Top Chef “Culinary Games” Final Four

February 16, 2012

Anyone seen the 70’s Depression-era flick  “They Shoot Horses Don’t They?”. Don’t bother if you haven’t.  Suffice it to say it is really earnest. Jane Fonda is one half of a dance team trying to win some much-needed money by outdancing, over several days,  dozens of other couples.   To get the flavor, you can just catch a rerun of  tonight’s episode of Top Chef, as the Final Four endure several physical challenges, utilizing British Columbia’s Olympic ski area, which have nothing to do with how good a chef you are, and a whole lot to do with amping up the game show/Survivor quality of this once-great series.  You will win $100,000 and get a whole lot of food business publicity. Just dance, damn you, dance!

Back in the misty days of Season 2 or 3,  a last chef standing might fight through to a win with hard ingredients, wacky time limits, and maybe the impediment of a booted chef, brought back to “help” as sous chef.  Usually this was the one who oversalted and could be counted on to cut a finger and drip blood on a plate just before service.  Not tonight.   And also, for the first time, a formerly eliminated chef was allowed to fight her way back onto the show by defeating other losing chefs in  the online-only “Last Chance Kitchen”.  Web traffic to Bravo, anyone?  Sure.  But that meant Beverly Kim, who indeed got another chance, was back, having taken the worthy Ed out last week.  Ed, why did you use canned pre-smoked oysters for your sauce? Why?

So the falsely smiling Beverly joined Sarah, Lindsay and last man standing Paul for a cook-off in a swinging gondola going up a mountain at Whistler ski resort.   Lindsay won a spot in the Final Three with her perfectly crisped salmon with sausage.   Crisping is very hard at high altitudes.  Good one, Lindsay.

Now who is going down?  I know! Let’s have all three  chip ingredients out of huge blocks of ice and cook outdoors.  Paul chivalrously helped Beverly with ingredients and ice smashing.  For once, he was not punished for his classy kindness and won a spot.

Now, what all foodies want to see (not).  Chefs doing cross country skiing and marksmanship.  Is there a crossover demographic I don’t know about?   Winter  Olympic biathlon viewers who love arcane cooking shows?  Anyway, if it exists, Bravo nabbed it tonight, as Beverly and Sarah staggered through a cross country course, slipping and falling, then had to shoot at targets which would earn them enough ingredients to cook with.   That’s not where amazing plates of food come from.  It’s where okay plates of food come from.   They both got enough to pound out a meal, but while we’re at it, it would have been intriguing to see someone miss every target and have no ingredients.  Would they be the first in the history of the show to be eliminated for bad marksmanship instead of cooking?

Beverly’s arctic char was overwhelmed with too many earthy flavors and Sarah’s kinda dry rabbit ruled the day.  So Beverly, who did not deserve a second chance, really, was off.  Thankfully.

Next week, real cooking, no gimmicks.  I hope.