Last Wednesday's episode of "Top Chef Texas" was all about chili. And Padma Lakshmi riding atop a stallion. But really it was about chili. During the Quickfire Challenge, chefs chose a chili pepper to cook with—each pepper had a monetary value depending on its heat according to the Scoville scale. Only Paul Qui dared to select the hottest pepper available, the ghost chili, with a Scoville rank well over a million heat units. (Hotter varieties are used for police pepper spray, whereas a poblano is normally under a thousand units. The hottest raw pepper I've ever eaten was a Scotch bonnet.) Qui incorporated it into a soup that won the judges over and earned him $20,000.
The elimination challenge was a chili cookoff that involved equal parts ingenuity and sleep deprivation. In the end, the three-chef team of Beverly Kim, Nyesha Arrington, and Richie Farina had the least loved chili. Their punishment was a repurposing of the chili into another meal, still while sleep-deprived. Richie, a 28-year-old sous-chef at molecular gastronomy mecca Moto in Chicago, lost and was sent packing.
Earlier today on the phone, Richie took the high road, saying the judges were fair and acknowledged, "It's a game, you have to judge someone, you have to send someone home." As for the idea of repurposing chili, which even judges Gail Simmons and Tom Colicchio admitted made them look like "a—holes," Richie said that "at the time, I thought it was crappy. Yes, we're all tired. But I just channeled all that into [being an] angry cook."
If he could do anything differently, said Richie, "I would have spoken up more" with regard to the team chili not having enough heat. When I asked if he was done with chili altogether, he explained that his restaurant's kitchen staff hadn't seen the episode when they decided to cook for him a Friday night dinner of ... chili.
Still, Richie's morale received a boost from online, especially from fans on Twitter. "It's mainly been girls, which is awesome, because I was hoping to get a girlfriend out of this."