Top Chef Texas Episode 12: Chef Ed ‘Teddy Roosevelt’ Hardy on the Joy of Tofu

Having exhausted her wardrobe, Padma borrows daughter Krishna's onesie for tonight's episode.

He’s speaking softly and carrying a big stick, but we were still able to revisit the latest episode of Top Chef: Texas with Ed Hardy of Red Rooster Harlem.

How scary is this first speed challenge? As you move up the food chain as a chef, is it possible that you lose some of that prep-chef speed, when it comes to taking down, like, 40 chickens or whatnot?

A year ago I wouldn’t have admitted it, but its true. You DO lose some of your speed. I can feel my Super Chef speed being drained away by that vile, despicable, chef kryptonite known as meetings. Most of them are about how to motivate my staff. I always have the same answer: “A stick! Duh!”

Is there a solid corn dekerneling technique? Sometimes in my farm mags, see special tools for it, but I always just use a knife. Not sure if mine would pass muster with Chef Cora, though.

Always just use a knife. Flip the knife around and use the flat edge to “juice” the corn if you so desire.

Chef Cora? Let’s talk about “Chef” Cora. She’s not a chef. Not by a longshot. She’s a media creation. True, she was sous chef at the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company Inn for a year (now closed) and was Chef de Cuisine at Bistro Don Giovanni for, like, half a year. But from that to Iron Chef? Nada. She’s deliberately kept her career off her bio because there isn’t anything there. We deserve better. She’s not qualified to judge toast, much less pasta. And, before my wife jumps on me for being harsh to Lady Chefs, let me repeat that some of the best chefs I’ve worked with in the business are women. Missy Robbins at A Voce, Meg Grace at The Redhead, Melinda Bradley at Canon Seattle, Melissa Close at Palladio — I’ve been  honored to work with them all. Cat Cora? Not so much.

You forgot Lisa Griffin! What is Grayson’s disconnect here with the pasta? I mean, she pulls it out, but that was like a hot mess. Is pasta-making a skill you can lose if you don’t use it?

Yes. This the beating heart of the “chef as a craftsman” theory. Unless I’m making pasta every day, my fingers start to lose the feel of the dough. It’s almost entirely tactile. Now, don’t get me wrong, pasta isn’t that hard, and it’s certainly not as complicated as Bill Buford made it out to be in his really derivative book Heat. You don’t need to be an Italian grandma or Marcella Hazan to make it. It’s not mystical; it’s flour and eggs. You didn’t see because they cut away from Grayson, but she just needed to develop the gluten a bit more. If she folded it again and passed it through the roller, she could have been fine (I’ll bet she did.)

Despite Ed's protests, people seem to believe that Cat Cora is a real chef.

Ugh! How did Paul forget those shrimp?

I think he’s right. He is a bad-luck charm when paired with Ed. Too much talent spoils the soup? Or, maybe it was his fabulous, fabulous socks. Whatever, I think he loses occasionally just to screw with the other cheftestants minds.

It really stinks that Chris and Grayson bested the girls, if only because they were so organized. What does this say about creativity, though?

I remember saying this last time I was a guest commentator here, before you cheated on me with that other Chef Ed — the brain gets in the way of cooking. If you have time to think about what you’re doing, you are almost guaranteed to over-think what you’re doing.

So, this EC…you would think that with Healthy Choice as the sponsor they would have a clue as to the dish needing to be healthy from the get-go, no?

It looked like they missed that part. I honestly think the heat is slowly starting to cook their brains. By the way, are chefs just allowed to invent words and dishes? What the hell is Kalbi? Is it a dish or just fancy Korean for grilled meat? When I’m on Top Chef, I’m going to make Shammalammadingdong, which, of course, is a traditional Southern dish. Which will taste a lot like fried chicken.

Chicken salad. Is this as uninspired as we think? I mean, Grayson had some harsh exchange with Tom there at the end. Was she right — like, could chicken-salad sammies be the next big thing?

This whole season is uninspired. This is the third or fourth time we’ve seen short rib, and then we have chicken-salad sandwiches and meatballs. What has gotten into these people? Where’s the adventure? To answer your question, no, chicken-salad sammies are not The Next Big Thing. The only inspired thing was her response to Tom. Classic entertainment! Faith in Top Chef restored! Give ’em hell, Grayson!

Have you ever used tofu as a mayo substitute? I recall Eric Ripert saying how much he didn’t like tofu, and I just interviewed another French chef this week who also didn’t love tofu! Thoughts?

I have some complicated and nuanced thoughts when it comes to tofu. They are as follows: Tofu = Bad. There is one small caveat I must include though: Tofu skin = Good. Tofu skin is the stuff they scrape off the top during tofu production. It’s delicious and full of umami. Try a little in any asian recipe or soup. You won’t be disappointed. Also, one more observation: Padma’s tofu-colored, grown-up diapers getup = bad.

Dear Chris J., I will miss you, your duo of glasses, and, most of all, your man-bun. Love, Caroline

I order this thing called a Golden Pillow at my fave sushi bar. It’s tofu skin stuffed with sticky rice, spicy tuna, avocado and other delights. I will concur that tofu skin is all kinds of tasty goodness. And, as a vegetarian-in-training, tofu has a place in my life. Anyway, the making-to-order created long lines, but in that hot sun, it was the smart move and the judges didn’t really take them to task over timing. I am also surprised at the amount of bread being used. I would have avoided bread as much as possible here, like Lindsay did.

Look, Lindsay’s head doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. Maybe because there is something going on in there. She used lemon and chickpea flour responsibly. She probably should have won, but I think it’s in Paul’s contract that he wins every challenge. A quick check of the Paul-O-Meter reveals, yep, he’s up to $50,000 already. Even if he loses at this point, he’s already won. I absolutely agree there was too much bread. Why not a quick brown rice cracker? Here’s one for your readers: Cook some brown rice, puree it, spread it thinly on a Silpat, bake it, and cut it.

We say goodbye to Chris J. I know I haven’t been his biggest fan, but I think Ed got seriously lucky today.

Chris just wasn’t suited to this competition, I guess. He obviously is a decent chef and certainly probably pretty good in a molecular environment, but he never really got comfortable. Case in point, he lost to Bev in the Last-Chance Kitchen, which is online for your viewing pleasure, but only if you’re a real masochist. Hey, that reminds me, next week we get Pee-Wee Herman!

Paging Mr. Herman!


  1. Anne S says

    Did someone eat bittercakes (or Ed’s dry bun) for breakfast? Harsh words about Cat Cora. Furthermore – not sure if he’s just snarking but yes, “kalbi” is real and not made up; can’t he just google that (you did, obviously, because you included a link)? Finally: there was cheering in my house that Grayson & Chris won over Lindsay and Sarah. My foot they lost (per Sarah) ONLY because Cora doesn’t like tarragon (even though Cora said they used that element well), and how they just KNOW their dish was better? Such unfounded arrogance! I watched their sourpuss reactions to the loss with glee. They do nothing but deflect their deficiencies onto their perceptions of others’ faults. It’s so unattractive and, really, speaks to their own insecurity (despite the aforementioned arrogance). Paul, Ed, and Grayson for the finals!


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