Posts Tagged bravo tv

Top Chef Finale: Top Chef Jumps the Shark in Horrific Season Two Flashback

This photo is wrong. Wrong.

Hosea? Seriously, Hosea is Top Chef? I didn’t even think he should have made it to the finale. I’m having flashbacks to Season Two, when Ilan won even though it was obvious he could only cook Spanish food, and he could only cook that because he worked in a Spanish restaurant. Throughout the entire competition, Hosea was “fine.” His work was “fine.” I would place him solidly in the upper middle of the pack. But the work of a Top Chef? Give me a break.

There’s been a lot of internet angst unleashed because of Hosea’s win, and while I think that Gawker’s going too far, I agree with other bloggers who are upset that Carla undermined herself. I also agree that this season was really a competition in mediocrity.

The more I think about it, the more I think that Hosea’s win was the result of poor culinary casting. Season Five was cast for personalities, not for cooking skills, which is why it lacked the inspired cooking of seasons past. There was no Richard Blaise, no Harold Dieterle, no Stephanie Izard, who didn’t just turn out good food – they turned out creative, skillful creations that were on a different level from their competitors. Actually, I’m wrong – Jamie was this person for Season Five. She turned out simple, creative, well executed food week after week (with a couple slip ups, like the celery that sent her home. And those scallops). But instead, she didn’t make it to the finale!

Instead, everyone was just “okay,” allowing Hosea to win essentially because he didn’t make any huge screw ups. I also think this is why Stefan was able to win so many challenges – even if his dishes weren’t always the most creative, he was able to execute them consistently.

And poor Carla! I was rooting for her all the way, and I was so disappointed that she didn’t do better. Considering that she was going up against a middling Hosea and an overly-cocky Stefan, she really could have won this thing. On the one hand, I admired that she collaborated with Casey – working well in a team is a good skill in the real world. But great chefs are artists, and artists work to execute their singular vision. Carla had the vision, but she just wasn’t ruthless enough to execute it. It’s a real shame.

Also, before I go into the actual recap, thanks to Elipis and Justice for saving the day last week and doing an excellent recap of part one of the season finale. Please visit her blog and check out her cool posts about health disparities.

End Rant

The actual recap, with some more ranting.


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Top Chef: Soul(ess) Cooking in New Orleans

As moderndomestic had mentioned in her last Top Chef recap I’ve been asked to step in to “save the day” and take the blogging reigns for a post.  I’m not quite sure why she would request Elpis and Justice, who is usually busy writing about public health issues, but I’ll enjoy my power trip.  

Top Chef has been miraculously transplanted to New Orleans!  The guest judge is Emeril Lagasse!  The chefs are back and looking well rested.  I think the producers required each of the contestants to get a new haircut to emphasize the how much time has passed.  Modern’s boyfriend Fabio is sporting an miniature mohawk.  I’ll have to ask her how she feels about the new look.

What a beautiful setting for a Quick Fire Challenge!

What a beautiful setting for a Quick Fire Challenge!

The Quick Fire Challenge will take place on the grounds of the lovely Houmas House, which is surrounded by beautiful gardens and, ahh, as Fabio so eloquently put, trees with “stuff hanging all over.”  As the camera pans to the quick fire area there is something missing… a fourth table!  What’s this??  Will there be teams?  Will there be a duel to the death?  Will Stefan be heckling from the sidelines??

No no, in a Project Runway style tactic, to honor the rebirth of New Orleans three old contestants will be brought back to compete to get back into the competition.  Jamie, Leah, and Jeff (wtf?) are competing in the Quick Fire Challenge.  I quickly write off Jeff, and assume this will be a battle between Team Rainbow and Team, ah, Slumpy.

Jamie is back- I’m so excited!  Her perfect opportunity to redeem herself.  I can see it now.  Jamie will win, she’ll be amazing, she’ll be in the top three, it will be a close race between her and Stefan… but, oh wait they have to cook first.

The chefs have one hour to create a dish that incorporates crawfish.  

