Top Chef Texas: Episode 14, “Mentors”

Nooooooooooo!

Prelude: Welcome to the Final Four! Er, Final Five? They wager on who’s coming back. Ed puts a pack of cigarettes on Beverly. Sarah thinks Grayson will kick Bev’s ass (wishful thinking there, Sarah?) and raises him a banana. Edward doesn’t want anyone back.

Quickfire:
Padma and Tom (and five cloches) meet the Final Four in the kitchen and introduce the LCK winner: Beverly! Hey, they fooled me, I was expecting Grayson, and while I like her very much, I’m very glad to see Beverly. She gives the usual cliches (seize the moment etc) and assures us she still has her congratulatory sign. Edward reminds Sarah she owes him a pack of cigarettes. Sarah interviews, “She’s off in her own Bev-land and I’m not buying a ticket to go there anytime soon.”

And on to the cooking part of our show: under each cloche is a blindfold. Edward wonders if they have to cook blindfolded. I wouldn’t be surprised. This has been the season of Kill Chefs, so why not blindfold them and set them loose with sharp knives and open flames.

But no, their insurance doesn’t cover them for that, so Padma calls it a blindfolded pantry raid. In thirty minutes, they have to select their ingredients blindfolded, then can take them off to cook; they have to use everything they take from the pantry. The winner gets a choice: a car, or a guaranteed spot in the final round.

It’s kind of funny watching them stumble all over each other in the pantry. Sarah keeps demanding to know who is touching her; she must know it’s Beverly. Edward tells her it doesn’t matter, it’s another person, that’s all she needs to know, but we all know it does matter. People get lost. People walk into things. Something brown and gross is dripping from Beverly’s basket. Paul is trying to find a lemon. Edward is trying to figure out what a package of cryovac’d meat is. Sarah says she’s making a stew so she can only spend five minutes getting ingredients: “No way I’m losing to Beverly.” Girl, your bitterness is showing. What, were you beaten by a tiny Asian woman when you were a child or something? Sarah finishes shopping first, then Lindsay; Edward is last.

Sarah: She has peaches, mushrooms, and corn, so she makes corn soup and throws in onion, red chili, thyme, and everything else. Padma asks, with a eww-y face, if she’s ever combined peaches and mushrooms before; Sarah says no, she’s trying to push the limit. Tom agrees she is. He says the peach was a little stronger than the corn, but overall it worked and was delicious, so she is the winner. She takes immunity, and she doesn’t give a damn what people say: “I don’t care if they look at me differently. They can look at me as one of their competitors in the final four.” I happen to agree with her. The object is to win. And isn’t the car a curse? Or was that broken last season? I don’t remember.

Edward discovers what he thought was pancetta is actually sausage casings. Now there’s a challenge. He boils them, and notices the water is kind of nice and salty, so he uses that as the base for his zucchini udon with mushrooms. Tom says he had the most difficult ingredient, but he made it really flavorful and nice. He’s in the top two.

Beverly picked up an avocado she didn’t know about. She makes striped bass, and leaves the fish until the last five minutes. Why is she always filleting and cooking fish in the last five minutes? It may be confident, but it’s also risky, and it fails this time; her fish is undercooked. Tom tells her the avocado side was the best part of the dish. Aww, Beverly, I so wanted you to get immunity; I’m betting Sarah wouldn’t have been so sanguine about choosing immunity in that case.

Paul makes sauteed prawns with Thai tomato soup; Tom says it’s nice, with a good balance of sweet, salt, and bitter, but the prawn is slightly undercooked.

Lindsay picked mascarpone instead of crème fraiche, so she hopes lime and salt will neutralize it. She makes fish with bulgur wheat, and Tom says it has a nice touch of tomato and the fish is perfectly cooked; he loves the char she got on her rabe.

Elimination Challenge:

There’s a speech about mentors, and guess who shows up: Michelle Bernstein for Lindsay, Tony Mantuano for Sarah, Sara Stegner for Beverly, Frank Crispo for Edward, and Tyson Cole for Paul. Paul gets very emotional and starts crying, which starts Tyson crying. Hugs all around. Sarah gets an extra bonus: she doesn’t have to cook, so she can hang out with Tony. I suspect there was some sniping going on, but we don’t hear any. If it’d been Beverly, they would’ve played every snark.

