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Top Chef Texas - Ep. #3 - 11/16/11 (Spoilers)

(NOTE: Please remember *not* to give any Last Chance Kitchen actual spoilers in this thread other than the little description set-up about this week's LCK that I wrote at the bottom...please just discuss the actual Top Chef episode.)

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"Snakes. Why'd it have to be snakes?"

Nope - it's not Indiana Jones.

It's Top Chef. And they're in Texas. And there are those slithery, rattley, bitey-bite type of snaky snakes in Texas. So of course what are they going to be asked to use as a menu item? Snake meat.

The cheftestants all leave the house....Beverly Kim has typed up a "Congratulations, Beverly Kim, you've won Top Chef Season 9" and put it on her mirror to look at every day. Is that going to portend her leaving in this episode, as the Elves like to hint? Or is it a head fake because we're expecting them to do that to us?

For their first Quickfire Challenge, they all head into the TC Kitchen. Padma is there with Johnny Hernandez, a San Antonio chef who is well known for cooking wild game meats. Hernandez gives them a bit of background on cooking the creatures - it's a delicate meat, and can take some spice.

Each chef has a box in front of the cheftestants - oh geez...do they have to kill live snakes and skin them? Immunity and $5,000 is up for grabs...Padma says she wants to see some mo-fo snake on some mo-fo plates! They all open their boxes, and luckily, the snakes are dead - skinned snake meat is in each box.

They have 1 hour to cook and plate their dishes. Snake fritters, BBQ snake with an Asian slaw, flash-fried snake, rattlesnake nigiri, snake nicoise, beer-battered tempura snake, griddle cake, braised in tequila, adobo seasoned, grilled with jerk seasoning....they all came up with lots of great ideas!

In the bottom group - Paul, Richie, and Nyesha
In the top group - Beverly, Dakota, and Sara

And the winner? No WAY are they going to tell us now - it's time for a commercial, silly viewers! And we're back - the winner is Dakota with her Beer-Battered Tempura Snake.

On to Elimination Challenge - they all draw knives with either Pink or Green on the blades. Teams will be winner and loser, and someone from the losing team will go.

Blanca Flores is the guest of honor - it is her quinceañera - her 15th birthday. They are to cater a big dinner for 150 people, as well as bake a big cake. Heather has pastry experience, so she'll probably take the lead for the Green Team on dessert. Blanca tells them and the other team some of the food she likes: goat, cotilla cheese (I know there was something else mentioned with the cotilla), and ceviche. She also likes steamed and stuffed cabbage leaves.

And each team splits to go shopping. In Whole Foods, I say What? Purchasing pre-cooked shrimp, Keith? Yeah, that doesn't portend well for you, does it? Why buy pre-cooked shrimp for a *cooking competition*? And whoa - Beverly gets all pushy-pushy at the Whole Foods butchery and pretty much puts herself in front of other customers. Back in the kitchen, Lindsay freaks at the pre-cooked frozen shrimp and says they can't use them....and now she doesn't have a dish to cook. And Chris Crary, you jerk - you TOLD Keith to go ahead and get the shrimp, and now you're saying you didn't see Keith getting the shrimp. Bleah on you!

On the Green Team, Chuy takes the lead, as he's Mexican, so his team is constantly going back to him to check flavors. Their dishes all seem very good choices.

Back at the house, Keith is looking for buy-in from his team, and they all seem to be just yes'ing him without really giving him feedback on his ideas. Is his team throwing him under the bus already?

Sara and Lindsay are pretty much playing overseers for the Pink team, and there's definite tension with them and Keith. On the Green team, the Tres Leche Cake is starting to lean, so Heather puts a dowel through the center to hopefully keep it upright.

The cheftestants get out front, and Blanca meets all of the judges - Johnny, Tom, Padma, and Hugh. They start tasting the appetizers - Blanca is eating with the judges, and she's giving pretty darn good feedback on each dish!

The judges try the Pink Team's main dishes first - ceviche, corn with cotilla, carne asada, cochinita pibil, tacos. The tortillas were store-bought, and that is not liked by the judges.

And they're off to the Green Team's buffet - tomatilo gazpacho, chicharron with dried plantains, green chile and poblano empanadas, goat birria, steamed cabbage leaves, short rib asada with piña kimchi, and a pulled chicken mole. The mole didn't go over well - too cinnamony.

Now it's time for cake, and Tom seemed happy to have cake with a handclap! The Pink Team gave her strawberry and pineapple fillings in their cake in the colors Blanca wanted. The Green Team's Tres Leche Cake is the Leaning Tower of Tres Leche Cake. The Pink Team cake has an awful lot of frosting, with even Blanca saying while it was good, perhaps too much frosting. The Tres Leche cake was enjoyed more by Blanca, as it was less sweet, but Hugh pointed out that the cake just really didn't look all that good.

