Thursday, December 04, 2008

Top Chef: New York - Episode 4

Previously on Top Chef...
Foo Fighters! "Thanksgiving!" Redemption! The worst s'mores in the world! Heartbreak!
-I had my own little Top Chef experience this evening, and by that I mean I threw a bunch of crap lying around the kitchen into a frying pan and sauteed the ever-lovin' shit out of it. Black beans, a can of Ro-Tel (tomatoes and chilies, for those unfamiliar with the supermarket's ethnic aisle), turkey hot dogs, an oven mitt, several knives, our microwave, and the cat. Once I picked out the non-edible items, and after the cat ran away because beans make him fart, the whole mess ended up being pretty goddamned delicious. My intestines are currently rioting and I've got heartburn that could keep a small group of hobos warm long into the night, but hey... I'm still calling this a success.
-The main complaint I've been hearing about these Top Chef recaps is that they're TOO LONG. So, in an effort to please y'all, I'm going to attempt to make them a little shorter. Although, I guess me opening this post with a full paragraph that was basically What C-dog Had For Dinner probably wasn't the best way to start said shortening effort. Oh well.
In a word: Lame.
In several words: This just might be the episode where Top Chef, to borrow a bit of pop cultural parlance, "jumped the shark."
Things started off okay... There's some business in the luxury dorms with Alex, the Latino dude who's barely been in any of the previous three episodes because he's completely boring. The fact that he's all of a sudden the focus of the show is, for him, not a good sign. In Top Chef grammar, that's a surefire indication that you're about to be axed. "This guy gets sent home and the audience has barely seen him! No one's going to care and, thus, all drama is nullified for this episode! To the editing bays!!!"
Anyway, he reads a note that Richard (he of the lousy s'mores) left for him and a couple of others, telling them to be champions and reach for that shooting star and tackle a unicorn or something. I don't know. Alex cries and is hugged by Carla and Jamie, which I suspect was his plan all along. Then he talks about how he's getting married and misses his family and yadda yadda. Don't worry dude, you'll be seeing them real soon.
So we get to the Quickfire, which was actually a really solid challenge; the contestants are tasked by Padma and guest judge Rocco "I Can't Move My Face" DiSpirito to create a breakfast amuse bouche. For those of you that don't speak the fruity cooking language, that means "a dish that can be eaten in one bite, sort of like a pre-appetizer." What's good about this challenge is that it's taking two completely unrelated things from the vast world of cooking... breakfast, which is usually the domain of diner fare, and the concept of amuse bouche, which is snobbery times a zillion... and brings them together in kind of a cool way.
Of course, most of the contestants fuck it up. Pretty Boy Jeff, for some reason, decides to make a three course meal that comes complete with a hot rub down and a full dessert tray. Fabio makes something that I'm positive he called "cappuccino," but actually looked like a shot glass full of vanilla pudding (which sounds just fine to me, btw). Generally, most of the dishes didn't really fall into the aforementioned amuse bouche category... a healthy two-thirds were two or even three-bite dishes; actual appetizers instead of something you'd eat before appetizers. And, furthermore, I can't believe that I actually know the difference between the two! I seriously need to tell the cable company to cut off my Food Network supply.
At any rate, the winner is Leah, who, if you'll remember, won the Quickfire challenge last week as well. She made some sort of egg, bacon, fried basil thing on some toast AND she made it be just the asked-for single bite. It didn't look all that amazing or anything, but... hey... at least she followed the rules. And for that, she gets immunity.
And now we get to the part where Top Chef goes completely off the rails. Let me tell you about their challenge, then let me tell you how very wrong it is.
This challenge is this:
Create a two and a half minute food demo for live TV. Make sure it's easy for housewives to understand. Use this time to present yourself and your cooking to the world in the most winning and positive manner as you can muster. In essence, sell yourself as a celebrity chef. Be the Emeril... BE THE EMERIL...
Here's what's wrong with that:
TOP CHEF HAS NEVER BEEN ABOUT THE CELEBRITY SIDE OF PROFESSIONAL COOKING!!! Yes, they've had celebrity chefs on their show before as judges... Anthony Bourdain, (although he's really more famous as an author), Ming Tsai, and our guest judge for this evening, Rocco... but the focus of the challenges has always been about the food. How did it taste, how did it look, was the technique well-executed, were the rules of the game followed, etc. In every single challenge of the last four seasons, it's been food first, food last... food, period. Personalities, the selling of one's self... that has never entered into it. That hateful bitch Lisa from last season would have never made it into the final three if there was any sort of personality component to this competition. To add one now, even if only for one challenge, is ludicrous, not to mention the fact that it cheapens the entire show. To wit: One of the catchphrases that gets tossed around in the Top Chef commercials is, "It's all about the food." Sorry guys, but after tonight's episode... you can't really say that anymore.
Ugh. Whatever. Let's just get on with it.
Some people are pretty good at their demos, some people aren't. Quite a few can't finish their dishes in the allotted time. Most are awkward with trying to improvise patter with the judges while cooking (pssst... because they're not used to being in a live TV situation). However, in the end, the bottom three are chosen. More on them in a minute.
First, we have to crown our winners. They are:
Fabio, for being adorably Italian.
Ariane, for being housewife-friendly.
And Jeff, for being hunky.
Oh, and I think they made food too, but that doesn't really matter, as we discussed. The twist here is that the three winners, early the next morning, are woken up at 2am and told that their dishes will be presented on The Today Show. Kathie Lee Gifford, Meredith Viera, and a bunch of other perky women will hand down the final judgement as to whose dish wins overall.
So the chefs trundle on over there and do their cooking and they watch as a bunch of screeching harpies paw at their food and make fun of their hard work and Kathie Lee Gifford spits out Jeff's dish because it's "weird" and "scary" and not found on the menu at Chili's and... eventually... Ariane is crowned the winner. Hoo-fucking-ray, we've found the next Sandra Lee.
Look, I could go on and on about how much this challenge pissed me off... I could write a fucking manifesto (I'm unemployed and have the time, believe me), but... fuck it... let's just move on before I smash my laptop against the wall. Let's discuss the bottom three, because at least there they actually bothered to take the food into consideration. The losers are:
Hillbilly Deluxe (Melissa), because she made some sort of shrimp thing with habanero peppers that nearly melted the brains of all the judges with it's spicy spiciness.

