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'Top Chef: Texas' recap: Episode 8, 'BBQ Pit Wars'

RestaurantsDining and DrinkingMicrosoft CorporationTop Chef (tv program)Hugh Hefner

Happy New Year, Top Cheffers! If you are anything like me, you are almost fully recovered from a two-week holiday bender. Since it is the new year, I made the same resolution to exercise and eat more healthfully that I am sure everyone else out there made. Because I am trying to be less gluttonous, I need “Top Chef” in my life because it is my favorite source of food porn.

Speaking of porn! This week’s episode started with Padma sending over the complete set of "Modernist Cuisine" by Nathan Myhrvold to the chefs’ hotel room. Delivering this set to the cheftestants is the equivalent of Hugh Hefner sending six months worth of Playboy to the Delta House in "Animal House."

The chefs are told to study the culinary encyclopedia during the night, leaving everyone to believe the Quickfire Challenge the next day will include some twist involving "Modernist Cuisine."

Quickfire Challenge

Well, hello there, Nathan Myhrvold, author of "Modernist Cuisine"! Fancy seeing you here as the guest judge for the Quickfire this week.

What’s that, you say? As well as winning immunity at this Quickfire, the chefs will receive your entire $625 five-volume set? Seriously, it costs $625 for this book set, which is pocket change to a billionaire like Myhrvold, but to us plebes that is an intense amount for an encyclopedia.

This week’s Quickfire has the chefs cooking classic dishes in a modernist fashion. There is a lot of molecular gastronomy, vapor, fog and foams getting thrown around the “Top Chef” kitchen. Somewhere, Chef Richard Blais and Chef Marcel Vigneron are wetting themselves.

Overall, the chefs do well. They all have at least one modernist style dish in their pocket that they are able to execute.

The only fantastic thing that happens in this Quickfire is the peek at Handsome Chris’ casting video.  Seeing as the theme of this recap seems to be porn, Handsome Chris’ house is filled with “modern art” that looks like stills from the Red Light district in Amsterdam. I’m not going to judge him (well, actually I am), but it seems like a little much, no? Alas, this is the subject for a completely different type of blog post.

Back to the challenge, Chris J. really wants to win this one because he is such a fan of Myhrvold, but he is no match for Ty-Lör’s simplified watermelon and tapioca olive oil dust.

Elimination Challenge

After a Quickfire Challenge that explores modernist cuisine, I expect a weird elimination challenge and maybe a guest appearance by Wylie Dufresne; however, that is not the case. It turns out that Myhrold, on top of being the author and expert behind Modernist Cuisine, oh and the former Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft worth over $1 billion, has won first place in the world championship of barbecue in Memphis, Tenn.

The chefs split into three groups of their own choosing. We have: Chris J, Handsome Chris and Bev representing Team White; Grayson, Lindsay and Paul rocking Team Blue; and Ty, Ed and Sarah holding down Team Red.

This Elimination Challenge again tests the cheftestants' endurance. The chefs are given all night to prepare and cook three meats — chicken, brisket and ribs — and two sides, to serve on one plate the next day to 300 hungry Texans.

If the previous all-night chili challenge is any indication as to how the chefs will act once delirium hits, we are in for quite the crazy banter.

A few of the greatest hits:

Bev thinks it is a good idea to flambé with bourbon inside a camper van. Hint: It’s not.

Grayson tells Tom their food will “be like sex in your mouth.”

Lindsay: Malibu, are you wearing a wife beater?

Handsome Chris: I know, I’m sorry. It doesn’t match my shoes.

Back to cooking

As the chefs are cooking, they are all using the same secret ingredient: sweat. Not only are they standing in front of fire pits all night, but soon that Texas sun rises and the heat just escalates that much more. Dehydration and heat stroke are serious worries.

Sarah, unfortunately, succumbs to the heat. As she starts to feel like she is about to pass out, the EMT on the set says that she needs to go to the hospital and get looked at by a doctor.

Now, normally when chefs get hurt because they slice their hand or finger, I say wrap it up and deal with it later. But heat stroke is tricky. I just picture her organs melting or her falling in the fire pit. Clearly, I have no knowledge of medicine, so I actually trust that she needs to go in.

With Sarah gone, Ty and Ed have to once again summon the dream team power from the game-meat challenge, go balls to the wall and do some serious work. Unfortunately since they are a pair of hands down, they have to make some calls like pre-cutting the meat instead of carving at their station, which they both know will hinder their meal.

As the restaurant fills with hungry patrons, each team does its best to keep up with the constant influx of people at its stations.

Team Blue decided early on that they would cook their barbecue with an Asian flair. It is a big risk, but considering that the other two teams are ruled by the whole “This is the Way We Do It in Texas” attitude, it is the only way to stand out.

Team White runs into a few problems because Handsome Chris knows that his rub for the meats is too salty. Since the meat has been sitting in the rub for hours, there really is no way to undo the salty taste. They are hoping that the sauce will mask or overpower the salt taste.

Team Red is holding on by a very thin thread. The boys are doing their best to stay afloat during this madness. They manage to finally get into a rhythm when Sarah pops back to get in their way. Conveniently enough, she comes around just in time for the judges to get their plates, and then she needs to sit back and have more water. I don’t want to call BS, but it smells a little funky to me.

Judges’ Table

It is no surprise when Padma asks to see the members of Team Blue first and announces them the winners of the barbecue challenge. They took a risk and went in a different direction from the other teams. They didn’t get caught up in cooking food that Texans might like. They cooked food that they knew tasted amazing and gave the customers enough credit that they would enjoy something different. Everyone needs to stop living by the mantra “This is the way we do it in Texas” and just cook delicious dishes. I salute you, Team Blue. Keep up the good work.

Team White and Team Red both get asked to the Judges’ Table. Each team missed the mark on every level. From each cut of meat to the two side dishes, neither team had even one standout portion. Ed’s brisket was too tough, both Sarah and Chris J’s chickened lacked smokiness, Bev undercooked her beans, and Ty’s coleslaw seemed to ferment. In the end, however, the judges could not get over the inedibility of Team White’s meat because of the saltiness of Handsome Chris’ rub. The judges send Handsome Chris back to Malibu to hang out with his naked lady pictures.

So, Top Cheffers, are you going to miss our weekly eye candy now that Handsome Chris is gone? Do you feel self conscious of your life accomplishments after Googling Nathan Myhrvold? Are you psyched that Restaurant Wars is finally upon us!? Leave your comments below!

Follow me @AwesomeAMT

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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RestaurantsDining and DrinkingMicrosoft CorporationTop Chef (tv program)Hugh Hefner
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