Top Chef Episode 9: Smoke Gets In Your Eye (Then You Almost Pass Out And Screw Your Whole Team)

We are six days into 2012 and the impending apocalypse predicted by the Mayans has yet to materialize. This, of course, means we get to live through another week of Top Chef Texas. The gods are kind…

Still in Austin, my dream Quickfire would be to watch the chefs get blackout drunk and then be forced to cook drunk food for the rest of the drunks acting all drunk on 6th Street. But instead of something super awesome like that happening, the cheftestants—some of whom have begun to make the mistake of reality show strategizing—are given a copy of Modernist Cuisine. For those of you who aren’t totally obsessed with food, Modernist Cuisine is a 6-volume tome penned by patent troll, polymath and certified weirdo Nathan Myhrvold (and a few other folks) after an exhaustive amount of research. Mr. Myhrvold is a giant nerd that worked for Microsoft and might well be the same dude who told the Mayans that the world was going to end this year. The book itself looks pretty cool, but who has the room on their shelf or the time to actually make the recipes? I can name two categories: really rich folks that have become bored with cocaine, or really focused chefs who are just getting started with cocaine.

Enter the cheftestants.  They’re both baffled at why the book showed up at their hotel door and stoked to see it in person. Padma instructs them to study it, so Beverly stays up all night (how Asian of her), most likely to spite Heather’s big fat ghost, and the next day they are greeted by the book’s author himself. Naturally, the Quickfire is to make something that channels the spirit of the book.

Since molecular gastronomy is supposedly dead, only a handful of the chefs are comfortable with the challenge (pussies). Then there’s Less Handsome Chris, who has a hard time simultaneously cooking and balancing a stockpot full of liquid nitrogen on his boner (“Nathan, I’d really love to see the miracle berries in your basement”).

A handful of foams, powders, and exploding creams later, Paul, Grayson, and Beverly are at the bottom. Paul’s flavors were flat, Grayson’s preparation sucked, and Beverly didn’t know how to use the whipped cream canister thing (dummy, you twist until the charger cracks and then huff the gas). The potential winners are Less Handsome Chris, Ty-Lor, and Sarah G. Chris fully expects to win with his miracle berry, deconstructed cheesecake, and lemon-lime soda, but it’s Ty-Lor’s cube of watermelon with vanilla bean honey, saffron, and salted olive oil powder that wins for its unique flavors. Chris fights back the tears and gives Ty the molecular gasface–totally bummed that he can’t hide his boner with 52 lbs of Modernist Cuisine. That goes to Ty, along with immunity, and the cheftestants are off to the Salt Lick for the elimination challenge.

After a VIP tour of the storied BBQ destination’s giant smoker, the chefs are fed before being subjected to another 48 hours of cooking. This time around it’s a BBQ challenge (duh), with brisket, chicken, and spare ribs on the menu. The teams are separated into Ty, Ed Lee (who I’ve decided looks  a lot like Piston Honda), and Sarah G;  Paul, currently under the radar Lindsay, and Grayson; and three folks nobody wants to team up with—Chris, Other Chris, and Beverly. The next day’s service will be for 300 people, so it’s imperative that nobody pass out from heat exhaustion and/or smoke inhalation, but more on that later.

First, we are treated to Beverly almost setting an RV on fire, Paul’s team almost losing their brisket, and a delirious Grayson telling a well-rested Colicchio that her team’s food is going to be like “sex in the mouth.”  Figuratively, sure, but literally?  That’s a bit gross. Or maybe awesome. Which kind of explains Tom’s face.

Then, some drama for Piston Honda’s team—Sarah gets woozy and is carted off with an oxygen mask, and ol’ Piston loses it. Ed and Ty decide to pre-cut the brisket, and it turns the meat gray and unappetizing. When Sarah finally comes back, Ed’s ready to Piston Rush her, but instead he just makes things really uncomfortable until she almost passes out for a second time. Their team wasn’t very successful, but things over at the Two-Chris-and-Beverly camp were worse. Less Handsome Chris didn’t crisp his skin, Handsome Chris rendered his ribs inedible by using too much salt in the sauce, and Beverly didn’t fully cook her beans. Way to go, professional chefs!

Although both teams favored the more traditional BBQ route, they are both up for elimination, which means Paul, Grayson, and Lindsay are the winners. They took a risk by making Asian BBQ, but it paid off handsomely. They don’t get a giant book with a bunch of pretty pictures that tells you how to cook everything perfectly using science and lasers, but they do get $15,000 to split, so they can buy their own copies of Modernist Cuisine ten times over and give them away as ironic Birthday presents to their more traditional chef friends.

And the chef sent packing? With a too-salty rib, Handsome Chris is going back to California with an aching in his heart–unless of course he can beat Nyesha on that web show that nobody watches. If not, it’s back to painting nudes in his modern apartment while the rest of the chefs stumble over everyone’s favorite episode: Restaurant Wars.

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • hamburglar

    Better yet, the “other Chris” fellow looks like a cross between E Honda and Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.