Looks sort of like Leah, rather "meh"

Looks sort of like Leah, rather "meh"

Leah produces a nice crawfish soup with andouille and sausage.  She’s never made a gumbo before, but her product looks pretty nice.  I’d say it’s a bit heavy on the broth.  Personally I don’t like to drink a think soup in hot weather.

This just looked like a bowl of mush to me.  The judges thought otherwise.

This just looked like a bowl of mush to me. The judges thought otherwise.

I assume Jeff is going to make three things poorly.  However it seems like he realized something during his time at home- on Top Chef it’s best to do just one thing well, or if you’re Stefan- three amazing things and a mango lollipop.  He makes crawfish with grits with andouille and beer.   This sort of grossed me out.  There wasn’t much variation in texture and looked like a big mush meal to me.       

Will this dish be good enough to bring Jamie back?  I hope so!

Will this dish be good enough to bring Jamie back? I hope so!

Jamie gets down to business and makes corncake, greens, poached Egg with andouille and crawfish cream sauce.  This seems much more creative than Leah’s interpretation, so mentally crown Jamie the winner during yet another uncomfortably long commercial break.  

The judging begins.  Jamie should…. wait.  Apparently Emeril didn’t watch the tapes.  He should know that Jeff sucks.  I don’t know how he made it so far in the show.  He consistently made mediocre/bad food, messed up other people’s good food, and, and, and Emeril names him the winner!?  Wait!  That was Jamie’s spot!  Nooooooo!  Jeff triumphantly accepts his copy of chef Lagasse book Emeril at the Grill.  

The chefs are invited to Emeril’s DelMonico and will retire for the evening at Hotel Monteleone. 

What a great hotel to be totally stressed out in!

What a great hotel to be totally stressed out in!

Before the competition begins, the contestants run through why they’re here.  Fabio is looking to win the money and help his sick mother in Italy, Hosea just wants to win, Carla is motivated by her family’s love… and Stefan tells us that this isn’t a “butt (or back? speak clearly!!) rubbing contest- there will be a slaughtering.”  Okay.

Carla, I gotta give it to you Carla.  I’ve never believed in you.  I’m a convert.  You cook good food, you cook it with compassion, and you’re just sweet.  I don’t think Stefan would think twice about spitting in your Finnish fish if he felt like it would either make the food taste better or he had a vendetta.  I don’t trust you- Finn.

The challenge is unveiled.  The chefs will be cooking for a masquerade party hosted by the Krewe of Orpheus at the New Orleans Museum of Art.  The chefs must make two dishes (one inspired by traditional Creole cooking) and a cocktail.  Winner gets a car (I shall not say the name just to spite shameless product placement!)  Fabio hopes to win because his car “is a piece of poo.”  Jeff needs to win in order to stay in the competition (stipulation of the quick fire).  

The chefs dash off to Emeril’s kitchen and begin their work.  Hosea decides to make a gumbo as his traditional Creole food.  He’s acting like a true Top Chef by putting a lot of time and effort into making a proper roux.  Roux is a combination of oil and flour, that is slowly cooked.  A good gumbo has a well developed roux.    

Jeff has also embraces the Top Chef spirit by making his own sausage.  I’m too mad at Jeff to care. 

Padma looking beautiful as usual.

Padma looking beautiful as usual.

Fabio decides to add an Italian twist to his food.  He’s busy making pasta and bread from scratch.  Oh boy Fabio, this might not be such a good idea.  Creole cooking is already a fusion of so many cultures, fuse it any more and there will be fission- and physicists can’t even do that.

Carla has decided to make an oyster stew.  Although she shucked her first oyster last week, she’s decided to shuck 100 for one of the most important challenges.  Carla, you may have just shucked yourself out of the running, and no, the boys aren’t going to chip in for one second.

The producers have edited Stefan into a real jerk this episode.  He’s behaving much like the hare he’s stewing by playing with sausages, going out to smoke, and creatively dragging his feet.  I don’t know if you learn about Aesop’s Fables in Finland, Stefan, but screwing around in the final leg of the race is a real no no.  The other chefs are equally annoyed.

