Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Top Chef 2/15/12--"Culinary Games" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: Beverly made it back into the competition. The one person guaranteed to provide maximum drama. Sarah won the Quickfire and took immunity instead of a car, which, duh. Everyone else had to make dishes for their mentors. Paul won, because he needed a car to carry all his money home in. Ed used smoked oysters from a plastic tub, which doomed him. Admit it, you knew he was doomed the minute he bought them. That never goes well. (click for more)

Actually, the previouslies focus on Ed and Beverly. No discussion of what the challenges were, no discussion of who won. Just Beverly being vaguely clueless and Ed failing. So now you want us to see how Beverly is annoying? Because if you still wanted us to root for her, you would have shown her dish and all the praise she got.

The final four arrive in Vancouver. Sarah says she’s had time to “learn a lot about [her]self”. I’m not sure when they filmed this finale. Had the show started to air already? Because this sounds like “I saw myself on TV and now I know I didn’t look very good.” She’s going to be nice, she says. Oh yeah, she’s seen herself. Lindsay smugs that she, Sarah, and Paul have a “special” bond because they’ve been through this the whole way. Lindsay knows it’s weird to see Beverly, probably because she’s already started to see how things look to the average viewer. Paul starts to talk about his grandfather who fled the Philippines. The minute they get in the minivan they find a note from Padma telling them to drive to Whistler and head for the top of the mountain. Paul gets stuck driving, and I would care about how that’s sexist possibly, but I don’t like driving so I would have made him drive too.

Lindsay says to everyone that she is upset with how upset she was in some situations, saying she was ashamed of her behavior without actually apologizing to anyone. Beverly for some reason says Last Chance Kitchen was awesome, which is a weird thing to say. I know Paul asked her, but still. Sarah interrupts her to tell everyone to look at a tree. Nice.

Now that we’re in the mountains everyone is kitted out in ski pants. Sarah interviews that maybe they’ll have a ski race where they have to pick up ingredients as they ski down the mountain. Don’t give the producers ideas, Sarah. Paul’s glad to not be in Texas in the summer, but also not happy about the snow. Tom and Padma are standing around outside, and the wind is severe enough Tom is bending into it. And Tom’s not small. Now we talk about the Olympics. And “Culinary Games”. Sigh. There will be three events, each one worth $10,000. First event: Peak 2 Peak. Cook a dish on a gondola. Paul immediately says he gets motion sick. Suck. So they have to make something, and when they get to the other side, jump out and grab one last ingredient. Then put the new ingredient in the dish on the way back, and then take the dish somewhere to serve. This is stupid. Why can’t they just cook? It’s already high altitude, that will screw them enough. I don’t like when my shows try to look like other shows, like the stupid Last Chance Kitchen/Redemption Island thing, and all of these “Amazing Race“ challenges. Why do you want “Top Chef” to be another show?

So the gondola ride lasts 22 minutes. Each car has a couple baskets of ingredients and some induction burners. Paul is making lamb. Sarah has a hard time deciding what to do because there are more things in the car than she thought. She takes salmon, but there are scales so she throws it back in the basket. Beverly is making something cold since it’s cold in the gondola. Lindsay is having trouble with the balance in the car.

So when they get to the other end of the gondola line, they have to pick a new ingredient. There are several choices, though, all in covered canisters, and the car doesn’t stop moving. Paul finds wasabi paste. His lamb isn’t cooking so he cuts the chops off the bone and then into smaller pieces. Sarah goes through every container and ends up with prune juice. I think she is planning to deglaze a pan, but meanwhile she’s discovered everything freezes. Beverly finds prepared horseradish. Lindsay hates all the canister choices and takes horseradish also.

