Recap: ‘Top Chef’ – ‘Culinary Games’

02.16.12 6 years ago 10 Comments


So, our final four intrepid chefs must face off in British Columbia, which seems a little random given that the show is called “Top Chef Texas,” but I guess Texas was closed that week. Seriously, though, did the show’s producers feel they’d exhausted the possibilities of an entire state? Anyway, Sarah is thrilled to be in British Columbia, plus she’s a new, nicer Sarah! At least until Bev show up. Sarah, Lindsay and Paul have a bond. Bev, well, Little Weirdo is on her own unless Paul throws her some conversation. Yes, Sarah can tell us she’s new and improved, but let’s face it — you can take the mean girl out of Texas, but she’s still a petty, backstabbing viper under the parka. Sarah interrupts Bev when Paul asks Bev about Last Chance Kitchen. Sarah rolls her eyes behind Bev’s back. Yes, New Sarah is JUST as awful as the old Sarah!

The chefs take a gondola up a ski slope in Whistler, where they find Padma wearing a plush toy on her head. She and Tom are there to tell the chefs about their latest stupid challenge — fixing a dish in a moving gondola! And how exactly does this prove they’re talented chefs? Because they can master what is, in essence, campsite cooking? And by the way, the altitude may make them sick, plus the gondolas move fast. Oh, and they’re so cold they can hardly open containers. The good news? Anyone who gets eliminated might do really, really well on an upcoming season of “Survivor.” 

Everyone has a tiny basket of ingredients from which to choose, but Bev is the only one who makes something cold — which is either brilliant or possibly a huge mistake for being too easy. God forbid someone doesn’t challenge himself or herself while fighting altitude sickness and hypothermia!

Gail, Tom and Padma will be our judges, and the guest judge will be professional snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler. Are there no chefs or critics in British Columbia? 

We will not be getting judge feedback between courses, just because. 


Seared lamb loin with curried mushrooms & wasabi creme fraiche


Chorizo sausage with onions, prune juice, gooseberries & pickled mushrooms


Salmon tartare, anchovy horseradish creme fraiche & crispy capers


Seared salmon, red quinoa “risotto” with chorizo & horseradish vinaigrette

So, what did the judges think? Tom thought Paul’s lamb was underseasoned, but thought he did a nice job under the circumstances. Gail loved the mushrooms. Gretchen is happy and smiley.

Tom would have liked more prune flavor in Sarah’s dish, but liked it otherwise. Padma thought the gooseberries added acid to it, which was key. 

On to Bev! Tom points out that tartare needs to be served ice cold, and she nailed it. He thought the flavors were great. Gail gives her points for excellent knife work in a moving gondola. 

Tom thought Lindsay’s salmon was perfectly cooked. Gretchen is, again, happy and smiley. 

So who won? But wait! Let’s drag this out! The winner gets $10,000, a place in the final round and won’t have to cook in the next two events. Everyone sweats, or the icicles on their foreheads start to thaw. Hard to tell. 

Paul came in last. Sarah came in third. And the winner is… Lindsay. Yay. At least it wasn’t Sarah, I guess. 

While Sarah still seems to think Bev is like the slow kid at school, she doesn’t count her out. Sarah thinks Bev is a silent horse who attacks like a tiger. Pick a metaphor and stick to it, Mean Girl. 

On to the next challenge. Jon Montgomery is a gold medalist. The chefs must get their food out of blocks of ice. They will have to chip them out with picks. Bev thinks she will break things apart like She-Ra. Hey, positive visualization!

Bev does seem to go batcrap nuts getting stuff out of the ice. She is small, but mighty. Paul helps out Bev and Sarah, because the challenge is about the food. Really? Because I think it’s about defrosting your fridge. 

Tom thinks this is like watching Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct.” Glad he’s having fun. 

Paul burns his red wine, then realizes he’s given the rest to Bev. Oh, Paul! You’re being chivalrous, but maybe don’t do that so much. 

Sarah – Pea & spinach soup with turmeric, almonds and king crab

Tom likes the spinach, but Gail thinks the almonds were a bit strong. Tom likes the crab — and notes Paul contributed that part.

Paul – Poached king crab, toasted almonds, mango chutney with orange marmalade

Gail loves the mango and crab combination, although the mango’s still frozen. Jon Montgomery is happy and smiley.

Bev – Seared scallop with red wine reduction, buttered peas, corn and couscous

Gail thought the sauce was heavy, but Padma thinks she got the couscous right. 

The winner is… Paul. He gets $10,000 and goes to the finals. Glad to see Paul going the distance. At least we know one truly nice, gifted chef will make it to the end.

Sarah can’t believe she has to cook against Bev. Why? Because she much prefers to coo at Lindsay while she cooks? 

Cammi Granato, female hockey player, is the guest judge for the last challenge. It’s a culinary biathlon! They’ll have to ski and shoot for their ingredients, then cook. Oh, come on! Could these challenges get any more ridiculous? This is basically just an opportunity for viewers to make fun of Bev and Sarah on skis. 

As expected, both chefs trip and slide and fall through the skiing portion, but Bev makes it to the shooting range first — and, even though Sarah actually has shooting experience, Bev manages to get her ingredients first. C’mon, Bev! 


Arctic char, onion & beet compote, celery root truffle puree & fennel salad


Braised rabbit leg & heart with cherries, hazelnuts & sauerkraut puree

Tom likes Bev’s dish, but thinks she may have overcooked the fish slightly. Noo! Tom thinks Sarah took a lot of risks with her dish, but it turned out nicely. Gail thought the rabbit was tough. I think Gail may just not like Sarah. And I wouldn’t hold it against her. 

The judges chat. I think Sarah has it, unfortunately. 

And yes, Beverly is told to pack her knives. DAMMIT! Padma actually gets weepy. I don’t think anyone wants Bev to go home, much less reward Sarah, new and improved or otherwise. Sarah makes a pretend pouty face and tells Bev she’s amazing, which is much easier to do when you’re shoving someone out the swinging doors never to return. The mean girls vanquished the mighty underdog, but I am still holding out hope that Paul beats the stuffing out of both of them. 

Do you think Bev should have gone home? Were you surprised by the challenges? And did you think they showed who had skills and who didn’t?

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