Top Chef: Texas Does Dallas at a Fancy Schmancy Highland Park Dinner Party

Categories: Screen Bites

Screen shot 2011-12-01 at 1.19.17 PM.jpg
via Bravo
The winning dish: Paul Qui's Fried Brussels Sprouts with Grilled Prosciutto

Socioeconomically speaking, Dallas has a pretty damn diverse food scene. The Big D is chock-full of $1 taco stands (if you're of the financial status to seek them rather than pass with blinders), $2 slightly fancier tacos found at many bars (LaGrange's are tasty), barbecue shacks out the wazoo (hey, reality TV, if you want to stereotype Dallas, come hither), and of course, a lion's share of overpriced mediocre steakhouses, as well as fare that's exorbitantly priced but well worth the splurge (or the effortless swipe of the corporate card, depending).

Top Chef: Texas, in its first of several Dallas-based episodes, chose to explore the upper crust of our city, the rich and manicured with food choices as picky as their dining tables are elegant. So where did Top Chef take viewers last night? Highland Park -- it's not even technically part of Dallas, yet it's everything reality television would like people to believe about our city -- massive homes, decorated to the hilt; beautiful, thin, manicured women; men who love meat; and food choices largely qualified by phrases like, "It's colorful!"

Really, though, it can't be denied that the monied minority of Dallasites make for very entertaining television.

"Who's the one with the really bi-- ... Dolly Parton, isn't she from Dallas?" Cheftestant Beverly Kim commented at the outset of the episode, when chefs packed their belongings in San Antonio and set off in their Toyota Siennas (lest we forget the repetitious product placement) for Dallas.

Suddenly -- they're pulled over by highway patrol at a closed road. But it's not just any closed road. Padma's waiting with guest judge, chef John Besh, to issue the quickfire challenge.

"We get this reflection off of John Besh's beautiful white teeth, and his hair blowing in the wind, and wow, John Besh is a handsome man. I'm not gonna lie," said Chris Crary, who gushed about Padma the same way in episode 1. Crary was deemed "beautiful Chris" by Chuy Valencia, so as not to confuse him with Chris Jones, whom we'll dub Austin Chris. On the drive from San Antonio to Dallas, we find out that Crary was formerly 70 pounds heavier --- photographic evidence pops on screen. Shocker, he looks like a different person, not that there's anything wrong with either version of Crary -- dude's a heartthrob.

The quickfire challenge is to make a dish using food contained in an emergency pack. They're in the middle of a cornfield, so utensils and cookwear are just about nil. Somehow, Edward Lee busts out a nori-wrapped crabcake with Thai peanut soup -- how he pulled that off is still unclear, perhaps someone should have checked his sleeves, but it still wasn't enough to win. The cash prize and immunity went to Lindsay Autry with a vienna sausage soup and sandwich bound between saltines -- a dish that did not translate well on TV.

"Dad, I hope you're proud," Autry announced to her father, who she said pops vienna sausages like potato chips. If he's a little embarrassed, he shouldn't be.

Once chefs arrived at their cushy new digs in Dallas, the elimination challenge was cooking for a progressive dinner party in which appetizers would be eaten at one house, the main courses at another, and desserts at another neighbor's house.

Chris "Austin Chris" Jones commented on the uncanny resemblance shared between Highland Park and Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives.

At the first elegantly decorated, massive home, the woman doesn't like bell peppers or cilantro and would prefer not to serve food that gives guests bad breath. Oh, and "I hate when things get stuck in my teeth," she adds.

The second home is that of another cilantro-hating vegetarian and her carnivorous husband.

At the dessert home, another opulent space belonging to a third beautiful couple, the wife proclaims that she'd like a dessert "worth every calorie," while the husband reveals, "My wedding cake was a giant gummy bear."

Austin Chris makes a dish that looks like a cigar, while Paul Qui tells the camera that's a "ballsy move," since "if you impress the lady of the house, the guy's just going to agree with her."

The man of the appetizer house says, "I think some were fantastic, and others needed a little bit of work," and in a joke appropriate for the surroundings, Tom Colicchio says, "So, close but no cigar?" Uproarious laughter ensues.

Colicchio was on with the zingers; his eye-rolls punctuated the episode like exclamation points, after easily read thoughts. When another dinner party guest called Grayson Schmitz's dessert "a little too rich," Colicchio stepped up, "I thought it was impossible to be too rich in Dallas, Texas."

Before judges table, the Deep Ellum sign flashed through a Dallas montage, that made me quickly think, "Hold up, is this the same city?"

For listening to the guests' desires, however picky, and for executing a dish on which everything "just really made sense," according to Besh, Paul Qui, executive chef at Uchiko restaurant in Austin, served the judge's favorite dish with his Fried Brussels Sprouts with Grilled Prosciutto. Earlier, while enjoying the meal, one Highland Park party host had even complimented her husband for finishing his Brussels sprouts (she later told him, "pace yourself" on dessert.).

Valencia, however was not so lucky. The 25-year-old Mexican spit-fire had to pack his knives and go for making salmon that had to be overcooked in order for the goat cheese inside to cook properly. It was a bit cringe-inducing when he announced that the dried-out fish with the mealy cheese was something he cooks regularly at his restaurant. Valencia bowed out gracefully, saying he had "no shame" losing to such a talented group. He was, after all, the baby among them, but it's a shame, we were just starting to like him.

