Top Chef: Texas - Let the Games Begin
I have absolutely no tolerance for reality shows of any kind, and I watch little food television programming aside from Chopped, Alton Brown and the PBS Saturday morning line-up. I do not understand the modern paradigm of chef as rock star. I don't know why food blogging has become so entrenched in the pop zeitgeist that it has become a plot line for The Simpsons.
In other words, although I am a food lover and a food writer and a consumer of most things food culture-related, I am not the target audience for Top Chef. In fact, I have never watched a single episode before. To date, my closest run-in with Top Chef has been insulting Tom Colicchio on Twitter and then getting my ass [rightfully] handed to me via DM by the chef himself.
And were it not filming in Texas this season, I would likely not be watching this latest "cycle" either. But it is. And your great State spent $400,000 of your tax dollars getting Bravo here, so I feel obligated to cover the show as a public service. Let's see how accurately the show portrays Texas, or how blatantly it exploits our many stereotypes; let's see exactly how the world desires to see us.
And let's see a Texas without its largest city, while we're at it. Let's see a Texas bereft of the fourth largest city in the nation, and the one that arguably houses the best and most forward-racing food scene. Am I pissed off that Bravo passed up Houston? Absolutely. But not only out of a sense of civic pride -- but because it's so hideously fascinating to see how easily Houston was carved off Texas's carcass like a piece of meat the producers deemed useless, as if we don't even exist.
With that introduction, let's get to the recap -- my very first recap of a television show, ever -- and straight to the ugliest part of the show: the opening credits.
So many cheftestants, so few fucks to give.
The opening graphic listing three of the NOT LARGEST CITIES IN TEXAS is already embarrassing me. Also, there are roughly 50 establishing shots of boots or boot stores or neon signs shaped like boots. And, of course, some calf roping. Therefore, as a proud seventh-generation Texan who neither owns boots nor calves, I already want to shoot myself.
...and Padma's in front of the Alamo. Of course she is. Because we are nothing if not the national consciousness's hackneyed memories of bad John Wayne movies with no concept of the underlying history of the Alamo itself. I wonder if these chefs are as unimpressed with the Alamo as every other tourist ever. They sure look like it, but that could be because there are 1,574 of them and only 16 "real" slots on the show past these first two episodes. I hope they tear each other's throats out like mad dogs.
In that vein, I already hate this Tyler Stone kid. Someone please tear his throat out immediately so I don't have to hear bullshit like this all season long: "I've cooked for many celebrities, politicians..." That's not how you introduce yourself, asshat. How about where you've worked? For whom?
Non sequitur to: "This is really fucked up." You said it, random lady chef.
Emeril Lagasse is here in the Lone Star Kitchen, which -- seriously -- has Texas flags in the background. There is more pandering going on here than in a Ford truck commercial with Sam Elliot voiceovers. Eh... I guess it's nice to see a legitimate, old-school TV chef on a show like this, though.
Other random thoughts: I like the guy with the neck tattoos. I'm a sucker for those types. So. Much. Moto. And...here's Colin, the guy who can't dissociate George W. Bush from Texas. Yeah, that guy. He sounds like a hipster who makes stuff out of nut cheese.
The judges -- Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi and Emeril himself -- hold up a dark blue chef's jacket. Only a few are getting handed out tonight. I'm already rooting against Tyler and the nut cheese hipster, and before I can even think about a better name for Tyler the first cooking challenge has begun!
Challenge for the first group: All parts of a whole pig are up for grabs! An hour to cook each dish! G.E. PRODUCT PLUGS ALL UP IN HERE. It's like Liz Lemon's fever dream. Suckers are taking the easy shit like tenderloin. I like the guy who yelled out for the ears. In other news: THIS IS ALL MOVING VERY FAST.
"I've written my own cookbook," weasels Tyler. OH GOD SHUT UP.