Padma and the judges agree that one team did stand out. The team that wins is the Green Team! Chuy done good. :-) The Pink Team will need to show up at Judges Table. Keith is already expecting to be thrown under the bus...previews show Keith telling Sara that she loves throwing people under the bus and driving over people! What a surprise - a fractious JT! LOL

The Pink Team is shown in the Stew Room in the in-between bit between commercials - Sara realizes that taking a leadership role means she could be more on the block. She asks if anyone worked harder than others, and Nyesha said she didn't think so.

Ty-Lor, Sara, Lindsay and Keith are called in to the Judges Table. They had the least favorite dishes on the Pink Team. Sara said that their 30 minute menu planning wasn't utilized well. Lindsay said that a group leader should have been named then. Hugh called her out for none of them being able to take charge and lead their team.

Sara told the Judges about the pre-cooked shrimp. Keith admits buying the pre-cooked shrimp, and said he *did* have a team helping him do the purchasing, although he didn't name Chris. Padma asked Sara if, being a Texas chef, if they usually use corn tortillas, why didn't she mention it? Keith said that no one told him that corn tortillas are usually used for enchiladas in Texas - he was just going with flour, as it is what is usually used in his area of the country. The judges mention that Dakota would have been on the chopping block for the overly frosted cake if she didn't already have immunity. She was shocked to hear when the 4 on the block came back into the Stew Room and she was told that tidbit from the judges.

During deliberation, the judges were pretty amazed at how poorly these chefs did. Hugh is pretty blunt with why Keith was up there, having bought pre-cooked shrimp and not knowing what an enchilada is. Sara and Lindsay's cochinita dish wasn't well received; Lindsay having lived and cooked in Mexico for 4 years, should have been more authentic in her flavors, per Johnny Hernandez.

Back at JT, Keith is the one who is told to PYKAG. Not surprising, unfortunately. I'm still rather ticked at Chris for not owning up to the other chefs that he gave the go-ahead to Keith to buy the frozen pre-cooked shrimp. He was up first in the Stew Room to give Keith a hug goodbye. :-/

The preview for next week? Oh GEEZ - Chris is still all goobery over Padma. Get OVER it, Chris! That's going to get really old REALLY fast. For their main challenge, they'll be making chili - and there is no time clock! And what does that mean, boys and girls? Yup, they'll be up all night making a proper chili. Tiredy, Cranky, Sleepy, and Yawny - I do believe all four of these dwarfs will be featured on next week's episode! :-)

And that's all for this episode, folks!

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For Last Chance Kitchen, the challenge is: Mise en Place Race, and then make a dish incorporating the ingredients. An interesting challenge with them prepping 6 ingredients and 10 minutes to prep them, with them cooking a dish using all of the ingredients. Interesting result!

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  1. Do you get the impression that these chefs never watch the program before they are contestants? I don't watch every week, but I could tell them not to buy pre-cooked, not to serve raw (not enough effort involved), no undercooked chicken EVER...you know, things like that.

    3 Replies
    1. re: mnosyne

      I was thinking how prepared Richard Blais was...practicing cooking every sea creature he could ship in before going to the Caribbean for the All Stars Finals...and how there's no way I would have touched snake even if I'd thought of it before going to Texas ;-)

      1. re: mnosyne

        Any chef going on a cooking competition should learn 1 thing: how to use a pressure cooker!

        1. re: Wannabfoode

          Two things: how to use a pressure cooker, and how to make a couple of desserts.

      2. Some random comments before I sleep:

        What a setup Padma gave them with "Top Chefs need nerves of steel, and that's what we're going to test", then giving them dead and skinned meat. (Hugh's blog points out that no TV show has enough insurance to pit 16 nervous chefs against 16 live rattlers.)

        I wouldn't be surprised if ChrisC really had no clue he gave the go-ahead on the precooked to Keith -- he seemed like he wasn't paying him attention at all. Probably looking at pics of Padma on his phone there.

        I liked Keith from the prelims, but this was not a good showing for him. He said he was thinking about cost and time...OK, precooked might have been cheaper, but shrimp takes no time to cook compared to all the other meats -- tho' prep (peeling) can add up. And he runs a seafood restaurant :-(

        So was it Dakota that Hugh thought probably cries a lot? Looks like Beverly's gonna take that crown!

        4 Replies
        1. re: momjamin

          I think the two bossy-boots chicks should have taken a bigger hit for bad decisions on their team. Including all tortilla decisions since they had their say about so many things. And... didn't the teams at least buy fresh tortillas?

          I already miss Black Hagrid.

