Top Chef
Season 3 Finale, Part I

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Keckler: B- | Grade It Now!
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Rocky Mountain High

I have a horrible story to tell about Le Bernardin. My non-foodie, meat-and-potatoes, Minnesotan father was on a rare business trip to New York, and one of the lawyers suggested they go to this great restaurant he had heard about. They checked it out but unfortunately, one of the other lawyers didn't like the look of the primarily fish menu, so they scrapped it and went to another restaurant nearby. My dad was telling me this story and he was like, "I think you might know the restaurant -- it's something like Bernard's?" "LE BERNARDIN?!" I shrieked. "Yeah, that was it," Dad says, blissfully unaware. I then barraged him with Michelin stars and Ripert and oh-my-gods and you-could-have-ordered-something-other-than-fish and so on and so forth. I asked where they went instead. "Ted's Montana Grill," he told me. "Ted" as in "Ted Turner." Which is a chain. Not that I really have a big problem with chains, but when it's a chain vs. Le FUCKING Bernardin?! Dad laughed at my spluttering outrage and said he couldn't wait to tell the other lawyers what they missed out on.

As Padma explains they are in the Frying Pan River Valley, Aspen's trout-fishing mecca, Ripert lifts a string of freshly dead trout out of a bucket. Brian squints anxiously at the fish. But he's Mr. Seafood Sausage -- this should be like water off a duck's back for him! Sadly, the Quickfire will not have them catching their own fish as I dearly hoped, but just preparing it using short stumps for counters, with a frying pan (what a coincidence -- they're in the Frying Pan River Valley and they'll be USING frying pans!), a camping stove, and various pantry items. This is very much like the Beach Breakfast challenge, but the sad difference is we don't have Padma in a bikini; nor do we have Mikey calling mournfully for "aiggs." They have twenty minutes. The cheftestants leap into action. They wash fish pieces with bottled water -- why not use the river? -- and try to light their stoves as they hunch over the stumps and scale their fish. Brian, Dale, and Casey are all having problems with slanted ground, losing fish, and general rushing issues, while Hung announces, "I'm very good with seafood and I can make it happen." Brian admits he's cooking his fish because he has to cook it, "but I'm having no clarity on where I'm going with this." Ask one of the other personalities -- maybe Bryan knows. I guess not, because Brian spazzedly loses several filets of fish to the ground and Casey notes that Brian was not doing well in this QF, which she found strange because he's "the fish chef." "This just sucks," Brian mutters angrily to himself. With seven minutes left, Hung plates his dish and announces to everyone that he's done and has a lot of time. The other cheftestants boggle over this. Casey notes that Hung's dish is going to sit out for a while, getting cold, so being done early is not necessarily a good thing. Hung tells the cameraman, "I think this dish is awesome!"

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