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Top Chef S9-4: Red Hot Chili Cook Off Recap

Updated on July 19, 2014

Red Hot Chili Cook Off

Top Chef Texas is on its 4th episode and we have 15 cheftestants battling it out for the title of Top Chef.

Don’t forget there’s still The Last Chance Kitchen, which can only be seen online, but you want to be spoiled about that, check out my review of that online episode.

Don’t forget, if you don’t want to be spoiled about this episode, get out of the kitchen now!

The episode begins with the cheftestants still reeling from the nastiness that arose from Keith’s booting. Lindsay, Sarah and Ty-Lor are still defending their nastiness, Chris C is asking questing a bit confused while Nyesha (who was on the winning team) notices that all the friendliness seems to have instantly vanished. Isn’t that the way of competitive reality shows?

The Quickfire Challenge

The cheftestants enter to find Padma and two wonderful chefs from Top Chef Masters. Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Finnegan are chefs and owners of Border grill and they are truly talented chefs.

There is a big board of chilies from a low to a high Scoville scale. Chuy kindly explains that the Scoville scale rates how hot a chili from low (Anaheim) to high (ghost chili). The cheftestants must chose one chili and highlight it.

The twist? The cheftestants can choose whatever chili they want, but the amount of money they win depends on the chili they choose. The higher on the Scoville scale, the more money they earn. Honestly, it is one of the best, smartest and fun twists to a challenge that I’ve ever seen on a show.

The Chili Breakdown

The chilis the cheftestants used narrowed down (monetarily) like this: Anaheim=$500, Fresno=$3,000, Manzano=$7,500, Thai=$10,000, Habanero=$12,000 and Ghost Chili=$20,000.

They, once again, focus on 10 cheftestant’s plates. I can’t wait until we are down to cheftestants, so I can see all the delicious morsels they create.

Scoville Chart
Scoville Chart | Source

The Hotter the Better

At the bottom of the barrel, Beverly used the Anaheim chili, which was the lowest of the group. She wanted to focus on the chili’s flavor, so she didn’t cook it and made a crudite with ssamjung paste. The judges felt she didn’t do enough. Richie used the Fresno chili, since he doesn’t like spicy food and made a Fresno slaw with pineapple and seared bay scallops. The judges thought it was too sweet and in a chili challenge, you know that spells trouble. Chuy used the Habanero chili and loves it since his dad grew 50 bushels of it in his backyard as a child. He made sautéed scallop with achiote which speaks to the judges’ palette, but they hate, HATE, that he used canned tomatoes.

Heather used Thai chilies in a date and pistachio cous cous with pickled cucumbers and onions. Susan declares her food the type she likes to eat. Grayson used Habanero chilies to create a popper with cream lime sauce. The judges say it is a smart and exciting dish.

Paul was the only one to go for the hottest chili, the Ghost Chili. He created a chilled coconut soup with Kaffir lime and Ghost Chili relish. The judges think it was risky, but since it was “quite delicious” and didn’t kill their palette, Texan Paul redeems himself from last week and wins $20,000. How’s that for taking a risk that pays off? Not only that, Paul gets immunity.

The other dishes that were not top or bottom, but we need to take note since they will be involved with this episode are as follows:

Moto Chris used Manzano chiliin his seared chicken with Manzano vinaigrette. He calls them Buffalo wings and they look yummy. Nyesha made a charred baby fennel and rock shrimp salad with a Habanero vinaigrette. Sarah made salmon belly seared with Fresno chili sauce and balsamic relish. Susan thought she took one bite too many, but since Sarah wasn’t in the bottom the other judges must have not thought it was that bad. Chris C made coconut soup with Thai chili.

Elimination Challenge

The cheftestants are told to grab the pots underneath their workstations. When they open them, each finds a different color apron inside separating them into groups.

The task is to make a pot of chili what will feed 200 cowboys and rodeo regulars. Since chili takes a long time, the cheftestants will be making their chili back at their house and can pull an all-nighter just as long as they are ready by 7pm the next day.

The rodeo regulars will vote for the winners and the judges will send someone home.

The Team Breakdown

Team Blue: Heather, Crazy Ed and Paul made a standard chili with pickled peaches. Tom seems a little concerned with Heather’s peaches. She’s beginning to second guess herself, but follows her instinct and makes them anyway.

Team White: Grayson, Lindsay and Ty-Lor made a 3-bean chili with poblano and pickled veggies.

Team Red: Dakota, Whitney and Moto Chris made a braised brisket and short rib chili.

Team Green: Chris C, Sarah and Chuy made a traditional no beer chili con carne with roasted corn. It is at this point that Chris C is upset because he doesn’t like the way Sarah acted during the last challenge. He felt that she had sabotaged a teammate and now he stuck with her again.

Team Black: Nyesha, Richie and Beverly made a mole with cornbread. They are taking a risk since mole isn’t chili, but no one wants to play it safe. Nyesha isn’t happy with her group because Richie and Beverly were in the bottom of the quickfire. She also says that Beverly is meek, which doesn’t gel with Beverly screaming at the meat counter last episode. However, this episode Beverly doesn’t scream and seems flustered a the meat counter, so there you go.

A Moment of Cray Cray

The later in the night it gets, the crazier and drunker the cheftestants get. But, that little montage of wackiness doesn’t come close to the true moment of cray cray. I know many fast forward the commercials, but Bravo is currently promoting their fan favorite.

