Top Chef: Texas, episode 10 recap: Beets, beets, beets, beets…and so forth
Oh, Restaurant Wars. We love you, we hate you. Inevitably the most gripping episode of the Top Chef season, inevitably the most gut-wrenching. Padma starts off by telling the eight remaining contestants that some of the best chefs they’ve had on the show have packed their knives after Restaurant Wars. No anxiety there, then. She also announces that, for the first time, this war will be a battle of the sexes: the four women against the four men. (Sorry, but what a lame and retrograde choice, Top Chef.) Each team will have five hours to cook three courses, each course with two choices, for 100 guests, as well as decorate a bare restaurant.
And thus begins the standard Restaurant Wars buildup and breakdown: One team (in this case, the men) is shown to be confident, getting along; the other team (the women) gets the uh-oh music as its members bicker, as things fall apart. Will it be the old Top Chef bait and switch?
Of course, the chefs do all they can to feed this Restaurant Wars formula: Immediately, we see Sarah trash-talking Bev. Apparently, Sarah’s all too happy to take up the post Heather vacated as the resident Bev bully. In their planning discussion, Sarah shoots down Bev’s idea of doing braised lamb ribs. Then Sarah shoots down Bev’s idea of doing beets. “That’s on every menu,” Sarah says. “Beets, beets, beets, beets, beets, beets, beets.” (Actually, she may have said “beets” two or three more times. I couldn’t keep up with her geyser of nastiness.)
To shop at Garden Ridge and Sur La Table, each team has $7,500 (which I believe can get you all of a knife set at Sur La Table), and $4,000 at Whole Foods. And Grayson grows more likable by becoming Bev’s ally: “I feel bad for Bev,” she says. “I don’t think the girls really like her.” Cut to Chris saying “the girl chefs are getting a little catty with each other.” No sexist undertones there, Chris.
And then, the war begins. Thanks to Padma’s coin toss, the men go first. With Ed taking care of the front of house and with the guests pouring in, the guys realize no one’s been assigned the role of expediter. Then the judges arrive. Padma, looking like a queen about to decide whose head comes off and whose head gets to stay on its neck, floats into the room. Emeril notes the chefs “are really in the trees right now.” Service aside, what do the judges (Padma, Tom Colicchio, Emeril Lagasse and Hugh Acheson) think about the food? Although Tom says “lovely” and Padma says “beautiful” about a dish’s presentation, they don’t seemed wowed by the flavors, Tom saying he expected more from Paul. Meanwhile, the kitchen’s a mess: Paul notes, “The friendship aspect of it got in the way.” Yet, at the end, Tom says, “I thought for opening night it was great. They just need to work on some of the dishes.”
Now it’s the women’s turn. Working the front of house, Lindsay tells us that she was prom queen in high school. How fitting, since Lindsay quickly becomes Top Chef’s prom diva from hell. She joins in on the beat-down-of-Bev fest. Bev tells the camera, “Lindsay and Sarah are treating me like a child.” But when the judges arrive, Lindsay commits the most-terrible-of-terrible Restaurant Wars error: She’s not there to greet them. The judges wait. And wait. Finally, Lindsay seats them. Then after an assholish guest says the fish is overcooked, Lindsay goes to the kitchen and berates Bev: “Please do not overcook my fish!” Meanwhile, the guests pile up at the front, which does not escape the judges’ attention. Nor does the absence of food on their table. Lindsay in the kitchen: “The judges are fucking pissed the dishes are taking so long!” Sarah yells at Lindsay, Lindsay yells at Sarah, Lindsay yells at Bev for plating with a plastic spoon. Oh, this is good. And at last, the judges start to get their food. And, for the most part, it seems they like what they’re eating. Especially…Bev’s short ribs. Back in the kitchen, Lindsay again goes for Bev, complaining Bev overcooked her fish. Overall, the judges say, the women had better food, the men had better service. Well, that settles that, then.
In the stew room, Lindsay’s not done with Bev yet: “You were fucking up my dish,” she says. Then Padma enters: The judges would like to see…the women. Congrats, Padma tells them at Judges’ Table. Tom, in typical Tom fashion, says it wasn’t a perfect evening but their food was better. And the winner? You better believe it: The winner is Bev. The look of shock on Bev’s face is matched only by the look of sheer murderous intent on Lindsay’s. But Sarah’s still—still—not done with Bev. Sarah: “We would not be here, in my opinion, if it wasn’t for you, Lindsay.” Bev and Grayson just smile at each other.
And the guys face their executioner. The judges tear them apart: Ty’s Thai dish was too bland, Paul’s croutons for his ham and eggs were soaked in oil, Chris didn’t do enough, Paul did too much, and where—oh God, where—was the coconut in Ed’s play on Almond Joy? (Please, somebody please fetch those judges some coconut so they can stop bitching about it.) Tom flatly says they all get an F. What happened to “I thought for opening night it was great,” Tom? “Right now,” he adds, “all of you could go home for this mess that was called Canteen.” The ax drops on Ty-Lor for “Ty’s not-so-Thai dish,” as Tom puts it. And…whew.