Top Chef Recap: Mentors! The Freshmaker

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It’s Top Chef Texas Episode 14 entitled “Mentors”, and it’s the final episode before the Finale, which is between 2 and 7 episodes long, we’re never quite sure. We ARE sure of two things that will happen in the Finale:

1) Padma will say “Here’s some helping hands that you mayyyyy recognizeeeee…” and the Last 4 Eliminated Chefs will re-enter followed by a fake-tearful reunion, and…

2) Paul wins. Seriously, this season should be called Top Bloodbath, if that name weren’t already taken by a TLC reality show about a blood bank owned by a crazy family (Grandma Edna the after-donation cookie-baker is my favvvv!!!)

Before the Quickfire, Bravo finally reveals the winner of Last Chance Kitchen – will it be Beverly, or will it be Grayson’s Dateline Re-Enactment actress:

We know it’s going to be Beverly because she shouldn’t have lost in the first place and we know Bravo isn’t gonna introduce this whole big new side-feature just to have Grayson come back one week later and render last week’s episode obsolete. OR WILL TH-nah, they won’t.

SURPRISE! It’s Beverly! And she is PSYCHED to be back:

So we’re back to 5 chefs, with Beverly as the awkward fifth wheel, not unlike Captain Planet Heart guy (even though Beverly’s just as good as the remaining Non-Pauls, whereas Heart guy rarely if ever cooked). For the Quickfire, the chefs will have to grab their ingredients while blindfolded and use everything they pick up, because being a true chef is all about possessing clairvoyance and being able to recognize types of meat when they’re frozen in sealed odorless packs.

Basically, it’s an excuse to watch the chefs flail around wildly, and it is perversely entertaining:

The winner of the Quickfire will have a choice to make, because it’s a Top Chef HIGH TEXAS STAKES Robert Frost Road-Takin’ Quickfire: They can either take a guaranteed spot in the Finals, or win a brand-new Prius but still have to cook in the Elimination Challenge. Despite Ed’s impressive use of pork casings to make a broth for his ‘udon’ dish, Sarah wins the Quickfire for her Corn Soup with Onion, Red Chili and Peaches.

Sarah takes the guaranteed spot in the finals, prompting Michelle to email me at 1:30 am “WHAT AN IDIOT SHE SHOULD HAVE TAKEN THE CAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I would’ve agreed if it were Paul, but I think Sarah made the right move, simply because you KNOW if she had taken the car, the Bravo Producers would’ve made sure she lost the Elimination Challenge to ensure an “OHHH MANN, she took a risk and blew it!!!” controversy, not unlike when Beverly forgot an item in her Quickfire dish, then Padma said “you would’ve won this by a mile” then she ended up losing the Elimination because she didn’t have immunity. I am POSITIVE this would have happened, and Sarah sniffed it out. Good move, Sarah! You must definitely read these Recaps. (Bad use of time, Sarah!)

“Whatever. I didn’t come here to make cars. I just need to cook MY cars.” – Sarah

Even though Sarah doesn’t take the car, the chefs still hop in a Prius for thirty seconds of staged raving-about-it, then Taylor Hicks comes out and sings an entire song about Toyota to the tune of this Ford commercial:

I can’t believe that was airing on actual television six years ago. It looks like it’s from 1993.

Anyway, onto less important matters than Taylor Hicks Ford commercials – for the Elimination Challenge, the five remaining chefs will be cooking dishes inspired by their culinary mentors, so get those slightly-too-many tears ready, because THE MENTORS ARE IN THE BUILDING:

The chefs welcome Michelle Bernstein, Tony Mantuano, Sarah Stegner, Tyson Cole, and Frank Crispo, and holy crap is there a lot of crying, and not just from Bev this time:

Not to minimize this emotional reunion, but 1) Haven’t the chefs been away from these people for like 8 days? I know they don’t all still work directly with these mentors, but they were crying like they all just got off a Bravo desert island to see their families and/or Wilson again, and 2) Has anyone ever been that emotional when seeing their boss? Maybe when watching Kelsey Grammer Boss, but they were like, “Dearest Tyson…sniff… I’ll never forget that time I said I could work Saturday then something came up, and… sniff… you told me ‘it’s ok you can switch with someone!’ [TEARS]”

Fine, fine, I know they’re proud to have their mentors see how far they’ve gotten, I’m just havin’ an internet josh (it’s what we do here at JustJoshinAround.gov). But at least Ed agreed with me.

