Top Chef Texas’ Snow White challenge: its most-successful product placement ever

Top Chef Texas has been kind of hit or miss for me. Some episodes seem interesting and inspired, while others seem like the producers are phoning the same tired formula again.

But last night’s episode, which featured Charlize Theron and product placement for her upcoming film Snow White and the Huntsman, was this season’s best, and that’s because the challenge inspired the chefs to create outstanding, visually interesting food, and Charlize was a fantastic guest judge.

This season has some talented characters–Beverly has been a complex villain, if you can call her that, and Chris Jones looks weirder each week–but they haven’t produced consistently entertaining episodes as the show treks around Texas.

Everything came together last night, though, especially the food, which was incredible. Tom Colicchio called it “one of the finest meals I’ve had the pleasure of eating” in nine seasons, and during judging, said, “I’m nit-picking here beacuse I have to. He called the elimination a “very, very difficult decision.”

For product placement, this was remarkably successful, and the kind of product placement I wish the show would do more often, instead of the laughable, time-wasting crap like the in-episode ad for Toyota Tundra two episodes ago. That episode, during which they had to cook barbecue all night, only qualified as decent television because of the unpredictability of Sarah having to go to the hospital. Otherwise, watching them cook mediocre food while exhausted was pretty lame.

Comparing that challenge to this week’s challenge–which was pretty simple, on its surface: create food inspired by Theron’s evil queen character–should be a lesson that creative inspiration makes better food and television than typical reality TV tricks, like exhausting your cast. Simple really can be better.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.