Top Chef recap: Quest for the Hot Tang

The chefs cook with "flavornocity of the highest order" and learn the art of boucherie
Ep. 08 | Aired Nov 20, 2013

Padma teaches Dr. John the art of clear communication. Dr. John decides to continue to be a legendarily cool, instead.


When presented with Brian’s lime and yuzu-infused green sauce, Padma asks Dr. John what he’s looking for in the hot sauces and he tells her what we would all tell her: the hip tang, Padma, duh. She very seriously says, “I understand,” and asks Brian if his hip tang comes from the yuzu. Indeed, it does. Nicholas’ sauce turns out too sweet and Nina and Carrie’s island flavors are too hot, but, according to Dr. John, other possible hip tang contenders include:  Carlos’ “mango maneuver,” and possibly the closest to actually defining “hip tang,” Justin’s incorporation of fermented anchovies. But no hot sauce made Dr. John want to go home and use it “immediatably” as much as Brian’s, so it’s a second, slightly more deserved Quickfire win for the saucier.

Padma sends Dr. John back to the woodland fantasy forest he came from and tells the chefs, “it’s time to pig out.” A woman of her word, a pig is brought out on its back, its insides  certainly more out than in. Artist/butcher/chef Toby Rodriguez, and guest judge, Exec. Chef and CEO of Link Restaurant Group, Donald Link, join Padma to tell the contestants about the craft of boucherie, a community coming together to break an animal down. The chefs’ Elimination Challenge is to butcher a 300 pound pig, using every part to create their own individual dishes.

Should be easy enough. “Now, let’s see, how should we go about butchering this pig? Alright, I guess Travis will just twist its head off like a new jar of pickles, then.” Yeesh, those noises were graphic. Travis, Louis and Nicholas go about butchering the pig while Sara backseat-butchers from the end of the table. It’s very possible she was edged out of the process by the boys, but giving instruction while you keep your hands clean is never a good look. Methinks the editors are setting Sara up for a villainous turn. Or, you know, she’ll just go home next week.

When it comes time to claim pig parts, Nina and Nicholas call dibs on the head so fast, you’d think that was the part bacon comes from (it’s not). Shirley gets the kidney and Carrie asks if she can see it, then immediately sticks it right up to her nose and takes a deep whiff, letting Shirley know it smells fresh. Uh, yeah girl, it came out of that headless pig literally 10 seconds ago.

With the hog divvied up, groceries purchased and last night’s dinner served by Toby Ramirez and his pack of traveling boucherie minstrels, the chefs take their fleet of Kias out to Bayou Barn to prepare a pork-filled feast for a group of partygoers and the judges. They’ll be cooking in the open air, using smokers, wood-fire grills and other more rustic accommodations than what most of them are used to. Speaking of getting used to things, Louis says that as a chef, he can be pretty anti-social, and, like every America’s Next Top Model contestant ever, he didn’t come here to make friends. But there’s a twist! He’s actually made more friends on Top Chef than he ever has in his life and it just makes him want to be there longer. Oh my goodness, that is so swee – uh oh, wait. I have a bad feeling about this.

NEXT: Nina and Justin eloquently handle a territory dispute (not)

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