They ask, “Who is your favorite chef?” and put a quote of two chefs up on the screen. I’m not sure who the second chef, but at the top of my screen was a picture of Crazy Ed that read, “Everything’s better with pork rinds and kim-chi and Ed Lee.” Ha! You know, it is. The man is a nutter and for me, it is still endearing.

Tom, Mary Sue, Susan Padma and Gail are the judges this round.
Tom, Mary Sue, Susan Padma and Gail are the judges this round.

The Tasting

After some beer, the judges make the rounds. It seems no one made a horrible chili and the judges have to break it down. Remember, the rodeo regulars are voting for the best, so the judges only have to worry about the worst.

Team Blue: Tom doesn’t care for the chili, but Gail loves Heather’s pickled peaches. Good job Heather and that should remind you to always follow your instincts!

Team Green: The judges thought there was a lot of depth of flavor and Tom thought the dish gets better and better the more you eat it. Sarah is a native Texan and she makes sure every cowboy knows that! They are the ones voting for the winners, you know.

The judges end up asking Tom which teams were at the bottom for him. He calls out the rest of the teams.

Team White: Tom felt it had no depth and not enough flavor. Gail just didn’t like it. By the way, it seems like Texans don’t like beans in their chili and this one was a 3 beaner.

Team Red: Tom felt it had a subtle smokiness to it, but the texture of the shredded meat was off.

Team Black: They felt the mole was too sweet and it didn’t feel like chili. They did like the cornbread, which was moist.

The Verdict

Padma rides a horse out and announces to the arena of cowboys that the winning team was Team Green.

She then announces that the losing team is Team Black. They really are parting from prior seasons. I really thought they'd have a bottom two teams and then a bunch of cheftestants throwing each other under the proverbial bus. I guess they're taking their Texas time serious and they aren't messing around at all.

Which team do you think should have won?

See results
Chili. Note that it is a type of stew.
Chili. Note that it is a type of stew.
Mole. Note that mole is a sauce with meat in it. it is usually served on a plate with rice and tortillas.
Mole. Note that mole is a sauce with meat in it. it is usually served on a plate with rice and tortillas.

My 2 cents

I think Team Black made a bad decision by making mole, because no matter how good mole is, it’s never going to be chili. What’s worse is making sweet mole. It can have cinnamon, peanut butter or Mexican chocolate (as my family often makes it) in it, but these ingredients are used in moderation because they are supposed to highlight the chili’s flavor not add too much of their own. I also think the cornbread was a bad idea with mole. If you have mole, which has a lot of sauce (or gravy), moist cornbread isn’t going to help. It would have been better to make tortillas

All of the teams were up for most of the night and the Black Team is exhausted. Teammates are now enemies and the judges finally admit that they’ve put the cheftestants through hell and now they’re asking them to cook once again. Yes judges, you are a-holes. But, that’s what the cheftestants signed up for and I’ll always be there to watch it go down.

Team Black: Nyesha, Beverly and Richie
Team Black: Nyesha, Beverly and Richie

The Elimination

Richie is the only one who doesn’t seem to have lost any steam. He creates a frito encrusted pork tenderloin with a ricotta cheese chili puree. Tom feels that although Richie put a lot on the plate, the dish is one note and there aren’t enough seasonings.

Nyesha made a frito crusted black tiger shrimp with roasted corn salsa. The judges thought it needed more sauce and she admits that she just forgot to add more of the mole sauce at the end.

Beverly made a seared tuna with habanero cream corn. The dish was a bit rich, but was balanced and well thought out. She was the only one who seemed to embrace using the mole and she is declared safe first.

It is down to Richie and Nyesha. Richie has a lot of heart, but his dish doesn’t save him and he must PYKaG. He is utterly heartbroken and in tears. He feels that he’s let his boss, Chris, and Moto down.

Who, in your opinion, should have PYKaG from the Black Team?

See results

The judges, minus Tom, seem to really feel his pain, but in the end if his food doesn’t stand up, he must be sent home….or to The Last Chance Kitchen where he will get one more chance to get in the game by battling the current Reigning Champion, Keith.

Check that battle out here:



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    • vmartinezwilson profile image

      Vanessa Martinez Wilson 6 years ago from Vancouver, WA

      I agree that the peaches sounded awful, but Gail is pretty particular about those things, so I'll just take her word on it.

      Currently, I don't care for Sarah and that's probably why I'm thinking she was pushing the whole 'she's from Texas' thing. Texans are very loyal and have a lot of pride for everything Texas. It wouldn't surprise me if she got a few votes that way. I do like that she makes simple, but delicious food and that's the only thing hoping she doesn't go the route of the villain for the season.

      I have to agree with you about Beverly They have noted the unusual way she presents herself: by saying she's the only bread winner and that their existence depends entirely on her, the reafirmations and posterbording that she'll win and her screaming at the meat counter during the first challenge. None of these things scream cray cray by themselves, but together give some idea that something big might happen.

      And yes, it really does make for good television. I know I'll be tuning in.

      Thank you much Alecia; I'm glad to chat with others who are enjoying this season as much as I am.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I agree with your assessment. I wasn't sure about Heather's placement of peaches but it worked. And I'm still not sure about what to think about Sarah, she helped them win but I still think she'd do anything to win.

      I was thinking the same thing about Cray Cray Ed. When he said, "I might have to kill 5 other people to get in, but if I have to I will." I was like oh no, crazy alert but then it wouldn't be Top Chef without some craziness.

      Now I think Beverly's the real cray cray one. She's crying at the drop of a hat and then everything else she's done is suspicious as well but it makes for good television. Good job!