Top Chef Recap: Three The Hard Way

After squeezing as many product placements, thematic challenges, stupid haircuts, dramatic stares and vacant looks from Padma as they could out of making dinner at a ski resort, Bravo makes one last use of the Toyota Sienna (which, at this point, has to just reek of shame, failure and scallops) and sends the final three chefcicles to Vancouver. In the car (and in the confessional), Sarah admits to shedding crocodile tears at Bev’s departure, and now she’s ready to win. She’s also ready to shart herself when Takashi Yagihashi emerges from the kitchen of Bao Bei–a Chinese brasserie where this week’s All-Asian Quickfire will be happening.

Like Whistler-Blackcomb being overrun by Olympians, Vancouver has a bunch of Asians, so the cheftestants are paired with three Top Chef Masters—Yagihashi, Anita Lo, and Floyd Cardoz—for a dish that will be tag teamed in 10 minute intervals. As awesome (and sexy…) as this sounds, it’s not nearly as awesome (or as sexy) as the sleeveless leather tuxedo shirt that Padma’s wearing, but we’re here to talk about the All New Toyota Sienna food, not fashion. Right?

Knives are drawn for the final time. Paul gets Yagihashi and is immediately nervous. Lindsay gets Anita and doesn’t seem too excited about it. Sarah is even less enthusiastic about being paired up with Pretty Boy Floyd, but she’s happy that Bev’s not around, because that would be like these three bringing a knife to a gunfight. Or some other tired-out cliche.

Making the challenge more interesting (for the chefs, at least), this final Quickfire is worth $20,000–which should mean that Paul has it all locked down (dude has already won like $17 million dollars, three cars and a free juicer in Quickfire challenges this season). But although he has an excellent mind-meld with Yagihashi and puts together a geoduck sashimi with mushrooms, yuzu dashi, and fried whitefish, he’s too heavy-handed with the Thai chiles, ruining his chances of winning and, even worse, shattering  his confidence so close to the finish line. It hits him so hard, you can hear the man break.

Lindsay does a decent job of interpreting Anita’s time in the kitchen, and the original vision of scallops three ways (Note to self: Remove the “take a shot every time someone cooks with scallops” rule from your Top Chef drinking game before someone just fucking dies) is morphed into a sautéed scallop with fried roe and crispy bok choy. Not surprisingly, the scallop (just like every single motherfucking scallop EVER MADE in Top Chef history) is cooked perfectly. Allowing the judges to say something like, “Wow, this scallop is cooked perfectly” and making me want to stab my eyes out with shrimp forks.

The problem that Emeril had with the dish was the Chinese sausage (which are two words I’m not really sure should be used in the same sentence), and that means Sarah—arguably the worst person in the world—is the winner. Guided by the Southeast Asian sensibilities (and potato-shaped head) of Floyd Cardoz, Sarah managed to put the finishing touches on a coconut curry with pan-seared cod, crab salad, and amaranth–something that Padma threatens to steal for the next cookbook she’s having ghostwritten. But more important, it’s enough to win her $20,000 furnished by the makers of Top Chef wine.

I’m too disgusted to even try and make fun of that…

Apparently, it took getting to Canada for Sarah to start winning money, and now she’s got some momentum. Poor Paul, on the other hand, is riddled with self-doubt as the elimination challenge is announced. Running on empty in the idea department, Bravo combines the scorching heat of Texas with the bitter cold of Vancouver to see how the cheftestants interpret Fire and Ice in their food. They’ll have to do 150 covers, and they must also create a cocktail to pair with their dish. I’m immediately thinking chili with a scoop of sour cream, but Emeril dashes my dreams. I hope that these final three weren’t thinking of something that simple.

Of course they weren’t! Because Paul’s thinking essential oils and Sarah’s thinking frozen sauces that will melt into the dish when served and Lindsay’s thinking, “Oh shit I’m really out of my league here,” and at the last minute she decides to make some sort of frozen tomato thing that Gail seemed to really like and which everyone else just…didn’t. This was served alongside a halibut, making her interpretation of Fire and Ice the blinding rage and frigid heart she displayed during restaurant wars when Bev fucked up her dish.

Sarah’s $20,000 swag inspires her to make fresh pasta–a risk that the judges appreciate almost as much as they hate the misfire of her sformato: a solid hunk of spiced sauce that spent too much time on the anti-griddle. Her cocktail–a blend of gin, kumquat, and mango–was also well-received, and apparently that (plus the address on her driver’s license) is enough to earn her a spot in the final, leaving Paul and Lindsay to plead their case one final time.

No matter what they say, however, there’s no chance that Paul wouldn’t advance. Why? Because I am now convinced that the whole thing’s rigged. Lindsay’s final elimination dish had perfectly cooked fish, so the judges breath a sigh of relief when her cocktail wasn’t executed properly, allowing them to claim that this was more offensive than Paul’s random, pointless inclusion of arugula in his final dish. The result: Paul gets the win and a trip to Costa Rica for his King Crab in Lobster Broth with Lemon Snow and Inconsequential Arugula, and Lindsay is sent to sequester until she’s summoned to help with the final elimination.

I’m pretty sure Paul could’ve served up lukewarm Dinty Moore beef stew served in a hobo’s skull and everyone on the judging panel would’ve just cooed over it while silently counting the cost of selling their souls to the Bravo marketing department because, in the end (and as was undoubtedly destined from the beginning), it will be a battle of the Texans for the title of Top Chef Texas. Wow. Really Bravo? You expect us to swallow this tripe?

Maybe you’d better pass that bottle of Top Chef Wine over here after all…