This week on Top Chef: Kentucky, the contestants all piled into their sponsor-provided BMW SUVs for a trip across the river to Nashville, Tennessee, for a country music-themed challenge. It was a challenge designed to celebrate one of Kentucky’s greatest natural resources: that it is near to other states.
In the quickfire challenge, the contestants traveled to the Grand Ol Opry (which roughly translates to “the large opera,” in modern standard English), where they would choose courses (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and prepare dishes based on a big country star‘s concert rider. The “twist” was that we wouldn’t find out who this big star was until after the commercial break! Would it be Reba McEntire, the contestants wondered? “I want to meet Garth Brooks,” exclaimed Michelle.
Turns out the big star was… (*drum roll*) Hunter Hayes! He would help symbolize the fantastic exports of Kentucky, as a native of… uh… Louisiana. Oh, well. At least he’s a huge star right? …Right? I mean I’d never heard of this guy before, but he is definitely a smooth-faced man-boy with anime hair, I can tell you that. At what point did country stars become indistinguishable from Disney Channel stars? I’m not listening to country unless the singer looks like they’ve at least been to rehab. Some fluffy-haired milk boy in a plaid shirt singing about trucks? No thanks.
Then in the elimination challenge, the chefs had to make dishes inspired by a “music memory.” This gave everyone the chance to remind us of songs the show couldn’t afford the rights to.
I kind of wish everyone had to choose royalty-free sound-alike versions of their favorite song and then sing the legally vetted paraphrased versions of the lyrics. You used to ping me on my mo-bile… You used to you used to… Just go all the way and make it a Jackie Jormp-Jomp challenge.
This challenge was judged by Caleb Followill from Kings Of Leon — who was actually a bit of a dick, which was nice. Sidenote: I always thought Caleb Followill sounds like what a basset hound would sound like if you could teach it to sing.
And then there was this guy:
Holy. Shit. Pattern baldness ponytail, seventies porn ‘stache, and a cowboy shirt unbuttoned to the navel? Damn, that’s like the greezy dad rock trifecta. Now this guy I’d pay to hear sing some country. This is the face of a man who’s lived on a boat. And probably scored with one of your mom’s friends there. (Factual note: this is Nashville restauranteur and James Beard Award Winner Tandy Wilson. Keep on truckin’, Tandy).
Judge Graham Elliot was also there, wearing his trademark infuriating white frames and a shiny, sheet metal-patterned bomber jacket, looking like that construction worker who thought he was Michael Jackson from the Simpsons episode.
Li-sa it’s your birth-day… It’s your birth-day Li-sa…
Gosh, what a personality. Whatever Bravo is paying him to stand around looking like an eyesore I’ll double it! I’m sorry, I’m sorry, the more I promise to stop roasting Graham the more I can’t resist it. Otherwise, this week’s crew of judges — Jonathan Waxman, Sean Brock, and Tandy Wilson — were entertaining and enjoyable. Perhaps not enough to make up for this season’s lack of Gail Simmons, but I wasn’t expecting miracles.