Top Chef Texas - Goat rodeo

Well, I sure put the whammy on Keith, didn't I? Pre-cooked shrimp and pre-made tortillas? To say nothing of being the wrong kind of tortilla? I'd say something about prison food, but dude had to have earned his James Beard attention for something other than nutraloaf.

(I'll give you time to look that up.) (Also, do check out the second Last Chance Kitchen.)

I thought the Quickfire was cute, making all the squeamish chefs think they were not only going to have to dispatch a live rattlesnake, but coax it out of a friggin' mailbox. It was good to see the guest judge stick to his guns, giving the three simplest preparations of rattler the top spots. Dakota Weiss BS'd her "when I think of rattlesnake, I think of beer" line into a victory, but I would have picked weepy Beverly Kim's rattlesnake nigiri.

This season is clearly not going to be about outsized personalities; there are some real bummers in this cast. Chuy "Official Mexican Palate" Valencia, Paul "The Lone Lone Star" Qui, and Heather "Does Anyone Have a Mallet for This Cake" Terhune struck me as having good temperaments for the competition and all of its oddities.

It was nice to see the show return to elevated Mexican food; it seems like the last time we had this kind of challenge was Season 4, when Erik expressed doubts of Mexican cuisine's upper limits. Fortunately, everyone played nice for young Blanca's quinceanera. Beverly was clearly working through some personal issues, serving Mexican-by-way-of-Korean food, and totally losing her shit over the daddy-daughter dance.

Chuy cranked out two fine-lookin' dishes: a pasilla-balsamic BBQ rattlesnake, and braised goat birria just like abuelito used to make. MOTO's Chris Jones (total nerd, by the way, and not the cool kind--the Star Wars-quoting kind) impressed with a cumin-breaded rattlesnake in a Jackson Pollock presentation, and a really appealing mushroom empanada.

The Team With the Mexican took the win, though no single chef was credited with the grand prize. But then, being given a pass from standing at a really whiny, blame-gamey Judges' Table--way too petulant for the first real week of competition--was reward enough.

Sarah Grueneberg and Lindsay Autry botched the cochinita pibil that Blanca requested, and used store-bought tortillas to boot. Sarah gave up Keith Rhodes' shrimp screw-up (which would have otherwise been invisible since Lindsay never served them), and Keith had to own up to it with the judges. Ty-Lör Boring served a bad fritter, but his carne asada ensured that he was never in danger of elimination; his umlaut stayed in place.

At the end of deliberation, Keith was sent packing for a mushy, unrefined enchilada that didn't live up to regional standards of construction anyway. His poor judgment on the shrimp was probably what spared Lindsay the axe. Ah, but then the Last Chance Kitchen... I'll say that it's definitely the right choice to not tell the chefs about it until after they've been cut.

This week we got the clowns; next week the real rodeo--and more tears from Beverly!