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Top Chef Texas Episode 7: Do You Want to Plate a Game

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To thoroughly enjoy the glory that is Top Chef Texas, we welcome comedian Max Silvestri, who will be here every week to take us through the season.


I don't know if you could sense it from my recap, but by the end of last week's episode I felt ready to write this season off. Yes, I was probably being emotional, but the whole thing has been dragging ass, like a dog on the pavement with a butt itch. (Did you know dogs' butts are glands, and therefore self-cleaning? And like an oven, the self-cleaning doesn't always work.) While Bravo's no dummy trying to eke out a few more episodes with the debut of the "preseason" this year, they didn't account for the strain on the viewer's patience.

We're seven episodes in and there are still twelve chefs left. That's too many. I'd been watching the show a month and half and when Whitney was eliminated last week I had to struggle to remember a single thing about her. Mix it up. No more chili cook-offs and "here in Texas everything is bigger, like the steaks" baloney; please make these chefs do difficult things, lose their minds, and get sent home in batches. Can we see them actually hunt, kill and cook snakes or something, and some chefs get bitten and die? This week's episode makes a turn in the right direction.

Do we all have favorites yet? I know some commenters do, but they tend to base their choices on the cooking, and I'd like to remind everybody we can't taste anything that's being cooked on our televisions. My favorites are based on who I'd like to get a beer with, like how the President is chosen: Edward, Beverly, Ty-Lor, Chris Crary, and Paul. I think Paul is the early favorite to win, and Chris Crary is an early favorite to get caught trying to install a spy cam inside the ladies' toilet. Heather has her good qualities too. Like, if you have a piece of drywall that needs demolishing, you could stand in front of it and then try to get a word in edgewise while Heather foghorns out her bullshit. Just step out of the way at the last second while she comes barreling toward you and she'll steamroll the drywall right into a million pieces. She's a terrible person. I swear sometimes I can see bugs crawling under her skin, like in a horror movie. Speaking of bugs, it's a shame one crawled up her butt and died about Beverly's two-day shrimp adventure, because we will never hear the end of it.


This week's guest judge is Tim Love of the world-famous Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, a restaurant that was not good enough to be in NYC. I know very little about Texas, but I do know that Love's restaurant namesake Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry is one of the best books I've ever read, and I know Chef Love's hometown of Denton from "The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton" by the Mountain Goats, which is one of the better songs ever written. For these silly reasons I am on Chef Love's side. He also likes tequila, because who doesn't? The Quickfire table is laid out with four different types of Don Julio ultra-premium tequila. (Ultra-premium is Latin for "expensive bullshit.") The chefs have thirty minutes to taste the tequilas and cook a dish that pairs with it. There's no immunity on the line but five grand is up for grabs.


After some tasting and some cooking, Chef Love and Padma try everything, both the food and the tequila. Each dish is paired with a shot of one of the four types of tequila, and it does not seem like either Padma or Tim forget to try any. I thought it was nine in the morning there. Padma gets so drunk she starts not slurring her words. Tim's praise gets flowery. "This tastes like I'm at the beach or something." Maybe you better lie down, Chef Love.


Heather paired the reposada tequila with rock shrimp and mango avocado salad. Chef Love nails her to the wall and tells her it felt like a special at a new chain restaurant. Man, he did not have to be that mean, but I sure am glad he was. Chris Jones overcooked his chicken, and Sarah's fennel risotto had too much blanca tequila in it. It was also a tad undercooked for Chef Love's taste. Sarah loses her mind. "I trained in Italy on how to make risotto. I make it right and I'm not going to change it for somebody else's palate." Whoa girl. Settle down. Did you train at Olive Garden's Italian Culinary Institute in Tuscany? Maybe you and Beverly should team up on a new chain. Also, this is RisottoGate all over again, when Tre and the judges almost physically got into it over how firm a risotto should be. (A missed opportunity? I can't think of anyone who wouldn't want to watch Trey and Padma physically "get into it.")

