Recap: ‘Top Chef’ – ‘Quinceanera’

11.16.11 8 years ago 6 Comments

Time for the first elimination of one of the final 16! There’s been a lot of bloodletting on the show thus far, but now that that ugly business is over, we can actually get down to business (and start picking fan favorites). Plus, we now have the online part of the show kicking in, which will allow eliminated chefs to cook again in an attempt to get back onto the show. It’s like “Survivor”‘s Redemption Island, but with food (and lots of it). I’m interested to see how this new, possibly improved show works, even if this does mean watching even more television on my tiny computer screen. I think if nothing else, the food quality this season is going to be pretty spectacular. Whether or not it’s good television, I’ll reserve judgment. It’s not like we get to eat any of this stuff, anyway.

Beverly posts a sign in her room proclaiming she’s already won “Top Chef Texas,” which is very “The Secret” of her. I’m more intrigued by Keith, who believes cooking saved his life after he got out of prison. He seems like an affable, interesting guy, which means he’ll probably be going home any time now. I do have an ability to get attached to contestants right as they go flying out the door.

Our chefs walk into the kitchen and see an aquarium full of snakes. Keith does not like snakes. Grayson doesn’t care, because she really wants to win the Quickfire Challenge, snakes or not, as she feels she has something to prove, since she was the last person to qualify for a jacket. Hey, just cook good food, Grayson. That’s good enough, really. A lot of the chefs are blabbering about showing their fellow contestants that they’re someone to be reckoned with, and I hardly see the point. Who cares what they think? The important part is impressing the judges, period. Eye on the prize, people!

Johnny Hernandez, owner of La Gloria, will be judging. His restaurant cooks 700 pounds of snake every year, and he notes it’s a delicate meat that requires sensitive handling. Padma says she wants to see motherf—ing snakes on some motherf—ing plates. I’m glad someone finally said it!

All the chefs are freaking out when they have to open little wooden boxes containing their main ingredient — but calm down a little once they realize the snakes are killed and skinned already. They have an hour to cook.


Flash-fried snake in a brown butter sauce – very simple, but as she says, simple could win this thing. I agree. 


Rattlesnake nigiri with thai basil aioli – everything Beverly does is Asian fusion. It’s good that she knows who she is, but I worry she’s one-dimensional.

Chris C.

Rattlesnake Nicoise with olive oil pudding and olive panko – this sounds disgusting, but Johnny likes the texture, so Chris C. might have an edge.

Chris J.

Cumin breaded rattlesnake with bacon – I’m pretty sure everything Chris J. does is solid.


BBQ rattlesnake with peaches, fried peanuts and Southeast Asian spices – Johnny thinks there are a lot of strong flavors, but I’m not sure if this is a compliment or a criticism. I’m thinking criticism — snake is a delicate flavor, and this sounds anything but delicate.


Beer-battered tempura rattlesnake – again, simple and maybe that’s a good thing.


Sweet corn rattlesnake griddle cake, beer-batted rattlesnake crudite – Padma double dipped the dipping sauce, so it must be good.


Rattlesnake braised with tequila, citrus and jalepeno – this looks horrible, and she left THE BONES IN. This isn’t a rack of lamb. Yuck.


Adobo seasoned rattlesnake with pasilla balsamic BBQ sauce – again, doesn’t sound delicate.


Grilled jerk seasoned rattlesnake with roasted corn – Jerk seasoning? Nonononono.

Johnny did not like Paul’s, as the rattlesnake was lost in the dish. He also felt Richie’s overpowered the snake. Nyesha overcooked her snake. And she left the bones in! On the winning side, he thought Beverly’s was elegant and well-cooked. He thought Dakota’s was one of their favorites and a good nod to Texas. He thought Sarah’s was cooked to perfection and showcased the rattlesnake. The winner of $5,000 and immunity is… Dakota. Dakota hopes everyone realizes she’s someone to watch out for. Whatever. I think everyone is someone to watch out for this season.

The chefs pick knives to divide the chefs into two teams. Their client is Blanca Flores. Edward thinks she’s a Mexican rock star. Hardly. She’s having her quincenera. Over 100 guests are expecting elegant Mexican cuisine and a fabulous cake. The teams get their shot to start grilling the poor girl about food. On the Green Team, Heather finds out what kind of cake she wants – tres leeches. Chuy discovers she likes goat. She also likes ceviche. 

Team Pink – Lindsay and Nyesha find out what her favorite dishes are. Good idea — they just let her talk instead of throwing yes or no questions at her. The teams have to divide in half so one group goes to Whole Foods and the other to a Mexican meat market. Dakota is making cake from a box. Aaack! Did I just see store-bought tortillas? Aaack! Everyone seems chaotic and disorganized. 

Pink Team

(A side note — my spell check does not seem to like Mexican food, but hopefully I’ve caught all the bizarro changes and gotten them back to what they’re supposed to be — but apologies in advance for any misspellings)

Pork tenderloin huarache, ceviche, choclo con chile, carne asada and green chile pozole, enchilada en salsa verde and cochinita pibil. Oh, and Dakota’s bad birthday cake.