It’s time to set up for the party.  The chefs go to their respective stations.  Hosea managed to forget a whisk, Carla laments about no one offering to help with the shucking, Stefan is out smoking with his bar tender, and Jeff is wringing his hands.

The party begins and the judges are mysteriously wearing black masks.  They remove them to reveal that the judges are…. Padama, Gail Simmons, Tom Colicchio, and Emeril Lagasse… why were they wearing masks??  That wasn’t a surprise!  Fabio mentions that the masquerade theme reminds him of an old po–adult film.  Padma is looking quite foxy in her gown.  I have a feeling Wonk would agree.  

Hosea took the challenge seriously.  His risk of slow cooking the roux was a good move.

Hosea took the challenge seriously. His risk of slow cooking the roux was a good move.

Hosea made duck, andouille and chicken gumbo, pecan crusted catfish, and a hurricane with Grand Marnier.  The slow cooked roux seems to have paid off.  Emeril loves the gumbo, although Stefan disagrees.  The judges are also pleased the catfish isn’t dry.  Cooking it on the spot helped with that.

I don't care how good that mojito is Jeff- Jamie should be here.

I don't care how good that mojito is Jeff- Jamie should be here.

Jeff made fried oyster with sausage, crawfish with pot de creme, and a cucumber mojito.  Jeff surprised me again.  The judges felt he made “smart choices” with his crawfish, and were pleased with his homemade sausage.  The cucumber mojito was also a big hit and scored him some extra points.

I feel like the pasta in this dish made the menu much too heavy.

I feel like the pasta in this dish made the menu much too heavy.

Fabio’s table offered grits with sausage and rabbit, crawfish and crab stew with pasta, and a bell pepper martini.  The reviews here were mixed.  I think Padma has a little crush on Fabio.  While Emeril and Tom Colicchio picked his dishes apart, Padma defended his honor.  The pasta was nice, but needed heat and the flavors weren’t layered.  The martini smelled good, but tasted too sweet for the judges’ liking.  

The judges could taste the love in Carla's dishes.

The judges could taste the love in Carla's dishes.

Although Carla’s table didn’t have booze (Carla doesn’t drink) her guests seemed to be having the best time.  The judges were thrilled with her food.  She made and oyster stew, shrimp and andouille beignet, and a non-alcoholic cranberry spritzer.  The food was “smokin’ hot,” the oysters were perfect, and the judges appreciated the care she put into it.  I was glad Carla’s philosophy of cooking with compassion was given another chance.  In a previous episode when she sent out runny ice cream “with love” the judges ripped her apart.

In the judges' eyes the taste wasn't as big as Stefan's ego.

In the judges' eyes the taste wasn't as big as Stefan's ego.

Stefan served the guests and the judges with a smirk on his face. Duck and rabbit gumbo with grits, an apple beignet, and a black cherry rum cocktail were on his menu.  The judges were not impressed.  The gumbo wasn’t bad… but they concluded his food wasn’t worth a return trip- not even for the dessert.  Tom was even less impressed by Stefan’s cockiness both in the kitchen and at the party.  In short, Stefan’s food lacked soul.  

The elimination meeting is tense.  If Jeff wins, then two of the finalists go home.  If Jeff loses, one of the chefs must pack their knives.  I liked the new attitude Emeril brought to the judging table.   He is a chef that not only cooks, but is also playing a role in the recovery of New Orleans. I felt like he was less about gimmicky remarks and took a holistic view of both the food and the chef.

The chefs are brought out for elimination.  Jeff is praised for his good effort, but is still sent home.  Stefan and Fabio are in the bottom two.  Stefan produced not only mediocre food, but also brought a bad attitude.  Fabio just missed the mark with his menu.  In the end it is Fabio who is sent home.

But who wins?  Carla!  Carla is just thrilled.  Not only is she closer to winning, but she also gets to take home a new car- nice!  Emeril’s words to describe her food were “balance, flavor, simplicity, temperature, yet creative.”  I think Carla really does represent what it means to be a Top Chef.  She has the foundation of a loving family, has excellent technique, the maturity to fuse food traditions properly, and sincerely loves cooking for others.  For now Team Europe has gone the way of Team Rainbow.  Good thing Bravo didn’t spring on the tee-shirts for that one!  

