Top Chef 9.14 recap: And then there were…five. Again.

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Hello all, this week I am pinch-hit recapping for Christy, who just had a baby in the wee hours this morning. (Welcome to the world, Jack Fennessy!)

So . . . “Top Chef: Last Chance Kitchen” runs its course, eh? A reality show has to keep coming up with the fresh gimmicks, I suppose. The episode starts with the four legitimately remaining chefs sitting together in the dark, pondering who will be returning to the contest. Ed bets a pack of cigarettes on Beverly; Sarah bets a banana on Grayson. The scene quickly cuts to the foursome entering the kitchen for the last Quickfire Challenge in Tejas. But wait! Who won LCK? You see the diminutive silhouette coming through the glass door and you know: It’s Bev. And, surprise, no one looks particularly happy to see her. And though I’m sure Bev feels the animosity, she puts on her trooper happy face and gamely jumps back into the fray.

For the Quickfire, the chefs have thirty minutes to put on blindfolds and wander aimlessly about, collecting ingredients and then cook a dish using every ingredient they picked up. There’s trickery, since all the meats and fish in the fridge are packed in Cryovac, devoid of texture or smell. Crouching Bev almost gets tangled up in Hidden Paul, heh. The winning dishes comes down to Ed (who made udon with ribbons of zucchini, mushrooms, scallions, and broth from pork casings he grabbed, thinking it was pancetta) and Sarah (corn soup with a bizarre but apparently right-on combination of red onions, roasted mushrooms, onions, and peaches). The winner gets a tough choice: A Prius V, or a guaranteed spot in the finale. Sarah wins (grr), and she chooses a place in the finale. Ed indicates that if he had won, he would have gone for the car . . .

Now, this has been a weepy season, but this next segment takes the tears to new levels: Out walk the remaining chef’s mentors:

Tony Montano of Spiaggia for Sarah.
Michelle Bernstein of Michy’s and Sra Martinez for Lindsay.
Sarah Stegner of Prairie Grass Café for Bev.
Tyson Cole of Uchi (one of my fave restaurants in Texas) for Paul.
Frank Crispo of Crispo for Ed.

Paul in particular loses it, which may have made me choke up for a second as well.

Anyway, the challenge is to impress the hell out of their mentors with one dish. Sarah gets to wander off and enjoy a margarita with her mentor.

The others run around in the usual stressful ways, and Ed, in a moment of shopping panic, buys packaged smoked oysters that he thinks taste pretty decent when he can’t find fresh oysters. (No, Ed, no!!!)

Paul wins a car and a spot in the finale for his harmoniously composed sunchoke and dashi cold soup. And if any future “Top Chef” hopefuls have gotten this far in the recap, let me say to you: Master your soups before you go on this show. Soups win. It got Sarah where she is, it earned Paul a new ride, and it helped Stephanie Izard win the whole shebang in 2008. Potage, people. Seriously.

Bev makes it to another round for her risky last-minute wok cooking, so it’s down to Lindsay, who made a precisely cooked seafood soup that hits an off-note with emulsified cream in the broth, and my boy Ed, whose pork belly and pickles rock palates but who gets a major ding for his smoked oyster crema . . . and that costs him his place, ultimately. Ed stoically packs his knives and goes, and no one can blame him for feeling bitter about losing his place to Beverly.

Next: The finale in British Columbia, the anti-Texas, featuring snow, ski-bunny Padma, cooking in the cold, and a trail of tears down Sarah’s face (which of course means she makes it to the final three; we’re on to your editing tricks, Bravo).

PREVIOUS RECAPS
9.13: Pancakes, not porn, for Pee-wee
9.12: The brutality of chicken salad and bees
9.11: The last seven dwarves
9.10: Return of the Hughnibrow
9.9: Oh, the sexiness!
9.8: Tweets for twits
9.7: Tears of a chef
9.6: Cue the Dallas theme music
9.5: Don’t be tardy for the dinner party

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