The winner gets a car. I wonder if they had two cars ready, or if Sarah had taken the car, there wouldn’t have been a prize.

The mentors offer some general advice: don’t second guess yourself, do what you do your way. Michelle tells Lindsay everything in her boullabaise better be perfectly cooked.

Shopping

Edward can’t find oysters at the store. So he gets… canned smoked oysters. Oh no! NO NO NO! Does anyone remember Orchid from Next Food Network Star? Her canned oysters were called hairballs. I’ve never had them, I’ve never had an oyster at all and don’t want to, but I can remember Tony Bourdain talking about some place in Spain where they make canned oysters and he specified “These are not the crap you ate in your dorm room in college, this is the finest seafood in the world.” So somewhere around Do Not Murder is the warning Do Not Use Canned Oysters. I don’t really need either prohibition, but I’m always surprised when other people don’t know about them. Canned oysters? That makes pre-cooked shrimp seem almost rational.

And Lindsay can’t find calamari or octopus. Looks like the seafood department is pretty spare today. She has the sense not to get canned seafood, though.

And Beverly runs into a store employee pushing a carton on a dolly. Because they have to include a clumsiness shot every time Beverly goes shopping.

They cook. Edward is making cilantro gel, which sounds pretty cool; he’ll be pissed if he loses his spot in the final four to Beverly (uh oh… are those the foreshadowing fairies I hear?). Lindsay is starting to second guess; she has so many components. Paul is worried, because his soup is unassuming. Beverly is talking to herself. Now that, I understand; when I get confused and overwhelmed, I give myself instructions, to focus myself.

Overnight, they talk with Beverly about being back again. Everyone denies they were surprised, they knew all about it. Lindsay asks what she and Grayson made, which seems like a friendly enough question, but she looks so pissy faced I’m not sure (that could be the editing monkeys at work, though; she may have made that face hours before or after about something completely different). Edward tells her they were all excited because they thought they were the final four. More foreshadowing?

On day of service, Beverly hopes her mentor Sarah (now is that a tragic coincidence or what) will like the soulful Asian food she’s doing; she’s using a wok, so timing is crucial. Paul has assembly today; his chilled soup has fourteen different plating steps. Lindsay hopes they like her unique interpretation of seafood stew. Edward is crisping pork belly skin for garnish.

Service:

Hugh and Gail are the judges, plus Tom and Padma and the four mentors. I guess Sarah got to sleep late; I kind of expected her to be at the table. For each chef, the mentor gives a kind of intro about them before they come out.

Beverly: Mentor Sarah says they met when she was chef at the Ritz, and her message was find your passion and go for it. Beverly is a little worried about presentation; she knows they won’t be impressed by how it looks, but hopes they will be by the sheer ballsiness and flavor. Hearing Beverly say “ballsiness” seems… wrong, somehow. Like when a little kid says “penis” instead of “wee wee.” She serves a Stir-Fry of Gulf shrimp and bbq pork over curried Singapore noodles. She tells them it’s something straight from her heart. Mentor Sarah loves the flavor and heat, the shrimp is cooked perfectly, and she did cook from the heart. Tom acknowledges how difficult cooking from a wok is for eight people, she did push herself.

Lindsay: Michelle says she’s always been eager, and “she’s an extension of me” which is a little creepy. She wants her to be happy. Lindsay in the meantime is worrying about the emulsified cream she made; maybe it wasn’t a good idea. She serves her Seafood Stew of mussels and clams over toasted couscous with emulsified cream and stock. Michelle says everything is cooked beautifully, but she doesn’t know why the cream is there. Someone else agrees. Hugh says it’s pretty good, all things considered, which sounds like he’s being nice in front of Michelle.