Next week, moderndomestic will be back to recap.  Who will be Top Chef!  Who??

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Top Chef: Let Them Eat Chicken


What's that computer programmer doing standing next to Padma? Are they in Seattle? Did she meet him on

This episode of Top Chef was so focused on cooking, it was weird. There were no disgustingly obvious product placements, no big dramatic blow outs, no making out. Instead, the chefs just had to cook a good meal. Is anyone else a bit bored now that we’ve become so inured to the crazy Top Chef drama? Or maybe it’s that compared to Gretchen’s copious drinking on The Real Housewives of Orange County, this seems tame in comparison?

Anyway, the little recap of last week makes me sad, because I still think that Jamie shouldn’t have gone home. She was really, really talented, and she consistently made excellent food. Even Tom Colicchio can’t explain this one away, in my opinion.

Moving on, the guest judge this week is Wylie Dufresne, a world-famous molecular gastronomist who really, really needs a hair cut. Seriously dude, you look like all those creepy computer programmers who are on Seattle (not that I would know anything about that. Oh no). Even if you do own wd~50 and you’re extremely famous, it’s all the more reason why you can afford a hair cut. And a stylist.

Dufresne is well known for his love of eggs, so the Quickfire is to make an egg dish. I actually like this challenge, because I really like eggs – they’re one of those underrated but perfect food items that are versatile, easy to cook, and delicious. Since all the chefs know that Dufresne is a molecular gastronomist, they feel that they have to do something weird and scientific with the egg. Unfortunately, they forget that the dish also has to taste good.


Don't you think it's time to shave those side burns?

Next: Hosea pulls a Jeff

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Top Chef: Le-Bored-ardin


Eric Ripert, of the Pod People.

Top Chef starts off with a nice shot of Whole Foods (Product Placement Number One). I guess that means there’s no Whole Foods shopping trip in this episode. Well, you have to fulfill that sponsorship contract somehow.

At the Quickfire challenge, Padma introduces guest Judge Eric Ripert, who is the chef at the famed New York seafood restaurant Le Bernardin. Ripert looks like a pod person — his hair is frozen in place with a swathe of gel, and his fake tan sends shivers down my spine. Given his appearance I was expecting him to be a major prima donna, but he was actually pretty subdued. It’s a pity — if he had been more of a jerk this episode would have been more interesting. Instead, his introduction is the high point of the episode.

Given that Eric is a seafood chef, the Quickfire is a fish filleting tournament. This concept didn’t work for me, and made for a boring challenge. Unlike that awesomely manic Quickfire where Hung destroyed the chickens, I have no idea how one properly fillets a fish, so I really couldn’t tell when one of them did a bad job. 

Round one of this snooze-fest involved filleting tiny sardines. Carla is out of her element and does a really horrible job. To her credit, she doesn’t try to hide it—when Ripert comes and looks at her fish she just says “it’s butchered” and laughs about what a bad job she did. Jamie also has problems with the filleting—she has almost no sardine left after her awful butchering job. Neither of them continue to the next round.

Next: More stuff that almost sends me to sleep.

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Top Chef: Battle of The Runners Up


The Top Chef All Stars have nary a final contestant among them.

Before we start, I have to say that the only reason I was able to get this recap up is because Wonktheplank figured out how to restore our cable service after it went out during DC’s first snow store of the winter. Please thank him by checking out his latest post on “fungible assets” (haven’t a clue what that is).

Now, on to the show. We start off with the usual recap of last episode, where we learn that Hosea and Leah’s smooch fest was indeed alcohol fueled! I knew it! I knew it! The way this show purposely liquors up the chefs to film their drunken exploits must violate a international human rights treaty – maybe I should alert the UN.

Also of note in the mini recap is an opening shot of Whole Foods. Product Placement Number One already? Are they getting lazy or what?

Moving on, the Quickfire guest judge is Scott Conant, whose newly opened Scarpetta restaurant received a three star rating from The Times. So unlike some past guest judges, he really knows what he’s doing.