Paul plates things and puts covers on the dishes. It looks like the restaurant is close by. He takes responsibility for the fact that his dish is not where he wants it and refuses to blame the gondola or his motion sickness. Padma introduces Gretchen Blieler who is a snowboarder and I’m not sure how she is qualified to judge food but whatever. Seared lamb loin with curried mushrooms and wasabi crème fraiche. Sarah: chorizo sausage with onions, prune juice, gooseberries, and pickled mushrooms. Pickles are this season’s scallop. Beverly: salmon tartare, anchovy horseradish crème fraiche and crispy capers. Lindsay: seared salmon, red quinoa “risotto” with chorizo and horseradish vinaigrette.

Tom says Paul’s dish was good, although the meat is unevenly cooked and underseasoned. Wasabi and lamb go together. Sarah’s dish didn’t have a lot of prune flavor, but the gooseberries were good. No one expected a cold dish from Beverly, but it was ice cold and the knife work is great for the location. Lindsay cooked her salmon perfectly, even though she had to cut the pieces up because she didn’t cook enough. Then Padma drops the bombshell that the winner will get immunity and make it through to the finals. That seems tacked on. Like, the producers saw who was going to win, and then said “Let’s give them immunity so we know they’ll move on”. And I don’t even know who it is yet. Paul was last, and Sarah third, and the winner is Lindsay. So now she can take the rest of the day off. Well, I guess they all get the rest of the day off. She can take tomorrow off.

They go to the hotel and Beverly says they‘re at the Fairmount, and her own restaurant is in the Fairmount in Chicago, so maybe it‘s a sign? Sarah and Paul talk about how rough that was and speculate that after the second event they probably will give someone else immunity so the last event will be head to head. They mention Beverly, and Paul says you can’t underestimate her. Sarah vaguely agrees but we’ve all seen her talk about how crappy Beverly is. Sarah interviews with some grudging respect for Beverly and how she has nothing to lose.

There is a cute boy here. Not that I’m complaining. This is Jon Montgomery, who competes in skeleton. That’s the one where you go face first, as opposed to luge, where you lie on your back and go feet first. Fearless. They whisk away the cloths, and all of the food for the challenge is frozen in ice. So you have to chip your food out before you can cook something? Sigh. Beverly claims to not have used an ice pick before, ever, which seems stupid. Seriously? An ice pick? But then she references She-Ra so that’s nice. Sarah says she has to win, because she is too nervous to go against Beverly.

One hour to chip your stuff out. Paul beats Beverly to the crab legs. Then he gets lucky and throws his block on the ground to bust it all open. Beverly is using a frying pan, which I don’t think is going to work. Also I think she broke the pan. Paul eventually tells Beverly to be careful. Then, because Paul is awesome, he starts helping the girls break the other ice blocks open. I guess they’re not strong enough to lift the blocks high enough to dash them on the ground? Paul says it’s about the food, not about how many ice blocks you can chip. ARE YOU LISTENING PRODUCERS? Finally everyone is cooking. Sarah is making soup with vegetables, because they can thaw as they cook. Paul messes with Sarah about liking the cold and not really being from Texas. Paul realizes he gave away his red wine so he has to make chutney instead of gastrique. Beverly says she is picking up ice shards to cook with, except that she is all the way behind the cooking stations. Did some ice get all the way over there? Otherwise, I hope that snow is clean. Sarah’s soup is separating so she has to blend it with the stick blender.

Sarah: pea and spinach soup with turmeric, almonds, and king crab. They judge her right there and tell her the soup is pretty good, but thin, so the almonds seem heavy. And lucky for her Paul gave her some crab. Paul: poached king crab, toasted almonds, mango chutney with orange marmalade. Gail likes the mango, but it’s still a little frozen. Beverly: seared scallop with red wine reduction, buttered peas, corn, and couscous. Jon asks Beverly if she was picturing any other contestants while she was hacking at the ice. Heh. Gail says she can think of one or two, probably. The sauce was a little heavy but there was good flavor. Couscous was good.
Paul wins. Good. That means either Sarah or Beverly is going home, and I am fine with either one of those. Sarah is still talking about going up against Beverly, which is weird. Either she goes home, and is trying to rationalize how she was afraid of Beverly the whole time, or she really did change and is a nicer person, one who can recognize Beverly’s talent.

