Top Chef – Episode 9: “BBQ Pit Wars”
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Sorry this is late. I was vacationing in Mexico where, apparently, they don’t know how the hell to make a burrito, which I’ll talk about at the end of the month. The resort I was staying at didn’t have Bravo, so I was going to have to go with Plan B – download the episode on iTunes. Unfortunately, the wifi was slower than dial-up and decidedly less reliable. So it was plan C – do this review when I got home. Which is now. I was bummed Plan A didn’t work because I was curious to see if it would’ve been “Jefe Superior – Tejas”.
At the beginning of the episode, the banter going around the table centered on strategy going forward. Sonny Chiba casually mentions that Heather won two challenges on his cake recipe and formerly-catty-now-just-annoying Sarah took umbrage with this. She mentioned that “…he should’ve said something to Heather’s face”. I honestly don’t see her logic at all as it didn’t seem like he was overly pissed about it. But aside from that, you saw how Jabba Heather treated Asians. I’m sure she would’ve gone all Han Solo in carbonite on Sonny. Here’s what he’d look like frozen in carbonite –
OK, fine, it sucks. But I challenge you to show me a photo editor who knows more about viniculture than me. Ha!
If you’ll recall, the teasers for this episode showed Sonny pissed at Sarah for not plowing through heat exhaustion. So maybe we’re getting into war mode here? Let’s find out.
Quick Fire Challenge – Modernist Cuisine
The contestants are assigned to look through Modernist Cuisine cookbook in preparation for this challenge. The guest judge is the author, Nathan Myhrvold, who explains that it’s about the application of new techniques beyond molecular gastronomy. The challenge is to apply the theories in the books in 45 minutes. The winner gets immunity and a copy of the multi-volume book – currently on Amazon for $450.
- Beverly – Flash Steamed Clams & Mussels, curry whipped cream and mango chili. She planned on putting a curry sauce through a whipped cream thingy but ended up doing a Peter North moneyshot on Nathan and Padma. Obviously, she forgot to read the section on how to use the equipment.
- Sarah – Breakfast Raviolo, pancetta and Egg yolk
- Sonny – Salmon belly sashimi, compressed watermelon and brunoise radishes.
- Grayson – Trout Sashimi, dill caviar, pickled watermelon, cucumber and radish
- Ty-lor – Watermelon, vanilla bean honey, black pepper and salted olive oil powder. He used maltodextrin powder which turns olive oil into powder. However, when it hits the tongue, it turns back into olive oil. I GOTTA get some of that.
- Penishead – Marinated Baby Octopus, tempura sea beans, & togarashi
- Chris C – Risotto Foam, Scallops, Raisins, & Fried Capers. This sounded cool
- Kundun – Endive Salad, egg yolk, parmesan & Truffle powder
- Ugly Chris – Miracle Berry, Deconstructed cheesecake, sparkling water with lemon & lime – Smirks abound from the other chefs as they knew he’d get geeked for this. I gotta get some Miracle berry, too – it interacts with the tastebuds and fools the tongue, turning sour things sweet.
The bottom three were:
- Kundun – not enough depth of flavor
- Bev – need it to stand out more. Plus she missed Padma’s face.
- Grayson – simple prep was ok, but the elements weren’t good enough
The top three were:
- Ty – spices was interesting, plus use of maltodextrin powder to deliver olive oil
- Sarah – taking something anyone can do, but put it in a different context
- Chris J – nicely staged
Winner – Ty
Elimination Challenge – BBQ
Working in teams of three, the chefs had to prepare a meal for a group of 300 people at the Salt Lick in Austin. They were to stay up all night smoking three kinds of meat -chicken, beef brisket, pork spareribs – and 2 sides dishes.
