Recap: 'Top Chef' - 'Game On'
The chefs must cook a meal of game - but competing in pairs is the real challenge
As Edward points out, we're down to the dirty dozen. And speaking of dozen (or more), I'm keeping an eye on Padma. Since she admitted that she gains about 15 pounds during a season and just relies on clever, loose-fitting outfits to conceal her fuller form, I'm intrigued. Considering she always looks pretty amazing (and skinny), I'm thinking we all might be able to pick up some post-holiday fashion tips if she's really this skillful at concealment. So go ahead, down that eggnog! Grab a turkey leg! But then again, I'm not ruling out that Padma just has a closet full of Spanx that she's not copping to, so maybe proceed at your own risk.
Before we get started, Nyesha comments on Heather's nastiness toward Beverly. She thinks Heather lacks integrity in how she treats other people, and I have to say, I'm sort of siding with Nyesha. If we only saw random moments of Heather bullying Beverly I would be willing to chalk up her behavior to editing, but it seems like everyone else (except for Ty-lor) thinks she's a pill, too. Not everyone should compete on a reality TV show as your worst moments are preserved for all eternity, and I think Heather may be one of those people.
Time for the Quickfire! Tim Love, the owner of the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in Fort Worth, will be our judge. For the challenge, the chefs must make a dish that pairs well with one of the many Don Julio tequilas (plug! Plug!) they can choose from (who knew there were so many tequilas? Well, probably most of us, but let's not get into it). First, a tequila tasting, then cooking. No immunity at stake, but the winner will get $5,000.
I'm seeing lots of fennel, lots of seafood. Chris J. is making chicken, but he's also overcooking it. He may have wanted to gussy up a raw oyster like Chris C. Can't overcook that or set the kitchen on fire, which is what Chris J. seems hell bent on doing.
Ty-lor - 1942 - Steamed clams in a Thai-style fish caramel sauce
Tim likes the sweetness of the clam, so Paul's comment that he thought Ty picked the best protein is probably dead on.
Heather - Reposado - Mango avocado salad with rock shrimp
Tim does not seem to think this is a fit with the tequila. It looks like a nice, light, sorta boring lunch, but I'm not sure I'd want a tequila shot with it.
Beverly - Reposado - Cold-smoked green tea oyster
Tim finds the smoke flavor interesting, which makes Heather shoot flames out of her eyeballs in Beverly's direction. Okay, yes, probably editing, but I'm sure Heather isn't thrilled that Tim liked Beverly's food better than hers.
Sarah - Blanco - Fennel risotto with glazed scallops
Tim asks Sarah if she used the Blanco the whole time. Hmmm. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad comment, really.
Lindsay - Anejo - Salmon with fennel puree and brown butter sauce
Tim likes the skin. That's something, I guess. No comment on the tequila pairing.
Edward - Anejo - Bok choy lettuce wrap with lamb
Heather makes a face as Edward describes his dish, but Tim deems it a very interesting pairing. I would think bok choy would disappear next to tequila, but the Korean chili paste and lamb are probably more than tough enough for the job. So, Heather can suck it. As usual.
Chris J. - Blanco - Pan-seared chicken with lime vinaigrette
Tim says this is a really playful dish, but Chris claims the chicken was overcooked. Chris always has good ideas, but he's had real problems with execution.
Grayson - Anejo - Sesame cod with tequila brown sugar glaze
Grayson admits she never drinks tequila, as she's a Wisconsin beer girl. Don't tell the judges that!
Chris C. - Blanco - Raw oyster with tequila tapioca pearl and sea salt air
Tim loves that it makes him feel like he's at the beach -- which is exactly what Chris said he was going for. And now this makes me want to eat it. Beach on the half shell!
Dakota - 1942 - Lamb with medjool date pistou
Tim says the date is really sweet, which I think is meant as a compliment. But I can't be sure.
Tim feels some people really thought about the pairing, and some people blew it. He calls out Heather for not combining her food and drink well, and tells her he felt like it was a special at a new chain restaurant. Zing! Heather, once again, shoots flames out of her eyes. This could just be a too-much-eyeliner day for her, though, who knows. Tim tells Chris his chicken was dry, and tells Sarah he felt the risotto was undercooked. Sarah is completely offended, as she's learned how to cook risotto with Italian masters. Well, I can't blame her there, but she did try to cook risotto in under THIRTY MINUTES. Come on, that never ends well.
