Thursday, November 27, 2008

Top Chef: New York - Episode 3

Previously on Top Chef...
Hot dogs! Angry rejects! Lots of food suckage! Fabio makes olives weird and wins! Oh, Jilly, Jilly, Jilly...!
-This is a long-standing issue that I've had with Top Chef and I feel it's time to address it in a public forum: The whole thing with the opening credits, where they show the chefs all getting sassy with their coats? I hate that. Because you can hear an associate producer off camera yelling, "More! Do more with the coats! Dance a little! Show us your personality!!! SASSY COATS!!!" I don't care for sassy coats, not in my daily life and not in my reality show credit sequences.
-This doesn't have anything to do with the show, per se, but I would like to point out that during it's entire duration I was eating straight from the box fistfulls of Raisin Bran. Malt-O-Meal Raisin Bran, for that extra, low-quality punch. I finished the box and I don't feel the least bit bad about it! (actually, I feel like an anaconda digesting several pounds of bran and sugared raisins, but whatever)
-Oh, uh, happy Thanksgiving!
Ah, the traditional Top Chef super fake, let's-pretend-we-didn't-shoot-this-in-the-summer Thanksgiving episode, wink wink wink. WHATEVER. Producers, it's okay to have summer-themed events or challenges happening when we're watching the series in November. We, as viewers, don't think that TV just happened yesterday. We get that it takes time to biased-ly edit footage into highly specious hour long records of "what happened." We get it, we're not stupid, quit it, you big nerds.
Anyhoo, it's Thanksgiving! But first, there's another Top Chef staple to discuss in the Quickfire; actually, it's a twofer: The Needlessly Complicated AND Groaning With Product Placement Bullshit-a-thon!!!
Okay, let me see if I can describe to you this Gordian Knot of a challenge:
First, the contestants had to draw knives from the Knife Block of Choosing. On each knife was a number, but not like 1,2,3,4, etc... No, it was a series of random numbers (132, 94, 188, 6) and everyone looked around going, "huh?" It was then revealed that said numbers corresponded to pages in the (you must buy the) Top Chef Official Cookbook! The contestants have to take the recipe on said page and "make it their own." This means, in Top Chef terms, that they have to make the recipe they're given, but... you know... different.

There's a twist. About halfway through the prepping of said recipe interpretations, Padma and the weaselly dude who was the guest judge this week came in and said, "We're going to flip the script on y'all sucka MCs (they did not say this verbatim). You all must now take the ingredients you've prepped and, while still keeping in mind the original recipe from the book, MAKE A SOUP.