Padma greets the girls with a gun. Another guest judge? Stupid. This one is Cammi Granato, who is a female hockey player. OK, that’s cool. Biathlon time. That’s where you get on cross country skis, then you have to shoot targets while you are out of breath from the skiing. These targets will have their ingredients on them. They have 10 bullets. Sarah has practiced shooting tin cans with her dad, but Beverly has not skied or shot a gun before. Tom jokes that none of the targets have judges’ names on them.

Sarah says she would never forgive herself if Beverly moved on instead of her. They’re really editing it to look like Sarah loses, aren’t they? Lots of shots of falling down. Beverly turns around, and she and Sarah run into each other, sort of. Sarah interviews that Beverly likes to take out the competition, ignoring 1. the fact that Beverly fell too, and 2. if she was going to take you out she would have flailed with the poles and hit you in the knee. Beverly gets back to the shooting and starts picking out ingredients. Beverly hits arctic char, but then starts missing targets. Sarah can’t hit anything either. Finally she hits rabbit, but it takes half her bullets. She actually complains to the guy running the thing that she thinks Beverly had way more shots than she did. Seriously? Anyway, she wants beets, but Beverly gets to it first.

Beverly has arctic char, celery root, winter truffle, fennel, and beets. Sarah has rabbit, cabbage, hazelnuts, and cherries. Beverly is slow roasting her fish, which is a risk. I have no idea how much time they have. I can’t read the timer. Sarah is cooking her rabbit several different ways. Beverly calls out 39 minutes, so I’m not sure how she is slow roasting anything. An hour is not slow. Sarah has another confessional where she talks about Beverly being in Last Chance Kitchen and being a good chef again. I get it, JESUS. Either Sarah really wants us to believe she’s a nice person, or the producers want to make sure we all love Beverly, but right now? I am rooting against her just to be perverse. Beverly can’t find Asian flavors, so she’s hoping that being different will help her with the judges. For some reason she’s set up her blender on Sarah’s station, and at first Sarah starts to tell her she has her own outlet on her own station, but then she just says it’s fine. See, that is totally justified. Stay on your own station. There is a shot of Beverly with a glove on her hand, so I wonder if she cut herself.

Beverly: slow roasted Arctic char, onion and beet compote, celery root truffle puree, fennel salad. Sarah: braised rabbit leg and heart with cherries, hazelnuts and sauerkraut puree. Beverly says she pureed the celery root to make “unctuousness”. This turned out well and the flavors melded, but her fish is slightly overcooked. Sarah took a lot of risks, but it turned out “nicely”. She went with German flavors. Gail thought the rabbit was tough.

Sarah used the ingredients well, you could taste all of them. Gail says braising the rabbit made it tough. Beverly mixed seafood with earthy flavors but something wasn’t seasoned enough. This is really short but Bravo keeps stuttering and cutting out and I keep losing the sound. So I missed a bunch of this. It’s happened before, and I complained then and it sort of got fixed. I haven’t had a problem until recently but I’m sure it’s some kind of screw-up on their end.

Commercial interlude: Lindsay and Paul come to visit the kitchen. Paul says that both girls are tough competitors, while Lindsay says she wants Sarah to make it through to the final.
Tom reminds Sarah and Beverly how they just screwed up slightly and then Padma sends Beverly home the HELL!?! Well played, Bravo. Well played. She thinks that everyone sees her differently now that she’s proven herself. Padma reminds Sarah that she’s won $10,000, because that was the deal with the events, and Sarah has actually forgotten about that part. Sarah is nice to Beverly on her way out.

Next week: Sarah gloats Beverly is gone, celebrity sous chefs, a huge party? Not a dinner? Padma says “You will move on to the finale”???? So the finale isn’t next week? Good, because it’s Ash Wednesday and I have theater tickets on top of that, so the recap may be late. And if they’re not deciding the winner, then I won’t feel bad.

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