The Quickfire challenge is Superbowl-themed, which seems straightforward enough, but the way Padma (looking ravishing in purple, by the way) reveals the true nature of the challenge is convoluted. The chefs play a game of culinary “football squares” (am I the only one that has no idea what that is?) to pick a main food group they’ll be using in the challenge. But then Padma reveals that the chefs have to pair their main food group with oats. No, it really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but that can only mean one thing on Top Chef:

Product Placement Number two! That’s right: this is the Quaker Oat Quickfire Challenge! Wow! It almost rivals the stupidity and arbitrary nature of the Swanson Broth Quickfire Challenge. We see some nice pornographic shots of the Quaker Oats label as the chefs prepare their dishes, as though the oat boxes just “happened” to be there and weren’t strategically placed in front of the cameras.

Next: Not-So-All Stars and Padma in a Sexy Ref Outfit

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Top Chef: Restaurant Wars, More Vital To The Country’s Future Than Barack Obama


Fabio seeks to distract diners from the crappy food with his suit. It's working, Fabio. It's working.

It’s here. Restaurant wars is here. And Bravo wants you to think that it’s more important than the Inauguration of our first African American President. I am so sick of the Bravo ads, and I am dreading recapping another damn “super-sized” episode. The only “super-sized” thing about them is the commercials.

Anyway, the show begins with the recap of last week, which neither you nor I care about. Moving on, the guest judge for the Quickfire challenge is restaurateur Stephen Starr, of Starr Restaurant Organization. Padma, looking fetching as always, explains that Restaurant Wars is upon us. Like I didn’t already know.

The Quickfire challenge is to make a dish that expresses a restaurant concept, and which would impress a potential investor like Starr. The two winning chefs will get to be the team leaders for Restaurant Wars, and will have their concepts realized.

Maybe it’s the pressure, but the chefs are all over the map on this one. My Poor Boyfriend Fabio especially falters. His concept is Mediterranean lunch menu items (wuh wuh?), which doesn’t make any sense to me at all. Jamie puts together a good dish of Chilean sea bass and creamed corn with bacon and arugula, but doesn’t realize that Alice Waters already covered the “seasonal, local, sustainable” restaurant concept in, like, 1971. Jeff tries and fails to impress Starr with a piece of salmon that’s so pink I think it was dyed with beet juice.


The only impressive thing about this salmon is how chemically altered it is.

The Hookup That Changes The Universe . . . Only It Doesn’t

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Top Chef: Betting the Farm


"We take our farming seriously, which is why we're standing here like a bunch of Mafia Dons."

This week’s Top Chef opens with the usual shots of New York and Chez Top Chef. Let’s just note that Hosea is wearing an “I heart Padma” shirt that I absolutely must buy for WonkthePlank, and move on.

As we well know from this week’s Top Chef commercials, season three winner Hung is the Quickfire judge. After Padma and Hung talk up the importance of using fresh ingredients in fine dining, they explain that the challenge is to make something from all-canned, all-processed, all non-fresh ingredients. Oh, snap! And in honor of Hung’s lightening speed chicken-butchering session in season three, the chefs will only have fifteen minutes for the challenge.

Hey, it could be worse – one of the companies that makes those pre-packaged ingredients could have sponsored this challenge. But you know that none of them did because you can’t see any of the labels on the ingredients; the bottles and cans are either shot from behind, or the labels are artfully obscured. But even without a blatant product placement, this is the kind of challenge Ted Allen would have a problem with. The chefs aren’t cooking, they’re “assembling” stale crap.


Ariane really served this open-faced turkey spam sandwich with gravy. And yes, it looks that disgusting.

Because of the ingredients, these dishes look pretty disgusting, and the differentiation between the “top” and “bottom” chefs is based more on laziness than cooking. Hung, who must be aware there’s no way to make this stuff taste great, judges the chefs on effort and strategy, not cooking skills. Leah is on the bottom because her pre-packaged waffles are “too-crunchy.” Jamie is on the bottom for slacking – she didn’t really cook anything for her brushetta. Rhadika is also on the bottom for slacking; her “dip” is just a bunch of canned crap that she put in a blender.

