Top Chef Texas - Deep cuts

So now we have our familiar 16 chefs; it only took us two weeks to get there. Anyone else think we're going to see more double-eliminations than usual this season? (This "Last Chance Kitchen" online shadow competition seems interesting, but are they hiding the surviving chef away from the rest of the contestants? How did it work in the real world of filming?)

It seemed like there was a little more focus on the food this week, or else last week's food was really that underwhelming. I liked a lot of the big flavors at play, even if not all of them made it through. The seared trout with Asian tomato salad from Paul, Edward's duck chawanmushi, and Beverly's octopus nakji bokum all speak to some strong Asian dishes to come. (The eliminated short rib and oxtail were victims primarily of the cooking technique rather than their Asian flavors.)

This was the gut-punch round, though. Only four chefs were eliminated in the first and second rounds combined; today, five of ten competing chefs were eliminated before the bubble round even started. Another four were booted in that bubble round, including the 51-year old Laurent. I could almost hear Colicchio thinking, There's only enough room for one bald-headed, soul-patched chef in the Top Chef Kitchen, and it ain't you, Laurent.

Lots of references to the old ball and chain back home--or in Janine's case, the heartless bitch who dumped her over the phone after a commitment ceremony that fell short of a Shakespearean sonnet. And actually, everyone who focused on their significant others this week got booted: Janine, Chaz (whose 40-minute risotto never made the plate), and Ashley (wife of a Filipino man whose mother will have some disapproving comments over the strength of her oxtail kare-kare).

Happy to see Wisconsin-born Greyson make the cut in the bubble round--even if she never mentions her New Holstein roots on-screen. (They're right there on the Bravo website, Greyson. Just embrace 'em!) Beverly seems fun, and Lindsay reminds me just a little of another Lindsay I know; she also appeared to really impress Tom with her braised veal.

So at the end of these preliminary rounds, we can draw a couple conclusions. Seattle is down (0-for-4, Chicago is up (6-for-6). Gender is split 50/50, and everyone's under 40--though, in fairness, only Oldy McOlderson Laurent was over 50. Paul Qui all by himself carries the home state's flag going into the real competition, unless Andrew brings his A-game to the D-league of the Last Chance Kitchen.

And Edward, in slicing up his hand but good, proves that every single chef is tougher and more dedicated than Jamie Lauren. (Sorry Jamie, but we shoot straight here in Texas.)

Looks like a good crew this season, and if Hugh Acheson can get over his verbal affectations the judges should do well, too. Me? I'm reeling from the previews, just waiting to see Padma say "motherfucking snakes on these motherfucking plates" again.