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'Top Chef: Texas': Which cooks are walkin' in tall cotton?

January 19, 2012 |  7:45 am

Top Chef Texas
Are we excited, or just resigned?

There are now only six contestants left in “Top Chef: Texas.” And like much of their cooking during the ninth season of the reality series, it’s hard to get that energized about any of them in absolute terms.

In relative terms, it’s even more disheartening: Consider some of the chefs who preceded this season’s cooks, and you realize how much less dazzling the current bunch are than the brothers Voltaggio, Richard Blais, Stefan Richter, Stephanie Izard, Carla Hall, even Fabio Viviani — we could go on, but you get the picture.

Wednesday’s show, where the challenge was to cook a meal fit for an evil queen (in a naked cross-promotion by Bravo owner Comcast, the guest judge was Charlize Theron, the star of an upcoming movie from Universal Studios, also a Comcast entity), the preparation across the board for the very first time this season was superior and inspired. 

“In all the years of doing this,” lead judge Tom Colicchio said, “this has been one of the finest meals I’ve had the pleasure of eating.”

To find anyone to send home, the judges picked some mighty small nits, ultimately axing Beverly for … using arrowroot as a thickening agent?

We’re hoping the remaining six don’t soon return to their mediocre form, as one of the last half-dozen inevitably must win by more than default, while four will advance to the finals. And don’t discount Beverly, who beat long-running “Last Chance Kitchen” survivor Nyesha and could potentially return to the finals.

Here’s our handicap of the remaining chefs, ranked in order from least to most likely to win:

Chris J.: He always seems to be trying to be too clever and generally failing not only at being witty but also competent. Like everyone else, he put out a great dish Wednesday (a stuffed apple dessert), but once you get past the sizzle and the strange hair, there’s not much meat on the bone, is there? Time may be running out for him and his liquid nitrogen.

Grayson: We still can’t forgive her hula-hoop-sized steak a few weeks back, about enough beef to make a Lady Gaga meat dress. She’s never been that impressive, and never that terrible. In Wednesday’s elimination challenge, she ended up on the bottom, but definitely swung for the fences, turning out a chicken dish that served the spirit and letter of the task.

Sarah: It’s a little hard to like her cooking and a lot harder to like her. There have been plenty of talented chefs with worse personalities (season four’s Lisa Fernandes comes to mind), but Sarah has never really wowed us; and like her attitude, her food preparation is almost always defensive — working not to be eliminated rather than to win.

Edward: All season, we have been transfixed by his strange way of talking, which calls to mind a hockey player who’s had his jaw wired shut. No matter. He rarely panics, is often in the running for a win and appears to be flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances.

Lindsay: We know from last week’s “restaurant wars” that she’s better off in the kitchen than at the front of the house, but that’s a very small demerit for a chef who may have only one top finish but has been on the bottom only once — in the very first episode. Even with immunity, she nearly won Wednesday’s elimination challenge. She feels like a lock for the finals.

Paul: Week in and week out, he’s the very best chef on the show. Although he cooked guardedly at first, he’s become riskier but no less accomplished. Of the remaining chefs, he’s the only one with three wins and seems poised to reach the finals if not take it all.

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--John Horn

Photo: Lindsay in “Top Chef: Texas.” Credit: Virginia Sherwood / Bravo 

 

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