The second episode of Top Chef: Houston aired last night on Thursday, following up the exciting premiere from last week, during which Austin’s sole contender chef Jo Chan created a salsa verde in the season’s first Quickfire round to help her team’s Thai-inspired steak salad win elimination immunity.
This week’s go-around, Chan’s confessionals kept her in the spotlight while her last-minute quick thinking helped secure some major points for her team in the elimination challenge.
Jo Chan’s banter stands out in Quickfire
Each contestant was instructed to create a queso dip complete with a non-tortilla chip dipper for the Quickfire challenge, which was presented by Houston chef and legend Irma Galvan. Chan’s food doesn’t get much attention during this segment, though during the challenge, she engages in some light-hearted banter about the “queso weight” she gained after moving to Austin. She also discusses the ins and outs of making good queso in a confessional. Her harissa queso and roasted cauliflower dipper kept her safe without any sort of feedback shown on screen, and chef Demarr Brown’s queso won him immunity that round.
Is Chan the narrator of the season?
Following the quickfire challenge, host Padma Lakshmi brings out Houston chef Chris Shepherd from Underbelly Hospitality. Chan is once again shown in the confessional, this time discussing Shepherd’s accolades and involvement in the Houston dining scene, demonstrating Chan’s culinary know-how and putting her in the running for the narrator of the episode, if not the season.
Something, something, football
The elimination challenge is introduced, and the directive is to create dishes with a lot of carbs. Some convoluted football metaphor dictates the structure of the challenge, where the competitors are divided into two groups of seven, the Cougars and the Wildcats, the latter of which includes Chan.
Each team was tasked with putting together seven carb-y dishes to go head-to-head with the opposing team, in hopes of winning the approval of one of five judges who vote for their favorites via shaking a pom-pom. The pom-pom votes equal five yards on the football field, where the challenge is physically taking place. So the more votes, the closer the team gets to a touchdown. After seven rounds, whichever team scores a touchdown gets immunity from elimination. If no one scores a touchdown, no one is immune, except for Demarr Brown who already won his ticket to episode three. See? Convoluted.
Chan reveals her origin story
As the Elimination Challenge begins, we’re once again shown a confessional from Chan, who further breaks down some of the hard-to-follow rules, stressing the challenge’s stakes. Later, we later get more backstory on Chan’s upbringing as a Chinese person whose parents grew up in the Philippines, describing herself as ethnically Chinese and culturally Filipino. Chan tells the viewers that her previous experience as a chef in California was more influenced by Italian cooking, stating that it wasn’t until recently that she started “melding her two worlds together,” in Austin at American restaurant Eberly.
Black garlic to the rescue
While Chan is preparing her dish—a barley congee with green pepper and tamari-infused mushroom slaw— chef Dawn Burrell, her team’s coach (because it’s football), comes by for a taste, noting something is lacking from the congee. Chan looks around and finds a jar of black garlic and has her ‘aha’ moment. When she finally goes to present her dish to the judges, facing off against chef Stephanie Miller and her “feijoada,” the congee is unanimously chosen as the superior dish, earning 25 yards for the Wildcats. As Chan and Miller walked back to their stations, Lakshmi noted how integral the black garlic was to Chan’s dish.
No touchdowns, but plenty of personal success
Despite both teams’ best efforts, neither were able to rack up enough yards to score a touchdown, so the contestants were judged on an individual basis, much to the chagrin of everyone involved. The MVP award (aka immunity) was once again given to Demarr Brown, who unfortunately cannot bank those for future episodes. In the end, it was Miller, Chan’s opponent in the elimination challenge, who was sent to pack her knives.
Overall, it was a strong episode for Chan, both in terms of positive screen time and in the challenges themselves. We’re getting more and more of Chan’s personality and chef skills on the show, and it’s exciting to watch. Football metaphors aside, things appear to be heating up on this season of Top Chef: Houston.