Just when you thought the pimping was done (bye-bye, Top Texas Tourism Bureau Chef), the show heads to Vancouver — home of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games — in an effort to promote Bravo’s parent company’s (NBC) airing of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
I know, I know. That makes about as much sense as Patti LaBelle and her vegetarian hairdresser being guest judges on a reality cooking show . . . . Oh, wait. Never mind.
The chefs arrive in British Columbia. Sarah claims she wants to be nice to everyone. Lindsay acknowledges that she, Sarah and Paul have a special bond and don’t really jibe with Beverly. Paul says he’s in it to win it, in his great-grandfather’s memory. The four of them drive from the airport to a ski resort in Whistler where they ride a gondola to the lodge near the top of the mountain. Padma and Tom brave gale-force winds to greet them outside, where they tell the cheftestants that only three of them will move on to the final round. They now have to compete in three events, and the winner of each one receives $10,000.
The first event: cooking a dish on a moving gondola, 7,000 feet above sea level. Paul gets squeamish, as he suffers from motion sickness. They have 22 minutes to cook on the first leg of the gondola journey. When the gondola reaches the first peak, they each have to jump out, pick up a new ingredient from a selection awaiting them and get back in to keep cooking before they arrive at their last stop to feed the judges: Tom, Padma, Gail and a snowboarder who was not my faux-beau Shaun White so what’s the point of even remembering who it was.
Here’s what they made:
Paul: seared lamb loin with curried, roasted enoki mushrooms and wasabi creme fraiche.
Sarah: chorizo with onions, prune juice, gooseberries, pickled mushroom and almond.
Beverly: salmon tartare with anchovy horseradish creme fraiche and fried capers.
Lindsay: seared salmon over red quinoa “risotto” with chorizo and horseradish vinaigrette and creme fraiche.
Tom thought Paul did a nice job despite his meat being under-seasoned. (Dirty.) They liked Sarah’s dish but had hoped for more prune flavor, though Padma thought the gooseberries added the perfect balance of acid. The judges seemed to like Beverly’s raw dish, but I’m not sure why they speak to her all wide-eyed in the manner one speaks to a 3-year-old. Tom says Lindsay’s salmon was well cooked. The winner not only picks up $10,000, she or he automatically moves to the finals, and won’t have to cook in the next two events. And the winner is? Lindsay!
The next day, the three remaining chefs head out to the slopes and are met by Tom, Padma, Gail and Olympic skeleton gold medalist Jon Montgomery — or, as I like to call him, “Hellooooooo, Jon”; some eye candy at last. Padma tells Paul, Sarah and Beverly that this challenge is all about moving quickly and adapting to the elements. They reveal the chefs’ pantry: a bunch of semi-recognizable ingredients frozen in ice blocks. They have one hour to hack out and thaw the ingredients, then cook them at their outdoor cooking stations to make them “come alive in a dish.” So, this is a zombie challenge?
Paul chips away at the ice blocks with great vengeance and furious anger, busting loose some king crab and mango. He starts thawing them at his station and comes back to help Sarah and Beverly break their ice blocks. Twenty gentleman points for Paul! They all start to cook with what looks like 22 minutes left on the clock.
Here’s what they served the judges:
Sarah: pea and spinach soup with turmeric, almond and king crab.
Paul: poached king crab in brown butter, with toasted almonds, mango chutney and orange marmalade.
Beverly: seared scallop with red-wine reduction, buttered peas, corn and couscous.
The judges seemed kind of “meh” about Sarah’s soup. Gail liked Paul’s crab and mango combination but thought the mango was still a little frozen, and she liked the sear on Beverly’s scallop but thought the sauce was heavy. So, who wins, pockets ten grand and moves on to the finals? Paul!
It’s down to Beverly and Sarah for the last spot in the final three, and, of course, Beverly is crying.
The third challenge event starts off with Padma awkwardly holding a gun awfully close to her crotchular region. Special guest Olympic-themed judge for this round is hockey player Cammi Granato. That’s right, just nod and play along like you know who she is. For their “culinary biathlon,” Sarah and Beverly have to cross-country ski to a shooting range where they will aim at targets labeled with the ingredients; they’ll shoot for the ones they want to cook with. They have a total of 10 bullets, which means they might not get any ingredients at all. And, to top it off: Once an ingredient target is shot, it’s no longer available to the other chef. (Because I’m actually a decent shot, I would totally let the tomfoolery ensue and spend six of my 10 bullets shooting out all the proteins as a defensive strategy against my opponent. Mwahahahaaa!!!)
The women are awful at skiing, but Beverly arrives at the shooting range first. Here’s how they spent their 10 bullets:
Beverly:arctic char, celery root, winter truffle, fennel, beets (5 misses).
Sarah: rabbit, cabbage, hazelnut, cherries (6 misses).
They head to a conference center on the mountain and start cooking for the next hour. Beverly horns in on Sarah’s station to plug in her blender, despite having electrical outlets on her own side of the kitchen. The judges arrive to eat, and it’s the first time in perhaps all of “Top Chef” history that Padma is wearing a long-sleeved sweater and a vest at Judges’ Table. No neckline plunge equals a ratings plunge, methinks.
Here’s what they served:
Beverly: roasted arctic char, onion and beet compote, celery root-truffle puree and fennel salad.
Sarah: braised rabbit leg and heart with cherries, hazelnuts and sauerkraut puree.
The judges eat in front of the chefs, and Tom asks questions about their thought processes and techniques. Tom thinks the flavors of Beverly’s dish really worked, but that the fish was slightly overcooked. The other judges found positive things to say as well. Tom tells Sarah she took a risk in not only making sauerkraut in such a short amount of time, but also in braising the rabbit leg. He thinks everything tastes good, though Gail tells her the rabbit was a little tough. Sarah and Beverly get sent away so the judges can deliberate.
When they come back, Tom tells Sarah her dish was well thought out and that the sauerkraut puree a smart way to do cabbage, but that the rabbit needed to be cooked more, or cooked less. He tells Beverly she downplayed the char and went out of her comfort zone in using earthy ingredients. So, who’s going to the final? Sarah!! She also gets $10,000.
Beverly goes back to the Stew Room where Paul and Lindsay speak to her as if she’s a kindergartner who has a boo-boo, and it’s just such a weird vibe. Something bad must’ve happened to her somewhere along life’s path that we’re not privvy to, but the cast and judges are. I’ve never seen them ever treat a contestant with such kid gloves before. Strange.
Up Next Week: Paul, Lindsay and Sarah head to Vancouver, B.C., where they do what looks like some sort of relay handoff race, Lindsay wears cute leaf-shaped earrings and Paul has some blender issues. And, we find out there’s one more elimination. There will be two chefs in the finale. Just when we thought we were going to be put out of our misery.