Each week, we move a little closer to the best episodes of Top Chef, the ones where you know the characters' styles, tastes, personalities and Achilles' heels. This week, the third episode of the season and the first single-elimination episode, tugged, however lightly, at viewers' heartstrings -- it's official, we're getting sucked in. Between watching a 15-year old birthday girl's father-daughter dance and watching the elimination of a big burly sweetheart of a chef, viewers could feel alive again, if a little misty.
Here's a quick recap of what went down. Jump for episode superlatives.
"Rattlesnakes are something very traditional in Texas cuisine," guest judge Johnny Hernandez of La Gloria restaurant in San Antonio said, in what was a fairly severe overstatement. But it's Top Chef Texas, so we'll roll. Contestants cooked rattlesnake for the quickfire competition, won by Dakota Weiss with a beer-battered tempura rattlesnake.
Next up was another Texas-but-not-so-Texas competition. Chefs, divided into two teams, were saddled with the task of catering an elegant Mexican meal for a teen girl's Quinceanera party.
"I'm the resident Mexican of the bunch," said Chuy Valencia, who was decidedly more charming than he seemed in Episode 1. By "resident Mexican," he meant taste-tester, as chefs on his team shoved spoons in his mouth to see if their spices tasted natural to a Mexican palate. His team won the competition, so Valencia wasn't in danger of elimination.
Keith Rhoades was the object of the most criticism for buying pre-cooked shrimp, and he was ultimately the loser. But it must be noted that he made one heavenly creation during his short time on Top Chef: tequila poblano queso fondue, what sounds like a dream come true, served as a rattlesnake dipping sauce in the Quickfire competition. Padma asked to double-dip, a Top Chef first! Perhaps he should be invited based on that alone.
Now for the episode's stand-outs:
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Most Emo Chef: Beverly Kim has feelings. Lots of them. And she might even read The Secret, that book that says you can get anything you want in life if you can visualize it and believe it, or something. "I printed out a sheet; it says 'congratulations Top Chef Beverly Kim.' I look at it every day. If I can believe it, I can achieve it, so I keep telling myself that." Hope the other chefs don't find that note, there'll be a knife through the center of it in no time. Oh, then she cried during the father-daughter dance at the quinceañera. "Watching Blanca dance with her father, I was just thinking how special that relationship is between a father and daughter." [sniffle, snorfel, snort]
Best Quote: Padma introducing the quickfire competition: "I better see some mother******* snakes on some mother******* plates!" Cuss words -- even bleeped ones -- seem out of place from her. But yeah, girl, nice cliche movie reference. Never gets old!
Best Attitude: He bought cooked shrimp to the disappointment of his group, used flour tortillas instead of corn for enchiladas and was eliminated at Judges' Table, but to Keith Rhodes, it's all just part of the journey -- the same wild life trip that took him from prison to Top Chef. "I just want to say dream big, dream hard because dreams do come true. I'm a testimony to that. Peace." Rhodes, we'll miss ya, bud.
Best Stink-Face: Whenever Hugh Acheson says something disapproving, he talks as though he's also waving his finger in front of his face and snapping. The man may look prim and proper, but he's got a bit of an edge -- and some seriously expressive eyebrows. When he thinks 'yuck,' his eyebrows squirm into a most disapproving 'W'. "Like it or not, Keith made a burrito," he scoffed at Rhoades' dish.