Thursday, January 29, 2009

Top Chef: New York - Episode 10

Previously on Top Chef...

Restaurant Wars! Gross hook-ups! Radhika leaves us to not cook (but totally cook) Indian food elsewhere!


-I was noisily eating popcorn during the opening minutes of this episode, so correct me if I'm wrong, but did Bravo censor the word "shit," but NOT censor the word "shat?" And not just once, but a couple of times? Because I'm pretty sure there was a lot of un-bleeped "shats" flying around and that's a weird double-standard to have. (don't ask me why the contestants were talking about shit; I was focused on my popcorn)

-It appears that the whole "Hosea and Leah made out OMG" series low-point debacle has finally been put to rest. (Fingers crossed) This, however, does not make we want to punch them both in the face as hard as I can any less. They are whatever the plural of douche is, times a million, superpowered by toxic waste.

-Fabio, bitching about being an adult who has to sleep in a "bunky bed" was fantastic. Give this guy a spin-off because foreigners are hilarious! He's like if Fez from That 70s Show could cook.


I'm going to go ahead and call this as this best episode of the season so far. Lots of shit going on, challenges that were new and exciting, some interesting contestant interactions... it really felt like everything was firing on all cylinders FOR FUCKING ONCE. Sure, I have some quibbles... we'll get there, my children... but, overall, this was the very best end-to-end hour (and fifteen minutes) of engaging television Top Chef: New York has given us. Producers: Keep doing this; it didn't make me want to throw my cat at the TV.


I know that I've been Mr. Anti-Product Placement this season and, well, that hasn't really changed. HOWEVER, with the introduction of the Quaker Oats Quickfire Challenge, I have to admit that I'm kind of on board... just this once... with the concept. Why? Hang on... first, let me tell you what the QC was all about.

As it's football season (here and now, as opposed to when this was shot, but I'm not getting into why that's irritating for the millionth time), the contestants are presented with a chalkboard all done up like an office "squares" betting pool. After they've all picked their square, the food group they've chosen... nuts & grains, vegetables, dairy, etc... will be revealed, along with the key ingredient they have to use. It's all sort of needlessly complicated, which is a running theme this episode, but it boils down to this: The chefs have to cook oats. QUAKER oats. As Quaker is paying for all this shit.

But here's why I'm okay with Quaker Oats demanding the chefs cook with their product... cooking with oats is hard. Seriously. You can make oatmeal with it, and you can make oatmeal cookies with it (side note: yum), and... that's about it. So even though it's another egregious example of product placement and that's a vile, terrible thing with claws and it's all slimy... I'm going to let it slide this week because, hey, anything that spices up this season by making the chefs sweat a little is a-okay in my book.

Anyway, the contestants get their oats on. There's a lot of crusting going on, that's for sure... as in, fish crusted with oats, tofu crusted with oats (and... a-BARF), eggplant crusted with oats. Some other people did stuff with oats, too, but I don't take notes so... let's just say they either made oatmeal or oatmeal cookies.

In the end, Stefan wins for his oatmeal (or whatever) and we get lots of talking-head interviews with the other contestants about how much they want to shank Stephan in the shower. He's a jerk. Got it. Ya bunch of nerds.

We're past the point where contestants get immunity, but he DOES get a special advantage on the Elimination Challenge (these advantages are completely useless 9 times out of 10, fyi, and that is the case tonight).


Ooookay... I'm going to try to explain it as clearly as I can, but this challenge was a bit of a conceptual mess; there were many moving parts, a cast of thousands, and a point system that fell from outer space and made all of MIT go, "Huh?"

So... we're doing football this week? Okay, let's have a head-to-head challenge with "teams." One team will be our remaining contestants (they even get chef jackets with their names on the back; how cute) and the other team will consist of contestants from previous seasons who were out of work or otherwise available for a sixteenth minute in the spotlight. We'll call them "The Top Chef All-Stars," but only ironically, seeing as how all of these former contestants didn't exactly set their respective seasons on fire.

For the record, the returning "All-Stars" (a phrase that, when used to describe this collection of knuckleheads, will forever remain in quotes) are:

Miguel - The fat guy from Season 1 who everyone liked even though he's extremely off-putting and kind of dumb.

Andrea - The vegetarian chef from Season 1 who I don't really remember.

Josie - The contestant from Season 2 who's more famous for being the victim of a hate crime than she is for anything she did on the actual show.

Camille - The something from Season 3 who's something or maybe something else... I don't really know... she's kinda cute in a Bjork sort of way...

Nikki - The slightly leathery-looking Italian (as in Little Italy; not like Fabio is Italian) chef from Season 4 who made pasta for every challenge and then got sent home the one time she fucked it up.

Spike - The Season 4 contestant who actually made it to the final four in what history will one day recognize as the most spectacular example of failing upwards ever broadcast on televison.