What? Exactly. Everyone grumbles and groans (because, seriously, that's just stupid) but, in the end, a bunch of soups are made. They are all, uniformly, soupy. More on that in a minute.
Next, we have the faux-Thanksgiving sham Elimination Challenge, although it is different this year because OMIGOD IT'S THE FOO FIGHTERS!!! They, apparently, are big fans of Top Chef and just HAD to be on the show (I imagine there's some sort of alternate reason for their presence here... lending the show "rock cred," or maybe the Foo Fighters ran over a Bravo exec's kid with their tour bus or something) so, um, they are. And they want to be cooked a delicious Thanksgiving meal! Because, as you'll remember, it's TOTALLY Thanksgiving. (it's not)
SIDE BAR: I love me some Foo Fighters and would go gay for Dave Grohl in a heartbeat. Just try me, Dave Grohl... just try me. No, I'm begging you; please try me! I'm spectacular!!!
So the chefs divide into two appallingly named teams:
TEAM SEXY PANTS - Jamie, Hosea, Radhika, Stephan, Leah, Melissa, Fabio
TEAM COUGAR (yes, THAT kind of cougar) - Jeff, Eugene, Carla, Richard, Daniel, Ariane, Alex
They get transported out to beautiful Rochester, NY, where the Foo Fighters are playing their gig, and they get shown to the "we're trying to fuck you over" kitchen. It's a bunch of microwaves! Haha, SURPRISE, bitches!!! Oh, and it's outside. As in, out of doors. Exposed to the elements. In a parking lot, I believe, which is where ALL the best food in the world comes from. The way a single slab of seared foie gras tastes after it has mingled with car exhaust and the barf fumes from a concert-goer that pre-gamed too hard at Tanner's house... Mmmm, that's some health-hazardous haute cuisine.
They shop, they cook, it turns out better than I would have guessed given the circumstances, there is RAIN (but it isn't much of an issue, despite being in all the previews), and finally, a winning group is announced. The winning group, by the way, gets to attend the Foo Fighter's concert while the loser have to clean up everything. Very Hell's Kitchen.
Let's get specific, shall we?
The crazy, mix 'em up, soup challenge was just fucking stupid. Especially because the whole thing was just a roundabout excuse to plug one of the show's sponsors... namely, Swanson's pre-made broth. There were more lovingly shot images of beef broth boxes than there were images of the actual soups the chefs produced. I call, a million times, forever and a day, BULLSHIT on all product placement (it's what made Anthony Bourdain leave the show, jerkwads).
Anyway, the soups... what I could see of them in the brief glimpses we were allowed (gotta show off that sleek, sexy cardboard box of chicken soup base)... looked fine, I guess. There wasn't any that particularly stood out, save for Daniel's ham & egg soup with cheese and a bunch of other crap. It looked mighty tasty and, if I do say so myself, hangover-busting. The judges thought it was good, but the win eventually went to Leah, who made something with white asparagus even though she totally hates white asparagus so isn't it IRONIC that she won, omg???? Her prize, besides immunity, was picking her team for the EC. Thus, the birth of Team Sexy Pants (yuck).
Everyone made a bunch of food... lots of turkey and some pork and a bunch of salads and some starch dishes and desserts and, frankly, a whole bunch of shit that barely even got a mention. There was a buttload of dishes being made and everything was chaos as they tried to get what was essentially an improv catering assignment locked down under sketchy (at best) conditions.
A word about the show's title... last I checked, and I've been checking season Season 1, it's Top CHEF. Not Top CATERER. So why then does every season contain at least five or six catering challenges? It seems to me that knowing how to cater an event really well is a similar but ultimately different skill-set than that possessed by a restaurant-based chef. Maybe I'm wrong, but... well, I don't really care if I am. Personally, I'm sick of people getting sent home because they tried to make something creative that fell apart because it sat in a chafing dish for two hours while waiting on the bassist from a rock n' roll band to finish his entree.
I know, I know, the chefs should rise to the occasion, whatever. To me, it just seems like a lazy production staff who can't think of individual-oriented challenges.
Anyway, Team Sexy Pants wins, but it's a really close call. They are all kind of pricks about it; even Hillbilly Deluxe (Melissa), who didn't really seem to do anything. Speaking of pricks... Jamie, the tattooed lesbian? Hate. She, it seems, has taken it upon herself to embody the reality show archetype known as The Bitch/Bastard For No Reason (The BFNR). She's super complain-y and super gripe-y and seems to really enjoy both pointing out other people's flaws and rubbing victory in the faces of those that lose. I don't like her, however it appears that she has some cooking talent, so I think she'll be around for awhile. Don't think she'll win, though, and I will enjoy it when she gets the boot. Tsk... I can't believe I thought she was hot...
So, Team Cougar... they lost, which means one of their number will be getting sent home. But first they have to clean up all the mess from both teams, and they get to do it while listening to the slightly muffled Foo Fighters concert going on in the arena where their betters are dancing and having a ball. OUCH. Salt in the wounds, Top Chef producers... salt in the motherfucking wounds.
Finally, they are judged...
Ariane gets let off the hook because her turkey was made of redemption and awesomeness.
Alex gets let off the hook because... um... he did something good that did not make the final edit.
Eugene gets let off the hook because he rigged up a make-work grill and used it to smack pork upside everyone's head.
Carla gets let off the hook because her dessert didn't suck as bad as the other desserts.
So that leaves...
Jeff, who was the leader, which is bad when you've just lead your team to not-victory. He also made a dessert that was referred to by a Foo as a "barf-ait." Seeing as it was a pumpkin mousse with maple-glazed berries, I'd say the nickname given was quite apt.
Daniel, who made ass-y potatoes.
and Richard, who attempted to make s'mores, but with banana, not enough chocolate, and a lot of poor decisions.
Now, see, this is where it's hard to judge from a viewer's perspective. Personally, I thought Richard's s'mores looked pretty tasty. Meanwhile, the craptastic potatoes and the mousse atrocity all looked and sounded like food rape. However, apparently the tasty-looking s'mores held boundless evil within their graham crackers... Richard gets sent home, crying. Literally crying; dude was a fucking mess. It was a kinda heartbreaking, actually.
I don't know, I wasn't really feeling this episode. The first half was top-heavy with distracting rules and product placement, while the second half was about catering and certainly not the food; I feel like we barely saw any of the actual dishes for more than a few seconds. Not an ideal editing strategy for a food-based show, gotta say. Ah well, it's still early days. We'll see what next week brings.
Next Week on Top Chef...
Live TV! Vieira! People metaphorically thrown under buses! The plasticky face of Rocco DiSpirito!


Blogger TFKoP said...

And another thing about the opening credits: the music sucks.

It needs to be eliminated.

3:14 PM  
Blogger Big Daddy said...

I thought the smores looked tasty.

3:17 PM  

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