Judges to Vail’s Liken: ‘Pack your knives and go’
VAIL, Colorado – A teary-eyed Kelly Liken packed her knives at the end of Wednesday night’s episode of Top Chef. Liken, the final female competing in season 7 of the Bravo show, was eliminated after an intense episode filmed in Singapore. It was the first time Top Chef filmed its final episodes abroad.”I really wanted to experience what it was like to compete at the highest level and I did,” Liken said as she cried after hearing the verdict. “This journey is not easy. The competition is a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be. It makes me really thankful for what I have at home.”From the beginning of the episode, the contestants were nervous.”it’s extremely nerve wracking being here and there is so much at stake,” Liken said.After a whirlwind tour of some of the country’s tasty street food, the chefs were challenged to create their own version of Singapore street food using local ingredients and the most popular cooking tool in Asia – the wok.After tasting many of the Cantonese-labeled ingredients, Liken prepared a shellfish broth, using lobster and cockles, with noodles, bean sprouts and Chinese broccoli for the Quick Fire challenge.”I’m giving myself a pep talk the whole time,” she said. “It’s a hot and sticky night and it’s kind of difficult to cook.”Though the dish didn’t win Liken immunity, the judge -Seetoh, a leading expert on Singapore street food – liked it.”Kelly I like how you captured the essence of the ocean in the broth and how you seared the noodles,” he said.Next, the contestants were thrown a curve ball during the elimination challenge when the four chefs were informed they’d work as a team to create a menu for an event hosted by Food & Wine magazine editor in chief Dana Cowin. With an hour to prep, and an hour and a half to cook the following day, the judges were charged with serving a cohesive, Singapore-inspired dinner for 80 people. Even harder, every dish had to be cooked to order.”We have to show some skill beyond cooking,” Liken said, referring to the teamwork aspect of the challenge.The chefs were sweating, literally, the limited time frame, and Liken even cut her finger during the prep period and had to wear a plastic glove.”It was definitely a bleeder,” she said.Going into the challenge Liken knew it was important to work as a team and was concerned about potential issues with the wait staff, which did prove to be a substantial problem. However she didn’t seem nervous about the two dishes she prepared -a chilled cucumber yogurt soup with bitter melon salad to start and seared prawns with spicy red coconut curry with crispy prawn heads.Initially the judges said mainly positive things about both dishes, and especially liked a guava apple salad Liken served alongside the prawns, which Seetoh called “brilliant.””I think it’s a nice dish,” said judge Tom Colicchio. “The flavors are good.”Alas, the judges were forced to “pick apart microscopic details,” Colicchio said and named Ed Cotton, who also won the Quickfire challenge, the winner.Liken had a bad feeling before the remaining three chefs returned to face the judges.”I think my tour is up,” she said.Once in front of the judges, her fate was apparent.”Kelly you definitely put your twist on the food of Singapore, however the (cucumber yogurt soup) was a little grainy,” Colicchio said before host Padma Lakshmi asked Liken to pack her knives.”Thanks for the feedback,” she told the judges through her tears. “I’m definitely a better chef because of it.”I’m really disappointed that I didn’t win. One tiny mistake, and just like that,” she said, snapping her finger and trailing off. “It sucks, but everyone has to fall at some point.”The season finale of Top Chef will air Sept. 15. on Bravo.High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or email@example.com.