Top Chef 9.15 – Culinary Games

This looks IDEAL for preparing fine cuisine, right? ...right?

This is a show about cooking, right? About who’s the best chef? And…that means cooking? Like, I go to a restaurant and order something, and a “chef” would prepare that? Are there…gondolas in restaurants? Obstacle courses? Maybe I’m just not dining in the right place.

(In case you’re not picking up what I’m putting down, I found the “challenges” last night to be bizarre.) 

The Final Four show up in Vancouver to travel north to Whistler for…who knows why. Did someone on Bravo lose a bet and have to promote Canadian Tourism? (I have no problem with Canada, by the way. It’s just…what is going on? Aspen I get because there’s a huge food and wine fest that happens there annually. But Whistler? And they trotted out a bunch of Olympic medalists? Huh? OKAY, MOVING ON.

Sarah says that during the break between winning a spot in the final four and now, she’s had time to learn about herself. Her goal is to stay calm and be a nice person. Sarah? I will forgive you if this proves to be true. Lindsay right away bitches about how her personality clashes with Bev and good GOD, Lindsay, stop it. Paul, on the other hand, is just happy to be here, it’s an honor to be nominated, and have I mentioned that I want him to win? Because he’s just lovely.

They all pile in cars for the drive; Paul asks Beverly what Last Chance Kitchen was like. I am not making the following exchange up.

“Last Chance Kitchen was awes–”

Look at this tree!” Sarah shouts, pointing across her body for Lindsay to see. The only thing missing was a trombone playing wah waaaaah as Beverly sat back against the chair, ignored.

They all make it to the top of the Whistler Olympic Resort (or whatever) and Padma is almost blown over by the wind, Tom is cracking up and trying to not have snot-cicles on his face when on camera. Awesome choice, producers! It’s about 5 degrees Fahrenheit out there. Welcome to the Culinary Games. (Boy, did they miss the chance for a Hunger Games tie-in.) There will be three challenges meant to weed out one person and draw the finale into three episodes. Each winner of each event gets $10,000 and a spot in the Finale. (And you don’t have to keep cooking after the win. It pays to win early.)

Round One: Prepare a dish on a moving gondola (the longest in the world, the Peak-to-Peak) at the first stop, you will hop out, grab an ingredient off a waiting table, and add it to your dish. The next stop you will serve your dish to the judges. It’s essentially 22 minutes inside a swaying, rocking box in freezing cold temperatures. Go!

Paul has motion sickness, Beverly is terrified of heights, Sarah can’t decide what to make from the large amount of choices they’re given, and Lindsay bitches about how everything is moving and swaying and how stupid Beverly’s face is and she’s in love with Michelle. (Okay, not that last bit. But Lindsay, it’s Bravo. You’re with family.)

They’re floating up at 7000 feet above sea level, which makes cooking more difficult, not to mention things start freezing once they take them off the heat. Bev is smart and makes a tartare.

Round One Results:

  • Paul: Seared Lamb with Curried Mushrooms and Wasabi Crème Fraîche (Paul struggled with searing at that altitude and Gail noticed the meat wasn’t thoroughly cooked. The flavors are all admired, however.)
  • Sarah: Chorizo Sausage with Onions, Prune Juice and Gooseberries with Pickled Mushroom (None of this sounds good together to me – but the judges liked the flavors. Eh. Tom wanted to taste more prune, not something you hear often. I actually love prunes, but you feel me.)
  • Beverly: Salmon Tartare, Anchovy Horseradish with Crème Fraîche and Crispy Capers (This looked so delicious, I wanted to make a mud mask of it and then eat it off my face. It’s well loved by the judges, too. No face-smearing happened, though.)
  • Lindsay: Seared Salmon, Red Quinoa “Risotto” with Chorizo Horseradish Vinaigrette (She didn’t make enough salmon, so she cut the two pieces in half, whoops! It does look good, I’ll admit. The judges go bananas for the perfectly cooked fish and the flavors.)

Bottom: Paul! Oh, Paul! Then Sarah. Top two are Beverly and Lindsay, oho! And the winner of this challenge, earning $10,000 and a spot in the finale is….Lindsay! No more challenges for her, she gets to chill at the Fairmount.

The three remaining cheftestants head back out to the frozen tundra where there’s a bunch of ice blocks with stuff frozen inside. Tom goes off on how some people don’t have access to farm fresh, so flash frozen is the only option. Yadda yadda, make delicious food. Yeah, three foot ice blocks – that is just how people get their food up north. Seriously? What on earth, show?

Round Two: Create a dish using ingredients frozen in ice blocks, they’ll have one hour to thaw and cook. And then everyone is given a weapon. Weapons are featured twice in this episode; not too smart, Bravo!

Paul, Sarah, and Bev race across the wind-packed snow and ice with ice-picks in their hands (that’s wise) to find ice blocks with ingredients they’d want to use and start Norman Bates-ing them out. (Ree! Ree! Ree!) More than once Beverly is cautioned to not kill herself or others as she’s practically giving a barbaric yawp while blindly stabbing at a block of ice roughly the size of her whole body.