Next week, the crew is headed to Southfork Ranch in Parker (not Plano). It's safe to expect a decidedly lower-brow hour of television. It remains to be seen if they'll ever make it to Dallas proper.

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34 comments
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ObserverFan
ObserverFan

What food culture does Dallas have? What people of Dallas truly represent the city? And who the fuck doesn't like cilantro?

todd
todd

Those who think Southfork is in Parker County. 

Deep_Sigh
Deep_Sigh

I tried to watch it but I'm finding that it's easier on my eyes and ears if I just fast forward to the last 10 minutes.  It seems to me that the food is the actual loser this season, it seems third behind the cliched locations and placed advertisements.  It's been going that way for awhile but it seems worse this time around. 

This Girl
This Girl

The White House is... or was... definitely in Valley Ranch. 

mmarks
mmarks

I think this season of Top Chef is boring as hell. The quickfires and challenges are stupid, Padma and the judges have zero personality and I haven't seen even one contestant that intrigues me. If the show doesn't reinvent itself somehow I will probably stop watching. I was particularly irritated by that quickfire in the middle of a dry meadow ... as if Dallas is a vast wasteland of weeds and roadkill.

brian
brian

Thank you Highland Park Douchnozzles for making dallas look even worse. these three couples are worse than that a-list dallas crowd. stupid, ignorant and very obviously they know nothing about anything. I hope other locals shown here won't be so shallow and horrible.

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

Wait til they take a tour through Uptown...I'm sure the faux Bro-millionairs from Big D will reinforce all the stereotypes that I so much appreciate,.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

We look like complete douche nozzles to the world-on ANY reality show.  Well, Dallas IS full of self lovin' s.heads!

Guest
Guest

What a terrible write-up. This episode was ripe for the picking, and the author just whiffed completely.

TLS
TLS

Guest: That is what the comments section is for.  Leslie wrote about what was interesting to her in the episode and you can contribute what you want to say.  

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

That's how it works......I DON'T think she understands the concept TLS.

ps-You actually read these briefs?  I mean, I run through them, but eff, I don't REALLY read them; except for LDD.

Leslie Minora
Leslie Minora

If I made it any longer, I would have run out of breath. So have at it; what were the highlights I missed?

cp
cp

 South Fork isn't in Plano, not even the same county as Plano; it's in Parker County.

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

It ain't in Parker County, I can assure you.  Although we wear the cowboy hats and drill oil wells just for fun, while chasing cuties in our cadillacs..we ain't got no damn Southforks, we have working ranches and are considered the Cutting horse capital of the world.

Sincerely, Parker County resident.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

She's right dude, you are as dumb as a frickin' box of rocks; I guess the Grand Canyon is in Idaho, and the White House is in New York?  

Guest
Guest

The White House is not in NY! It's in New Jersey!

Leslie Minora
Leslie Minora

Thanks, goofed up, just changed it.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Really, you two f%ckheads!  Southfork is in The City of Parker.....COLLIN COUNTY.  All maps say it's in Plano, as a frickin' point of reference.  Both you two suck, and are voided from anymore comments-EVER!!!!!  

I'm pissed.  

I don't police this blog to see a bunch of trash; trust me, it's bad enough.

ps-Both of ya'll go back to Louisiana-or Garland (same thing).

Kergie out

PISSED.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Dude, you said Southfork was in Parker County!?  Are you serious?  The two aren't EVEN close.  Remind me next time I need directions, NOT to ask you.  What, are from Pennsylvania, or something? 

FYI, Parker is probably 5 miles from Plano.  The Grand Canyon is in the Flagstaff area; so when people look at a map, they have a point of reference-capice'?  You don't get it do you?  

ps-I'm adding you to the following list of commenters:

-dr. g.-Rob Em-Mary (the cat lady)-Mattl1-Scott.....and now, -cp

See an common variables here?  Probably can't figure it out.  He he!

cp
cp

So fun to get Kergo all riled up about nothing. Still, Parker (City, County, doesn't matter) is NOT Plano. 

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

No, no one ares about Southfork, except for the people that own it.

Downtown Resident
Downtown Resident

I can't remember any previous season where the locale was treated as as much of a plot device as this season. News flash to Bravo, it's Texas, not Saudi Arabia.

Anon
Anon

I mean, they almost always do things that are unique to the host city, and it doesn't feel too far outside the normal types of challenges. They had them serve a bunch of kids in the Museum of Natural History in NYC, grill at a Bears game in Chicago, etc. The real problem is that they are dividing their time between 3 cities so when you get to the end of the episodes in a particular city, you can't help but feel like they hit the cliches without just having a few great episodes with local chefs as judges, talking about some of the unique aspects of that city's food scene. I'm sure producers (and the state who subsidized the show) decided that they couldn't do a Texas season without a rodeo. But instead of using the biggest in Houston, they chose to do it in San Antonio where it arguably didn't make as much sense. And then to top it off they brought in judges from LA to judge the dishes instead of picking local people.

senorita cindita
senorita cindita

But they couldn't go to Houston b/c Houston chose not to participate in Top Chef Texas.

Es34
Es34

Because Houston refused to pay for the priviledge. San Antonio coughed up 200k to be on. Dallas refused but Colicchio has a restaurant there.

therrick
therrick

No doubt, any city they feature should be decent enough to host a season by itself.

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