THIS season's hateful bitch, Jamie, because she basically served a raw egg on a salad.

And Alex (surprise, surprise), because he tried to make a creme brulee in an hour. Dude, I don't even know how to cook... see my above bean and hot dog recipe... and I know that's not going to be enough time.
All three dishes were, for various reasons, inedible, but what it basically comes down to is this... Melissa really just needed to adjust the capsaicin levels in her food. Jamie should have flipped her egg once to make sure it cooked faster (I don't like her, but that's a dumb reason to get sent home). Alex... well, Alex was just a fucking idiot. He heard the rules of the challenge, clearly understood them, then chose a dish that was LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE to create within the confines of said rules. Seriously... he didn't even finish his dish, and I'm not just talking about during the imposed two and a half minute demo. He didn't finish it at all because it takes way longer than he had for a creme brulee to properly set up. So, DOYE, he's going home. Which is fine, because we barely even knew who he was.
Seriously, Top Chef... SERIOUSLY??? You've never burned me before, so we're just going to assume (for now) that this is a one-time thing. If you pull this shit again, though, I'll... I'll... well, I'll still keep watching because your show is like delicious heroin food porn. But I won't fucking enjoy it.
Next week on Top Chef...
Judge Gail's bridal shower! Lamb that's possibly undercooked! More catering! Sigh!!!


Anonymous J. said...

Well, after four installments you have somehow simultaneously highlighted most of the reasons I don't like shows like Top Chef and entertained me with the synopses. I would not have thought that that was possible.

2:32 AM  
Blogger Clinton said...

Ha! Well, thanks. Glad you're enjoying them. For whatever reason, I've really had a good time writing these up every Wednesday night.

7:45 AM  
Blogger bob zombie said...

same here.. i don't even watch the show, but i feel like i'm getting the real deal on what's going on from these recaps. next week i'm going to actually watch it and then read your recap and i guarantee i'll enjoy the recaps much better because i can save my precious unemployed time by just reading what you have written instead of watching these goofs on tv.

or maybe, just maybe, i'll enjoy the show and have to download the previous episodes from this season and continue to follow the show.

2:18 PM  
Blogger Big Daddy said...

Jeff 'hunky'?

I wouldn't go that far.

He looks like a Miami Vice extra.

5:13 PM  
Blogger blythe said...

i'm still trying to get over rocco giving his autographed book as a prize. i guess i'd consider using it as kindling for a smoker.

7:24 PM  

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