Top Chef Episode 6: Fearing The Reaper

Things that are difficult, ordered by ascending level of difficulty:

1.     Mother sauces.

2.     Cooking 200 steaks to temperature in one clip.

3.     Writing this recap after watching this (clearly, we don’t know what we got until it’s gone).

And that’s basically how the last 24 hours went for me and the cheftestants. After some chagrin about Chuy and a failed attempt at making this competition a guys versus gals thing, we’re greeted in the kitchen by Padma and Dean Fearing, who won a James Beard award like 17 years ago (hopefully the brain trust at Bravo will finally get hip to Philly and host this damn thing here while our Beard winners are a bit more current). The first challenge? To creatively bastardize one of Escoffier’s mother sauces (veloute, espagnole, béchamel, hollandaise, and tomate), and to do so while telling the camera all about the mother sauce you’re messing with–even if you have no idea what you’re talking about.

You know what the sherpas call doing it on Everest expeditions? Saucemaking. Luckily for the chefs, this quickfire is nowhere near as difficult as humping in a tent, and Grayson’s ravioli making, Handsome Chris’s veloute transformation, and home field advantage Paul’s balance of quail and pickles even made it look easy. For one of them, immunity awaits, and that’s Grayson, who had a bit of an edge as a former saucier (though, honestly, what quote/unquote “chef” hasn’t worked first as a saucier?).

Still, Grayson doesn’t really get any time to enjoy her victory, because the chefs (as per usual), are immediately thrown into the Elimination Challenge:  Prepare a four-course steak dinner for 200 guests at the Cattle Baron’s Ball, hosted at the Southfork Ranch (cue Dallas theme). During prep, Ty-Lor’s oyster knife gives him an all expenses paid trip to the hospital (drama!), and Beverly is annoying (no surprise). Whitney (who’s Whitney?) doesn’t heed the advice of pre-baking her potato gratin, and Edward Lee (this was actually before the prep) is salty with Heather the Hutt about her stealing his cake recipe for the second time.

So the chefs wake up the next day with a man down, but Ty-Lor makes it back to the apartment in time to catch a ride to Southfork Ranch. When they get there, Beverly continues to be annoying, but at least she doesn’t make Asian food again. Heather puffs up her chest to try and give her a kick in the pants, but that only serves to infuriate Dakota, who wants to kick her off the island.

During service, Lindsay panics and fires the steaks too soon, which is the undoing of the entire ribeye team. The rest of the dishes were pretty mediocre, but there’s no way I could do 200 covers, so I’ll just keep my mouth shut and leave the judging to Hugh Acheson’s eyebrow. Speaking of which, someone’s gotta go, so let’s head over the Judges’ Table, where winners are given cars, and losers are thrown under the bus.

Starting with the good news, Chris Jones cooked his steak perfectly and Nyesha’s compound butter made something old new again, but it was Heather’s use of Ed Lee’s cake recipe that most impressed the judges, so she walks away from Judges’ Table with the keys to a fully loaded Toyota Venza . Speaking of Ed (and the irony of it all), he’s at the bottom, along with Whitney and Ty-Lor. The former undercooked her potato gratin, and the latter had his steaks overcooked by the rest of the chefs. Ed’s salad was uninspired, but not so uninspired as to send him home. And since Ty-Lor has the excuse of spending the night in the hospital, Whitney gets sent packing–meaning we all finally learn who the heck she is.

Or was.