Top Chef Texas Recap: Snake Party!

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It’s Top Chef: Texas episode 3, entitled “Quinceanera”, a reference to the famous “coming of age” party for Latin American girls turning fifteen, as we learned from this episode and will treat like a common fact we already knew because we are broad-minded white people. Seriously, some of my best friends are having Quinceaneras! Wait, no they’re not, that’s worse. Ahh whatever, I lose.

For the Quickfire, the chefs better get ready to have their cages RATTLED and their…something… snaked… fangs! It’s snakes. They’re cooking rattlesnakes.

And when they find out “it had to be snakes,” obviously, it instantly reminds us of the famous Indiana Jones quote:

The chefs each must prepare a dish using rattlesnakes (which have already been killed and skinned – BOOOO) for guest chef Johnny Hernandez of San Antonio, who really knows a lot about snakes:

Padma explains, “When this competition is over, I want to see some [BLEEP] snakes on some [BLEEP] plates!” I’m pretty sure she said this:

Richie, Paul, and I think one of the Chrises end up on the Quickfire Bottom after making too many misSNAKES and not enough actual snakes, but fortunately, there’s still no penalty for being on the Quickfire Bottom, it’s just to insult you. They’re not all forced to attend a Slash’s Snakepit concert or anything.

Dakota, Sarah, and Beverly are your “Good Choice Padma Brought To You By Healthy Choice” Top 3. Ladies Night! Three men on the bottom, three women on top. I think that women are smarter, am I right? [Studio Audience Woos] I hired a studio audience to come watch me write these recaps. Kinda cool to see how the sausage is made, right ladies? [Studio Audience Leaves] Well, they’re gone.

Dakota wins the Quickfire for her Beer Battered Tempura Rattlesnake. That sounds delicious! “SSSSSSSSS!” (That’s how a snake would say “MMMMMMM!”)

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs are greeted by a special guest: 15-year-old Blanca Flores, who’s about to celebrate her Quinceanera, the traditional Mexican party where kids stand around with four joyless strangers and nitpick a bunch of fancy foods then eliminate someone. It’s kind of like a bar mitzvah, only your mom doesn’t buy 30 Jenga games at the beginning of the year and give one to every kid when their party happens (true story! Friend’s mom though, not mine.)

Next up, everyone’s favorite part of Top Chef, the shopping montage! Who’s going to bolt down the aisle like a monkey and have someone comment about it? Who’s gonna buy all the kumquats and have someone bitch at them at judge’s table? What will they do when they go $3 over budget and have to easily get rid of something???

This week, they’re in Whole Foods and a Mexican Meat Market, so self-proclaimed “resident Mexican” Chuy can show off his Spanish (AYEEE CHIHUAHUA is that guy authentic!):

Keith then commits a Top Chef mortal sin and dares to purchase already-cooked shrimp:

FLASH FORWARD TO THE FUTURE – The chefs end up not using the precooked shrimp and Tom blasts Keith for buying it:

Tom and the other judges also blast both groups (the Pink and Green groups, as part of the week’s Sex Pistols theme) for using pre-made tortillas. Seriously?? The chefs have like nine minutes to cook for an entire stock-trumpet-music-filled dance hall, and you’re upset they didn’t roll tortillas from scratch? Plus as we all know, three 90-year-old grandmas in a village outside Guanajuato roll the entire world’s tortilla supply. It’s your fault for not having one of them on your show.

The chefs present their food to the guests at the Quincneneenarraa, and the guests really like most of it, but Blanca is a super-tough critic, ripping on specific details left and right and remaining guarded in her praise of the good dishes. I’m guessing she was mostly coached by the producers so the show didn’t have another classic Top Chef scenario where a non-culinary guest is like “This all tastes good!” and Tom and Gail have to tell them why they’re wrong and why they should stop enjoying themselves.

Speaking of fun, Blanca sees her family for like eight seconds then spends the rest of her party standing at a table with the four reality show strangers criticizing the food that’s been made for them. Also, like us at home, Johnny Hernandez can’t stop looking at Hugh Acheson’s unibrow (rightly dubbed “Hughnibrow” by commenter Tam):

Blanca then joins her father for a touching dance, and in my favorite shot of the season, the camera cuts to Padma watching from way in the background:

Also, Beverly is crying, but she swears she just got some prebought tortilla in her eye:

The Pink Team wins! Hooray, Breast Cancer Awareness!!! The Green Team loses. BOOO, Grinch Breast Cancer Awareness.

The Bottom Four: Keith, Sarah, Lindsay, Ty-Lor

Keith takes flak for purchasing the precooked shrimp and for making his enchiladas with flour tortillas instead of corn, and they turned out soggy. Sarah also gets criticized for not ordering Keith to use corn tortillas (that seems fair) and for her and Lindsay’s Cochinita Pibil, which wasn’t great and didn’t have authentic flavor. Ty-Lor’s fritter was bland and dry, but he’s still great at mining in dwarven gem-caves, so we can’t eliminate him.

What’s the call? It’s up to you, Tommy Texas:

Keith is told to pack his knives and leave the Flavor Alamo. Even though he clearly screwed up multiple things, I’m surprised they let Keith go — he did great in the opening round, he’s obviously super-distinct at a time when the show has a million people to keep track of, and he’s got a great redemptive backstory, but the field right now does look exceptionally strong and eliminating any of the other three would’ve also been a little surprising. Bye Keith! Hope someday you win that James Beard Award.

The chefs in the stew room give Keith the customary tearful goodbye hugs, even though they’ve known each other for three hours. I’ve worked in offices with people who could’ve died and I’d still be like, “I think I saw their name on an email once? Whatever, that sucks.”

As much as I had trouble keeping up with the first two preseason episodes, Top Chef does seem to have accomplished two valuable goals: 1) There’s no “Oh my God, eliminate that person immediately, how did they even get on here?” people, who usually took up the first 4-6 weeks of the show (but they’re gone already!), and 2) I do feel like I have some idea of who’s who a little bit, so it’s not quite as overwhelming now that they’re starting actual competition. It reminds me of one summer when I was home from college and I vowed to get out of bed at 10 every morning, so I set my alarm then ended up snoozing til 11:30 or 12 every day, but then when I finally woke up, I’d realize that I had absorbed the news for that day from my alarm blasting the radio in snippets on and off for 90 minutes. I felt telepathic.

So who’s the favorite right now? Maybe Chris Jones? What do you think, Bravo?

Yikes – not good when the field still looks like the New Year’s Eve poster. We’ve got a ways to go.

Next week: A chili cookoff where Padma is on a horse -

Replacing my hissing jokes with neigh-ing jokes as we speak. BUCKLE UP!

Episode thoughts? Thoughts on the Keith elimination? Early favorites? Stuff we missed? Stuff that bugged you? Snakes? Leave ‘em all in the comments.