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O Canada!

Gail Simmons breaks down the dishes offered by the final four in the first Canada challenges.

By Gail Simmons


How to Watch

Watch the Top Chef Season 21 premiere on Wednesday, March 20 at 9/8c on Bravo and next day on Peacock. So, we’re in Canada!
Gail Simmons: Welcome to Canada everybody! My home country. It’s really f---ing cold here. In my 12 years of living in the United States of America, I have grown soft. It’s so pathetic; I mean Vancouver is even warmer than most of the rest of Canada, but Whistler was blustery cold. And windy as you saw from the fur on Padma’s hood… The final four arrive and head to Whistler.
GS: Whistler’s magnificent. And we put them through three excruciating challenges in our culinary games episode. I felt guilty the whole way through because these were the hardest physical challenges we’ve ever made them do. Each one was more ridiculous and difficult than the next. And many of them have a fear of heights or get motion sickness, or both. Sarah kind of made a declaration that she came back ‘nice?’
GS: By the end of this episode I think she warmed to Beverly because, even though the ending of the episode is the way it is, Beverly proved herself like no one else has. You cannot say that Beverly did not kick a little butt. In last week’s episode, and then again in this episode. She she came in second place in the gondola challenge, second place in the ice box challenge, and first place in the physical part of the Let’s break down the challenges.
GS: It was crazy business that gondola, it was really scary-looking and the fact that they had to cook in it was sort of outrageous, but they all did really well. I wasn’t sure they were going to give us anything at the end of 22 minutes, which really goes by in the blink of an eye. And they all gave us good food. Paul’s meat was unevenly cooked and a bit grey, it did not sear the way he wanted. He came in last -- I think it’s the first time he’s lost a challenge. C’mon Paul -- get it together! Lindsay’s dish had the most flavor, and it was very creative. All things considered, if you think about what they were up against, they all produced great food.  

I just want to commend the company we found to make us those ice blocks for the ice block challenge. It was so beautiful and so mean all at once. I felt like Cruella de Vil in the challenge mostly because I don’t think the producers realized how hard it was going to be to get the food out of the ice with just those little ice picks. It takes brute strength, which only Paul really has and thank god he helped his fellow cheftestants. Beverly went Silence of the Lambs on her block and she still couldn’t get anything out of it. We all were worried for our lives watching her take to that ice block. Unfortunately Sarah’s soup was broken and not very flavorful. Bev’s seared scallop was not so bad, I was impressed with it. But Paul’s brown butter poached king crab with mango chutney was just beautiful, it was such a great idea. Although the mangoes that he cooked with were still a bit frozen, but it’s not like we were eating raw meat. So Lindsay leaves, and then Paul leaves, and then we decide to give Beverly and Sarah guns. First they have to ski around a course which took about a half hour. They are strong chefs, but they are not strong athletes. The most amazing part was that they were doing this in front of actual Olympians in each of the challenges. Cammi was a really great sport. In fact, all three of our guests on this episode were amazing. We talked to each of them about competing in the Olympics and winning their medals, that is just a whole other kind of remarkable skill. Cammi’s in the Hockey Hall of Fame -- she was the first woman ever inducted. She is bad-ass, but she’s also super soft-spoken, and beautiful, and kind, and really into food! She was so excited and nervous to judge the food but she did a really great job I thought. Watching the chefs with their rifles was really frightening. Let me just say Beverly has a good shot. She got like five bullseyes! She killed it literally and figuratively. Word to the wise: Do not mess with Bev and a gun. 

The two final dishes were both really strong and as Tom said several times in this episode, it was a very difficult decision. The flavors and combination of ingredients that they managed to shoot and use was excellent from both sides. Bev’s celery root, truffle, fennel, Arctic Char, and beets were all really lovely, earthy, and perfect with the fish. Except that they were very strong flavors and the fish was slightly overcooked and overpowered, which is why ultimately Beverly went home. Sarah’s dish was very hearty. The rabbit leg and heart, cherries, cabbage, hazelnut were all so great, that kraut she made and then pureed gave it a strong tang that cut some of the fattiness in the rest of the dish. It was inspired and felt so appropriate to that location, to that wintery night. In the end, Sarah won the episode. The other thing you didn’t see, is that Beverly had cooked her Arctic Char over lemons, and she -- by complete accident -- put one of the lemons with the Arctic Char on the dish that I got. So there was this inedible big slice of lemon under my Arctic Char. It wasn’t what made her lose, but it was a moment of carelessness in her plating. Otherwise, I’m really proud of both chefs. They fought hard and most importantly, I think Sarah came out of it with an appreciation for Beverly and the knowledge that you cannot underestimate her. I’m sad that Bev’s leaving us, for the second time. 

On to Vancouver! Where I ate a lot of great Chinese food.

P.S. Did you know that Taylor Kitsch, from Friday Night Lights and the new John Carter movie is Canadian? Just an awesome little piece of trivia I wanted to share. 


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