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Top Chef: Texas – Ep 8 – You’ll Have To Deal With Pressure…Cookers

OK, well, that may have been the shortest lived villain of all-time. Heck, if that happened in a comic book movie it would be a short film subject. Darth Heather lasted about as long as a bad guy in a Star Wars: Clone Wars cartoon. My entire brilliant and witty take upon episode seven is now null and void. To paraphrase Howard Cosell – Down Goes Heather!

Instead of setting up Darth Heather as a villain, as it appeared last week, the early episodes were doing something completely different. They were setting her up to be a case of schadenfreude. They were setting up a moment where the audience at home would shout out, “HA! That’s what you get.”

And yes, Heather’s downfall was dripping with irony. When she and Beverly would up in the bottom last week and Heather unleashed upon Beverly, it was because of a poorly made duck. Which, according to Heather, was totally Beverly’s fault. That evil duck (Duck Dastardly?) was born from the bowels of the pressure cooker and unleashed upon the Top Chef kitchen to destroy Dallas. Just like a poultry Godzilla. (Someone out there has my permission to start a band called Poultry Godzilla). It was Beverly and the pressure cooker who committed the crime, in the study with the candlestick.

So, given another challenge that provided a need to use the pressure cooker, it was interesting to see Beverly embrace the device and Heather run from it. Beverly used it to have a successful Quickfire and then to make the top three in the Elimination challenge. Heather avoided it, and failed. Tom even asked her about her choice to avoid the pressure cooker and she brought up Poultry Godzilla. Tom then dug the knife right in there and twisted it – “Beverly used the pressure cooker…and she’s not here.” With apologies to Emeril…BAM! Again, Tom has been the MVP of this season – more and more each week.

Meanwhile, it was a great week and a scary week for two of my favorites. Sarah has done pretty well this season so far, but last week she had the pressure get to her. She struggled a bit and had the tears flow. She was in great need of a win. And what a win. This was a big challenge to win because it was so personal. The chefs were required to whip up a dish in honor of the person who inspired them to become a chef. For the vast majority of them, that was mom or grandma. I would think that other than the final challenge, these personal ones are the challenges the chefs most want to win. Sarah’s dish combined sausage and cabbage and may not have looked the best, but it sounded delicious, and wowed the judges.

And her cheers and leaps of joy at Judges Table was even better. Good for her, have a shot of tequila for me to celebrate, Sarah.

Now, my other favorite had a different kind of week. Grayson flirted quite a bit this week – just not in the cool way. She flirted with elimination and disaster. She was inspired by her dad and by her home state of Wisconsin. She made a big ol’ steak and potatoes meal which was about 100x the size of the other dishes made by the chefs. And I see nothing wrong with that. She got some criticism from the judges for not reinventing or modernizing the dish. I call foul on that – nowhere in the instructions did it say to do that. The challenge was to make a dish to honor your cooking inspiration. Her inspiration was daddy’s giant Wisconsin steaks. And that’s what she made. I find it strange that a show set in Texas gave criticism for portion size. I’ve been to Texas. That’s not a problem there – Grayson’s dish was an appetizer for Texans.

I was worried. With the three in the bottom, we had my Top Chef girlfriend Grayson, Pretty Boy Chris who is at least interesting to watch, and Darth Heather, whose elimination would have been rich. So, it was either going to be great fun, somewhat disappointing, or really depressing. At least, alls well that ended well.

I liked the Quickfire challenge, and wonder how I possibly missed it when it took place. Tom and Padma took suggestions on Twitter for the challenge. In three stages, different parts of the dish were dictated to the chefs. I follow Tom, Padma, Gail, Bravo, and tons of other chefs on the show and I don’t recall seeing solicitations for Quickfire ideas. Which is good, because I doubt they would have wanted constant requests for ice cream and peanut butter.

First chefs had to make bacon. Not on the beach – (Simpsons joke!). After a while, they had to add hash. The potato kind – the other one would have been more interesting. Lastly, they had to give another chef a random ingredient. That’s pretty good – and it led to some big challenges, many seemingly involving sriracha.

The other big part of the episode was the move to yet another location in Texas. The chefs now sit in the state capital of Austin. It is good they didn’t do this when they went to New York or DC – I’ve lived in both places and there would be some difficulty finding appropriate second and third locations. I can’t imagine Top Chef: Albany or Top Chef: Falls Church. I wonder if the finale will go to Houston, because that’s the obvious location omitted so far.

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