His favorites were Chris C. (Blanco is hard to pair, but he did a great job), Lindsay (salmon was well-cooked) and Ty-lor (he liked the spiciness of the dish). The winner is… Ty-lor! I'm actually really glad to see this, as Ty-lor was, I think, unfairly punished for Lindsay's buttinski-ness last week. He needs a win, just to keep his morale up.
Time for the Elimination Challenge. Everyone is being paired up with the person standing next to them. And guess what? Heather's paired up with BEVERLY. Heather is not happy. Beverly shrinks about an inch, so she's almost pocket sized. I think Beverly is having flashbacks to being stuffed in a locker during middle school or something. Though, if Heather had a locker, she'd probably stuff Beverly into it.
The chefs will be cooking a big game dinner. Nyesha is thrilled. Shoot it, kill it, take out the buckshot and cook it, she says. There will be six courses, and each team will be cooking a favorite dish of a celebrity chef who will be in attendance:
Nyesha and Dakota will be cooking venison for Bryan Caswell of Reef in Houston
Sarah and Paul will be cooking squab for Anita Lo from Annisa in New York
Grayson and Chris J. will be cooking elk for Tim Love
Chris C. and Lindsay will cook boar for Jon Shook of Animal in Los Angeles
Heather and Beverly will cook duck for John Currence from City Grocery in Oxford, Mississippi.
Edward and Ty-lor will cook quail for Vinny Dotolo, also of Animal
The chefs will also be judging one another. Oof. Sarah hopes people will not put personal relationships ahead of cooking, but you know they will.
It's a double elimination challenge. Aack! However, the winning team splits $10,000.
Off to Whole Foods! Beverly has lots of ideas -- which Heather shoots down. Rudely. Grayson is hoping Chris J. doesn't go nuts on her food, as he's that kind of chef and she isn't. Well, Grayson, I'm betting Chris J. is going to be Chris J. and you may want to nip it in the bud now as opposed to later.
Heather harps on Beverly about not wanting to do Asian food. She doesn't MAKE Asian food. Edward thinks Heather is being a complete bitch. Oddly enough, she seems bossy but not bitchy to me, at least at this point. Did I just defend Heather? I will take that back shortly, I'm sure.
Beverly informs us that she was once in an abusive relationship, and she'll never let that happen again. Um, Beverly? It's happening NOW.
The chefs all have to cook in Tim Love's tiny kitchen. Chris J. screws up his sweet potato links and will now have to make sweet potato fries. Fries? What is this, Ed Debevics? If you can order it at Hamburger Habit, it's not something to put on the plate, Chris J.
Time to eat! In addition to the fleet of celeb judges and Padma, Tom Colicchio and Hugh Atcheson will also be in attendance.
Lindsay and Chris C. - Boar - Roasted wild boar with kohlrabi slaw and faro fried rice
Jon thinks the marinade's too much. Tom likes the slaw and the sauce, but it's not that exciting. Back in the kitchen, Paul thinks the slaw is watery, which is like a knife in Lindsay's heart. Yes, I think the chef-on-chef judging is going to get ugly.
Beverly and Heather - Duck - Five-spice duck rest with creamy polenta and pickled cherries
John doesn't like the pickled cherries. Hugh thinks the dish is rubbery. Vinny thinks it's too safe. But it's a hit in the kitchen, though everyone may just be afraid of Heather.
Grayson and Chris J. - Elk - Juniper roasted elk with sweet potato and bouquet of citrus greens
Chris J. admits he screwed up the sweet potato -- and Grayson corrects him. This crap is EXACTLY how we wanted it, Chris! Poor Grayson. She could go home because Mr. Fancy Pants wanted to play with the sweet potato and made a mess of it. Tim thought the meat was seasoned well, but Bryan thinks it's 1982 banquet food. Stupid sweet potato! Grayson tells Chris J. to keep his damn mouth shut back in the kitchen, as he doesn't need to give everyone a reason to pan their dish. Good thinking.
Ed and Ty-lor - Quail - Sorghum quail with pickled cherries and eggplant
Tim is thrilled that the quail is the center of the plate. Anita thinks they brought out the earthy quality of the ingredients. I think we have a winner!