No surprise, Paul is the first to get his food and starts cooking. But because he is awesome, he goes over and helps the ladies free their food. He says that it’s a show about who can cook better, not who can chop ice better. Paul? You’re exactly right. Meanwhile, he accidentally burns his red wine gastrique and since he gave the rest of his wine to Beverly, he’s going to have to switch it up. Paul, if you lose this challenge after being so awesome, I will quit this show, I swear to the god of your choice. Sarah’s soup, meanwhile, is struggling as the fat is separating due to the cold.

Round Two Results:

  • Sarah: Pea and Spinach Soup with Tumeric, Almonds and King Crab (Nice flavors, but the almonds were too heavy on the thin soup.)
  • Paul: Poached King Crab, Toasted Almonds, Mango and Orange Chutney (The combo of mango and crab is adored, but the mango was still a little frozen. GEE, I WONDER WHY.)
  • Beverly: Seared Scallop with Red Wine Reduction, Buttered Peas, Corn and Couscous (They all are amazed by the sear and caramelization, but the sauce is a little too heavy for it.)

Tom says that they’re not making this easy on the judges, which is awesome. I think we all know where the producers are pushing the final match up, right? The winner of Round Two, $10,000, and a spot in the finale is…PAUL! Whew, I was going to be so upset if he didn’t make it. He gets to chill with Lindsay back at the Fairmount while these two ladies go head to head.

Well, not head to head, but ski to ski. With guns. Continuing the inexplicable need to have Olympic medalists at every round (it’s too weird for me to keep pointing out, you’re not missing anything) a female hockey player is there for a bi-athalon. HUH? Padma greets the girls with a gun and points out some cross-country skis.

Round 3: “Last Shot” [hurr] is the Culinary Biathalon. Just like Julia Child vs. Paul Bocuse in 1972. Paul lost an arm and Julia carried a bullet in her thigh until the day she died. But by God, her Bouillabaisse toted along the mountain on her skis as she shot wild game was the stuff of legends. Oh, right.

Round 3: (for real) Cross-country ski through a course (just to do it?) until they get to a field of “ingredients” (signs with them listed). There they will shoot targets. 10 bullets each, must be a bulls-eye to get the ingredient, once it’s been claimed no one else can claim it, best of luck.

Sarah says because she’s Texan, she knows all about guns. That is a dirty stereotype. Except I’m Texan and it’s true. Bev has never held a gun or skied, so this is going to be rough. Cut to footage of the two girls falling hard all over the place (To which I think, really? It’s cross-country skiing! It’s like sliding on your socks, but not stopping!) and Beverly is ahead.

She gets to the targets, nails the first one. Then she misses five more, picks up two more ingredients, and she’s out. Sarah, Miss I Am Texas Gun Culture, isn’t even hitting the paper behind the target. (My husband is a nationally ranked sniper. No, really.) She finally tags the fifth ingredient, picks up two more and misses the rest. Oh well, it’s enough. (There’s a moment where Sarah is pissed that Beverly might get beets and she wanted beets! Well, I guess you shouldn’t have sucked on your skis and at shooting. And you call yourself a chef.)

They now have one hour to cook. And everything Bev does pisses Sarah off, of course. Whatever, I’m so over people hating on Bev. Tired, tired of it.

Round Three Results:

  • Bev: Arctic Char, Onion and Beet Compote, Celery Root Truffle Puree and Fennel Salad (This sounds delicious, looks delicious, and evidently tasted delicious. Except the fish is mild with its flavors and possibly a touch over cooked.)
  • Sarah: Braised Rabbit Leg and Heart, with Cherries Hazelnut and Sauerkraut Puree (I love sauerkraut. Sauerkraut puree sounds…is it just me, or does Sarah like very 1950s style menu options? It’s not that it’s a problem, it’s just–. Huh. Well, she has her own style, that’s for sure. And the judges like what she’s done, they just wish the rabbit was more tender. An hour to braise? Not long enough.)

Tom asks them about their technique, is impressed with why they did what they did, and says once again that they’re not making it easy on the judges. Sarah: her food was well thought out. Beverly: impressed she went out of her comfort zone. (No coconut milk or lemongrass!)

Padma, with legitimate tears in her eyes, says “Beverly, please pack your knives and go.” Oh, Beverly! Well, she can be proud of herself. Padma is legitimately choked up, which is sweet! This means Sarah is the winner of $10,000 – they remind her of that and she flips out “I forgot about that!” Ha. She joins the final three!

And…it looks like they’re going to split the narrowing down to two chefs into a full episode, too. Good god, producers, I love this show, but unless you’re going to show us the techniques they’re using so we can learn, I don’t care to watch them have to scale a building with paring knives while carrying an actual EarthPot of fresh, unpicked ingredients on their backs.

We’ll see. And again: Paul is my pick. I think now I’d like to see Sarah as runner up. She played nice in the end with Beverly while Lindsay is still the most sour patch kid on the planet. PAUL FOR THE WIN! See you next week!