'Top Chef Masters' recap: Grand Canyon cookout

  • Dinner at the Grand Canyon, aka cutting edge eating.
Dinner at the Grand Canyon, aka cutting edge eating. (Bravo )
August 16, 2012|By Mary Alice Fallon Yeskey

This week, the chefs leave the comfy confines of their climate controlled Vegas kitchen for a more rustic setting.

But first, Curtis introduces the Quickfire by revealing a huge salad bar that the chefs will use to compose a salad.

"Here's your salad bar," he says. "It's as big as a whale. And you've got eight minutes to make it set sail."

The chefs dash into the challenge horrified at the short time limit, without getting his musical reference. Der.

Eight minutes is indeed a crazy short time, and they are more frenzied than normal. Some chefs keep it simple, some are more ambitious: Art makes a watermelon soup, Lorena is on grill, charring cauliflower.

Eight minutes are up, and the chefs sit at a table in front of a big screen TV to watch the judges as they sample the dishes. They are surprised and thrilled to see Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider from the B52's as the guest judges. Did they think Curtis was just having a case of word soup?

Both Kate and Fred are vegetarians and Kate, at least, seems very excited to try the salads. Fred doesn't take his sunglasses off the whole time and looks perturbed and/or hungover.

The salad tasting commences. Thierry has added blueberries to his salad, and Kate mentions she doesn't like fruit and vegetables mixed. As a fellow fruit/vegetable separatist, let me just say HERE HERE! It's really entertaining to watch the chefs as they hang on every word of the judges. You can see they really care and take every comment seriously.

Kate and Fred come back to the kitchen to say hello to the chefs and declare the winner.

Art says that his favorite B52 songs are "Love Shack" and "Rock Lobster," "Because those songs came out when I came out!."

"That was a good one" says Fred, dryly. Even though he's still got on his sunglasses you can actually FEEL his eyes rolling. I am obliged to point out that "Rock Lobster" was released in 1979, and "Love Shack" came out 10 years later. But let's not get bogged down in musical facts.

Thierry, Kerry and Lorena have the favorite salads. The judges all agree on Lorena's smoky cauliflower salad as the winner. She's very happy to win 5K for her charity, Alliance for a Healthy Generation -- which works to fight childhood obesity. She also gets immunity for the next challenge.

To explain the Elimination Challenge, Curtis introduces Louise Benson. Kerry makes a face that screams, "WHO?!." She enters and Curtis explains she is Chairwoman of the Hualapai Tribal Council.

The Hualapai are the Native American tribe from Arizona. She works on the Hualapai Ethno-Botany project, which brings together tribal elders with the youth to pass down the history of how to use their native ingredients in food, medicine, and craft. Kerry clearly wishes he could take back his earlier incredulous pout.

The chefs will be working in teams of two to create family-style dishes for the Tribal Council. Clark points out his Dad used to teach Indian Education at the University of Arizona, so he feels like he has an advantage.

Dinner will be served on the edge of the Grand Canyon, and they'll be traveling helicopter to get there. The chefs are giddy with excitement. Except Takashi.

Quote #1 of the episode, regarding Takashi's fear of heights: "I hate heights. I cannot change a lightbulb sometimes."

Chefs pair up and each pulls a knife to determine which native ingredient they'll be working with. Art and Lorena have quail and prickly pear, Takashi and Thierry have venison and Banana Yucca, Chris and Patricia have rabbit and squash, and Clark and Kerry have beef and corn.

The gang packs into two helicopters and flies out of Vegas, around the Hoover Dam, and down into the Grand Canyon. They are all clearly awed by the landscape.

Quote #2 of the episode, from Chris: "Now I know why the Hualapai didn't want to leave -- As arid, as dry and as harsh as the conditions may be, that's one hell of a view to wake up to in the morning."

Kerry says, breezily, "So we get off of our helicopters into our Lexus RX's ..." Groan. I know that brand integration is unavoidable with these shows, but they could at least TRY to make it a bit more seamless. His attempt at an offhand product call out sinks like a brick.

The team is taken to the Grand Canyon Skywalk, which is a glass horseshoe shaped platform that allows you to walk over the edge and see the bottom.

Takashi takes one step onto the platform and turns right back around. Moments later he is shown moving slowly onto it, clearly anxious. He does manage to get all the way out and is proud of his accomplishment.

The team is taken to their outdoor kitchen, which consists of tents and grills on the edge of the canyon. As prep begins, Art waxes poetic about his love of Lorena: "If I was straight, I'd marry her." The Art + Lorena love fest continues with kisses, high fives, and lots of calling each other "baby."

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