most of the time on the show. In this one particular episode, a meal regularly good enough to win a challenge is instead cause for elimination. We blame Charlize Theron.