"I let somebody else butcher my tenderloin," says Grayson, who's stupidly handed her cut of the pig off to Tyler. Already with the excuses. Not interested.
"I take a lot of pride in my butchering," VO's another contestant -- maybe the Cruise Ship Lady, I can't even tell anymore -- who's clearly light years ahead of these two fools. Much better.
Meanwhile, Tom Colicchio standing over my shoulder while I'm fixing pork cheeks would freak me the hell out, too. There is too much going on right now for me to even figure out who he's standing over and freaking out, though. Too many cooks in the kitchen, quite literally.
Loudmouth Cookbook Author Tyler (I'm sorry, but I'm simply not going to be bothered with learning names this early on in the reality show mindfucking) is already complaining about how he doesn't work with pig a lot. More excuses. Seriously, please leave.
"The tenderloin is just hacked," says Grayson of Loudmouth Tyler's miserable butchering skills. Well, that's what you get for not doing it yourself. She doesn't have to worry about this schmuck stinking up the show for too long, though...
"You're a chef and that's a basic skill," says Tom of Loudmouth Tyler's pitiful excuse for a pork tenderloin. Thank you for tearing into him, Tom and Emeril. But it gets better: "I think you should just leave now," says Tom. YES SIR THANK YOU SO MUCH. Pack up your knives and go!
"I know where I'm going and that's right to the top," smirks Loudmouth Tyler as he leaves. The top of what? The lucrative world of obnoxious, baseless self-promotion? The Kardashians already have that covered.
Missing the commercials since you're reading this recap and not watching the show itself? NOT ON MY WATCH.
There are only 28 minutes left after the commercial? At the rate of speed it's currently moving, this show makes me feel like I'm huffing keyboard cleaner. Everyone's running around the kitchen like fox-spooked chickens and I can barely keep up.
"I never really had a mentor," says Neck Tattoos, who's pushing all of my stray dog buttons. He used cookbooks and YouTube to learn how to cook. AWWWW.
"Fry little peanuts, fry!" yells one of the Moto Men over the stove. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who yells at their cooking.
Meanwhile, there's a Brandi Key-esque contestant named Sarah (who cooks at Spiagga in Chicago) who's making pork with ravioli out of her pork skin. I'm inclined to love her as much as Neck Tattoos at this point, since she seems rational and level-headed and like someone I'd drink a bunch of beer with.
"My mouth is completely dry," says Nut Cheese as he presents his disastrous dishes to the panel. Emeril agrees: "This is a disaster." He's quickly dismissed. BYE-BYE, SEATTLE.
The judging panel likes the classic pork and applesauce combo from one of the Moto Men. They all think he deserves a chef's jacket, and he's the first to receive one on the show. I'd honestly be disappointed if he didn't get one, given his pedigree.
The judges love Sarah's dish, too, and quickly hand her a chef's coat of her own. She freaks out and I love her even more now. I'm rooting for her and Neck Tattoos so far.
"It's my fault I let somebody else butcher my tenderloin," says Grayson. A-men, sister; own that dumb mistake. You're back in my good graces now.
Cruise Ship Chef has made a smoked sweet potato soup, because she's the soup Nazi of her ship, but it doesn't have enough cheek to it. Cheeky. Grayson's dish fares better, but she's on the bubble along with Cruise Ship Molly. They both head back into the kitchen to cook again.
"You're showing all your cards," VO's...someone. Who knows. The editing on this show is making my retinas spasm involuntarily.
Some jackass just made a frozen parsley oil powder. I'm trying to forget that in the face of Neck Tattoos's simple-looking dish. Nyesha's similarly simple dish -- this one Tex-Mex-inspired -- gets her an immediate chef's jacket. The next woman gets a chef's coat, too. She turned 40 this year? Damn, lady. Can I get the name of your dermatologist?
The judges hate Neck Tattoos's dish. His knives are packed. Bye, eye candy. We're left with Pink Bandanna Half Mohawk Moto Man now. At least he wins himself a chef's jacket with his Moto Mate.
