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Top Chef: Texas – Ep 12 – You Mean, Like A Meatball?!?

It was bound to happen this season – a season filled with really good challenges – that they would have a stinker at some point. Perhaps it was just coming off back-to-back episodes of Restaurant Wars and the Charlize Theron evil challenge, but I was underwhelmed with the cook-off this week. Conceptually, I get it. And it was a nice, traditional Top Chef twist to have the teammates from the Quickfire turn into competitors in the Elimination. However, it was not a lot of fun to watch them cook meatballs, Korean BBQ and a chicken salad sandwich. That’s real exciting.

I think the chefs went too safe because they were spooked by the terribly restrictive time limits attached the challenge. Two hours, two hundred people. But they could have still done something interesting. I wonder why no one went Tex Mex – I mean, how hard would quesadillas have been? Granted, the Healthy Choice angle could have messed with things – but remember, they chose their dish before Padma dropped that healthy twist on them. And while the guys went with ribs for their Korean BBQ, no one went with some Texas-style meat dish.

As a result, we have Sarah, the Italian food expert, doing a meatball. No spaghetti. The Asian guys doing Asian food. And a chicken salad sandwich. Yawn. Although, the chicken salad sandwich led us to the awesome battle between Tom and Grayson at Judges Table. Tom asked her if she really thought she could win with a chicken salad sandwich. She immediately realized that her attempts at “elevating” the deli staple had failed. I think she misinterpreted Tom’s criticism a bit. She took offense that it wasn’t as if her sandwich was up against fine cuisine – you know, like a meatball?!?! Tom smirked a bit, obviously amused and impressed with her feistiness. However, what he was talking about was that they had no idea that they were up against meatballs. For all they knew at the time they were going to be facing lobster and prime rib. That was Tom’s point – they thought chicken salad was a good choice in a vacuum.

I mean, honestly, what did we have here. The Quickfire Challenge was good – but with only three dishes – it was kind of short. We had Paul winning some more money. We had Sarah complaining that someone else won a challenge instead of her. We had…well, we really had nothing else. Usually, my notes are several pages long during a Top Chef episode – more than the others shows I write about. This episode provided just half the usual amount of interesting moments.

What we are down to now are the final five chefs, and one waiting at RILCK. And if anyone who has watched this season thinks that Paul is not the absolute clear-cut front-runner, then they have been watching a different program. Paul has won so many challenges; he has almost already earned what the eventual winner of the show will earn. I think Grayson, Sarah, Lindsay of the Corn and Edward are all equally likely to go deep into the competition, and all equally likely to be the next one out. If Paul gets knifed next week, I will be shocked. None of the others would shock me. And Beverly, should she get back in, goes right into the mix with that group. Good, talented, and capable of knocking out a killer meal, but not as dominant as Paul has been.

Quickfire Challenge – Judging the team challenge are Padma, Emeril and Iron Chef Cat Cora. The teams of Lindsay of the Corn/Sarah, Edward/Paul and Glasses/Grayson had to peel, de-vein, and butterfly two pounds of shrimp, shuck and cut a crate of corn and prepare one pound of fettuccine. After they do these three things, they had to cook a meal. They had 40 minutes to accomplish all of this. Of course, Sarah made the pasta, as did Edward and Grayson. Only Grayson seemed to struggle, Cat pointing out that she was overworking it. Sarah/Lindsay were done first and appear to have the upper hand as they had more time to cook. Paul failed to plate the shrimp, so they were out. Glasses and Grayson finished the prep work last and had only eight minutes and change to cook. However, they seemed to have done the best with the time provided as they earn the win, ten grand, and unfortunately for Glasses, no immunity.

Grayson/Glasses – Fettuccine, Toasted Corn, Poached Shrimp, Chili, Bacon, and Rosemary – Glasses’ deep frying of the bacon (for time purposes) gets nicked.

Lindsay of the Corn (cooking corn!!)/Sarah – Fettuccine with Corn Milk, Shrimp, Tarragon, and Parsley – Cat really notices the tarragon.

Paul/Edward – Fettuccine with Corn, Zucchini Flowers, Chanterelle Mushrooms, and Parmesan – Oops. No shrimp.

Cat liked the girls’ use of milk, but not the tarragon. Meanwhile, despite the bacon prep and the beginning issues with the pasta, Glasses/Grayson got their chili done well and earn five thousand each. Glasses’ first cash win, and just in the nick of time.