Paul: Tyson says he’d show him how to do something and two days later Paul would do it better than he did in the first place. At first he was threatened, then came to see him as a real asset. Paul is second guessing; he wants to put more stuff in his soup, but recognizing it’s where it should be takes experience and discipline. He serves his chilled sunchoke dashi soup with summer veggies and chervil. Michelle says her first spoon was salty, but as she went on it was balanced. Hugh says it’s really balanced by the veggies. Tom says they haven’t seen anything like this, he’s mostly cooked Thai food.

Edward: I missed Frank’s intro. He serves Pork Belly and Oyster Crema and pickled celery, plums and radish. Gail says it’s packed with tons of flavor. Tom is not a fan of the oyster sauce. Michelle thinks he should jar and sell the pickled veggies. Hugh agrees, they’re great.

The interstitial is about crying. Or, in Edward’s case, not crying. Yeah, Edward is toast.

Sarah rejoins them in the stew room. Edward says she looks rested. He still can’t quite get a grip on LCK thing.

Judges’ Table

Padma calls them all out for Judges’ Table. Except Sarah.

Paul – he didn’t want to make his mentor look bad. Tom tells him he had a lot of nerve to come in with a bowl of soup. The flavor spoke to someone who had a lot more experience and knew when enough was enough, it was a really nice bowl of soup. Gail says she got more flavor with every bite, it was well-prepared. In her Bravo blog, Gail says it’s the best dish she had all season, and possibly the best dish ever served on Top Chef.

Beverly: She says she fell back into her element. Tom admires her use of stir fry. He says it’s risky for many reasons, you can’t reseason or add something. Gail says wok noodles can be greasy but there was none of that, her flavors were clear.

They are the top two, so they both move on to the finals. Paul wins. He gets a car. With all the money he’s won, he could buy a couple of cars. I hope the car isn’t a curse any more, because Paul is the obvious favorite to win. Beverly gives an awkward speech about how happy she is. In the stew room, Paul acknowledges the wok was ballsy.

So it’s down to Lindsay and Edward.

Lindsay: Hugh slathers her with general praise for some reason. What, is he trying to sack Michelle? Gail says the aroma was great, but questions the cream. Lindsay thought it needed fat to pull it together, but then realized she used brown butter on the fish so it would’ve worked without it. Hugh and Tom complain about the use dried herbs. I didn’t realize that was a no-no. Hugh says they blanketed everything. Oh. Well, excuse me a minute, I need to go clean out my spice cabinet…damn, but you can go broke buying $3 bunches of herbs all the time.

Edward: Gail loved the pickles, but the oyster sauce was off. Hugh asks the million-dollar question: were they canned? Uh oh. Tom makes faces: “so that’s what that was.” Hugh says there were too many things on the plate; there was a great thing going on in there somewhere, but it was too busy. Gail assures him Frank was proud of him. For what, for using canned oysters?

The judges talk behind their backs. And in the end, Edward is out. And Beverly recognizes the irony that he is her idol, and she came and took his place in the final four. But hey, she didn’t use canned oysters. Edward is very gracious in his goodbyes. I will miss you, Edward. I know your jaw is the talk of TWoP, but I don’t notice it unless I’m really concentrate on it. And you seem like a really nice guy.

The WWHL show is interesting for two things: Edward says he was oblivious to the whole Beverly-and-the-Mean-Girls thing. And when asked which contestant Padma would be interested in, she names – not CJ, which was my guess, but Kevin. “Kevin, with the pig on his arm” as she put it. Andy Cohen was more helpful: “Ginger beard.” He sounded surprised. Me, too. By the way, until I saw her in her white tank top with the black bra strap poking out, I didn’t even realize I hadn’t noticed anything she wore in the episode. That’s progress.

Next week: They cook outside in the snow in Vancouver, and ride ski lifts. Makes perfect sense: broil them in Texas all summer, freeze them in the finale. Kill Chefs.

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2 responses to “Top Chef Texas: Episode 14, “Mentors”

    • Ah, thanks, Laura. That was a while ago, I guess I’m behind on my Curse of the Car lore! ;) Maybe it was because I couldn’t tell the Volts apart all season. Which is strange, since now, on reruns, it’s easy to tell them apart.

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