Top Chef: Texas, episode 12 recap: "Like…a meatball?"
Okay, I’ve been waiting for this moment through nine seasons of Top Chef: A chef renders Tom Colicchio speechless, and it’s as sweet as I ever could’ve imagined. Not in the oh-my-God-what-a-great-dish sense of speechless. Rather, in the I’m-Tom-Colicchio-and-I-just-got-told-off-and-I-have-no-comeback sense of the word. How satisfying it is.
In the Quickfire Challenge, chef Cat Cora shows up to plug her new Bravo reality show (oh, and to guest judge). The six remaining chefs are divided into three teams of two: Grayson and Chris, Paul and Ed, and Lindsay and Sarah. Each team has to peel, devein and butterfly two pounds of shrimp, shuck a crate of corn and make a pound of perfect fettucini in 40 minutes. Once done, the time left on the clock is all the time they have to cook a dish highlighting those three ingredients. Immunity is off the table from here on out, Padma announces. But the winner gets a nice wallet-padding sum of $10K.
After Padma expresses utter disbelief that Paul forgets the shrimp—“what?! no!!”—Chris and Grayson win. The look on Chris’s face couldn’t be more legible: Finally, finally, finally, he wins a challenge. And Sarah, of course, whines to the camera that her dish was better but, Sarah says, Cat Cora just doesn’t like tarragon. It’s always someone else’s fault when you don’t win, isn’t it, Sarah?
For the Elimination Challenge, the teammates become opponents. They’ve got two hours to cook for a block party of 200, the paired opponents will make versions of the same dish, and the guests will vote on their favorite dishes. After the chefs decide on their dishes (Chris/Grayson: chicken salad, Paul/Ed: Asian barbecue, Lindsay/Sarah: meatballs), Padma reveals the catch: They have to make healthy, low-fat versions of their dishes. And we get a foreshadowing glimpse of Grayson’s take-no-prisoners truth-telling during this episode: She calls the Top Chef folks “assholes” for giving the chefs only two hours to cook for 200. Sorry, Top Chef. She has a point. The only notable moment during cooking: Chris throws a chair.
At the block party, Chris freaks out over bees, Ed yells at a kid for taking his steamed bun, Grayson is in the weeds, Chris freaks out over bees, and guest judge Dana Cowin of Food & Wine magazine shows up.
At Judges’ Table, Padma calls Grayson, Paul and Lindsay—the three top dishes. And here it is: Colicchio asks Grayson if, in choosing chicken salad, she considered that she’s competing against dishes “that are potentially much more exciting than a chicken-salad sandwich.” Grayson says, “Like a meatball?” Colicchio: “Right, or…” and cannot finish the sentence. Grayson whips out a conversation-ending “Right.” The other two chefs look at Grayson like she’s just gone Cocoa-Puffs crazy. Cat Cora laughs. Even Colicchio laughs; he knows he’s been caught. And Grayson just shrugs and shoots Colicchio a look that says, Okay, don’t be an ass, you’re being an ass and you know it; don’t be an ass.
Paul wins, confirming his place as this season’s man to beat. It should be said, though, that in all the Top Chef seasons, Paul may be the nicest, sanest-seeming front-runner we’ve seen. Back in the stew room, Grayson says, “I feel like I just got brutalized because of fucking chicken salad.”
The three losers face the judges—Ed, Chris and Sarah. Colicchio, who’s never been a Chris fan, says that time and time again Chris has shown idea, idea, idea, but “cannot execute.” And it’s the Moto chef who packs his knives—which leaves still standing only one Chicagoan, Sarah, of the initial six Chicago contestants. Even though Paul wins the challenge, Grayson, I do believe, gets tonight’s blue ribbon.