top chef texas episode 15 “culinary games”

PREVIOUSLY Beverly returns. Everyone hates Beverly. Ed IS GONNA BE SO PISSED OFF if Beverly beats him. Beverly beats Ed. Ha.

The Not Finale begins with Sarah schlepping a suitcase through a soggy parking lot, with longer hair and—supposedly—a better attitude. Perhaps she felt a little remorse after seeing what a bitchy bitch face she was on the TVs. Perhaps.

The other three chefs meet up with Sarah in said parking lot, and everyone pretends to be excited to see Beverly, although, as Lindsay interviews, “We are so super duper close because we never got kicked off like Beverly OMFG BEVERLY DOESN’T BELONG HERE.” Or something like that.

Paul—who is no longer rocking the sensitive skinhead look—reveals to us that he has the weight of the world on his shoulders because his family fled China several generations ago in order to start a better life elsewhere. So if he doesn’t win Top Chef, then his family will likely disown him. Except he doesn’t really say that.

Since Tom and Padma are nowhere to be found in this parking lot, the chefs hop into a nearby TOYOTA SIENNA, where they find an envelope explaining that they must go meet Padma on top of some mountain. And she tells them to “bundle up.” I don’t like where this is going.

The two-hourish journey to the top of the mountain gives the chefs an opportunity for some [Toyota-sponsored] small talk. Lindsay talks about how embarrassed she was to see herself being such a twat on the show. Well…we all know that’s what she means. Paul asks Beverly how Last Chance Kitchen was, to which Beverly replies that it was “totally awesome.” Oh Beverly! Then, she starts to go further into detail, that is, until Sarah TOTALLY INTERRUPTS HER to point out some random tree. Yeah, way to not be such a bitch, Sarah. It really appears as though you have turned over a new leaf.

After a couple hours of [Toyota-sponsored] fun, the chefs finally make it up to Whistler, which, I guess is where the Olympics were held in 2010. I wouldn’t know that off hand, since I never watched that snoozefest. But I can connect the dots. The chefs are now all dressed in snowboarding attire, so I guess Padma’s “You better fucking bundle up, or you’ll be sorry” threats rang hollow, as Bravo has clearly provided everyone with the gear necessary to succeed. Quit trying to play me for a fool, Padma.

The chefs huddle into a nice ski lift—which, I guess, is called a gondola—and, as they ascend, they are all wondering what will await them at the top. Sarah thinks that they will have to ski down the mountain and grab ingredients along the way. Silly, Sarah. Surely you won’t have to do anything ridiculous like THAT. It’s about the FOOD, remember?

OMFG DID YOU SEE THE OLYMPICS? Sure enough, Tom and Padma are waiting for the chefs when they get off the gondola. Predictably yet stupidly, Tom and Padma try to tie in the 2010 Olympics to this challenge. But why? I don’t know. Yet another hindsighted product tie-in. And to really drive that tie-in home, Padma reveals that the upcoming challenges are all part of the “Top Chef Culinary Games.” Ugh. There will be three events, with the winner from each event winning $10,000 and also moving on to the next, non-Culinary Games round. This could still be fine, depending what the challenges actually are…or it could be a disaster. It will turn out to be more of the latter.

Case in point, the first event, known as “Peak 2 Peak,” will involve the chefs cooking a dish on a moving gondola. Not only that, but halfway through the challenge, when the gondola reaches the station at the other peak, the chefs will have to get out and find another ingredient to incorporate into their dish during the last half of the ride. They have 22 minutes. I think that they should be blindfolded too. I don’t want the Top Chef to be some ninny who can’t even cook blindfolded on a moving gondola.

Paul reveals that he is prone to motion sickness. Tom laughs in their faces about how much the altitude is going to fuck them up. And then the clock starts.

As everyone jumps into the gondolas, they have to hurry up and figure out what they are going to make. Paul decides on lamb. Sarah doesn’t know what to do. Beverly decides to do a tartare. Because it’s cold, and she’s cold. Lindsay doesn’t like how everything is moving. Well, that makes two of us.

