Top Chef Texas Episode 14: At Cloche Range with Chef Ed ‘Cowbell’ Hardy

"Do these shoes go with this napkin?"

I’ve got Valentine’s Day on my mind lately, but, thanks to all the cloches, we’re getting dark, Brad Whitewood, Sr.-style, on the latest episode of Top Chef: Texas with Ed Hardy of Red Rooster Harlem.

Hey, Ed! You scared yet? You oughta be. So, first up, why does Bev scare everyone as much as Christopher Walken in At Close Range? She’s not at all creepy!

Are we doing a Christopher Walken 80’s movie this week? It had better have Crispin Glover in it, or I’m outta here [Checks IMDB] Okay, it does. But, next time run the theme past me, okay? Much like Crispin Glover, Beverly creeps out everyone anytime she’s in the room. From Paul the Monk to Ed the Clown to Lindsay the Southern Drawl Ya’ll, they all don’t seem to be comfortable with her. Even Tom seems to pre-defend her by saying that she has been doing a good job. There is obviously something going on here. Having a lot of faith in yourself and your abilities is no substitute for actually having those abilities.

So, the blind-folded pantry QFC definitely has a very marching-to-my-doom feel to it. I wish they’d done a total smell test to choose things, as this seemed more an exercise in luck than skill.

Did you see them smoking in the opening? I’ve never understood why my peers insist on pursuing a habit that will directly affect their palates and careers. So, to answer question, Caroline, I don’t think these guys would be able to pass the smell test anymore. Did you see Paul sniffing and tasting? He was like the calm in the middle of the storm. Vegetables should be easy enough to feel out. I think with the right idea for a dish and a simple plan, you can rule out luck.

"Ha! Did you see the look on Ed's face when Bev walked through the doors? I thought he was going to wet himself!"

In terms of the QFC, two contenders’ fish dishes are undercooked, which, in light of  the chef-judges’ reputations makes me believe that they were REALLY undercooked because slightly underdone is almost the sweet spot. Thoughts?

The devil is in the details. Tom seemed to be giving Paul and his underdone shrimp a chance to argue the point. Beverly’s underdone bass seemed like a forgone conclusion, especially since we saw her start to butcher the fish with about five minutes left. Bass is a fish that just doesn’t taste good underdone. The flesh gets really chewy. Shrimp, however, is a little more forgiving.

Ed comes close, but Sarah wins, and she takes ultimate immunity. Isn’t this the smart choice? And, why are people calling her chicken for not taking the car and heading straight to the final EC? Will she live to tell?

If I’m Sarah, this is definitely a smart choice. It will be worth it after she counts all of her endorsement money after the show. Ed’s dish was a stroke of genius. I think he deserved extra credit for that pork casing broth.

I can't decide if Christopher Walken's At Close Range guyliner is creepy or a turn-on. Discuss.

Unlike the Whitewoods, and as a New Yorker, I’m sure you’d reject the car, no? Wouldn’t a vehicle, no matter how spendy, be slightly undesirable to deal with for Manhattanites and other city mice who favor subways and public transportation?

I’d reject the car, but not because I’m a New Yorker. It’s because of the car. Cars always say something about you, and the Prius-V says, “I’ve given up being even remotely interesting or sexy in favor of coldly calculated economy and grocery-getting.” Besides, I’m a country mouse. I’m paying outrageous garage fees for my SUV because I don’t want to let go of my last vestiges of southern-ness. Plus, the best show on television has taught me that owning a Prius is not something that manly men do.

The cheftestants have to make a dish for their mentors. If you’ve seen At Close Range, you know that mentors come in the forms of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Do you have someone you’d call a mentor at some point in your career, even recently?

For a while I wanted Todd English to be my mentor, but then I realized I was waaay sexier than him. Plus, I’m sure he’s waaay busy personally ensuring the quality standards at each of his restaurants. I thought about Mario Batali for a while hoping he could teach me to wear Crocs and hang out with Gwyneth Paltrow, and then I thought about asking Gwyneth herself to mentor me. But, it turns out that Gwyneth is too busy writing fabulous cookbooks that help regular working-class gals. You know, women just like her. At best I guess, I have a hodgepodge of mentors. I’ve been learning a lot from Marcus Samuelsson recently. I now know things about pickles and herring that I never dreamed of knowing 10 years ago.

"Is it the shorts? Because, you know, I don't have to wear them. Seriously."

Paul frets that his dish is too simple, while Lindsay frets over too many components. How many ingredient/flavor-accomplices are ideal? Is less more?

This is a complicated question. I try to focus on less ingredients and components these days, trying instead to make four or five flavors really stand out. I think cutting-edge cusine is moving away from having 10 different flavors cutely arranged at different points on a plate. This does not mean that you can’t have a lot of ingredients; it just means that you have to make sure they are working harmoniously. Ed and Lindsay’s dish lost their themes a bit, adding one extra flavor and some unnecessary cream. When in doubt, leave it out!

The mentors give out various advice/observations. Bev’s says, “If you’re passionate about something and you believe in it, it’s going to work for you.” Lindsay’s says, “I just want her to be happy.” Paul’s says, “He was the first person that I ever worked with where I would show him something and teach him and he would come back two days later and he would have done it better than I did.” Ed’s mentor says, “Edward was as green as green can be, but he had that fire inside to say, ‘I’ll show you, I’ll show you.’ He was determined.” Finally, I believe that Brad Whitewood said of a mentee, “That boy ain’t got the life expectancy of a housefly.” Which remark would most flatter or scare you coming from a mentor or a peer?

Anything Christopher Walken says would scare me. Remember him in Suicide Kings?  I still remember the first compliment I received in a kitchen. It was from former Hampton University defensive tackle-cum-chef Troy Woodson, whom I was completely scared of. On a busy night he turns to me and says, “You know, you get real quiet when you’re busy… and really fast. I like that.”

This is an actual picture of my own muscle car. It's got a 351 Cleveland V8 under the hood and is all original. Except for the totally boss Cragars I put on it.

Your Paul won, and he’s probably all like, “I see money, I see things,” (a la Brad Whitewood) but, sadly, your namesake went home. I’m a bit shocked, ’cause Ed’s dish really sounded like a few of my favorite things. Sadly, his worst fears came true as Bev took her revenge!

The Paul-o-Meter registers at $50,000 and a car at this point. I’m sure Paul will get to pick Ed as a sous chef during the finale. That sets up an interesting situation, because I’m sure Beverly will be there, too.

I apologize if you haven’t seen At Close Range, but it’s a must-see. Sean Penn and Walken at their finest! Also, muscle cars! Woot!

I haven’t seen it. I’ll watch it tonight. At last, Caroline, something we can agree on besides responsibly sourced food. Muscle Cars!


  1. Chef Ed says

    Can I borrow your car? Seriously? We’ve never talked about muscle cars before and you were hiding this from me? I used have an Olds that I stuck a bigger carb on and liked to pretend was the 442 instead of the 350, but seriously, I never realized you were so cool!

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