          1. re: momjamin

            I'm not a fan of Chris Cary but I agree with what you said about him probably not being aware he even 'okayed' the shrimp. It seemed pretty hectic at the grocery store so he probably just agreed with what Keith said without even listening. With that said, it's sad to see Keith go...He seemed like a good guy

          2. I've gotta start out by saying I love that Bravo has an "instant replay" of the new episode, because I find that by watching it again I notice so much more! I thought it was ironic that Dakota won the quick fire, because she was the one freaking out being scared of the snakes! As soon as I saw Keith in the market w/ the shrimp, I knew, just KNEW, that he was gonna be the one going, which I was kinda sad about. I was pretty disappointed in Lindsay not stepping up and taking the lead, especially since she'd LIVED in Mexico. Then again, her dish wasn't well received, so maybe it's a good thing she didn't. That is all for now, I'm sure I'll think of more....

            13 Replies
            1. re: kubasd23

              It's not a surprise that the people with Keith didn't say anything when he bought cooked shrimp. Teammates or not, they looked at that as competitors and thought, "Ok, if he wants cooked shrimp let him get them. Let's see how this goes." So they let him make his mistake.

              1. re: chicgail

                While I agree they were probably letting him fail, it's a shortsighted strategy to increase the odds for your own team to be the losing team. Had they worked as a team, they might have won. Note to all future Top Chef competitors: have the team strategy "All for one, one for all" discussion as soon as the first bottle of Top Chef Quickfire Red is opened, night one.

                1. re: MplsM ary

                  Putting aside sportsmanship...

                  I'd much rather be on the losing team with a dish that I KNOW is worse than mine than give my team a *slightly* better chance at winning without a guaranteed safety net of a teammate who's bombing their dish. From a purely self-interested standpoint, it's not a bad strategy when you have good reason to think only one person is going home. Of course, TC has sent home more than one person for a single challenge before, but they usually announce that more than one person will be going home before the challenge.

                2. re: chicgail

                  Except that the cooked shrimp weren't for his dish -- when he bought them he ruined another chef's dish and left her scrambling to put together something else. He could at least have gotten her on the phone and asked if cooked was okay, since they'd already had a conversation about the relative price of shrimp at the two places they were shopping (which means he also didn't tell them during that conversation that the price he was quoting was for cooked shrimp). Between that and the flour tortilla enchiladas, he deserved to go. He seemed like a good guy, but maybe having a seafood shack doesn't really put him in the same league as some of the others.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    "but maybe having a seafood shack doesn't really put him in the same league as some of the others."

                    He made a big mistake, no doubt, but your obnoxious dismissal of him is unwarranted. He is a James Beard nominee (see his bio here: http://www.bravotv.com/top-chef/seaso...) and his restaurant is most certainly not a "seafood shack". See the dinner menu here: http://catchwilmington.com/menu/dinner/

                    Sure doesn't look like any seafood shack I have ever seen.

                    1. re: LurkerDan

                      Okay, so "shack" was a little harsh. He may be very good at what he does, but my point is that he doesn't seem to have the breadth of knowledge and experience the others do. And honestly I'm a little skeptical of how good a seafood chef he is if he thinks pre-cooked shrimp are okay and that buying them is a good "cost control" decision. Makes me wonder what kinds of "cost control" decisions he makes for his restaurant.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        It's worth watching the Last Chance Kitchen (w/out giving anything else away).

                      2. re: LurkerDan

                        The dinner menu uses the word "chipolte"... isn't it chipotle? grr I hate that mispronunciation... but even more so seeing it manifest in the spelling of the word!!

                        1. re: kubasd23

                          ...and it's a picture menu! ::rolleyes::

                            1. re: huiray

                              ha, I was waiting for someone to mention that one!

                        2. re: Ruth Lafler

                          I'm so happy that TC is back on and that Linda is doing her deservedly famous, unanimously acclaimed, and brilliant recaps! This is going to be so much fun,, with LCK throwing in extra twists.

                          I loved that there was cabrito for the party. Goat's one of my favorite things but when I cook it I usually have to throw it in the oven at a low heat overnight. I mean, I don't know any commercial kitchen that can duplicate the flavor of a goat cooked "in the hole" in the back yard.

                          The frozen pre-cooked shrimp was a disastrous decision. The flour tortillas were also bad, except that I do seem to recall eating enchiladas Suiza made with flour tortillas, chicken, salsa verde, and Swiss cheese. Craig Clairborn and Pierre Franey had a recipe for them. Keith's ingredients looked sort of the same, but badly managed. Among other things, you do have to fry the flour tortillas just like you do corn tortillas to keep them from turning into a soggy, gloppy mess once filled. I'll probably be making some sort of enchiladas, with corn tortillas, using leftover turkey in about a week. :-)

                          I don't know if making a "Mexican" dish that was actually a Swiss adaptation is acceptable, but if so he should have been very careful, maybe making his own flour tortillas, and done it right.. Having said that, I really liked him!