As the gondolas reach the other peak, the chefs have to jump out and quickly find another ingredient before their gondolas glide away without them. Paul chooses wasabi paste. Sarah chooses prune juice—ha. Beverly is happy to find some horseradish, which is also what Lindsay ends up with.

Once the chefs reach the end of the gondola ride, they have to run through the snow with their nicely-plated dishes to the lodge where the judges—including some snowboarder girl—await them. Just like the chefs in your favorite restaurant do. So what did the chefs come up with on this gondola ride of a challenge?

PAUL seared lamb loin, curried mushrooms, wasabi crème fraîche, fresh juniper gastrique.

SARAH chorizo sausage, onions, prune juice, gooseberries, pickled mushrooms, almond.

BEVERLY salmon tartare, anchovy horseradish crème fraîche, crispy capers, panko.

LINDSAY seared salmon, red quinoa “risotto,” chorizo & horseradish vinaigrette.

Tom thinks Paul undercooked his lamb, but the random girl likes the wasabi. Sarah’s dish gets points for its nice level of acidity, but Tom wants more prune juice, likely for personal reasons. The random girl likes that Beverly’s dish is crunchy. Whatever, lady. Tom likes Beverly’s use of horseradish, and Gail applauds Beverly’s knife skills in a rocky gondola. Tom lurrves Lindsay’s salmon. So while everyone’s dish has redeeming qualities, who comes away with the win—the gold medal—and will not have to cook in the next two challenges? Lindsay.

Because the judges are so nice, the chefs do not have to compete in more Culinary Games that day, so the chefs head off to their hotel room, which is in the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. Beverly works in a Fairmont hotel, so she naturally assumes that this is a sign from the heavens that she will win. Or something.

Later on in the evening, Paul and Sarah have a heart-to-heart about how Beverly might just destroy them all with her tricks and her traps. Sarah blabs on about how Beverly “has nothing to lose at this point,” and how she’s “ready and focused.” Unless Sarah’s commentary is actually from the previous episode, shot a couple months earlier, I really don’t see what difference the whole Last Chance Kitchen makes anymore. Regardless, Sarah thinks that Beverly is “that silent horse.” I’m pretty sure that’s not an expression.

Sarah also says that Beverly “likes to attack like a tiger,” and then we cut to a shot of Beverly washing her face. Just like a tiger.

DO BREAK THE ICE New day. New challenge. The chefs return to Whistler OLYMPIC PARK to find Tom, Padma, and some other Olympian waiting for them. Padma tells the three remaining chefs that they will have to “move very quickly on the ice and adapt to the elements.” Just like an Olympian. Bleh. Then, Padma reveals WTF she is talking about by removing a tarp from the chef’s “pantry” to reveal that every pantry ingredient is inside its own massive block of ice. Although it’s obvious, Padma explains that the chefs will have to use their naked bodies to melt the ice ice picks to hack away at the ice and get their desired ingredients out. They have one hour. Then, Tom makes some stupid comment about how sometimes you have to use flash-frozen food instead of fresh. Say what?! I call bullshit, Tom Colicchio.

Side note: This challenge makes me think of that Real World/Road Rules Challenge episode from like ten years ago where they had to place their hands and feet on a block of ice shaped like a car. For several hours. Know what I’m talking about? Probably not.

Anyway, it’s a mad dash to the ice blocks. And then since no one can really tell what’s in each block, they’re just like, “Fuck it, I’m gonna wreck this shit.” Paul is good at breaking the blocks, but the delicate ladyfolk aren’t so much. And while an ice pick is the more obvious ice destroyer of choice, Beverly decides to use a frying pan. To little effect. But being the gentleman that he is, Paul helps the ladies out, so that everyone actually has a chance to cook. Aww, Paul. Beverly cooks with ice shards, aka snow. Sarah’s soup is a big ol’ mess. And the clock runs down to nothing.

SARAH pea & spinach soup, turmeric, almonds, king crab.

