For people who have not been following Top Chef all that closely this season: the magical elves over at Bravo have devised a mechanism this year through which every eliminated chef can fight their way back into the competition.
It’s called Last Chance Kitchen and it takes place on Bravo’s website. Without going too much into detail, the concept feels a little half-baked since there is no chance that cheftestants who were eliminated early on can compete against every other eliminated chef and remain victorious every single time.
Another problem encountered last week: Grayson was eliminated from the main competition and had to encounter Beverly in Last Chance Kitchen. Basic laws of TV drama, however, predict that Grayson can’t just leave the main competition and then come back the next episode as if nothing happened. So to no surprise, Beverly comes back this week to compete for the finals.
Focus on the Food
After last week’s disaster of a guest judge, the magical elves probably came to their senses and decided that the food should be front and center and that someone who actually knows what they’re talking about should judge it.
So Tom strolls in for the quickfire challenge that sees the cheftestants having to pick whatever ingredients they want from the pantry and prepare a dish that must contain every ingredient they choose. The twist? They’re blindfolded while choosing.
Sara quickly decides to make a soup because she can pretty much throw in anything she wants (and still ends up having to incorporate peaches into a corn soup). Ed ends up with pork casings and uses it as the base for his soup. Lindsay grabs fish because she can filet and cook it quickly. Beverly mostly staggers around and bumps into the other cheftestants. Which is almost a metaphor for her position on the show.
Sara wins the quickfire challenge and has a choice between taking home a product-placed car or a securing a guaranteed spot in the final four. Probably to the chagrin of the corporate overlords, she chooses the latter.
Then, Bravo brings out the mentors of all the chefs. The people that informed their cooking and steered them through their formative years. Everyone is very emotional and, except for Beverly who always seems a little robotic, everyone cries.
For the elimination challenge, the chefs have to create a dish that fulfills and exceeds their mentors’ expectations. Sara doesn’t have to compete and can simply spend a relaxing evening with her mentor.
As evidenced by the food produced during the elimination challenge, going back to basics and distilling the essence of their food doesn’t necessarily prod the chefs to be very creative or show-offy. Whoever expected Charlize Theron-challenge like food wizardry was probably disappointed.
Beverly’s gold shrimp and barbecue pork over noodles, Lindsay’s seafood stew, Paul’s sunchoke and dahi soup, and Ed’s braised pork belly with smoked oyster crema are, I’m sure, good dishes but are not very telegenic.
For the most part, the judges and the mentors don’t have any criticisms, and at this stage of the competition it would be a tad inappropriate, but there are two dishes that don’t make the cut: Ed’s, who, instead of using fresh oysters used canned ones, and Lindsay, who tarnished her dish by using heavy cream and dried herbs.
But before we get to them, let’s look at Paul, who won the round with his simple but expertly prepared soup. In a very emotional episode, he revealed himself to have a lot of heart and even more passion and, in my humble opinion, deserved the win.
Beverly moves on to the final round as well, a great accomplishment being that she was back onto the show after being eliminated. It would have been a bit too much engineered drama if Lindsay, who, as you might recall, harbored particularly strong feelings against Beverly earlier in the season and was made out to be sort of her nemesis, would have lost her place in the final round to her archfiend upon her return.
And Ed’s dish did rake up Tom’s harshest criticism of the night. So it is with great sadness that we have to let him go. His food consistently struck me as more inventive and exciting than Lindsay’s food and he is just an all-around more compelling TV character. But Top Chef proved this season time and time again that it is a show completely focused on food and maybe Lindsay’s food is just plain better. What do you think about Ed’s elimination? And what about Beverly’s triumphant return? If you were Sara, would you have competed in the elimination round instead of playing it safe? Have at it in the comments!
(Image courtesy of Bravo)