Top Chef Season 19 Episode 2 Recap: Friday Night Bites

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This week Grand Chief: Houston the episode opens with my favorite dairy delicacy, CHEESE, and many more. At the start of the episode, we see a selection of cheddar, gouda, and even cheese fondue. Judge and host Padma Lakshmi stood alongside guest judge and Houstonian Irma Galvan, known for her delicious Mexican cuisine and restaurant, Irma’s Original.

The diverse tower of cheeses from around the world was an immediate indicator of the chefs’ first quick challenge: the queso. The challenge may seem simple but, of course, it is Excellent chef- chefs were doubly challenged to use an appetizer other than tortilla chips for dipping.

Our only Houstonian, Evelyn García, says she was “raised on queso,” but thought ahead to meet the challenge, creating adobo con queso and taro chips. She wowed the judges with her dish, receiving praise from Galvan for the plate presentation – García served her queso in a cast iron skillet and slapped the taro chips on a yellow-rimmed plate. Lakshmi enjoyed the taste, saying she understood the “gooey, hot and crunchy”. Although Garcia received positive feedback, she lost former teammate Damarr Brown’s quick challenge for her mild cheddar queso with pickled serrano peppers topped with breadcrumbs and smoked paprika. But the competition was just beginning.

Chef Chris Shepherd of Underbelly Hospitality returned as a judge this week to kick off the Elimination Challenge: Friday Night Bites, which pays homage to the rich football traditions we have in Houston. The Chiefs were split into two teams of seven, the Wildcats versus the Cougars. The teams were coached by Chief Dawn Burrell for the Wildcats and Sam Talbot of Top Chef Los Angeles for Cougars. (As a graduate of the University of Houston and supporting Chef Evelyn, I naturally had to cheer on the Cougars; sorry, Chef Dawn!)




Each team had to prepare seven carb-laden dishes (think bread, beans, potatoes, and pasta). With each team member responsible for one dish, each plate would face off against a chef from the opposing team. Keeping in the spirit of Bayou City, the elimination challenge was launched on the grass of the Tomball ISD football stadium.

García had planned to create a turmeric sea bass dish with a Tamrin rice noodle. She planned the concept well, but her uncertainty with her overcooked noodles led her to turn to another dish, with teff, quinoa, farro and Israeli couscous. Her last-minute change made things dicey for the hometown favourite. She took on chef Sam Kang, who has previously worked in two Michelin-starred kitchens. His dish, a roasted sweet potato slathered in brown butter, white soy and garlic with a yogurt dressing, won over the judges, pushing the Wildcats ahead by 20 points.

Garcia’s dish did well with the judges, but was told he was too busy. Lakshmi called it “too many things in one bowl”. Luckily, the dish was quite tasty and helped her avoid elimination.

So far it seems my prediction was right – Brown, whom I called the is the underdog of the season in last week’s episode, becomes one of the favorites of the show. Brown was named MVP of this week’s challenge, after he stunned the judges with Dirty Farro, Ndouja with Chicken Thighs and Chicken Liver, a meal inspired by his mother.

Next week, we’ll see the top two eliminated chefs, Leia Gaccione and Stephanie Miller, face off on Last Chance Kitchen. Until then, we’re still supporting Chef Evelyn, in hopes she’ll continue to be the pride of H-Town.

More information about Bravo’s Top Chef here.

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