Top Chef's Biggest Loser
3:00 PM, Jan 5, 2012 • By VICTORINO MATUS
For Chris Crary, the most recent casualty of Top Chef: Texas, losing isn't always a bad thing. Two years ago, back when he weighed a hefty 245 pounds ("and not in muscle," he pointed out), he decided it was time to lose weight. "I wasn't sure how my body would react," he said on the phone earlier today, "so I just stopped drinking alcohol and soda." In two months, Chris lost 17 pounds. He then moved on to cardio and weight-lifting, "almost obsessively." Today he's around 175 pounds despite being surrounded by food all day (he intentionally has no food at his home). He is also a Top Chef "Fan Favorite." If he maintains the lead by the show's end, Chris will receive a $10,000 prize. So who cares if he oversalted the brisket and ribs?
Well, the judges care, of course. "The biggest error of the challenge ... was not Ed’s steamed food or Sarah’s less-than-crispy chicken skin or Beverly’s playing it safe and tame. The excessive saltiness of the brisket and ribs was by far the biggest problem, and Chris C. was responsible for that," writes head judge Tom Colicchio on his blog. It was salty because Chris used a barbecue sauce that incorporated Dr. Pepper. Chris, however, avoided the descriptive "oversalted," preferring to call his flavors "definitely intense" and "aggressively seasoned." But while the judges' verdict momentarily stunned him, Chris acknowledges Colicchio, et al, have "amazing palates" and accepts the decision.
That said, the challenge was unquestionably the most difficult to date. "The chefs couldn’t just pop the food into an oven, set the temperature and a timer and come back after catching a nap," writes Colicchio. "Now also factor in that it was at least 95 degrees AT NIGHT and that there was a heat index of 115 degrees during the day, making it at least 135 or 140 degrees near the open pits and making this a challenge of endurance in addition to one of skill." The conditions actually claimed one of the chefs, Sarah Grueneberg, who was treated for heat exhaustion—her teammates were left to fend for themselves.
Chris Crary also added that the distance between the barbecue pit and the dining hall was considerable. But what seemed to irk the losing chef more was all the emphasis on regional cuisine, namely barbecue. "Most of us are fine dining chefs," he pointed out, and previous seasons lacked this particular focus. Nevertheless, Chris looks back on his time in Texas as "definitely the most amazing experience, the greatest time in my life." When I asked if his appearing on television improved his dating life, Chris laughed, but would only say, "It hasn't hurt it—I'll say that much."