The Food and Wine Hedonist

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Top Chef Texas Finale

Previous Episode

This was the season finale of Top Chef Texas, where Kundun went up against Sarah for the title.  There’s a reunion show next week and I’ll probably write a post on it, assuming theres anything worth ripping commenting on.

It’s been fun doing these recaps, but my my biggest regret is that it wasn’t until now I have a good nickname for Sarah. Unfortunately, I can’t claim ownership of these but they’re spot on.  In reading comments on recap, someone named Tristiac called her “Picnic Ham with Eyes”.  Hot coffee blew through my nose when I read that.

Then Hyacinth came up with THE BEST nickname –  “The Mouth of Sauron”.

As she mentioned in last week’s comments – “That’s the person at the end of  Return of the King who comes out of the gates of Mordor to trick Aragorn and friends into thinking Frodo was dead and then loses his head for his troubles.”  Don’t let the geekdom fool you, Hyacinth’s site is well worth the visit.  It’s definitely restored my faith in humanity.

It’s pretty clear that Kundun was the favorite going into the competition.  He won a ton of challenges and money already, probably altogether more than the value of the overall prize.   He completely blew away the competition in terms of range, creativity, complexity, and technical expertise.  However, he was pretty focused and humble to a fault, so his personality didn’t make for good television.  He definitely let his food speak for himself – as it should be.

Foodwise, The Mouth of Sauron showed glimpses of promise.  It’s not a surprise as she’s the executive chef of a Michelin-starred restaurant.  She showed creativity, although well within a very limited range of Italian or German cuisine.  It was all cooked perfectly, but you could find similar stuff on the menu of the fucking Olive Garden.

Quickfire – Create a dish to become of the sous chefs

They brought back several of the contestants along with a couple ringers to compete for a chance to be sous chefs for Kundun and the Picnic Ham with Eyes.   The two sampled all the dishes and chose four of the dishes they liked best.

Kundun’s choices:

  • Barbara Lynch (ringer) – butter soup with shellfish, caviar.
  • Ty-lor – buckwheat noodles with local shellfish
  • Malibu Chris – lamb with blueberry mustard and crispy parsnip
  • Suge Knight – Dungeness crab

Mouth of Sauron’s:

  • Nyesha – Halibut, green lentils and pomegranate
  • Tyler Stone – Scallops, with raisin citrus curry.  She thought she was picking Heather.  He was the hapless guy who referred to himself in the third person and got booted halfway through the first episode because he couldn’t butcher meat.
  • Jabba – chicken with black pepper and buttermilk dumplings
  • Grayson – pasta carbonara with fried brussel sprouts.  Consistent with how she cooked in the competition, the portion was monstrous.

Final Challenge

With their sous chefs, they took over two Vancouver restaurants to cook a four-course meal for 100 guests and judges.

Kundun’s Qi

  • 1st course – Chawanmushi, edamame, pea shoots & spot prawns.
  • 2nd – Grilled sea bass with clam dashi, pickled radishes, and mushrooms
  • 3rd  – Congee with scrambled eggs, uni, kale, & smoked albacore
  • 4th – Coconut ice cream, puffed wild rice, kumquats, mangosteen, thai chili foam & Jasmin gelee

The Mouth of Sauron’s Monte Verde

  • 1st – Squid ink tagliatelle with spot prawns and coconut
  • 2nd – Rye crusted steelhead trout with fennel sauce, pickled beets, and gras pista (whipped lardo)
  • 3 rd  – Braised veal cheeks,  crispy sweetbreads and polenta. I don’t know, these looked tasty but I’ve made all of these before so they couldn’t be that innovative.
  • 4th – Hazelnut cake with candied kumquat and roasted white chocolate ganache

And the winner of the $125K and the title of Top Chef is –  Kundun!  There were was lavish praise given to both dishes.  Despite the second batch of his first course being messed up, the rest must have made up for it.  One thing I’ve learned through out the whole competition is that 90% of the compliments and criticisms at the judges table can be tossed out.  However there were two things that did jump out – Kundun’s dashi broth seemed to have haunted (in a good way) the judges.  They were so completely awestruck by it that they were almost shaking.  And, despite Padma declaring Picnic Ham with Eyes’ dessert the best she’s had in all the seasons, it didn’t sound like it was a runaway winner over Kundun’s.

