5
Jan
2012
Top Chef: Season 9, Ep. 9
BBQ Pit Wars
Michael
The Chefs remain in Austin this week for a BBQ special, continuing the "Everything I learned about Texas comes from old episodes of Gunsmoke" theme. But first, food you probably would never see in Texas outside of Austin herself.

The quick fire challenge for tonight is a welcome departure from the constant barrage of rustic cooking the Chefs have been performing (well, relatively rustic). Early in the night, the Chefs get room service consisting only of a multi-volume cookbook called "Modern Cuisine," with a note from Padma saying "Study up." Chris Jones looks like he might jizz himself. Chris C. remarks "That's so many graphs." This is truly a tome worthy of admiration. So it's no surprise the next day when the author, Nathan Myhrvold, shows up to "explore the modernist" in our chefs. After a brief history, the chefs are tasked with best representing modernism. This makes me wonder what a post-modern dish would look like - I'm thinking a cake with David Foster Wallace's face on top, but stuffed with unmixed cake ingredients. But I digress. If you'll spare me a minute for a rant (and, if you've been reading regularly, that's most of what I do), I cannot understand for the life of me modernist cuisine. Some of the more reserved and conservative takes are fine, sure. But when you make a risotto foam, what are you accomplishing? Are we really willing to lose the texture of risotto, one of the finest dishes to be plated, with the texture of foam, something any seven year old with a can of whipped cream would really be happy about? In the words of a friend, "it all turns into poop anyway."

Some people are better equipped for this challenge than others. As mentioned before, Chris Jones seems to be a shoo-in for this challenge - he describes a meal with such confidence that it's easy to guess he has served it many times before. Paul, on the other hand, can't pronounce "molecular gastronomy." Various other chefs talk about how they never do this sort of thing. Chris C, in the greatest segue I have ever seen, declares that he himself is a modern person with a modern apartment, which he demonstrates with a home movie showing off his various paintings of nudes. At judging time, Bev goes to put her foam on the plate ('Modernists fucking love foam,' you can almost hear her thinking), when a loosened nozzle sends it flying onto the judges - cue shot to Padma's gazelle-like bare legs. Now that Heather's gone, it's nice that we can go back to making fun of her terrible awkwardness. The other contestants manage to plate fine, while the judges react well to Chris J.'s plate quite audibly, even after he tells Mr. Myhnvold that he'd like to visit his basement (I may be taking that out of context). It ends up to be between his flavor pill, Ty-Lor's watermelon with olive oil dust, and Sarah's ravioli with an egg yolk in the center. Ty-Lor takes the prize, and I'm not totally sure why.

And then it's on to the BBQ. And, mind you, this is real BBQ. The kind that takes 12 hours of smoking before the meat is properly cooked. So the chefs get to live through another all nighter. They are tasked with cooking three types of meat, along with two side dishes for 300 people. The gang breaks up into teams of three to all make variations on the same basic dish. Paul, Grayson and Lindsay decide to make some asian variations on their sides, while Chris C. makes a Dr. Pepper based sauce. The rest is pretty easy to forget. After a quick visit to legendary BBQ restaurant The Salt Lick, the chefs truck off to their camp site to begin their long night. Perhaps because they'll be cooking for 12 hours or so, we get a quick look at some of the best parts - including Bev setting her bourbon on fire. Ty-Lor apparently believes no Texan would ever eat food made by an ethnic-looking fella when he derides the asian barbecue idea. Paul's brisket fell onto the ground. For some reason, Chris Jones decides to make a beer can kitchen, which steams the bird from the inside. You don't need to be an expert to know that you don't steam something when you barbecue it - he's basically just grilling the food, something any dad could do memorial day weekend. It'll hurt him later.

The biggest event of the day comes when Sarah overheats and has to be run to the hospital. You really have to feel for her, because this isn't like a cut, which is your own damn fault and can be solved with some gauze and a rubber glove. Cue a few of the chefs running over to give their best wishes, then practically sprinting away to finish their own cooking. Ed disagrees. He's pissed that his teammate is down, that he now has to precut his meat. But does he hold his anger inside of him like an emotionally healthy person? No, he decides to yell at Sarah when she gets back and offers her help in whatever way she can. Let's chalk it up to sleeplessness, because otherwise he's just a jerk.

After feeding 300 people, the chefs face the judges table for a chance to win $15,000 dollars. The blue team (Grayson, Paul and Lindsay) take the win for their daring asian twist, leaving the other two teams on the chopping block. Tom has a lot of negative things to say about everybody - it's race to the bottom. Chris Jones cooked his meat poorly, while Malibu Chris' Dr. Pepper rub was far too salty. Bev's beans are undercooked and Tom says he would be happy to send Ty-Lor home if he didn't have immunity. The word inedible was thrown around for several times. At the end of the day, you can't come back from salt. Malibu goes home to his apartment full of crude paintings of tits, a true modern man.

Grade: B+

Miscellaneous:

This week in my continuing infatuation with Grayson - a tossup between telling Tom that her BBQ is like "sex in the mouth," or the weirdest fucking campfire song I have ever heard, performed entirely in her talking head segment.

Ed describing Sarah's ever-changing accent is brilliant.

Next week is restaurant wars, so everybody rejoice.
Tags: Top Chef
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