Top Chef, a reality show to which I’m slavishly devoted, has featured two Dallas cooks in this fine third season–until Wednesday, when Tre Wilcox, of Abacus, was sent home, largely on the basis of a weird-sounding marinated salmon-pesto-and-cheese appetizer that Ted Allen judged, “the worst dish I’ve tasted in a long time.” Poor Tre. He had stepped up to assume the role of executive chef for the evening’s challenge, in which a team of four had to open a small restaurant in, like, twenty-five minutes. He should have recalled that reality TV has a nasty habit of encouraging leadership only to punish it severely. In fact, Tre’s demise can be traced back to the dreaded Quickfire Challenge, in which his fellow Dallas foodhead Casey Thompson, of Shinsei (who, her bio notes, “spent years marketing jet fuel to NASA”) totally forgot how to chop vegetables. This resulted in opposing “cheftestants,” to use Bravo’s ridiculous term, getting an extra $200 for their restaurant, Quatre, and, more important still, a surge of “chef-mentum.”
I liked Tre, and I’m sad to see him go. He had one of the more graceful exits in the show’s recent history. For the on camera exit interview, it’s become common for for the departing Top Chef competitor to say, with youthful defiance shining in his reddened eyes, “This is not the last you’ll hear from me.” Tre didn’t do this. He just said he wouldn’t make the same mistakes again, which I assume means that if you have a hankering any time soon for a bowl of marinated fish with pesto and cheese, don’t go to Abacus.