Random Thoughts

  • What do you think?  Did the right person win?
  • During the shopping scenes, there were hints at their strategies.  Paul opted for getting prawns as he thought extra ingredients would give him more options to put out the best possible dishes.  It turned out to be a good strategy as the crab went bad.  The Mouth of Sauron wanted to try to do things that the judges haven’t seen before – persimmons with the veal cheek.  Which, by the way, didn’t make it into any course.  It’s a small distinction, but I’ve always thought it’s better to out out the best meal, not try to impress judges.
  • Of course, Grayson had the line of the evening “We’re going to jam out with out clams out.”  Maybe the best line of the whole season.
  • After the initial prep, they did wine tastings to see what would be paired.  Neither of them knew much about wine, though.   Paul went with the Terlato Chardonnay and Sarah went with the Chimney Rock Cab.  The Chard, even though it’s probably oaked and buttery, would go really well with the seabass, clams, and eggs.  I think in principal the Pinot Noir or the Bordeaux blend would’ve been better choices for Sarah’s menu, but I haven’t had those.  I have a few bottles of the Chimney Rock Cabernet Sauvignon and it rocks.  So maybe the others just weren’t that good.
  • They definitely made Tyler look like a schleprock, but let’s not forget that he put out the dessert, described as the best dessert in the history of the show.
  • Sarah Grueneberg Drinking Game – The only OMG moments were when her family was there, so I guess that’s not overblown.  Drinks are optional.  For the  record she said omg at least 5 times.
  • They should’ve had a side competition of “Who’d you rather?”  Kundun’s girlfriend vs The Mouth of Sauron’s fiancée.
  • Yeah, Kundun’s girl would win hands down, even amongst women.  She looked like an Asian Paris Hilton and he looked like Pyle from Full metal Jacket.

Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned for my thoughts on the reunion show and my recap of my recaps!  

About thefoodandwinehedonist

I don't know everything about the world of food and wine, but I'm not going to let a small detail like that stop me from blogging about it.

10 comments on “Top Chef Texas Finale

  1. Robb
    March 1, 2012

    A small correction, maybe (I don’t 100% remember). But I think Mouth of Sauron put the persimmons in the polenta. I thought she mentioned them when talking about it being chunky.

  2. Robb
    March 1, 2012

    Also, I got linked here via the AV Club, and am going to have to play catchup with the other Top Chef recaps, and go from there. Unfortunately, laughing at “Jabba” and “Penishead” is not helping me fall asleep.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      March 1, 2012

      Haha – Thanks for kind words and stopping by. Please do check them out – hope you enjoy!

      On the persimmons – I was went off of what she said at the market with pairing them with the veal cheeks, which I think were served with the polenta…. Hope so, b/c if they weren’t I f’d up!

  3. Agent AK0047
    March 2, 2012

    I also came here from AV club… your review is still making me laugh. Bookmarked your site.

  4. The Sicilian
    March 2, 2012

    Interesting…the judges seemed to have a better reaction to Sarah’s food overall, and I was surprised that two of Paul’s four dishes were egg-based. Felt like too many similarities between 1 and 3. in this case, I’m seriously wondering if Sarah’s unlikable personality caught up with her. It’s hard to lead and rally in the kitchen if no one really likes you.

    Take the case of her accidentally picking Tyler when she thought that the dish was her friend (excuse me, “her girl”) Heather’s, in order to get Heather on her team. Again, hard to know if it was selective editing, but she then spent a considerable amount of time berating Tyler and excluding him from the prep while constantly referring to “my girls.” Ugh. Stick a fork in the picnic ham eyes.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      March 2, 2012

      I think the comments and the berating were all editing to build up some drama. What we can never see on the show – through the judges comments and the video – is how the shit tastes. Take two of Kundun’s prior wins – the evil queen and the mentor plates. His enchanted forest had 15 different elements on the plate but we couldn’t see it. That’s a lot of complexity. Same with his somewhat simple looking soup in Mentors. Reading Gail Simmons’ blog, she said that was easily the best thing out of any season and that all the judges were licking the bowls. I’m sure they edit out a lot of the comments.

      I also wonder if they take the whole season into account. He owned the whole season and they could’ve given him some leeway with the messed up 1st course in the second seating. Or it could’ve been that the producers knew that they’d have a mutiny if he didn’t win.

  5. The Sicilian
    March 2, 2012

    I would like to know what was in the magical broth they were swooning over in Paul’s fish dish–hope they post the recipe for that one. I also liked the idea of a rye crust on steelhead trout in Sarah’s dish and will check out recipe, but agree, not complex at all…weeknight dinner.

  6. Foodoofus
    March 5, 2012

    Damn John you are ruthless, “Mouth of Sauron” holy crap haha! It makes you wonder if Paul (kundun) and Nyesha were to be in the finals instead, would things have turned out differently? She was the dark horse and knocked out most of the chefs, with Bev winning by a thread of the hair (and a twist).

  7. Pingback: Top Chef NOLA Episodes 12 & 13 | The Food and Wine Hedonist

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This entry was posted on March 1, 2012 by in Television and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .
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