Thursday, February 23, 2012

Top Chef Texas Finale Part 2 Recap

Welp, we're photo-less yet again folks. Makes it a bit easier on me though, since the images are often the most difficult and time-consuming part of the whole recap process. Unfortunately, this episode wasn't exactly full of humorous moments to write about.

On with the show!

So in this second part of a completely gratuitous three-part finale, the remaining Top Cheftestants - Paul, Lindsay, and Sarah - are off the mountain, out of the flying death-traps gondolas, and settled into a nice hotel in Vancouver. They are all thrilled to be there together because they're such great pals now, and even more thrilled that nasty ol' Beverly is out of the competition again.

The first challenge of the day takes place in Chinatown, where Padma and Emeril meet the threesome at Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie. Hold on...let me go look at their menu. Hmm...looks good. I'll have the shao bing, the mantou, the "kick ass house fried rice," and from the "schnacks" section, the marinated eggplant. What? They don't deliver? Dang. I'll just have to enjoy my bagel from the new Panera down the street. (It just opened this morning, and who's the first person I see in there? Fellow food blogger Nakiya!)

Where was I? Oh, recapping Top Chef. Boo.

Sarah tells us she's super extra happy that Bev's not around, not only because she couldn't stand the clumsy little Korean lass, but also because she'd smoke their asses in an Asian challenge. What about Paul, Sarah? He's Asian, too. Just because he's now your BFF doesn't mean he doesn't want to flatten you.

Emeril is all smiley this week, whereas he looked pretty glum in past weeks. Padma seems fairly perky, too, so maybe they shared a doobie before filming. She tells the chefs they will be cooking Asian-influenced dishes with some Asian-influenced helpers - three people whom Padma introduces as "Top Chef Masters." This would be Anita Lo, Floyd Cardoz, and....Takashi Yagihashi? Who? Was he the invisible Master in season three? I'm guessing he's a cheftestant in season 4, so there's probably a press release from Bravo in my near future. (Stay tuned to for details!) This Yagihashi guy's got a cute accent where he does that L and R mix-up thing; he tells us he's making "gweeduck crams."

In the time it took to write that sentence, the chefs have drawn knives; I pick my head up from my notes to see Lo partnered with Lindsay, Cardoz with Sarah, and Yagihashi with Paul. Sarah remarks that Paul's lucky to have gotten the Japanese chef. Why? Does she think Paul is Japanese? Are they really BFFs if she doesn't know he's Chinese/Filipino?

The challenge starts right away, without any time for the cheftestants to consult with their appointed Masters. It's a tag team match - only one partner will cook at a time, and their other half will take over the cooking at 10 minute intervals. The Masters enter the kitchen first and hope they leave enough clues behind so their partners can get an idea of what they intend to create. After forty minutes and two turns in the kitchen each, time is called and Emeril and Padma taste the chefs' creations.

The dishes are all pretty good, but there are some criticisms. Lindsay used a bit too much Chinese sausage in the scallop dish she and Anita Lo created. Paul was a bit heavy-handed with the amount of Thai chili he sprinkled on his team's sashimi of "cram." And Sarah's and Floyd's cod in curry sauce needed more acid. Nevertheless, their dish is the best of the three and Sarah wins $20,000. Floyd is happy because this is his first Quickfire win EVER, despite winning Top Chef Masters last season.

The Master chefs are bid adieu and the Cheftestants are given their next challenge. They will be catering a "Fire and Ice" cocktail party for 150 of Vancouver's "culinary elite," and are responsible for one dish and one cocktail apiece. Each dish must include both hot and cold elements. The winner of the challenge will get a trip for two to Costa Rica, where presumably it is warmer than it currently is in Vancouver.

After shopping, the chefs have five hours to cook. Sarah is making tons of fresh pasta for a greens-stuffed canneloni dish topped with a frozen brick of gingery spiced mousse. The intention is that the mousse melts into a sauce on the hot pasta. Lindsay is doing halibut and hopes that she can do it right this time since Beverly won't be around to ruin it for her (see: Restaurant Wars). Paul is making an intense crab and lobster bouillabaise and roughly butchers several live lobsters in order to get a rich stock started.

While the chefs are prepping, Tom comes in and asks Paul if the competition was getting to him, implying that because he is Asian, he should have won the Quickfire. Paul seems embarrassed. Would Tom have said the same thing to Beverly? Would he have expected Sarah to win an Italian challenge?

It's really funny how many times the ghost of Beverly comes up in this episode. While the judges are waiting for their food, Gail cracks wise about a special "Last Chance Finale Kitchen" that Tom has to rush off to so Beverly could get back into the competition again. Emeril then says he thinks she's there already, hiding under the table.

Poof! Time is up and the cheftestants have to get their plates ready for service. Paul presents to the judges first and offers them a drink he calls the "Pan Am" along with his crab and lobster bouillabaise. Gail, Emeril, and Padma rave about the rich lobster stock, but all crankypants Tom can do is bitch about the piece of arugula on top. He thinks it should either be incorporated into the dish or left off. Sarah is up next with her canneloni and her cocktail, the "Agrumi." Her pasta is delicious and classic but her mousse - frozen on an antigriddle - is too solid and doesn't melt into a sauce. Finally, Lindsay's halibut is perfectly cooked but some of her other elements - raw kale, a celeri remoulade, a flat Bloody Mary-ish cocktail - don't please.

At Judges Table, all three are questioned as to why they should go on to the finale. Paul states the obvious - as a Texan, he can't lose Top Chef Texas! The other two babble on about how far they've come and how much they have yet to show, yadda yadda yawn we've heard it all before. The cheftestants are then chased back to the stew room - which looks to be a nicely appointed RV or tour bus - so the judges can bicker about the dishes. Tom seems all pleased with Sarah, saying she "went out of her comfort zone." Really? She cooked Italian food, just as she has done for pretty much the whole competition. After some deliberation where Gail and Tom disagree about various petty things and he's definitely still pissed about Paul's single fucking piece of arugula, the chefs are brought out again for the verdict. Sarah's name is called first.... Mr Minx and I just about whoop with excitement as we think she's out, but then they tell her she's going to the finale part 3. Booo! Then Lindsay is told to pack her knives and go. Paul is kinda standing there, stunned, before figuring out he is the winner of the competition and gets that trip to Costa Rica.

I didn't like Lindsay, but I certainly preferred her to Sarah. Go Paul!

Next week: The two Texans battle and then it's over, right? Right?

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