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Top Chef: Texas – Ep. 14 – So Much For Pork Casings

Elimination Challenge: Cook for your mentor. Nice challenge. The mere presence of their mentors drive all but Ed to tears. This was a nice twist on the family visit episodes – and one that really, only Top Chef can pull off. Not a lot of Amazing Race mentors out there!

The mentors file in:
Sarah – Former Masters’ contestant Tony Mantuano.
Lindsay of the Corn – Longtime Top Chef guest Michelle Bernstein.
Beverly – Sarah Stegner.
Qui-Gon – Tyson Cole.
Edward – Frank Crispo.

Both Sarah and Lindsay comment about how Tony and Michelle plucked them out of Southern obscurity to teach them the secrets of fine dining. Qui-Gon, Ed and Beverly all talk about similar stories – young kids needing guidance. We know about Qui-Gon’s checkered past, and Beverly’s troubles wtih confidence and fair treatment. Was anyone surprised with Ed’s revelation that he had long hair and attitude upon meeting Frankie?

I like the dynamic with Qui-Gon and Tyson – our front-runner clearly has a great deal of affection for the man who helped him hone his skills. And from Tyson we learn that Qui-Gon was his padawan for just a short time before beginning to rival his master. Does that make Tyson, Count Dooku? Where’s Chris Jones when you need him?

I also like the clear friendship between Ed and Frank – that really came across. If they were once teacher-student, they are clearly good friends now. We just got a brief moment of Sarah and Tony having their aforementioned tequila shots, but they too seem to have moved past the old relationship. Meanwhile, Bev and her Sarah seemed to be at arms length – although that could have just been editing.

It was the Lindsay/Michelle dynamic that was most fascinating. I absolutely think that cooking for Michelle got into Lindsay’s head. Michelle is a really hard woman to please and work for, or so it seemed from Lindsay’s reaction to this challenge. No one else went down her path. They seem very close – and it could be something as simple as faux sibling rivalry.

The challenge came down to Lindsay’s second guessing herself and Edward’s bad Whole Foods decision. Plain and simple. Judging was done by the mentors, Tom, Padma, Monobrow and Gail.

Beverly – Gulf Shrimp and BBQ Pork Curried Singapore Noodles – She chose to cook with a wok, which Tom is amazed by. Big risk. She could not go back and season – once she started, she was all in.

Edward – Pork Belly and Oyster Crema with Pickled Vegetables Gail says it was packed with flavor, but something was up with the oyster sauce. Tom agrees. Michelle wants him to jar and sell his pickles, and she will be his best customer.

Lindsay of the Corn – Seafood “Stew” with Couscous Michelle calls her an extension of herself – I’m telling you…very complex relationship there. No one understands why Lindsay added her cream emulsifier sauce. Frankie wasn’t a fan of the raw thyme.

Qui-Gon – Chilled Sunchoke Dashi Soup with Vegetables – Michelle tasted salt at first, but then the veggies offset it. Tom is amazed by this dish as the Jedi had not presented anything like this before. Tyson is smiling thanks to the dish.

At Judges’ Table, Qui-Gon’s audacity of making soup is praised by Tom. He didn’t do what most young chefs do – over do it. He knew when enough was enough. Gail said each bite gave more and more flavor. Bev’s wok work was perfect, and Gail was impressed that it was not greasy or soggy. The two of them are safe and will move to the Finals – and Paul earns yet another win, and the car that Sarah turned down.

It comes down to Lindsay and Ed. She had the misplaced sauce and the dry herbs. She also knew she was making an error, and yet still did it. I thought she was doomed because of this decision making issue. However, when Tom found out Ed used canned oysters, he slowly sat back in his seat, the weight of this choice seemingly pushing him back. It was then that I thought Ed was done. As Monobrow said, you have to not be a slave to your recipe and see what is at the market. If there were no fresh oysters, change the recipe. Perhaps clams could have worked? Who knows.

As Ed said after the Quickfire, “so much for pork casings.”

Quickfire Hits
• I know she is what will pass for a villain here at the end, but I do like Sarah. However, she committed a big negative in my book when she used the overused, nails-on-the-chalkboard phrase “big bold flavors” to describe her dish. Attention all future Top Chefs – Stop. Doing. That. For once, the self-proclaimed flavors did not result in a loss for the chef who uttered the words.
• Mentor Sarah to Bev – just do your thing. She did. She cried.
• Michelle to Lindsay – everything in that bowl better be perfectly cooked. See – no other mentor said stuff like that. It might stem back to what Tom said – cooking for the mentors again was almost regressing them back to the place where they once were, trying to please the mentors.
• Could I misspell mentors a few more times and have “mentos” show up pre-spell check?
• I like how Bev was psyching herself up verbally to do her wok work.
• What did Bev pick up off the ground, and did she cook with it? Three second rule?
• Edward – Can we get some theme music going?!? The editors thank you for the cue.
• Sorry Qui-Gon shippers – the Jedi has a girlfriend, and she’s a cute blonde. Get over it.
• Bev gave herself another good excuse to cook Asian food – her mentor likes soulful Asian food.
• Qui-Gon’s soup had 14 plating steps!! Who said this stuff was easy?
• Runner Up for Texas T-Shirt to Grayson’s “sex in the mouth” – Lindsay’s “There’s no cryin’ in fine dinin’”
• Extra – Edward doesn’t cry. He’s a crying on the inside clown.

Next week – Top Chef: Hoth. No, really, Vancouver. Ice chunks, skiing, shooting and slamming towels.

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