Top Chef 9.5 recap: “Don’t Be Tardy for the Dinner Party”


A finger spewing blood in the kitchen, a pig carcass attacked with a hacksaw, a mysterious bagel-related accident, tears at a rodeo, and a scream of “nobody take my breast milk!”—welcome to the in-progress ninth season of Top Chef on Bravo.

This time the show—set in Texas and featuring Atlanta/Athens chef and Top Chef Masters contestant Hugh Acheson as one of the new judges—begins with a showdown at the Alamo among twenty-nine chefs, broken into three groups, to be whittled down to the official starting sixteen. Among the contestants vying for a coat: Whitney Otawka, who was sous chef under Acheson at 5&10 and now serves as executive chef of Farm 255 in Athens, and Janine Falvo, the executive chef at Briza Restaurant at the Renaissance Atlanta Midtown Hotel.

Falvo tells us that she’s had a rough go lately. Her long-time girlfriend recently dumped her over the phone. Sorry, Debbie Downer, but Acheson and his m-dash of an eyebrow will show no mercy to your seared scallops. She’s sent packing.

Now we’ll fast-forward, past the snake-cooking challenge (which prompted the world’s lamest take on Samuel L. Jackson’s f-bombs from the movie Snakes on a Plane from our fembot host and judge, Padma Lakshmi), the team challenge with the requisite bus-related reference (instead of the usual “she threw me under the bus,” a contestant yells at another: “You love driving the bus, hitting people!”), a quinceanera, and a chili cookoff appropriately brought to you by Prilosec.

This week’s episode, “Don’t be Tardy for the Dinner Party”—way to cross-promote your mind-numbing reality shows, Bravo!—has the chefs moving from San Antonio to Dallas (“Dolly Parton—isn’t she from Dallas?” chef Beverly Kim asks. C’mon, now!). They’re first sent into a muddy and crappy field to make meals out of emergency kits, and the sardines, Vienna sausages, and canned meat they throw together look as bad as that field probably smells. “It smells like holy s—t,” Chris Jones of Moto in Chicago says wisely.

Acheson is absent this week, and the guest judge is . . . Tommy Hilfiger? No, wait, sorry—I was blinded by those giant white chompers for a minute—it’s Louisiana restaurateur John Besh. He picks Lindsay Autry of Omphoy Ocean Resort in Palm Beach, Florida, and her Saltine cracker sandwich.

From here the chefs are split into teams to provide the appetizers, entrees, and desserts for a progressive dinner party in a tony Dallas ‘burb, hosted by short, rich men and the tall, tawny ladies who clearly love them for what’s on the inside.

These ladies have lots of requests (they like pink, hate cilantro, and obviously aren’t going to eat anything anyway), most of which inspire fake heh-heh-hehs from the female chefs and later prompt serious eye-rolling from Besh and head judge Tom Colicchio. Um, Tom? You lost all cred when, in talking about a cigar-inspired dish, you say: “Close, but no cigar.” Heh-heh-heh. Bleh.

Chef Chris Crary of Whist Restaurant in Los Angeles is on the dessert team, which he thinks is a good fit, since the host for that part of the party wants the cooks to channel their inner fat kids. Crary’s fat kid was on full display until two years ago, when his pals taunted him for being chunky. You too can lose 70 pounds with the help of ceaseless mockery!

In the end, Paul Qui of Uchiko in Austin, Texas, wins for his brussels sprouts and Chuy Valencia of Chicago’s Chilam Balam gets dismissed for his overcooked salmon slathered in goat cheese and wrapped in scorched corn husks.

Tune in next week for more steaks, more sweaty chefs, a trip to the hospital, Kim’s “f-ing slow” shrimp prep, and more of Chris Jones’s sumo-style topknot!