- White Team (Both Chrises and Bev) – Beer can chicken, brisket and Dr pepper glazed pork ribs. The judges thought that Ugly Chris’ beer can chicken was good, but wasn’t really smoked, Bev’s beans were undercooked, and Chris C’s marinades were extremely salty. It’s also worth noting that this team was formed by default – aka they were the last ones picked in basketball. (Thanks, Janis Ian)
- Red Team (Sarah, Sonny Chiba, and Ty) Texas Chicken, KC style pork ribs, smoked brisket, poppy seed cole slaw and pinto beans. Sarah joined the winning team of Ty and Sonny, even though she doesn’t want to work with Sonny. It was a smart move since the two guys work well together, but things got derailed when she got light-headed from the heat. Paramedics were called in and she was MIA for a lot of the challenge. Being short-handed meant that they had to slice the brisket ahead of time instead of cut-to-order. This resulted in tough meat, which the judges called Sonny out on. The judges also felt that Sarah’s chicken wasn’t smoked, either, and was rubbery. Ty’s ribs had a good sauce, but the meat was tough. It probably would’ve been a deal-breaker for him, but he had immunity.
- Blue Team (Penishead, Grayson, and Kundun) – Asian Spare Rib, Chicken & Brisket. Brussel sprouts and okra, and watermelon salad. They went non-traditional and the risk paid-off – it was the judges’ favorite. They won the competition and split $15K. This was Kundun’s victory. They worked as a team alright, but it was his vision and leadership that won it for them. Penishead and Grayson haven’t shown anything exciting in this competition, so it was smart of them to let him lead. In other words, they’re great Pips to Kundun’s Gladys Knight.
Rather than choosing a losing team, all the other contestants were brought to the judges’ table with Chris C getting sent home. This wasn’t a big surprise. He had some good ideas in the past with his Tequlia challenge oyster and this week’s foamed risotto. However, he oversalted the rub which made it near inedible. I think another factor was that he fell back into the trap of trying to be too much of a crowd-pleaser. Back when they did the dinner party, his cupcake dessert was a mishmash of a ton of elements – basically everything the host couple brainstormed. In this case, he opted for a Dr Pepper BBQ sauce with no other justification than “they drink a lot of Dr Pepper in Texas”. Like I said it wasn’t a big surprise. The big question is who’s Grayson going to fawn over now?
- I haven’t talked about the Chi-Town connection lately, but there are three Chicago chefs left – Ugly Chris, Sarah, and Bev. I still think Chris has what it takes to be a darkhorse, but I seriously doubt any of them will make the top 3.
- I used to rip on Bev for not stretching herself and will continue to do so. But in fairness Sarah has to start doing the same. It seems like everything she’s made has used pasta and sausage.
- I want to have a party and do the Sarah Gruenberg drinking game. Any time you see her do an “Oh my God” overreaction to anything – take a shot. Off the top of my head there was
- OMG, we’re going to Dallas!
- OMG, we’re going to Austin!
- OMG, it’s Patty LaBelle!
- OMG (hand to mouth), we’re going to the Salt Lick!
- OMG, this Toyota Sienna can really haul ass! (OK, I may have made this one up)
- I call “Bullshit” on the paramedics thing. They wouldn’t have hauled Sarah away and back in time for her to serve the judges.
- Sonny bitched about Sarah’s miraculous and temporary recovery, saying something to the effect of “Hey look, I’m perfectly fine when it’s time to serve my chicken to the judges”. She probably had a good point to not trust him as he could have served a burnt piece of her chicken in her absence to undermine her. Part of me thinks they’re playing with editing again. Sonny is caught complaining about it to Ty, but we don’t see Ty’s reaction. I’m sure Ty probably agreed, but they won’t show that because they want the beef between Ed and Sarah.
- Speaking of Ty and beef, I came across one of his nude pics. Not posting here, you perv.
- “The Dude” had suggested that Grayson looks like a heavier Sarah McLachlan. I can definitely see it, but I can’t call her Fat Sarah. That’s already taken.
- I really think she’s attractive, but what the hell is with that limp, greasy hair? And don’t get me started on that trainwreck of a shirt. Who knows what’s going on with the rest of it, but the only way that outfit’s salvageable is if the nipples are cut out.
- Speaking of shirts, I love Ugly Chris’ “I Eat Vegans” shirt.
- Chris C’s apartment was filled with painting he did of nude women. Talk about a major pimp – he’s good looking, now in-shape, a chef, and an “artist”. He probably scored with all of his models. No rope and duct tape needed there.