So...these are some of the Top 16? That...went really fast. I'm winded.
"I feel this is a Chicago competition," says Sarah, who's landed with a few other Chicago competitors in the Casa de Cheftestants. That'd be because not nearly enough Texan chefs are represented on Top Chef: TEXAS. Augh.
Asian Foghorn, middle, doesn't know how to pronounce his own town. Can we take points off for that?
Here are MORE cheftestants. I'm already bored of them, although there is a black guy with an epic beard and a not-even-30-year-old male model who's intimidated by all the James Beards being thrown around who immediately captures my interest.
"I'm a protege of the great Rick Bayless," says one guy. Are you allowed to refer to yourself as someone's protege? Meanwhile, Dakota talks about how hardcore this competition is going to be. As hardcore as your chestpiece?
A totally different challenge is in store for this group. They have to choose a common ingredient among the group and cook it to stand out from the crowd. They end up choosing rabbit, and I'm already pulling for Epic Beard. And people are already struggling with the thermometers. Shades of Hell's Kitchen (rather, the two episodes I've watched without throwing an ashtray at the television).
Wait, did I just see a guy named Ty-Lör Boring?? Am I drunker than I think I am?
Note: The commercials are going so quickly, I barely have time to slam the rum I'm drinking. This is not good for my young recapping career, as I need the booze to get through this, but probably great for viewers.
Epic Beard learned to cook in prison? Move over Neck Tattoos, I have a new underdog to root for.
"Who puts chocolate with rabbit?" asks Dakota. "Not a lot of people." That's because it sounds abominable. At least she seems on the level. One of her other peers blames ditziness, essentially, for failing horribly so early on. How do you "completely space" if you're a real chef, accustomed to working in a fast-paced kitchen? Good-bye and good riddance, Nina.
This good-looking Asian chef has a Southern drawl that's killing me. I'd have to be kept far away from him in real life, although I'd also have to teach him that Louisville is never, ever pronounced "Looey-ville." Meanwhile, some girl named Whitney (and who also, unnervingly, looks like Whitney Cummings from Whitney) got a chef's coat. I need to pay better attention, but Asian Foghorn is distracting me.
Epic Beard Prison Cook gets a chef's coat, too, and asks for an XXL. STOP MAKING ME LOVE YOU. On the other hand, Asian Foghorn is on the bubble and asked to cook again. "This sucks," he laughs once he gets back to Ye Grande Cheftestant Walk-In or wherever they have these guys stashed. I'm getting bored now.
An adobo-marinated rabbit loin, cheftestant? Quoi? Oh, wait -- it's not Filipino adobo. Back to being bored.
On the other hand, bulghur wheat and vanilla... I'm impressed, Crazy Chestpiece Dakota. So are the judges -- she gets a coat! I kinda like her now. Ty-Lör and Young Male Model get their own chef's coats, too, and they both flash such genuinely giddy grins that it's tough to hate them. Shit, y'all. Bravo is sucking me in...
Meanwhile, on Twitter, Bravo just asked some dickheaded question like "Is this the most tatted season yet?" and I'm back to hating them again. Did you deliberately seek out tattooed chefs in order to make your season more relevant because that's the popularly promoted chef archetype these days? How many (or how few) tattoos a chef has should merit little to no discussion in the context of a cooking competition. In other words, get off my lawn.
Healthy Choice Top Chef entrees? Can we call this a shark moment? I honestly don't know; I've never watched this show or its commercials before. And then, as quickly as the commercials are over, the final cheftestant gets his chef's coat. It was all a little fast and underwhelming there at the very end, like pretty much every date I went on in college. Next week, stay tuned for a whole lot more of the exact same ADD-addled stuff your brain just barely started processing tonight.
So that's how this is gonna be, Top Chef? I'm gonna have a field day with this.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Houston dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.