Chris Crary felt at home in this Quickfire. He loves tequila, probably because he loves body shots. "The one downside to losing a considerable amount of weight is that there is simply less body on which to 'host' body shots. Back when I was Chub Crary, I could serve enough margaritas out of my belly button to get the starting five of a women's college basketball team hospital-drunk." He served a raw oyster with a tequila tapioca pearl and sea salt air. As mentioned above, it let Chef Love feel the sand between his toes.


Lindsay has reminded us thousands of times that she lived and worked in Mexico, and thank god we do not get an opportunity here to forget it. She paired the anejo mega-deluxe Don Julio luxury tequila with salmon, fennel puree and a brown butter sauce. Ty-Lor served the 1942 tequila with steamed clams in a Thai-style fish caramel sauce. That may sound gross, but it tasted great. Paul curses himself for not realizing how well the salty and spicy flavors of clams would pair with tequila. It is funny when Ty says "Thai-style" because it sounds like he's saying "Ty-style." I think all the contestants should serve their dishes that way. "Hi I'm Nyesha, and today you'll be dining on seared scallops, Nyesha-style, with a Nyesha-style sauce. You just got Nyesha'd."


Tim Love announces Ty-Lor as the winner of the Quickfire and five thousand Thai-style clams. Ty was on the bottom of last week's Elimination Challenge, and now he is completely redeemed in the eyes of the Lord. He vows to spend the money to fix his name. It will probably not be enough money.


This week's Elimination Challenge has our twelve remaining chefs working in pairs, and it's whoever is standing next to one another. Heather is so excited to be working with Beverly she almost forgets to scare children with her death eyes. Almost. She makes a sound only dogs can hear and Tom Colicchio gets a migraine, miles away.


Tim Love is hosting a game dinner at his restaurant. That means food like quail and elk, and sadly not a dress-up Victorian murder mystery or the hunting of homeless people. Boring. (No, Ty, I am not talking to you.) Each pair will be responsible for cooking one course, focused on the favorite protein of one of Love's guests. Now is the exciting part of every recap where I simply list rules and facts. Nyesha and Grayson are making venison for Houston's Chef Bryan Caswell, Sarah and Paul will cook squab for Anita Lo, Grayson, and Chris Jones have to serve elk to Tim Love himself, Chris C. and Lindsay will do boar for Animal's Jon Shook, Dream Team HeathBev are preparing duck for John Currence of City Grocery, and Ed and Ty-Lor are making quail for Vinny Dotolo from Animal. (Man it is so cool writing stuff like this out. My favorite part of this job is spelling chef's names.) Also hey what's up guys from Animal. That is a very good restaurant and I have enjoyed eating there. But Chefs Vinny and Jon look like someone's got a gun to their backs. Do they have kids? If so, please, whoever kidnapped them, please release them. Vinny and Jon have done everything you want, and they just want their families back, and then they want to serve them poutine with an oxtail gravy. (So good.)


In addition to the judges and Chef Love's guests, the cooks will also be preparing an extra plate or two for themselves, as the teams will be judging each other. If that's not enough, it's a double elimination. One team of two chefs will be going home. This has the potential to go horribly and that's good television. Did you bet that everyone will be nice and that Heather will be a delight? That was a terrible bet to make, regardless of the spread. (Both Heather and Chris Crary's ears perked up when I wrote "spread" but for different reasons.)

People shop for ingredients, and then, ingeniously, they use those ingredients to prepare food in the kitchen. It's incredible really, and I highly encourage you to watch the show to find out even more about the ways in which they shop and cook. You just can't make this stuff up. The kitchen is as hot as it is cramped, and there is lots of fighting for burners and oxygen. Everyone is covered in perspiration and looks really good and beautiful. This show should be called Top Face Models. Multiple times people are warned not to drip sweat in the food. Yum. It's a shame headbands cost three cents and no one can afford them.

