Chicago chefs Chris Jones (left) and Beverly Kim (right) are sized up by… (Courtesy of Bravo )
And then there were three: With Heather Terhune of Sable sent home in the most recent episode, the last Chicago cheftestants standing in a cast of nine include Chris Jones of Moto, Sarah Grueneberg of Spiaggia and Beverly Kim of Aria. In episode 9, we not only got to watch them tackle a seriously grueling all-night challenge in the Texas heat, but we also learned a few things about the rest of the cast -- highlights of which include that Chris Crary likes to paint nude art, Grayson can sing a mean campfire song about a frog, and in the absence of mean queen Heather, Ed has emerged as the new talk-smack-about-everyone quazi-villain.
Quickfire challenge: The chefs are sent volumes of the new cookbook series "Modernist Cuisine" by author/guest judge Nathan Myhrvold (an expert-in-everything chef who Ed calls "a weird renaissance man who's been dropped in from outer space"), left to read them overnight and then challenged to create a dish that illustrates modernist cuisine, which Nathan describes as "learning new techniques to delight the people that eat your food." One winner scores immunity.
Elimination challenge: In teams of three, serve a barbecue platter of chicken, beef brisket and pork spare ribs, plus two side dishes for 300 people at the Salt Lick, a famous Texas barbecue joint. The winning team splits $15,000.
-For a girl who revels in old world Italian, she admits that this quickfire isn't her game. "I don't use much of the new modern equipment, but I'm trying to think of how I'm going to be crafty," she says, deciding to cook a breakfast-inspired ravioli with egg yolk in the middle. +1 point for not panicking when out of her element.
-Despite modernist cooking not being her forte, her dish is named one of Nathan's top three favorites. +1 point.
-Sarah, who you'll remember lives in Chicago but grew up in Texas, literally jumps for joy when they announce that the elimination challenge is barbecue. +1 point for enthusiasm.
-She supplied the producers with some cute photos of her and her chef fiance Jaime Canete. Aww. +1 point.
-Ed remarks that he's annoyed by Sarah's southern accent, which seems to be creeping back in. We don't think it's annoying, Sarah! +1 point.
-Ed is also annoyed that Sarah is sent to the hospital for overheating/exhaustion. After working all night and day in the Texas heat over barbecue pits, I'm surprised the whole cast wasn't carted off by a fleet of ambulances. The producers had to see this coming. 0 points.
-Her team ends up in the bottom two. The judges like her chicken, but are disappointed she didn't actually smoke it. -1 point.
TOTAL: 3 points
-With reality TV gold/quirky quote machine Chuy Valencia gone for several episodes now, Chris is officially the provider of my favorite random quotes. He calls guest judge Nathan Myhrvold a genius. "If I were one-tenth as smart as he is, I might rule a small continent," he says. +1 point.
-In a previous interview, I asked Chris if he brought any miracle berries -- a tastebud-reversing berry that the Moto staff has been working with -- on the show. Since he said I'd have to watch and see, I felt certain that they'd make an appearance eventually. This was it. Way to pack smart, though I'm sure Homaro Cantu wouldn't have let him leave home without them. +1 point.
-Coming from ultra-modern Moto, Chris is the obvious frontrunner in this quickfire (It gave me flashbacks to when Rick Bayless was so lucky as to get a street food-themed challenge on "Top Chef Masters."). He presents a three-part miracle berry tasting menu playing off the fruit's ability to make sour foods taste sweet. Nathan says he grows miracle berries in his basement and does not look impressed, but I was happy to see Chris in his element. +1 point.
-What a poker face! Nathan calls his creation "a hell of a dish" and deems it one of his three favorites, along with Sarah's egg yolk-filled ravioli and Ty's watermelon salad topped with powdered olive oil. +1 point.
-Nathan announces that the win goes to the chef "who really showed a combination of creativity and execution." And that would be ... Ty. Ty?! With a freaking square of watermelon? Chris, you were robbed. Robbed! 0 points.
-After a night of no sleep and seriously hot Texas heat, Chris is shown both talking and singing to his beer-can chicken as they cook on the grill. Stay awake any way you can, man. +1 point.
-After manning the grill and cooking all three of his team's meats, it's not a good sign when the judges declare the brisket chewy, the ribs inedibly salty and the chicken more roasted than barbecued. -1 point.
-With a dramatically placed pause, Padma says, "Chris ... C., please pack your knives and go home." Thanks to teammate Chris Crary and his salty marinades, he escapes elimination. +1 point.
TOTAL: 4 points