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Canned Response

In the words of one cook, 'It's "Top Chef," not "Top Dish."'

2:05 PM, Feb 9, 2012 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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All throughout Top Chef: Texas, Ed Lee has never been rattled. He may have made a few mistakes along the way, but his focus remained unbroken. (He also had little patience for incompetence and was never soft on his fellow chefs. When Sarah Grueneberg needed 9-1-1, Ed was actually annoyed by the inconvenience.) But on last night's semifinal, Ed's focus on a dish with oysters got the better of him. "Every time I went to that Whole Foods, they always had fresh oysters," recalled the chef. So it figures the one time he actually needed fresh oysters, there were none on sale. But rather than switching to something else, Ed quickly resorted to canned smoked oysters. And when the judges found out, Ed knew he was done for.

Top Chef

"As chefs, we all know when we screw up," said Ed in a phone interview earlier today. The executive chef of 610 Magnolia in Louisville, Ky., also "knew I shouldn't have used that [oyster] sauce ... The sauce was good. The pork was good. But together it wasn't good." Ultimately, Ed explained, what the competition comes down to is how well a chef handles unfamiliar circumstances—being able to react well while not in one's comfort zone. He added, "It's Top Chef, not Top Dish." The show demands "resilience and mental strength." Not finding fresh oysters "rattled my game plan." Thus he was sent packing while Sarah, Lindsay Autry, Paul Qui, and Beverly Kim (the latter of whom emerged from Last Chance Kitchen) all go on to the final, which takes place in British Columbia.

Speaking of Last Chance Kitchen, Ed is not a fan. "I still don't understand the concept of it. During the NFL playoffs, the Green Bay Packers weren't allowed to just come back in."

As opposed to the previous challenge costarring Pee-wee Herman, this last elimination round was both serious and sentimental: The chefs had to cook for their mentors, who all walked into the kitchen to surprise them, bringing tears to the contestants' eyes. Except, of course, the stone-cold eyes of Ed Lee, who has never cried. Ever.

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