Top Chef Episode 9 – And They’re Back

Sigh.  Why, Top Chef producers?  Why did you go back to a group challenge after abandoning it last episode?  So disappointed.  The quickfire was interesting enough but another all night long team elimination challenge just added to my annoyance with this season.  It’s like they’re just relying on clichés and stereotypes for the big challenges.  “We’re in Texas so we have to do Mexican/chili/BBQ/rattlesnake.”  It’s just not a good combination, the chefs get these oddball challenges where they feel they have to stay close to authentic but the judges are looking for more creativity.  This season seems more and more to be about mixed signals.  The chef who can un-cross the streams should coast to the win.  My guess on which one is below.

The quickfire challenge was based on the Modernist Cuisine books/encyclopedia.  The chefs were given a copy and told to study it.  I’d read about this book collection (from Ruhlman of course) and was awed by it but thought it was way too much for a normal at-home cook like myself.  And it’s $500 on Amazon.  Way too much food science geekery it seems for me.  Still, I am curious about it and wouldn’t mind taking a peek.  Anyway, for the quickfire the chefs had to come up with a modernist dish.  Now if you like modernist stuff, and all that molecular gastronomy qualifies here, you probably thought this was a great quickfire.  Me?  I’m not into it.  I like classical, basic things.  Give me Caravaggio and Michelangelo over Pollock and Dali, Daniel Burnham and Art Deco over Mies van der Rohe and Frank Gehry (architecture’s very important here in Chicago!) any day.  For me, packaging a chicken parm sandwich into a globule of gelatin is not a chicken parm sandwich.  I prefer the sandwich.  I guess I don’t want to have to be told what something is.  I want to be able to look at it and know.  Sorry, I digress.  The chefs all do their molecular gastronomy thing, adding powders and additives like alchemists, and Ty-Lor wins with a piece of watermelon and a powder that will transform back into olive oil when it hits your tongue.  He gets immunity from elimination and the books.  Watermelon.

When I wrote last week wondering if they were going to go to Salt Lick I had no idea they really were.  Having been to Austin (but not Salt Lick) I figured it was a no-brainer.  Lo and behold, this week they headed there for a team BBQ challenge.  But seriously, enough with the teams already.  Maybe it’s just this season and the types of challenges but I feel the chefs are getting screwed by this.  I’ll go back to my mixed signals theory.  When you put chefs in teams things get muddled.  I am confident saying that individually every one of these guys could BBQ ribs and brisket to perfection.  But once you get different people mucking about things are bound to get screwed up, and in a competition where you’re trying to showcase your own talents you end up not being able to do that.  Then again maybe these particular chefs just aren’t good at managing team challenges.

So here they all are at Salt Lick having to man BBQ pits all night long to feed 300 people ribs, brisket, chicken and two sides.  Btw, that’s two all-nighters they’ve had to do this season.  Two teams take a more traditional route trying to stick with the Salt Lick style, one team goes for Asian BBQ flavors.  Guess who was the judges’ fav?  That’s right, the Asian flavor one from Paul/Grayson/Lindsay.  The other two teams totally messed up for reasons I have mentioned before, over/undercooking and over/underseasoning.  Ed/Sarah/Ty-Lor were there because their brisket was cut too early, the chicken wasn’t crispy, and the ribs were overcooked.  Not totally their fault as Sarah fell victim to the heat and had to leave the two guys to get everything ready and serve which is a big handicap.  She recovered, served the judges and then the heat got to her again.  Which begs another question, why on earth did they put the chefs through this?  It’s over 100 degrees so go stand in front of this fire in the sunshine.  It didn’t look very fun!  Beverly/Malibu/Moto Chris were up for elimination because their side dishes were undercooked, the meat was not cooked properly, and everything was overseasoned.  Moto Chris owned up to cooking everything, while Beverly did the sides, and Malibu said he brined/rubbed everything and made the Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce.  Now I didn’t think anyone from the Ed/Sarah/Ty-Lor team was going home, Ty-Lor had immunity and I’ve noticed the judges usually take some pity on teams where a medical issue may have played a part so it was going to be one of the other three.  Tom was not happy with any of the six and said he could have sent anyone home.  In the end they send Malibu packing for his way too salty brine/rub.  Overseasoning claims another victim!

Paul is definitely my odds on favorite to win.  He’s the most consistent, takes smart calculated risks, and has good technique.  The others I expect to see standing near the end are Sarah, Ed, and Ty-Lor.  They’re all good but are up and down every week.  Next week we’ve got restaurant wars to look forward to.  Yay!  (No seriously, who doesn’t love the restaurant wars episode?  There will be drama!)  From the promo it looked like boys vs girls.  I hope they didn’t plan it that way.

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