Author’s note: This is a continuation of a series of blogs about the experience of watching my daughter, Chef Dakota Weiss, make her way through Bravo TV’s Top Chef Texas, currently airing on Wednesday nights.
The rodeo theme for last night’s Top Chef Season 9, episode 4, was the perfect allegory for these talented contestants: Pull up you boots and hang on, because it’s going to be one heck of a ride. And like a rodeo cowboy, these chefs hope they draw the perfect metaphorical bull that gives them the best eight-second ride.
I’ve concluded after watching many seasons of Top Chef that it’s often the luck of the draw that includes making a decision that competes with a heartless eight-second buzzer. And that even the first chef who must pack his/her knives and go home, does not reflect the quality of that chef’s work and talent. (I joined the cry-fest when Chef Keith Rhodes packed his knives last week.) In other words, these chefs are not all hat and no cattle. They have the hat (toque) and can round-up and make tasty just about anything off the ranch—including a few rattlesnakes.
So when Bravo TV announced this week’s Top Chef competition included a hot chile quickfire and a rodeo chili cook-off, I whooped and hollered. After all, Dakota Weiss (my daughter and one of this season’s cheftestants) broke in her cooking skills at Mark Miller’s Coyote Café in Santa Fe. Miller was the one who distinguished one chile from the other in his The Great Chile Book. Dakota knows chile.
Habaneros, as we now know from the recent spate of news from the recent pepper spraying on UC Davis students, rates between 100,000 to 350,000 Scoville units of heat—this was Dakota’s pepper of choice. No surprise. But the ghost pepper, the mega-hot of the ultra-hot chiles, brought some blazing luck to the only chef who risked preparing an eatable dish that used the hottest pepper on earth (says Guinness Book of Records).
“I didn’t win this one, and my dish landed in the middle of the judges’ choice,” Dakota said.
The chili cook-off gave Dakota a temporary back at the ranch kind of comfort. “I was excited about the chili cook-off–I mean, Mom, how many ways have you made chili when I was a kid? Always yummy.”
(Thank you, very much, dear daughter.)
Dakota cowboyed up and sweated out the next 36 hours with her “red team” to create a rodeo fan favorite chili. Yes–she stayed up the entire 36-hours.
Like the pepper quickfire, she rode in the middle with votes.
But as her mother, Dakota’s concerns before the competition began, echoes at the end of each broadcast.
“Mom, I feel way out of my league.”
“No, no, no,” I corrected. “You would not be there if you were out of your league.”
“Well, there are some absolutely amazing chefs in this competition.”
Meanwhile as my google search reined in reviews and blogs about Episode 3, I learned the venomous side of playing this game.
Rakes wrote a few blogs—rake being cowboy slang for a loose, disorderly vicious person. Their take on Dakota included phrases like, “hyped up all the time,” “drug user” “older than 35,” and “always ready to cry.”
Now, if these rakes actually knew Dakota they would understand a few things. I’ll list them.
“Hyped up.” Yup. That’s right and exactly like her mother and her sister. We are high energy women and challenged to contain our energy and excitement.
“Drug user.” Wrong. In the nasty blog I wrote about cocaine users, I could have by-lined Dakota’s name as the author.
“Older than 35.” Yup. Make that 35 and a half.
“Always ready to cry.” Yup. That girl has heart and soul. Sit my daughters and I in front of an emotional film, we’re a mess; sling us a good joke, and the tears roll; piss us off and grab your slickers for the flood about to come forth.
Wisely, Dakota put a six-shooter to her google search and is busy in the kitchen, today, assuring her Thanksgiving menu pleases the sold out restaurant at the W. What’s for dinner at Nine Thirty tonight?
With bourbon spiked maple syrup, spicy pepitas.
Roasted turkey breast stuffed with port braised cranberries and pecans
Wild mushroom stuffed croquettes
Orange-cardamom glazed yams
Sautéed haricot vert
Trio of mini pies:
Saffron roasted pumpkin pie
White chocolate macadamia nut pie
Buttermilk-rum raisin pie