Film and TV

Chutzpah and Cat Cora on Top Chef: Texas

I still don't have DVR, but I do now have a refurbed Roku box from Woot, which is nice. I mention this because any single episode of Battlestar Galactica that you can stream from Netflix is a million times better -- no hyperbole here, I really mean a million times better -- than any single episode of Top Chef: Texas. What is better than watching Apollo wreck Cylon Raiders with his Viper? Certainly not a bunch of petty bitching over a single dinner in a reality show that ultimately amounts to nothing more than sound and fury.

Speaking of petty bitching, Grayson is already at it this episode. (But only after the producers sneak in one more cameo appearance by Charlize Theron. GO AWAY.) The previews have been touting Grayson as the one with "chutzpah," which is basically a nicer way (these days) of saying that someone's being a jerk.

For the Quickfire challenge, the remaining six contestants this week have been split into teams -- two girls, two white people, two Asians -- and assigned to make a pound of fettucine pasta, shuck a pound of corn and clean a pound of shrimp, then use those ingredients to cook a dish. I'm kind of impressed with this challenge, as it evenly pits all the chefs against each other across the board as well as showcasing their knowledge of cooking basics.

Of course, Grayson is yapping away in the background the entire time -- sorry, displaying her chutzpah -- and overworks her pasta. But her team still finishes first.

Meanwhile, poor Paul -- who's been saying all along that he's bad luck when paired off with Ed -- didn't manage to get his shrimp on the plates because he was too concerned with garnishes. Between this and last week's almost-over-the-top "evil dinner" challenge in which he tried to plate 14 ingredients in one dish, I'm concerned that Paul may lose because of his sheer inability to see the forest for the trees. All 14 of them. Their team is almost immediately disqualified.

Despite her previous yapping -- or perhaps because of her chutzpah -- Grayson wins, along with teammate Ugly Chris. They show some adorable photos of Ugly Chris's family and he VOs that the $5,000 prize "might not be a lot of money to some people" but will really mean a lot to them. Hang on. That last baby photo made me tear up a bit. BRB.

For the main challenge, the chefs are given two-and-a-half hours to make food for 200 people at a "block party." The teammates have now been paired off into competitors, who have had to choose the same dish to make to compete against one another with. Does that even make sense? Grayson and Chris choose chicken salad sandwiches, Lindsay and Sarah choose meatballs and Paul and Ed choose Asian barbecue. And then, guest judge Cat Cora explains, they have to make healthy, low-fat versions of dishes they chose in order to please sponsor Healthy Choice.


Anyway, I'm thinking -- as Paul and Ed are -- that it's going to be really hard to beat kalbi (barbecued short ribs) in this competition, as they're just naturally healthier (relatively speaking) than either meatballs or chicken salad. Not to mention that it's all about seasoning here, which you can successfully accomplish in Korean barbecue without adding real calories. Meatballs and chicken salad are harder to make taste good when they're not full-fat.

The good thing this episode is that the show is highlighting the needs of area food banks. Remember: Donating food to your local food bank is super awesome. Go on with your bad self! But if you really want to step up your game, cash is way, way better.

Back at the main event, bees are absolutely swarming Ugly Chris's table for no good reason and he's having a tough time cooking. There's no way they can penalize him for that. Right? He's allergic to bees! THIS IS MADNESS. But this is coming from someone with an irrational phobia of honeycomb or anything that even remotely resembles honeycomb, so my feelings on the matter are probably skewed.

Randomly, Emeril is shocked that Grayson and Ugly Chris would choose to make chicken salad for a block party. What, man? Is this not America? The hell? It's a lot more "block party" to me than meatballs or kalbi. This show is confusing as fuck.

Along with Emeril and Cat Cora, Dana Cowen from Food & Wine is also a guest judge this episode. She, along with the rest of the panel, declares Lindsay and Sarah's meatballs to be the best. But we still need to find out what the guests preferred...

But before we find that out, I'd really like for someone to explain Padma's continually baffling fashion choices on this show. One week, she's a cracked-out Pocahontas, the next week she's Dominique Deveraux from Dynasty by way of Forever 21. I don't get it. This week is like tennis hooker-meets-Little House on the Prairie and is entirely too much. TOO MUCH.

Back to important(ish) things: Paul, Grayson and Lindsay were voted the best chefs by the guests. Grayson goes toe-to-toe with Colicchio in a hilarious bit of editing that makes it look like she one-upped ol' Captain Picard when he called her chicken salad boring. Compared to meatballs?, she snarked back. I'm wondering how many takes it took to make it look like she has so much chutzpah? Paul wins this challenge, though, and that's all that matters -- along with the $15,000 he took home.

The judges take Sarah, Ed and Ugly Chris to task for their dishes, however, calling Sarah's turkey meatballs bland and Ugly Chris's chicken salad dry. No big surprise that Ugly Chris goes home tonight -- he's been dancing on the edge ever since he arrived. I'm not too sad about it, as fond as I've grown of him, because he has a better gig waiting for him back home at Moto where his "crazy creative" side will be appreciated and encouraged. Top Chef ain't the place for that. Take your $5,000 and go on with your bad self, Chris Jones. You did good.

Check out our past Top Chef recaps here:

Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Katharine Shilcutt