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs have to prepare a dish that “wows” their mentors, and the mentors will be dining alongside Tom, Padma, Gail, and oh yeah Hugh Acheson is still the official guest judge this season:

We know what this setup means: Each mentor is obviously going to compliment their own person’s dish, then the other mentors aren’t going to be d*cks and criticize the other mentors’ mentees, then Tom and Padma aren’t going to strongly disagree with the bubbly opinions of five happy very-established chefs who’ve been nice enough to fly to Texas for this show, so it will all be very positive with rare, reluctant ever-so-light critiques.

Since this is pretty much exactly what happens – with some “How did you meet Chef Blank?” “Well, we worked together at a restaurant, and I could tell he/she was good at working at that restaurant…” interactions sprinkled in – let’s just skip to Judge’s Table. Though it is worth noting that the dining room at the Hotel Valencia was modeled after an 80s metal ballad:

Paul and Beverly had the Judges’ two favorite dishes, so they’re officially in the Finals. You kind of knew Beverly wasn’t going to come back and instantly get eliminated again, plus she’s a worthy finalist, so that wasn’t particularly surprising. Paul wins his SIXTH Elimination Challenge of the season for his Chilled Sunchoke Dashi Soup with Vegetables; the dish did seem on the simpler side, as Paul even admitted, but Tom and Gail praised his restraint and execution. I’m not saying this praise wasn’t legit, but I wonder if a more borderline chef had made something this simple if the judges wouldn’t have been like “You’re playing it too safe, chef we hate!” rather than “Ahh, a good chef made something simple, he’s such a master of restraint and understatement…”

Anyway, it’s not gonna matter anyway, cause Paul has already 10-Run-Ruled the competition:

He also wins like his fifth car of the season, making him essentially the Jay Leno of comedy. (Huh?)

It’s down to Ed and Lindsay for the last spot in the Finals – Ed is criticized roundly for using canned, smoked oysters for his oyster sauce (as always, all pre-prepared food is BS except yummy Healthy Choice), and Lindsay takes flak for adding cream to her Seafood “Stew” with Couscous, with Gail adding “She should’ve recognized that she made a mistake and corrected it.” By…removing the cream from the sauce? Using her magic powers that she already didn’t have in the Quickfire challenge?

I thought Lindsay was going home, if only because Ed has been a small spark of personality in a largely indistinguishable cast. I acknowledged that the producers might pull a shady ‘balance the cast’ routine and not have 3/4 Asian finalists, but with Lindsay winning, the Finale cast would’ve been 3/4 female, so I didn’t read too much into this conspiracy-theory-ey aspect of the decision. In the end, though, Ed’s oyster sauce proves too cameramen-told-Tom-he-used-canned-oysters-ey, and Lindsay snags the last spot in the Finals:

If we’re being extra conspiracy-theory-ey, the ‘Three Asian Finalists’ thing aside, perhaps Bravo didn’t want to diss Lindsay’s mentor Michelle Bernstein, a longtime Top Chef guest judge and Masters contestant? Just something to think about, we’ve got nothing better to do.

Ed is eliminated, and after pretend-crying earlier in the episode, he actually begins to tear up for real:

Ed has learned a valuable lesson:

Don’t worry, Ed! Remember what Beverly’s mentor Sarah said: “If you’re passionate in what your believe in, it’s gonna work out for you.” Also, that’s the message of everything. I think it was the tagline for the movie Rio.

So there’s your Top Chef Season 9 Final Four: Paul (winner), Beverly, Sarah, and Lindsay. And they’ll settle this in classic Top Chef fashion – With riflery and cooking-on-ski-lifts in British Columbia (did not have to exaggerate one element of that sentence):

Top Chef Pre-Finale Finale thoughts? Thoughts / Conspiracy Theories on the Final Four? Thoughts on the Texas challenges as a whole? Predictions for the Finale? Can anyone beat Paul? Will the chefs literally be feeding bears? React away in the comments.

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