                          1. re: KailuaGirl

                            In Mexico (particularly Mexico City) 'enchiladas suizas' are common menu items. My understanding is that the 'swiss-style' refers to the fact that they have cream in the sauce and lots of cheese; quite sure it is not a reference to an adaptation from Switzerland.

                    2. great write up, but just one possibly nit-picking clarification: the quinceanera is a party for the 15th birthday (hence the 'quince'), not 16th..

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: susancinsf

                        Ok I thought so!!!! Then i thought maybe I was wrong... I didn't even look at the actual name of the celebration, I just remembered that the 15th birthday was the one that was celebrated :)

                        1. re: susancinsf

                          Ok, I thought I was just misremembering things. I knew that the birthday generally celebrated was the 15th, but thought maybe it had been adapted to be compared to the sweet 16 or something...

                          1. re: susancinsf

                            Yay Linda! How do you DO this? You could be the Canadian guy with the stripe of beard on Iron Chef!

                            Yikes re the cooked shrimp and flour tortillas......

                            And maybe the cheese is cotija. It will be at MY next quinceanera! I heart cotija cheese! Better than salt! And I love tres leches. And pibil!

                            Yummo!

                            1. re: susancinsf

                              OK, that's what I thought and what I originally had written (that much high school Spanish I *do* remember!) - but I swear they said SIXTEENTH on the show so I changed it. Crappity-crap. Thanks, susan. And sorry everyone else. :-(

                              P.S. I'll see if the Mods might make that fix so it's not so glaringly horribly stoopid of me. That and the cake fix. :-/

                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                MANY thanks to the Mods for fixing my two errors (changing 16th to 15th and changing Tres Leches cake to overly frosted cake potentially putting Dakota in the bottom group if she didn't already have immunity).

                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                  You are right. I think someone said it was LIKE an American sweet sixteen party.

                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                    They said it was the equivalent of a Sweet Sixteen party -- I don't think they ever said it was for a sixteenth birthday.

                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                      OK, OK - I got it. I'm writing at the same time I'm trying to watch the show and trying not to rewind the DVR too much so I don't get backed up too far. I got it wrong, but the Mods very kindly fixed it for me. Thank you again, Mods!

                                2. couldn't believe he bought pre-cooked shrimp.

                                  I could understand the flour tortilla thing, because if you don't live somewhere with authentic mexican or new mexican food, you wouldn't know that; elsewhere in the country, enchilada are made with flour tortillas. But the shrimp???

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: LurkerDan

                                    I've nevvvver had enchiladas made with flour tortillas, and I live pretty far from authentic mexican food (SE CT). I couldn't believe he thought that was ok!!

                                    1. re: kubasd23

                                      yeah, where is he from that they make enchiladas with flour tortillas?? The Balkans? Please. I was rooting for him early on but not after the shrimp and the tortillas.

                                      I'm liking Chuy!

                                      and as to the quinceañera, to any who were asking, it is the same thing as a sweet 16 party, but just at 15 years of age. Think of it as a Latin debutante party.

                                      and shrinkrap, it definitely was cotija cheese. i loved the idea of that corn salad - so simple but probably really flavorful.

                                      does anyone think they would have had enough time to make their own tortillas? (I've never made them so I don't know how labor intensive they are.

                                      Linda, wonderful wrap-up! Thanks as always!

                                      1. re: mariacarmen

                                        I make my own corn tortillas now and again. They're not hard, especially if you buy premade masa dough, but it takes time to press and cook them since they have to be pressed one at a time. If you're already time-strapped, I think it's a reasonable decision to buy them premade IF (a) they were made fresh that day, and (b) you griddle or grill them to heat and soften them immediately before serving.

                                        As I understood it, that was the real issue - that the losing team not only bought premade tortillas, but didn't adequately heat them before serving. I'd agree with Tom that that is a basic, basic error.

                                      2. re: kubasd23

                                        He's from NC. As a Virginia native who lived in NC for 5 years, I have never been served an enchilada with a flour tortilla and I know enough not to get frozen shrimp.

                                        He seemed like a nice guy but those two decisions were enough to send him home. At least have the good sense to call it a burrito.

                                        1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                          Even if he had called it a burrito, it would have been bad and he would have been sent home. A rose by any other name... and the converse. I think that's one reason I'm convinced Keith should have been sent home. He is still convinced it was the wrong choice of tortilla that got him sent home, not that the dish was really bad.