PAUL poached king crab, toasted almonds, mango chutney, orange marmalade.

BEVERLY seared scallop, red wine reduction, buttered peas, corn, couscous.

Everyone’s dishes were supposedly great, but the winner is…PAUL. Yay! So that means that it is SARAH VERSUS BEVERLY for the final spot. Of course it is.

PADMA’S GOT A GUN As Beverly and Sarah approach the set-up for the final event in the Culinary Games, they see Padma and the other judges waiting for them. And Padma is about to kill some bitches. Upon seeing Padma armed and ready to go, Beverly makes another incorrect assumption concerning a challenge, as she assumes that she and Sarah will have to shoot their own game. Uhh, given that you are IN THE OLYMPIC PARK, they probably don’t want you poppin’ off rounds into the sky. Just saying.

Anyway, there is yet ANOTHER Olympian guest judge, this time a hockey player named Cammi. Sarah starts gushing about Cammi. Because she’s a fanboy like that. After Sarah pulls herself together, Padma announces that the Sarah and Beverly will be competing in a “Culinary Biathlon,” which will involve cross-country skiing around a course—for no reason whatsoever—and then target shooting for the ingredients they can use in their dishes.

Next, Padma asks if either of them have shot a gun before. Well, Sarah IS FROM TEXAS Y’ALL and tells Padma that her dad used to take her out to the country to shoot tin cans. Ugh, whatever. Beverly has never skied before, nor has she ever shot a gun. I hope she kicks Sarah’s ass. Sarah says that if Beverly beats her, she would never forgive herself. Uhh…

As the two start skiing, they are both really bad. But Beverly is quicker at being bad than Sarah. They both biff it quite a few times, including once when Sarah runs over Beverly and then falls down herself. Ha. Beverly makes it to the shooting range a little before Sarah, but Sarah doesn’t care. Because her family has guns y’all. Sarah gets three ingredients with her first nine shots, and then when she finds out that she only has one shot left, she whines that Beverly had “way more shots” than her. Yeah, okay. You suck at life.

Beverly finishes slightly ahead of Sarah with arctic char, celery root, truffles, fennel, and beets. Sarah comes away with rabbit, cabbage, hazelnuts, and cherries to cook with. For this challenge, they actually get to cook in a normal, indoor kitchen. The luxury! It’s ALMOST like this challenge is about the food, well, until you remember the part with the gratuitous skiing. And then shooting…

Beverly is slightly concerned that the pantry isn’t stocked with things she typically likes to cook with, but she hopes that she will impress the judges by going outside her comfort zone. Then, we see that Beverly has decided to plug her blender into the middle of Sarah’s station, for reasons unknown. Sarah is totally pissed, but she pretends that she isn’t. At least she doesn’t act like a bitch…for that long…because, not soon enough, time’s up.

BEVERLY arctic char, onion & beet compote, celery root truffle purée, fennel salad.

SARAH braised rabbit leg & heart, cherries, hazelnuts, sauerkraut purée.

Both dishes go over well with the judges. Tom asks Beverly a few questions about her dish, including why she chose to do a purée. Beverly explains that she chose to do a purée because she wanted him to eat a fucking purée, except she took about a hundred words to do so. The only issue with Beverly’s dish is that it might be slightly overcooked. Ruh roh!

Tom applauds Sarah’s decisions to both make a kraut and to do a braised meat in such a short amount of time. He also asks her why she chose to make the dish the way she made it. Sarah explains that since Canada is basically Italy and Germany, she used those influences in her dish. Duh.

So with two dishes being quite good, and each with only small flaws, who is going to join Paul and Lindsay in the [maybe] finale? It’s Sarah. Sad trombone. Beverly gets a little weepy. Sarah sends her off with insincere sportsmanship.

Ugh, this episode was annoying and full of dumbass challenges. There had better not be all this bullshit next time, Padma…

NEXT TIME Vancouver. Anita Lo. Emeril. Some other dudes. Musical chairs with people. Pasta makes Sarah weep. Something is frozen. It still isn’t the finale.

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