As 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 four….
This is a crucial moment thru the competition as everybody starts thinking of themselves and how to win or save themselves through the challenges to come. Some may put it all out there, some may play it safe, and some will try to ride the line between not getting eliminated or being in the middle.
Chiles, all kinds of them, and 20k on the line! You know that for all our love for chilies and hot foods (chefs in general) they are not used as much as they could be. Many chefs fear the heat factor that can overpower a dish if not used correctly, and you can see it as most of them go for the less hot ones. My experience with chilies is that the tastier they are, the hotter they are. The trick is to control the heat. Nyesha controls the heat by blanching her habaneros, Chuy roasts them whole, which increases the heat, and Beverly keeps it clean and naked for a “fresh” taste that I think would have been more successful she used something like the ghost chili, with its beautiful flavor, instead of the boring taste of a raw Anaheim. Way to go Paul! Choosing the ghost pepper and using it on a soup was a bold move, I did not see if he took any seeds and membrane out or used it whole. As far as the combination of flavors, choosing coconut milk was a great combination for the tropical note on the ghost pepper (I know it’s a Pakistani chili not a tropical one but its flavor is similar to that of its cousin the habanero.)
On the Elimination Challenge
Serving chili, a Texan staple, to Texan judges is a tough one, and those regional foods are always tough to cook. It isn’t about whether your food is tasty or creative, but how it compares to the judges’ own chili or their moms, or aunty X’s that made the best chili in the family. Then not having a time limit seems like a great relief, but in reality, it could come back and bite you. You start cooking, cervezas, all of the sudden you are beat, go to sleep, and someone else messes with your food or you stay up and you keep messing with the food. Cooking in the house may seem fun, but where are all of these people going to cook with only one stove in the house?