Dakota and Nyesha - Venison - Roasted rack of venison with kabocha squash and beet gratin
Nyesha is freaked out, as Dakota promised she could cook the venison -- and it's rare. Very rare. As in, it might not moo, but it might make whatever sound elk make during mating season. Nyesha is not a happy camper. Bryan likes it but feels the meat is rare. Tom likes the gratin but says the venison is a little rare. The chefs in the kitchen agree -- Dakota needed to cook the meat. Nyesha, you are now free to beat Dakota to death with your bare hands. It's meat, Dakota! How hard is it to just cook the stuff?
Sarah and Paul - Squab - Squab breast and sausage with nectarine pickles
Anita would have liked to see more caramelization. Tom thinks it was sloppy presentation but good food. Sarah goes into the kitchen and cries over her sausage. Sarah, relax! Don't cry in front of everyone!
Padma calls Ed and Ty back. Did they win? Yes, they did. No screwing around today. They'll be splitting ten grand. Whoot! Ty is having a red letter day. Edward is so happy he didn't make an ass of himself in front of all these chefs.
Now, they and the other chefs have fifteen minutes to decide on the three losing teams. This will not be pretty. Sort of like Dakota's venison.
Beverly and Heather want the judges to decide. Grayson suggests they have a vote. That seems obvious, right? But Heather sniffs at that idea like Grayson just threw a lump of raw intestines on the table. Heather does not like any idea she didn't come up with -- especially not one that will probably get her ass sent home. Paul decides to jump in and tells Heather and Beverly he didn't love their food and adds that Dakota and Beverly didn't cook their venison enough. He also says Chris J. and Grayson had dry meat. Heather also jumps on the Dakota/Nyesha train, then pans Chris and Grayson's food.
Chris J., who finally feels the need to just get this hellish process over with, has everyone raise their hands for the the losing dishes, which turn out to be elk, duck and venison. Edward thinks the claws have not come out yet, and he's right -- everyone is trying to tiptoe around the issue of crap food, except for, of course, Heather, who is, in great reality TV tradition, Not There To Make Friends.The three teams go before the judges.
Tom asks if the chefs believe they deserve to be in the bottom three. Of course, Heather doesn't. She'd serve her meal in her restaurant! People are out to get her! Tom doesn't roll his eyes, but you can tell he's thinking about it and he quickly moves on.
Tom liked Dakota and Nyesha's dish and thought it was delicious -- except for raw meat. Dakota gets weepy. She damn well should -- if she and Nyesha go home, it's entirely her fault. Hugh also liked their dish -- except for the raw meat. Hugh thinks Chris J.'s potato was raw. Tom tells Heather and Beverly their dish seemed like components and not an actual dish. Then, Heather starts gunning for Beverly. And boom, it's ON!
Heather thinks Beverly's slow. She doesn't have a good work ethic. Beverly took two days on shrimp! Not this week, but once! Heather holds grudges. Dakota, who is just sick of this crap, sticks up for Beverly. Finally, Beverly makes an effort to stick up for herself. Hallelujah! Beverly thinks teamwork is about asking questions. She doesn't work the way Heather does. Which is to say she doesn't bully and yell, but Beverly is still trying to be nice.
The judges finally have had enough of the Beverly and Heather show and send the chefs away. They discuss the meal and everyone agrees that Heather shouldn't be bitching about bygones -- as Tim says, you have to take a baseball approach to "Top Chef" and forget about past hits and misses each time you go up to bat. True, true, Tim Love!
FInally, they make their decision and the judges send... Dakota and Nyesha home. Seriously? Their food was otherwise delicious and Beverly/Heather turned out a mess of flavors and Grayson/Chris J. made friggin' sweet potato fries. This seems ridiculous. I honestly think the judges are being encouraged to keep Beverly and Heather because the producers are hoping for more fighting. Ugh. This is a real shame, as Nyesha really did have the talent to go further in this game. Let's hope she can cook her way back in. All she has to do is beat Dakota and Whitney, so it's possible.
Patti LaBelle will be on the show next week, which means singing and some starstruck chef behavior. I'm never a fan of these challenges, as the celebrities can be picky but not particularly insightful (though Maroon 5, clearly foodies), but hey, maybe we'll get a song out of it.
Do you think Heather and Beverly should have been eliminated? Do you think a double elimination in a team challenge was fair? And do you think Chris J. is trying too hard?
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