Last time Ty-Lor and Ed worked together it did not go well, and luckily for them history (I'm using that word in the loosest sense possible) does not repeat itself. They made a sorghum quail with pickled cherries and eggplant. Quail, like many game meats, is easy to overcook but that is not what Ty-Lor and Ed did. Ty had a good day, bouncing back from his near elimination at Steak-ummm night to both a Quickfire and an Elimination win. He and Ed are splitting ten grand furnished by Healthy Choice. I am unclear why Padma says "you'll get to split ten thousand dollars." I imagine they'll each get five. Just say you each get five. They probably aren't going to negotiate. "You know, Ed, I really love money, so I think I deserve it more."


Ty-Lor and Ed head back into the kitchen. Everybody's got fifteen minutes to pick the three teams that deserve to be on the bottom. This proves to be a cumbersome process. That can't decide whether to vote. Voting seems like the smartest option. What are the other options? To wrestle for it? "Grayson, answer my riddles three." Big surprise: Heather is a nightmare. Look, we can agree that she bullies people, and that she is loud and obnoxious, but the worst part about her is that way she speaks when she thinks she is being momentarily polite. "Yes, Grayson, I actually realize how it all works, thank you very much." It is dripping with condescension and passive aggression and so much bile that it makes me physically uncomfortable every time she does it. That seems like the hardest part about being on a reality show. I would literally have to walk out of the room if she talked like that anywhere near me. The other hard part about being on a reality show is that they film you showering and then trade the tapes among an underground network of PA's and video editors. That is true.


The chefs manage to send the correct three teams before the judges: Nyesha and Dakota, Heather and Beverly, and Chris Jones and Grayson. They all mostly know why they're there. Nyesha and Dakota made a roasted rack of venison with kabocha squash and beef gratin. The flavors, along with everything else on the plate, were superb, but the venison was purple. That was Dakota's job and she blew it. She knows she blew it. Nyesha tried to check on her but it was too late. That's what you get for trusting people. Trusting people is great, but don't do it when your butt is also on the line.


Speaking of trust, Grayson trusted Chris Jones when he told her he was going to make a crazy chain link fence sweet potato. He explains to her the science and she says "you promise this will kick ass?" He promised her it would, and he wishes it had, but it didn't. If wishes and buts were clusters of nuts, we'd all have a bowl of granola. A bowl of granola would have been a better side than the wet, overcooked sweet potato fries he limply laid across their roasted elk. If they go home, it's because of his sweet potato.


Heather and Beverly are in front of the judges because their duck skin was not crispy enough. But Heather believes she is the victim of a conspiracy. She was set up, probably by the Libyans. "Maybe I'm here because I was on the top on the last challenge?" No, that's not why, you trash goblin. The eyes of everyone else standing up there roll so far back into their heads they are staring at what they had for breakfast. Beverly calmly accepts that the duck skin was not rendered enough but she made a decision to serve the meat itself as tender as possible, and she stands behind the dish and the way she worked.


Heather yaps and yaps about how hard Beverly was to work with because their styles are so different. (Also, while the point that Beverly cooks pan-Asian is valid, Heather saying she cooks American farm-to-table is not valid. That's not a style of cooking, that's a style of grocery shopping.) Heather criticizes the very core of Beverly's abilities to be in a kitchen, and then also brings up the shrimp episode from last week, and she goes on and on about it. "You don't have self-confidence." It's sort of insane. Not just because that has nothing to do with why they are here right now, but also because there is literally zero to be gained from throwing your own teammate under the bus during a double elimination. Do you both want to go home? Does all the bitterness in your brain not leave room to process new information, Heather? It is a relief when the other chefs stand up for Beverly. Heather picks up a live rat off the ground and eats it whole.


At this point, even though I'm a Bev fan, I wanted both of them to go home. Heather's outburst disgusted me. But as Tom points out, none of that stuff matters to the judges. They are making their decision on the food, and there is no excusing how poorly Dakota cooked her protein, the entire point of the dinner. She and Nyesha are sent packing, and it's truly a shame. Dakota was a bit of a mess, but Nyesha clearly has talent and a lot more she could have shown the judges. We will never see anything else cooked Nyesha-style. Oh well. Bye!


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