Lindsay discovers they’ve bought frozen, pre-cooked shrimp. Lindsay refuses to use it. Keith is in trouble. Lindsay and Sarah seem to be emerging as the bosses of the team, or maybe just the whiners of the team — hard to tell. Yes, Keith really screwed up, but move on, ladies!

Green Team

Shrimp yuzu ceviche, pork chicharron, chicken mole, tomatillo gazpacho, green chile empanadas, beef short rib with kimchi (what??), braised goat birria, vanilla tres leches cake. 

Chuy is the resident Mexican, so he’s the taste tester. I think Green Team has an edge here. Of course, the frozen shrimp problem of Pink Team doesn’t help. 

Ty-lor – Pink

Fire-roasted summer fritter with avocado mousse – Tom says it’s dry and Hugh thinks it’s a hush puppy. Ouch.

Richie – Green

Tapioca chicharron with pork carnets – Blanca thought the middle was soggy. Tom agrees. 

Keith and Lindsay – Pink

Pork tenderloin huarache with pineapple salsa – Johnny thinks they struggled with execution and presentation. 

Paul – Green

Shrimp yuzu ceviche with corn salsa and yucca chips – Tom enjoyed this the most of all the appetizers. Ding! I see a win for green.

On to the buffet for Pink Team. 

Nyesha – Ceviche with crispy plantain chips with spiced popcorn

Chris C. – Choclo con chile

Keith – enchiladas en salsa verde

Ty-lor – carne asada 

Sarah & Lindsay – cochinita pibil

Nyesha’s ceviche is mealy, Hugh thinks the flour tortilla on the enchiladas was an epic fail. Keith is in trouble. Sarah and Lindsay’s cochinita gets creamed for store-bought tortillas (knew it!). Padma and Tom love the carne asada, but she really loved Chris’ corn salsa.

Time for the Green Team!

Edward – tomatillo gazpacho with watermelon, jicama and pork rinds

Chris J. – green chile, mushroom and oaxaca cheese empanadas

Chuy – braised goat birria, cabbage, red peanut salsa and handmade queso fresco

Beverly – beef short rib aside with piano kimchi (okay, kim chi? Seriously? This better be good.)

Grayson – chicken in ancho peptic mole with pickled red onion, creme and lime

She didn’t make her tortillas, either. But at least they’re corn.

Tom likes Chris’ empanadas. Hugh thinks the gazpacho is good. Tom’s not sure about the cabbage but gives the goat a thumbs up. Johnny likes Beverly’s, and feels the meat is tender. Plus, he’s happy they griddled the tortillas. Grayson’s mole gets a thumbs down from Tom for having too much cinnamon. So, it’s looking like a win for Green Team — but wait! There’s still cake!

Dakota’s definitely looks better. Heather’s looks like a snowman vomited it up. It’s sagging and looks like it’s about to collapse. I’m sure it tastes great, though. Dakota gets dinged for too much frosting, and Blanca likes the taste of Heather’s cake more, even though it was sloppy. 

Beverly cries watching Blanca dance with her father, because she still wants to prove to her dad she can do everything a son can do. Oh, someone’s got issues.

Time to announce a team winner. And that is… Green Team. Duh. They have a Mexican guy who’s killed his own goats! And Keith bought frozen cooked shrimp. Lindsay looks like she wants to cut someone. Probably Keith. 

In the stew room, Sarah suggests that some people worked harder than others (hint, hint, she wants to throw Keith under the bus). Keith is not going down without a fight, though.

Padma calls back Ty, Sarah, Lindsay and Keith. Well, Ty is not going home — he’s just an impartial witness. I think the judges are after Keith, Lindsay or possibly Sarah. 

Sarah’s called on first. She blames everything on an initial lack of leadership. Hugh thinks this is crap, because chefs have to lead every day in the kitchen. Then, Sarah brings up the shrimp cocktail. Oh, it’s on now isn’t it? Keith admits to buying the shrimp. Tom wants to know who was with him. Hugh can’t blame Sarah and Lindsay for passing on the shrimp. Ty-lor tries to blame his fritter on the lack of shrimp, but Tom points out it was also dry — so a cooking fail. Lindsay names all the things she cooked, and Hugh rails on her for her “crappy” tortillas. Oh, and speaking of tortillas, Keith is used to making tortillas with flour tortillas. Sarah can’t believe he used flour. Keith tells Sarah she loves driving the bus — and hitting people. Ouch. I’m not sure who’s in more trouble — Sarah and Lindsay for not helping Keith more, or Keith for screwing up the shrimp and tortillas. 

Padma thinks all of them deserve to go home. Hugh wanted someone to step up, and Tom says they could have made everything better if a leader had stepped up. Hugh is worried about why Keith is even on the show. Johnny points out Lindsay should have nailed her dish, considering she lived and worked in Mexico. Padma thought Ty’s fritter was just gross. 

The chef packing his knives will be Keith. Of course — the chef I was rooting for. Chris J. thinks he’s a gigantic teddy bear. Lindsay is sad to see him go. Right. All I know is I would watch out for Lindsay and Sarah, as they seem very ready to pass the buck. Yes, Keith deserved to go home, but I wonder how quick these two will be to appoint blame to someone next time. 

Do you think Keith deserved to go? Would you eat snake? And what dish would you order in a restaurant?

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