The Food and Wine Hedonist

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Top Chef Episode 15: Culinary Games

Previous Episode


It’s the beginning of the finals for this season’s Top Chef.  After last week’s farewell to the great Sonny Chiba, the contestants hopped on the plane, left sunny San Antonio, and found themselves in the snowy Vancouver…  WTF????  There must have been some kind of time warp thing going on.  But perhaps what’s more disturbing than their finding a crease in the time-space continuum was Kundun’s hair.

All of the challenges were held at Whistler Mountain, home of the 2010 Winter games.  So there was an Olympic theme going on the whole night.  There were three events with the winner of each one getting $10K and a spot in the final.

Event One – Cook on a moving gondola

The chefs had to cook a meal on a moving gondola. Midway through, they had to exit and get an additional ingredient that had to be incorporated into their dish.   The guest judge was snowboarding champ Gretchen Bleiler.

  • Kundun (extra ingredient was wasabi) – Lamb loin with curried enoki mushrooms and wasabi crème fraiche , with a gastrique of fresh juniper
    • He had trouble with the getting the lamb rack caramelized  and it showed in the final results as there were some negative comments about the meat – underseasoned and uneven.
  • Sarah (prune juice) – Chorizo sausage with onions, prune juice, gooseberries and pickled mushrooms  and almond.
    • Speaking of chorizo, on my Facebook page I posted a recipe for Shrimp and Chorizo non-Paella which uses chickpeas in place of rice.  I’ve been putting extra pictures and recipes there, so don’t forget to “Like” the page.
  • Bev (horseradish) – Salmon tartare, anchovy horseradish crème fraiche and crispy capers
    • Was an interesting note to fry the capers to add some complexity to the dish.
  • Penishead (horseradish) –  Seared salmon, red quinoa “risotto” with chorizo and horseradish vinaigrette
    • As the gondola ride was ending, she was fretting about not having enough salmon there. As I was watching I said, “Bullshit, just cut the fucker in half.”  And that’s what she did.  And yes, I really did use that language.

And the rankings were

  1. Penishead – she moves on.
  2. Beverly
  3. Sarah
  4. Kundun

Event Two – Create a dish using ingredients that are frozen in ice

Their “pantry” was several blocks of ice which they had to hack at with an ice pick to get the ingredients frozen in the middle.  The guest judge was Jon Montgomery, who won a gold medal in Skeleton.  For those who don’t know what that is, it’s where they ride on a luge down a ice track going a couple hundred miles an hour – FACE FIRST.  Sighhhh, white people…

In addition to the ice pick, Bev tried pounding on the ice with a frying pan – classic – to no avail.  Obviously, there wasn’t going to be any product placement by Analon there.  Kundun was ahead of the game and he ended up helping the other get to their ingredients.  Did I mention that “Kundun” is how people address the Dalai Lama? So of course he’s all about helping them out.

  • Sarah – pea and spinach soup with turmeric, almonds, and king crab
    • Tom made mention of how Kundun helped her out with the crab.  The way he said it made it sound like it was more than helping with the ice.  It sounded like he flat out gave her a couple of pieces to give her a fair shot.
  • Bev – seared scallop with red wine reduction, buttered peas, corn and couscous
    • She received some nice compliments, but it didn’t sound like it was anything special.  Here again, Kundun shows some generosity – since he gave Bev all his wine, he had to go with a mango chutney instead of the sauce he was planning.
  • Kundun – poached king crab in brown butter, toasted almonds, mango chutney with orange marmalade

Winner: Kundun.  Uh, yeah… Even with the plan-B sauce, this was clearly superior over a scallop or a thin pea soup.  He moves on.

Event Three – Culinary Biathlon

Biathlon has got to be one of the coolest sports ever – a cross-country ski race with rifle shooting.   It’s so challenging because the race part pumps up your heartrate which is completely detrimental to the shooting part.  The two of them had to cross-country ski through the woods and then shoot a rifle at targets for ingredients.  They had 10 bullets and once an ingredient was picked, the other couldn’t use it.  The guest judge was Cammi Granato, goaltender for a gold medal winning hockey team.

  • Bev slow-roasted arctic char, onion& beet compote, celery root truffle puree and fennel salad
    • Praised for matching the fish with earthy ingredients, but it was a little overcooked
  • Sarah – braised rabbit leg and heart with cherries, hazelnut and sauerkraut puree
    • This looked really good, but the rabbit was described as tough. She had set out to make  rabbit two ways – braised leg and roasted loin.  Wonder what happened to the loin?

Loser – Bev.  The underseasoned fish and overcooked compote was a losing combination.  Even if she executed well, the rabbit sounded like a great concept.

Random Thoughts

  • I really want to go  to Vancouver.  I hear it’s got a great cosmopolitan feel and vibrant food scene.  That and an amazing nude beach.
  • After the extended time off, Sarah said her goal was “to be a really nice person”.   Heh-heh.  That horse left the fucking barn in the first week of the competition when she was ragging on that big Suge Knight looking guy.  Penishead, on the other hand still seemed really bitter about Bev.  At least she’s honest with herself.
  • All the gimmicks to make it challenging were ok, but I still prefer what they did with the Mentors and the Evil Queen episodes.  The best food was when they gave  the chefs all the time they need to create whatever the heck they want for a small crowd.  So, of course, in next week’s preview they show them catering a meal for 150 people.
  • Sarah was nervous about going head-to-head against Bev since she was on a roll with all the Last Chance Kitchen wins.  That’s one long roll since that was months ago on the other side of the continent.  Really, she should really be more worried about Kundun.
  • Bev did pretty well with the skiing and shooting, neither of which she ever did before. And in keeping with the Winter Olympics theme, she pulled a Tonya Harding and tried to take out Sarah’s kneecap.

Let’s hope she went full-on Tonya and made a sex tape. Oh, you wouldn’t watch that?

  • I love how Bev kept on getting in Sarah’s way.  That’s gotta be Bev’s way of mindfucking her.  She must’ve watched “Get Him to the Greek”

About thefoodandwinehedonist

I don't know everything about the world of food and wine, but I'm not going to let a small detail like that stop me from blogging about it.

One comment on “Top Chef Episode 15: Culinary Games

  1. Pingback: Top Chef Episode 16: Fire and Ice « The Food and Wine Hedonist

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This entry was posted on February 16, 2012 by in Television and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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