‘Top Chef: Texas’: Sarah turns wolverine mean

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When Sarah said to her team at the beginning of Wednesday’s “Top Chef: Texas” restaurant wars, “We have to stay calm, we have to trust each other,” you felt as if you were watching Charlie Sheen swearing, “I’m not crazy anymore.” It’s like a scene in a movie where a man turns to his girlfriend and says “Life couldn’t possibly be better” just as a meteor crashes through their roof, or when George H.W. Bush pledges, “Read my lips. No new taxes.”

In other words, you know it won’t happen.

Sarah is turning as sour as week-old buttermilk left in the sun, as bitter as bolted radicchio, as unpleasant as rancid olive oil.

And yet, like that jar of pickles in the back of your refrigerator, she doesn’t go away, even when her cooking is as pitiable as her personality. But the longer she lasts, the worse she becomes. Sarah reminds us of what an Oscar-winning producer once told us about Eddie Murphy: “The word grateful is not in his vocabulary.”

In Wednesday’s restaurant wars, the four remaining women were pitted against the four remaining men in a competition Chris J. smartly likened to a “Kobayashi Maru,” an unwinnable Starfleet training exercise in “Star Trek.” The time given to plan (45 minutes) and prepare (five hours) a three-course, two-option menu borders on the absurd; and, not surprisingly, none of the food really looked that good.


But the conceit of restaurant wars is less about the food, and more about the contestants — specifically, not only how they will manage the division of labor but also how they will cope with the pressure. No sooner were Sarah’s United Nations remarks out of her mouth that she turned on Beverly (for suggesting the team cook beets!) and Grayson (who thought sliced berries would be better than whole ones!).

And while graceful losers are hard to come by in life as in television, Sarah distinguished herself as a graceless winner, saying after Beverly won the evening’s top prize that Lindsay deserved “as much praise or more” than Beverly.

We will miss the eliminated Ty-Lör, whose cooking was often as sharp as his wit, and typically treated his colleagues as if they were friends and not rivals. But his shrimp and crab dish was deemed the worst of the evening, by judges who seemed to have forgotten the conditions under which the food was planned, prepared and plated (I’d pay to see Emeril Lagasse try to serve 100 people nothing more complicated than breakfast with just two other people in the kitchen).

Whenever guest judge Hugh Acheson gets all high and mighty about ineptitude — he called Chris J.’s dessert “a bit of a jumbled mess in a bowl” — we feel compelled to remember that he was the very first chef sent home when he appeared on “Top Chef: Masters” a year ago (he was reinstated only after John Sedlar was forced to withdraw from the competition).

So maybe Hugh and Sarah can have a cold beer together, calm down, and try to behave just a little more kindly. As New Year’s resolutions go, it shouldn’t be that hard, should it?


‘Top Chef: Texas’: Fixin’ to get interesting

‘Top Chef: Texas’: Diners are all hat, no cattle

-- John Horn