Let it Rain

Ruth Reichl expounds on how the weather affected the competition.

Leaving Las Vegas, you drive through raucous neon lights to end up in strange empty ghost towns, whole developments of giant houses inhabited by no one. But you keep driving, ending up in the wild, gorgeous wideness of the Grand Canyon, which stuns you with its grandeur. Anyone would be humbled.

And yet those of us who drove were completely unprepared. We went expecting blistering heat. For days before the shoot, we all stocked up on pocket fans, brimmed hats and extra water. But this is what we found: cold rain.  

The weather dominated this elimination. Not just for the chefs, who had to deal with rain that doused their grills and watered their recipes. But for all of us, who sat, utterly unprepared, teeth chattering, shivering in the cold, hoping the rain would stop before we sat down at that table on the edge of the canyon. 

And yet, somehow it didn’t matter. The Hualapai Tribe are such an enormously dignified group that I think we would have been happy eating in the rain. They were gracious about allowing us to invade their space, and gracious about the food. I love the moment when Charlie says, “We live by the chase, and we don’t sit around discussing the exquisiteness of the food.”But let me be frank: for the most part, this food was not exquisite. The chefs were challenged, and looking back what stands out is how beautifully the winning teams collaborated under extremely trying conditions. So it’s no surprise that Thierry and Takashi won; given the most difficult ingredient they worked together smoothly and produced a dish worthy of great chefs. How Thierry pulled off that banana yucca I will never know. Clark and Kerry, with their far easier ingredients, were unable to collaborate, and you could taste their conflict on the plate.

But the most memorable moment was not the food.  It was not the dance. And it was, I’m sorry to say, not even in the show. It was the spectacular sunset that happened after the cameras stopped rolling. The rain stopped, the colors swirled and we stood there, at the edge of the chasm, stunned by the beauty of the moment. Here it is.

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