Top Chef Texas-A Closer Look at the Contenders as They Prepare Rattlesnake

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So in my first article about this Bravo annual foodie reality show I put tongue in cheek and exalted the manner in which this show took your oddball ingredients and treated them as if the grandest cuisine. A recent episode had some of the contenders cooking rabbit and the would-be Top Chefs didn’t blink an eye as they praised rabbit as a staple of the freezer and a most ordinary foodstuff to prepare. I speculated that were I to prepare a meal featuring a main meat of Peter CottonTail that my family would first check my forehead that I am not feverish than rush from the home to a nearby pizzeria.

In the TC episode airing 11/16/11 darn if the very first quickfire challenge of the season have the contenders preparing an entrée using the beloved rattlesnake as the main meat. Well the show IS airing in Texas and a meal of rattlesnake is probably not too far-fetched. The very notion of eating a rattlesnake is abhorrent to me, no matter how much of a rube that makes me.

As this series begins to move beyond its introductory episode of a huge amount of contenders, as this influx begins to be weaned down to a more manageable number, as some wannabe contenders go through a “bubble” then some on to the “final” 18 and some ending before even beginning, finally the game begins.

This episode had TC’s famous “quickfire” challenge and this was the rattlesnake meal. A local San Antonio chef was the judge for the rattlesnake test, Johnny Hernandez, a prize of $5,000 was offered and, as always, immunity from elimination for that week.

Contender Paul Qui, who is a Texas chef, embarrassed himself with a dish of bbq rattlesnake deemed really bad by the quickfire judge. Richie Farina prepared a jerk seasoned rattlesnake dish that the judge pronounced too overwhelmed by a citrus addition. Nyesha Arrington prepared rattlesnake with tequila determined to be too “one-dimensional” by the chef judge.

Beverly Kim offered a Korean prepared rattlesnake and way I figure, if you’ve got to eat rattlesnake, having it accompanied by spicy Korean sauce might be the way too go. The judge like it too. Sarah Gruenberg offered a flash fried rattlesnake and the judge enjoyed the lemon zest addition, proving, we much suppose, that Hernandez is not prejudiced against a citrus tang. The winner of this first challenge was contender Dakota Weiss, for her rattlesnake tempura. She used a beer batter for the tempura and the judge gave it the winning nod.

For the elimination challenge, the contenders were divided into a pink and a green team. Each team was charged with preparing a menu to offer at a Mexican “sweet 16” type of event, including a fancy cake. The Green team’s>
menu included a shrimp, pork, chicken and goat offering, a Korean type entrée featuring kimchee, some empanadas and a tomatillo gazpacho. Their cake offering was a vanilla tres leche cake with fresh fruit.

The opposing Pink team had some drama in that contender Keith Rhodes purchased pre-cooked shrimp for a planned entrée. Goodness the ruckous made over this action you’d thought Keith had murdered someone. I understand that it is a stain on one’s chef credentials to buy ingredients pre-made but seriously, how much of a difference can a pre-cooked shrimp made once added to a recipe than one with the shrimp cooked by the chef?

However, Keith committed the sin of preparing some sort of enchilada that
was dismissed as being a burrito for the gumminess of the enchilada. In fact Keith got sent home for his pre-cooked shrimp crime as well as his enchilada-come-burrito.

The other bottom four contenders were also from the Pink Team: Lindsay Autry for her crappy tortillas, Ty-Lor Boring for a very dry fritter offering, and Sarah Gruenberg, who grew up in Texas, was partners with Lindsay with that tortilla disaster.

It is rather early to go predicting winners but it is possible to take get a glimmer of those to watch for. On the Bravo web site, Top Chef fans have chosen Chris Crary as the fan fave as of this writing, with Lindsay coming in second and Dakota coming in third. Dakota did win the rattlesnake challenge, Chris C’s offering of some sort of corn dish was deemed best by the judges in the elimination challenge. I don’t see any reason for the Lindsay choice except maybe she’s the prettiest.

Six of the contenders are from New York, an interesting statistic. 3 are from California, 2 are from Texas, 2 are from Georgia. The youngest contender is Chuy Valencia, a fresh 25 years of age. The oldest is Heather Terhune, tuning in at age 40.

For now I go along with the Bravo site’s fan fave of Chris Crary, from Los Angeles, a chef de cuisine, age 30. Even being a member of a losing team and via a simple corn salsa, Chris C impressed the judges. Beverly Kim, hailing
from Chicago, age 32, seems to consistently impress the judges so keep eye out for her.

We’ll be reporting back regularly on this popular series and so far it looks to be a real entertainer.

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