Top Chef: Season 9, Ep. 15
Culinary Games
Ah, the Top Chef championship rounds - that magical time where the chefs, weeks later, are shipped off to some remote point because the original place was getting tiresome and everybody on staff needs a vacation. But who would want to vacation in British Columbia? Skiers, I suppose, but as a child of the sea I have never trusted skiers and their sport. And we all get to ogle the chef's newly grown haircuts and facial hair. After Blais' hilarious victory beard last year, Sarah stands out with a haircut that makes her look less ridiculous by a wide margin. But let's get to the actual challenge.

The four remaining chefs are tasked with creating a dish while riding an enclosed ski gondola, grabbing new ingredients every time they circle to the top of the mountain. Apparently this is the fastest gondola in the world, which is exactly the type of fun fact you need to make a British Columbia vacation interesting. You may be thinking, "How safe is it to be cutting and boiling in the freezing cold?" It isn't! Lindsay is the first to point out that at high altitudes, things cook very differently, and idea that the other chefs may or may not have caught on to. The chefs have their choice of ingredients at the top, but the choice isn't great. Lindsay grabs the horseradish to make a vinaigrette (that sounds awesome) while Bev uses it to balance out her anchovies. Sarah uses prune juice. Paul is the first to present his dish. On the way out, he laments "It's not the gondola's fault, it's not my motion sickness' fault, it's my fault." I'm calling shenanigans - if you were on solid fucking land Paul, you would have been able to do it fine. It is a challenge designed to mess with people who have motion sickness or fear of heights. False humility isn't doing anybody any favors. I'm not sure if the altitude forced Lindsey to plate too few pieces of salmon, though. The guest judge this week is snowboarder Gretchen Breiler, who manages to offer the kind of critique one expects from people not involved in the dining industry. The competition feels almost like a main challenge because of how it's spaced out, but also because of the prize - they're giving away immunity this far into the game, which means a spot in the Vancouver finals, exempting them from the next two rounds of cooking. Lindsey wins the spot, which briefly angers me. But now the competition is between Paul, Sarah and Bev, at least for the next couple of days.

Back at their swanky hotel, the chefs start talking about their chefs. In a talking head, Sarah talks about how Bev is meek, but then can attack like a tiger. Racist! Or did you mean to choose a different, non-asian cat, Sarah? Maybe an ocelot? Have you seen their tufted ears? Sorry, too much Archer. The point is, these people are terrible at metaphors. And we can't dwell on it anyway, because its time for the second challenge, where they meet John Montgomery, gold medalist in the skeleton and their guest judge. He's also an opportunity for people to make terrible jokes about skiing and luging. Notice I said second challenge, not main challenge. Instead of a single main elimination challenge, there are three tonight, and the winner of each goes to the final three. Also, Padme unveils the ingredients that the chefs will have to cook with, which are all frozen in blocks of ice. I assume this is to draw attention to hunger issues among the far-north Inuit brought on by global climate change, but it actually just to make the chefs look funny while using an ice pick. They have an hour to thaw the ingredients and cook a dish, which is physically impossible. I don't know who came up with this idea, but I hope they had their ski pass taken away.

So the chefs start flailing at a block of ice, and they're not very good at it. Color me surprised. Paul manages to dislodge his crab, while Bev bangs on the ice with a crying pan exactly like the monkey with a bone in 2001: A Space Odyssey - I shit you not, it's like the cinematographer set up the shot on purpose. Paul begins to help them out, because it should be about the food, not physical strength. All of the dishes suffer some serious flaw, most of which is because the ingredients were frozen. Seriously, when Grace criticizes Paul by saying the mango wasn't defrosted properly somebody should have smacked her. In the end, Paul wins. If Paul doesn't win, this whole season is forfeit according to me. The other two move onto round three of the relay.

And this is literally a relay. It's a version of the biathlon, where the two remaining chefs have to cross country ski around a course, and then shoot at the targets representing ingredients. This is the worst competition yet. Bev has never skied or shot, and Sarah's only ever shot tin cans with a shotgun. Yet, this competition is even more slapstick-prone than the last, including about a billion shots of them falling on skis. Then it comes to the shooting portion. Sarah can't hit the side of a barn door, but both of them add a few ingredients to their kitchen. Part of me thinks that they took a lot more than 10 shots, and were edited down by quite a bit, but that's not what this is about. Bev slow roasts her fist, while Sarah braises a rabbit. Sarah finds a way to complain about Bev, which surprises nobody. Sarah gives a big speech about how she would never do anything but cook if given the choice again, which is a dead giveaway that she'll be staying - how else to give her even an iota of sympathy? That is in fact the case, and Bev get's sent home in another tearful exit. Paul better win these finals, is all I'm going to say. And I'll see you all next week for this season's finale.

Grade B


I'm not sure if anybody else's promo featured this, but they made it look as if BEV SHOT SARAH WITH A GUN. As in they cut from Bev holding her rifle to Sarah flopping like a dead fish. Maybe they're taking this fake feud a little too seriously.

Paul and Lindsey visit the other two chefs wearing all white and looking like cult members. Perhaps it's because they've ascended beyond the mortal; realm to a place of wonder and delight. Then I remember they're going to Vancouver.

Chances for victory next week:

Paul: 4:6

Lindsey: 5:1

Sarah: 10:1
Tags: Top Chef
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