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Pee-wee's Kitchen

Did 'Top Chef' jump the shark with special guest judge Pee-wee Herman?

2:50 PM, Feb 3, 2012 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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Grayson Schmitz is never at a loss for words. According to the New York-based catering chef, "Whatever is in my head I say." So I couldn't resist asking her what went through her mind during the last episode of Top Chef: Texas when the special guest judge turned out to be the one and only Pee-wee Herman (who entered the kitchen set riding his trademark red bicycle). Grayson, who trained under Fabio Trabocchi ("the man taught me how to make pasta") and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, was first amused by the spectacle. "Okay, that's fun," she thought, "but he better not be one of our f—g judges." He was.

Pee-wee's Kitchen

"I'm not going to say I felt great about [Pee-wee] as one of our judges," said Grayson. But even Pee-wee seemed to recognize the awkwardness of the situation at judges' table and, as Grayson noticed, actor Paul Reubens went in and out of character. "He wasn't about to say 'Ha-ha!'" while one of us was being eliminated. The New York chef added that Reubens, who was himself off-camera, "was the sweetest, most sincere guy" and a far cry from his darker days.

Not that Pee-wee's appearance was completely random. The elimination challenge took place at the Alamo, where the actor appeared during his film Pee-wee's Big Adventure. (Still, it seems a strange locale to have dinner considering it's the site where hundreds of people were killed. Why not a Hawaiian-themed dinner at the Pearl Harbor memorial with guest judge Ben Affleck?)

As for Tom Colicchio, Grayson was relieved to clear the air with the head judge during the after-show on Bravo. (In a previous episode, Colicchio chastised the chef for not doing something more adventurous than chicken salad. "Like a meatball?" she shot back, referring to a rival's choice of dish. Colicchio seemed stunned while Grayson was horrified she had offended him—he was not offended in the least.) Prior to that incident, Grayson had also bragged to Colicchio that her dish was like "sex in the mouth," leaving all the chefs speechless. "I don't know what possessed me to say that," she now says, although she partly blames it on sleep deprivation.

In Last Chance Kitchen, Grayson competed against Beverly Kim, but the winner, who will return to the competition, will be revealed next Wednesday.

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