Top Chef: Texas, episode 11 recap
The Charlize Theron episode, in which we learn the power of cross-media marketing and curried rice-puff cereal. Let’s do this:
With seven chefs remaining, the 11th episode of Top Chef: Texas begins at the end of the tumultuous 10th episode, “Restaurant Wars.” Once again we see Lindsay and Sarah pissed that their nemesis—tiny Bev, who’s always either smiling or crying—has won the challenge. Bev tells us that Lindsay’s just “sour grapes.” (Control that tongue, Bev.) Lindsay bitches about how hard it all was.
Quickfire Challenge: With Eric Ripert as guest judge, Padma tells the chefs they’ve got 30 minutes to create a sophisticated dish. Oh, no problem then—wait, what? They also have to use three ingredients from a moving conveyor belt where ingredients will suddenly appear and just as suddenly disappear as the belt circles back into the wall, like luggage at an airport carousel. I have to say: very nifty little idea—like something you would’ve seen Bob Barker do on The Price Is Right. The ingredients roll on, each one more dispiriting than the last: pop candy, goldfish, cookies, rice-puff cereal…but then, hey, grouper, lobster, clams. Chris, who’s noted that he’s the only chef left who hasn’t yet won a challenge, misses the lobster, which then vanishes from the belt (“those fucking bastards,” he says of the TC crew), then it magically reappears and he dives after it again. Finally, on his third try, he nabs a lobster by its claw. But that doesn’t keep him from ending up on the bottom of the challenge, along with Grayson and Paul.
On the top are Sarah, Lindsay and our dear Bev, who couldn’t manage to get her curried rice-puff cereal on her plate of glazed sockeye salmon and black-eyed peas. Still, Eric and Padma tasted the cereal just to see. Padma tells Bev that if she’d gotten those puffs on her dish, “You would’ve won this by a mile.” Instead, the winner of immunity is Lindsay, who notes it doesn’t exactly give her a warm-and-fuzzy feeling inside to win merely on a technicality.
Elimination Challenge: The task: making a dish fit for a queen…and cue Charlize Theron, whose appearance elicits the competitors’ star-struck gasps. A dish for a queen, you see, because Charlize stars as an evil one in this summer’s Snow White and the Huntsman. Charlize says she’s a huge fan of the show and, with a warning note in her voice, “I love food.” And now it’s time to plug Charlize's Movie: Because her character is “pretty much a serial killer,” she wants the chefs to “think like an evil queen and take out your competition.” I admit: She’s a little scary. And she's probably the only person who, standing shoulder to shoulder with Padma, can match the Top Chef host for icy regality.
At the chef house, Chris talks on the phone with his wife; we see the happy couple in a snapshot of their wedding, in another of Chris with his very pregnant spouse. Can all this sympathy-generating back story mean the Moto chef's impending demise?
In the kitchen, the chefs have two hours. Without having to team with one another, without having to submit to any silly parameters, the chefs are allowed to just frickin’ cook. And lo and behod: They cook well. The judges rave over Ed’s first course (tuna tartare with fried fish scales for the evil effect), then do the same with Paul’s second course (foie gras with bacon, pumpernickel, pickled cherries, beets—and a dramatically bloody handprint on the plate). The judges swoon over this, they yum-yum over that. And they plug Charlize’s Movie. Bev says her halibut is Snow White in the midst of the evilness of the black rice (hm, autobiographical reading, Bev?).
The dishes, and the compliments, just keep coming: Lindsay’s seared scallops over witch’s stew, Sarah’s bloody-looking amarone risotto, Grayson’s black chicken with gnarly claws left on. And Chris finally gets to use his Moto wizardry to winning effect. At the sight of Chris’s poisoned apple and cherry pie, Tom speaks the words, “Oh, God, awesome.” Tom may never have said anything so flatly admiring in his life. He may never do so again. Charlize’s estimation of the evening: “I loved this meal. I really, really loved it.” Tom: “This is clearly the most exciting food we’ve had all season by far.” Eric: It’s one of the best meals he’s ever had on Top Chef. All of which means: It’s a photo finish.
After a commercial break—which, oh look, includes an ad for Charlize’s Movie—Padma calls all seven chefs to Judges’ Table. Tom says that in all his years of doing this show, this was one of the finest meals he’s eaten. The judges heap praise on each of them. And Charlize announces the winner: Paul, who—huh, imagine that—gets two tickets to the world premiere of Charlize’s Movie. Ed, Lindsay and Chris are all safe, which leaves Sarah, Grayson and Bev. The nitpicking begins: Sarah’s risotto was a bit undercooked, Sarah’s greens were a bit salty, Bev’s arrowroot made her sauce a bit sticky.
And packing her knives is…say it isn’t so…Bev. Death by curried rice puffs.