City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Behind the curtain with Hector Santiago: Top Chef Texas, Episode 3

hector_santiago_headshot_05As part of our ongoing Top Chef Texas coverage, Atlanta Top Chef alum Hector Santiago of Pura Vida and Super Pan Latino Sandwich Shop will drop in from time to time with an insider’s perspective on the week’s events on the show. Here is Hector’s take on episode three….

On the Elimination Challenge:

Right off the bat you can tell that Keith is going to have a bad day – frozen cooked shrimp?? Yikes! And I had such hopes for him as a “minority” chef that had gone through so much and having become a James Beard nominee.

The green team seems to have a better hold on the challenge. They have a plan before shopping – a must to assure a win and having an expert Mexican palate to guide them through the challenge is a big advantage. The fact that they use Chuy as a sounding board shows the maturity level of the team. All of their dishes look promising and well conceived. Chris J’s empanadas with a masa dough looked goooood.

There is no bickering or backstabbing going on, unlike the pink team where the shrimp situation is coming to a boil. Keith starts to be left out on his own while the girls in the back are planning his demise…it’s a team challenge! Get over it and help the guy, so y’all can succeed.

Tortilla: If you are serving a Mexican family, you must have tortillas. But what about buying them in the store? That’s what I would do. They are hard to make, time consuming and after all that effort, I doubt that they will be better that what you can buy at the store. The trick is to know which kind to use for a given dish. All tortillas are not created equal! Ty-Lor seems to have a winning dish, and he did pick up the right tortilla, “El Milagro”, which is very good for tacos and to serve on the side, but not good for frying.

Over and over again, we hear from Tom “did you guys make them yourself?” I for one would like to see Tom or Padma attempt to make fresh tortillas for 100+ people, a task that would take 1 to 2 contestants all of their challenge time, and still wouldn’t guarantee that they will be good. Trust me – I made 100 mini tortillas in a Top Chef challenge and if my team did not come to save me, I would have gone down!

On the cakes:

A glance at the tres leches reveals my biggest fear for the green team. A tres leches cake is heavy, moist, and very difficult to handle. To stack the cake layers and not have them collapse on each other is very difficult, as you can see when it’s starts to lean to the side.

While the green team’s leaning tower of tres leches looked iffy, it seems to be a great hit with the crowd, (“Autentico mexicano!” one of them proclaims). The pink team listened to Blanca’s request, but that Wal-Mart bakery cake not only looked hideous, it was over frosted, under moist, and over stuffed with the fruit compotes. DESSERT is the Achilles heal of most chefs!

On Judge’s Table:

“El autobus del camaron Rosado” or the pink shrimp bus is coming your way, on a steep hill and without breaks! Watch out y’all you may get thrown under it. It’s mayhem at the judges table. A quick glance at Tom’s face reveals him to be pretty embarrassed by the chefs behavior.

Keith winds up proclaiming that they use of flour tortillas in enchiladas in his region of the country. Ummm…which region is that? On the Borders or Uncle Julio’s?

Is buying Tortillas a bigger offence than buying cooked frozen shrimps? Not to me. I’m sorry Keith but I agree with Hugh and the judges: frozen cooked shrimp and flour tortilla on an enchilada are unforgivable offences. “Hasta la vista amigo“.

4 comments Add your comment

carla roqs

November 22nd, 2011
10:10 am

jon, with hector’s first paragraph- i am going to have to cut you both off and switch to my alter ego. wow, hector, minority, amigo, for real? you really went there? who has high hopes for someone because they are a minority? nasty, hector, nasty– and not a good review overall. bad choice to run this one, jon.


November 22nd, 2011
12:00 pm

Loving these installments with Hector. I was also surprised about the criticism for pre-made tortillas – there’s only so much time.

Pre-cooked shrimp, otoh….


November 22nd, 2011
4:28 pm

Carla, I really do not understand your argument here, you don’t make much sense. At first I agreed with the judges about the tortillas, but after thinking more about it and seeing Hector’s opinion, I agree with him that it would have been prohibitively time-consuming to make fresh tortillas. Now, using the wrong kind of tortilla, that is unforgivable.

carla roqs

November 25th, 2011
9:40 am

edward, my issue is not an argument. my issue is hector’s second sentence which states how much hope he’d had for keith as a “minority” cook. wtheck?? be for him because he is a comeback kid after being in jail, for any reason than because he is a minority cook. that is ignorant and it turns me off of his review. btw, hector, you are a minority cook and one would hope you do well simply because you are a great cook.