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Top Chef Texas Recap: Tortilla Trouble!

By L. Stolpman in Food on Nov 17, 2011 7:00PM

Richie Farina prepping some rattlesnake. -- (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/Bravo )

The show begins with a glimpse into the Top Chef house where we see Beverly's vision board (really a mirror) includes a piece of paper declaring her season nine's Top Chef. We actually think that this is how the news should be delivered - on a piece of white computer paper folded in half five times and slipped under a desk by Padma, across a row and into someone's open palm under the watchful gaze of Tom. Next we hear from Keith. Keith has been in prison. We don't know why. We also get a little more guy love between Richie and Chris.

Quickfire Challenge. The chefs walk into the kitchen and see a rattlesnake in a terrarium. Padma says that this quickfire will be testing their nerves. Keith makes a small poop in his pants. Padma introduces Johnny Hernandez, chef/owner of La Gloria in San Antonio, who explains some of the complexities of cooking rattlesnake, none of which include how not to die getting said rattlesnake so probably they aren't going to go out into the wild all Survivorman style and to get their own rattler. We'd say like Bear Grylls but he probably gets his rattlesnake killed, cleaned, powdered and wrapped before he takes it on a date to the local motel. We digress.

The chefs are told that their snake is in a ventilated box in front of them and that they will have one hour to cook. Then Padma pretends she's Samuel Jackson and throws down a few F-bombs.

Oh, Padma. It's so cute when you act hip with a 5-year-old reference. (Yes, we see the irony with our Grylls reference but we know we aren't cool.) Time starts and the chefs tentatively open their boxes to find a killed, clean, Grylls style rattler. We watch the chefs try to get as much meat as they can from the snake.

Padma and Chef Hernandez rotate through the room, not giving a whole lot of feedback. Least favorites: Paul with his grilled, BBQ rattlesnake with peaches, peanuts and Southeast Asian spices; Richie for his grilled jerk-seasoned rattlesnake with roasted corn; Nyesha with some overcooked rattlesnake. Favorites go to Beverly's rattlesnake nigiri with Thai basil aioli; Dakota for beer battered rattlesnake; and Sarah for a flash fry of the snake, finishing it in brown butter sauce. Quickfire winner: Dakota!

Elimination Challenge. The chefs are asked to draw knives and are quickly separated into Team Pink or Team Green. They are told that they will be creating a meal for a young woman's Quinceanera. Blanca explains that expectations are high - High! for something, like, really big and great. This, Padma explains, includes a cake. We see flinches.

We don't want to preach but here are some basic reality television rules of thumb: If you're going on Survivor, know how to make fire and get a body wax. If you're going on Amazing Race, learn how to read a map and drive a stick shift. If you're going on Top Chef, memorize some ratios for making a cake. We talk big when we have the internet in front of us. Heather swoops in with some tres leches talk and pastry chef experience. NICE.

Green Team's Chuy is excited when Blanca mentions that she likes goat. His grandfather taught him how to slaughter goats. Instantly, our grandfather's stories of life in the dust bowl pale. Pink Team has Lindsay who lived in Mexico and is excited about pork roasted in banana leaves. The teams discuss menus and then head out to shop. Pink Team's menu: pork tenderloin huarache, ceviche, choclo con chile, carne asada, green chile pozole, enchilada en salsa verde, and cochinita pibil (pork roasted in banana leaves). The cake will be a hibiscus-yogurt pound cake made by Dakota. Keith bought cooked shrimp and Sarah rightly asks why he'd buy cooked shrimp for a cooking competition. Keith takes the heat for his choice but we get a clear flashback-shot of Chris Crary consenting to the decision to go with it. The pre-cooked shrimp get nixed. Green Team's menu: shrimp yuzu ceviche, pork chicharron, chicken mole, tomatillo gazpacho, green chile empanadas, beef short rib with kimchi, and braised goat birria. Heather is tackling dessert for the Green Team with a vanilla tres leches cake.

Day of the event and Blanca is ready for her party! Let the tasting begin. Pink Ty-lor's fritter gets no enthusiasm. Green Richie's chicharron pleases guests. Pink Keith and Lindsay's pork tenderloin gets dinged for its execution. Green Paul's yuzu ceviche is declared flavorful. Apps over, the chefs head over to the Pink Team's table. They try: Nyesha's tilapia ceviche, Crary's corn with chile picante, Keith's chicken enchilada, Ty-Lor's carne asada, and Sarah and Linday's cochinita pibil. Keith's choice of a flour tortilla instead of a corn tortilla for his enchilada may do him in. We laugh when Acheson says, "Like it or not, Keith made a burrrrriittttooooo." Sarah and Lindsay are called out for buying tortillas. The judges like Ty-Lor's carne asada. Crary's corn salsa wins over their palate.

Heather Terhune -- Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/Bravo
Over to the Green Team: Ed starts the judges with his gazpacho and chicharron. Then: an empanada by Chris Jones, goat birria and cabbage by Chuy, Beverly's short rib, and Grayson's pulled chicken mole. The empanada wins praise from Tom, as does the birria (though the cabbage stumps Padma) and Beverly's short rib. Grayson's mole is cinnamon heavy.

The cakes are next. Dakota has a very colorful cake flavored with strawberry and pineapple. Blanca says it has too much frosting. We hate frosting so we would probably agree. Heather's vanilla tres leches cake is pretty enough but has a definite lean to it. There is a great shot of Tom, Hugh and Padma standing shoulder to shoulder looking at it like it's the dead body in a coffin. We get it. It's leaning. We just don't think it would bother us that much if it is muy delicioso. And, in fact, Blanca prefers it.

The judges don't mess around and march right over to the Green Team's table to announce them the winners of the elimination challenge. The Pink Team will be going to the judge's table and we can tell that the pre-cooked shrimp is heading down the pea-puree route. This can't be good. The stew room has a striking absence of Glad products and... we are pretty sure we see bottles of Shiner Bock. Wait. We'll be right back. We're going to go get a beer.

Keith, Lindsay, Sarah and Ty-Lor get called in to see the judges and called out for having the judges' least favorite dishes. Ty-Lor's fritter gets slammed for being dry and he owns it. We respect that. Acheson then goes on a tortilla tirade with Sarah and Lindsay, for buying their tortillas. Not to be outdone, Chef Hernandez points out that Keith should have used a corn tortilla in his enchiladas. For some reason, Sarah chimes in that she agrees with Chef Hernandez and Padma then asks her why she didn't suggest Keith use corn tortillas instead. It's getting heated. It's all Teapot-tortilla Dome up in here. Okay, we know that doesn't make sense. We were going to call it Tortilla-gate but that seemed so unoriginal so we tried some other political references. How about this: Keith's chances of surviving his tortilla troubles are as good as Angela Merkel's chances of saving the euro after Greece and Italy collapse. Okay, okay, we're done.

The judges discuss and they are frustrated and a bit baffled at the bad dishes made by these talented chefs. Without further ado, Keith is asked to pack his knives and go. Despite this, we dig his good attitude as he leaves the kitchen. Good man, chef!

We'll be back next week with more Top Chef chat. Hope to see you!