Andrew - The complete spaz from Season 4 who started out hilarious and then, right before he was eliminated, you realized that he was actually a crazy person who might try to stab people and THAT'S probably why he was asked to go home. To wit: At one point during tonight's episode, he threatens to "pee on all [the current contestant's] bodies" as a manner of intimidation. Yikes.

The "All-Stars" all basically behave like morons throughout and it's pretty embarrassing. I feel bad for their parents.

Anyway, so each team is then further broken down into seven individual head-to-head battles. They'll be cooking dishes based on the regional cuisine of a given NFL football team. For example, Stefan gets to choose which NFL team he wants first, as well as which "All-Star" he wants to cook against (this was his QC prize)... he chooses the Dallas Cowboys (woo!) and Andrea. The remainder of the two teams huddle up and, amongst themselves, decide which NFL team they will each represent. They are paired off thusly and they begin their prep work for the next day's competition. Shit gets EVEN MORE muddled and screwy from there... there's a whole thing with scoring, where "touchdowns" and "field goals" are awarded and then some culinary students judge part of it, but not ALL of it, and the chefs do their cooking live in front of an audiance and... whatever... it was interesting to watch but not interesting to read about, so just imagine a football-themed cooking competition that's like a really sad version of Iron Chef and you've mostly got it. And I'm not going to get into who battled whom and what they cooked; seriously, you don't care (and also, this post would be three and a half years long). Besides, it's not really integral to the main thrust of the episode, which is this:

The team of our current contestants actually manages to eek out a win. Only by about six or seven points, but still... victory is victory, no matter how you slice it. However, I think they should consider themselves very lucky the producers couldn't get any of the... you know... GOOD contestants from past seasons to answer the phone. Or maybe that was the point all along; maybe they cherry-picked the weaker cast-offs in an effort to make THIS season not look like a bunch of clueless dipshits. Wouldn't surprise me.


The one rule of the challenge that did make sense: If you lose your head-to-head battle, you're automatically up for elimination. Seems fair. Only three chefs lost their battles and, in a wacky turn of events, it's WASN'T Carla, Leah, and/or Hosea (who all usually suck out loud). In fact, those cats are among the winners, along with Jamie. Carla ends up taking the whole challenge and she, predictably, freaks the fuck out and starts climbing the walls like if Spider-man was powered by pure craziness. Oh, for the record, she had picked the New Orleans Saints and, thus, made a 20-minute gumbo. I would have thought that was impossible, but apparently anything is within reach when your brain is from beyond the stars.

This of course means that our three strongest competitors... Stefan, Fabio, and Jeff... are on the bottom. A topsy-turvy world, Top Chef is.

Their various crimes:

Stefan... He picked Dallas, which apparently is an "in-your-face kind of city," at least according to Coliccio, and then made food that was kind of boring (I don't even remember what it was). He also gets called out for picking Andrea, because it was pretty clear he only picked her because he thought she'd be an easy knockout. He chose... poorly. Needless to say, the other contestants are THRILLED that Stephan has been knocked down a peg. However, he was never in any real danger; his food wasn't great, but it wasn't worse than the other two losers.

Fabio... He picked Green Bay, and that means venison (because they hunt there) and cheese (because they wear cheese on their heads in Wisconsin). His main issue was overcooking the meat... which... I'm pretty sure he's gotten called out for in the past. That AND undercooking meat. Dude needs to check himself before he wrecks himself with regards to protein cooking. He also made a really unappetizing salad with big flakes of cheese in it. THEN he argued with the guest judge... some cook guy, I don't know. It was amusing; arguing and passing blame is adorable when it's in a funny accent.

Jeff... As has been his problem with just about every challenge since the beginning of this season, he tried to do WAY too much. He picked Miami and, thus, made some sort of a faux-ceviche with a million different ingredients including a big blob of sangria-flavored sherbet or something. He really sunk himself with his defense of said dish, though; when the judges argued that his competitor's dish tasted better, he literally said, "yeah, but look at all the different techniques I used to create MY dish; mine was way more complicated than hers." The judges, naturally, responded with a hearty... um, yeah, but it didn't taste as good, dumbass.

In the end, this was enough to send him home. Yes, Jeff is gone... the seasonis now at least 60% less hunky. Honestly, I was surprised; it really seemed like Fabio's bags were already packed (openly fighting with the judges is never a good idea). Even he seemed shocked when his name wasn't called. Nonetheless, the Italian stallion lives to fight another day.

Next week on Top Chef...

Eric Ripert! Some sort of sludgy something! Frenchness!!!


Blogger Cray said...

I didn't really read this one, can you summarize in 10 words or less. Swears optional.

10:09 AM  
Anonymous ML said...

I'm not looking forward to them completely ruining French food. :( makes me a sad panda.

12:29 PM  
Anonymous popomatic jeff said...

I no longer have a problem with product placement in shows. People don't watch commercials so companies have to find a way to get their products in front of us. It's just a fact of life.

9:35 AM  
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9:28 PM  
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