If you haven't had a chance to check out Top Chef this season, you seriously need to. Not because of the cheftestants' popularity -- to be honest, the personalities we're seeing this go around in Austin, while pleasant for the most part, are lacking any real flair. There are no Hungs or Carlas or Fabios to root for (and thankfully no real Marcels to hate either) so, minus a few pointless forays into girly cattiness, it's been a fairly drama-free season.
What makes this show's ninth season the best one I've ever seen has nothing to do with who's competing and everything to do with the clever use of recent guest stars Charlize Theron and Paul Reubens (in character as Pee Wee Herman). Am I seriously hinging "The Best Season Ever" on only two episodes? Yeah, I am -- why? Because they were THAT fucking good.
Crazy-good actress Theron appeared a couple weeks ago to plug her latest film Snow White and the Huntsman. In the spirit of Theron's role as the Evil Queen, the cheftestant's were given the challenge of using their imagination to come up with a meal fit for her character -- and the results were incredible. I don't think I've ever seen chefs on Top Chef come up with such cool dishes -- so while I may knock them for not being dramatic enough, damn these bitches can cook!
Possibly the chillest girl on the show, Grayson Schmitz, delivered an amazing meal with black chicken done up to look like it was slaughtered directly on the plate -- the egg yolk baby and clawed chicken foot were beautifully frightening finishing touches and an awesome surprise coming from a girl who's walked the line of playing it safe.
As much as I can't stand Chris Jones (his hair just bothers me -- it's like the exact same haircut that all the budding metalheads would sport in high school because they wanted long hair but their parents wouldn't let them, and when he puts it up in a scrunchie I want to punch him in his face) his Poisoned Apple dessert was utter insanity.
But it was frontrunner Paul Qui, who's consistently taken risks and delivered exceptional food, who took the grand prize home with this incredible delivery of foie gras with bacon, pumpernickel, pickled cherries, and beets. While I hated his use of foie gras (it's SO cruel and disgustingl if you don't know how foie gras is made, watch this, then never eat it again), I thought his presentation was like nothing I'd ever seen come out of this show before. The win was his the second he put that down in front of the judges.
After the Theron episode, I thought there was nothing that could top it -- then Top Chef totally threw me for a loop when they had one of my heroes, Paul Reubens, appear this week in character as Pee Wee Herman.
Seeing as Top Chef is in Texas this season, it's only right they'd do something Alamo-related -- and how can anyone think of the Alamo (at least anyone born after 1975) without thinking of Reuben's iconic character travelling there in Pee Wee's Big Adventure in search of his beloved bicycle?
So there he is -- riding into the kitchen and straight into my heart -- to take part in the most exciting and fun elimination Top Chef has ever offered. After having each of the chef's make him pancakes for the Quickfire (and telling every one of them they had made the best pancakes he'd ever tasted) Padma and Pee Wee tell the chefs they're going on a Big Adventure of their very own. Back at their house Pee Wee's left them each a brand new red bicycle which they'll need to trek across town. After a stop at the farmer's market, each chef has to find a different restaurant which will let them prepare their meal, and then they have to get the food to Pee Wee and the other judges waiting back at the Alamo.
Watching these guys scramble to find ingredients and a place that would let them use their kitchen was so much fun -- Ed even had to make breakfast for one of the guests at the Bed & Breakfast he'd chosen to cook in -- and in the end they all made some really great food given the challenges they overcame in the limited time they had.
I heard that when this episode was shot a lot of fans showed up at the Alamo to see Reubens -- and every one of them left with nothing but glowing things to say about the star -- he was gracious, funny, kind, and stayed there for hours signing every single autograph and shaking every person's hand. I've always felt that's how stars are supposed to act, and it's why I adore Reubens so much -- he doesn't nearly get the accolades he should, and if you're not watching this season or at the very least trying to find reruns of these two episodes, Top Chef: Texas isn't getting the attention it deserves either.