If you think the bottom dishes sound uninspiring, the top dishes are just gross. I don’t want to eat Hosea’s canned sweet pea soup with fried spam, or Jeff’s deep fried-canned baby conk. And I really, really don’t want to eat Stefan’s baked bean soup and Velveeta grilled cheese, even if he does win the challenge.


Stefan's "winning" dish. This looks like college dorm food.

After this unsavory and un-sponsored little episode, the Elimination challenge sounds much more appetizing: to create a fresh, seasonal menu. Anyone think this sounds too easy? There has to be a twist. However, all the chefs don’t seem to see the obvious, and, after they divide into teams, plan their menus.

The chefs are divided into teams based on their main protein: Jamie, Stefan and Carla are Team Chicken; Leah, Ariane and Hosea are Team Lamb, and My Boyfriend Fabio, Jeff and Rhadika are team Pork. Not everyone is happy with their team. Ariane is annoyed that she’s been put with the “love birds” Hosea and Leah (who both are in relationships! And yet continue to madly flirt on national TV). Jamie is pissed that she’s been put with Stefan, who seems to delight in getting her angry and having her yell at him.

As I suspected, all that menu planning comes to naught. Their shopping trip, which features some prominent shots of Toyota Sequoias (Product Placement Number One), won’t take them to whole foods. Instead, the chefs are driven to Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, a farm, restaurant, and education center. Chef Dan Barber heads the farm, and explains that the challenge will be to cook dinner for the Center’s farmers, using fresh ingredients from the farm. Barber will be the guest judge.

So let’s take a step back here. Getting all your ingredients directly from the farm is supposedly a chefs dream, right? So I’m surprised at how poorly the chefs will manage this challenge. For now, we get to see some really cute shots of the chefs cavorting with pigs, chickens, and sheep, as they figure out how to alter their menus.


"Since Jamie won't sleep with me, let me just fondle this chicken."

Once the chefs start their meal prep, there are some signs that Team Lamb is in trouble. Ariane, who’s been put in charge of the lamb, doesn’t seem to know how to butcher or tie her lamb roasts. Tom is concerned that Team Chicken is doing a soup, even though it’s 85 degrees out and the farmers and judges will be dining in the hot sun.

But when serving time comes, Team Chicken is actually the most together of the three. Team Chicken serves chicken cutlets, lemon herb roasted chicken, heirloom tomato salad, and chicken consomme with chicken ravioli. Padma doesn’t see the point of eating soup in the heat (agreed), but Toby is a fan of the cutlets. Team Chicken’s dessert, a nectarine and strawberry tart that features Carla’s famous pastry crust, is a hit with the judges. It doesn’t sound like high praise, but this turns out to be the star showing of the evening.


Team Chicken's meal. Not wonderful, but the best of the bunch.

Team Pork serves a grilled corn salad with green beans and bacon, fried green tomatoes, sausage ravioli, and a wrapped pork loin. Right away, Tom questions their choices. Why did the chefs roast the pork loin off the bone, when leaving it on the bone improves the flavor and juiciness of the meat? Why is there so much pesto on the ravioli? Toby, desperately trying to be funny, says that the pesto was the “big bad wolf that blew this meal down.” Um, Toby? Stop trying so hard. The dessert also doesn’t go over very well; the judges think the lavender creme brulee is too sweet. Padma says that the fried green tomatoes are the team’s saving grace.


Team Pork. There sure is a hell of a lot of pesto on that ravioli.

Team Lamb also has a weak showing, serving roasted baby lamb, roasted potatoes, and tomato salad. Like the Pork team, the Lamb team decides to roast the baby lamb off the bone, making it drier and less flavorful. And it doesn’t even look pretty – Dan Barber thinks that the lamb butchering is a mess. As for their dessert, Toby says the pound cake trifle with pastry cream and berries is “unappetizing.” Oh dear.


Team Lamb does the impossible - makes baby lamb tough.

At the judges table, the panel is appalled that the chefs screwed up such excellent ingredients.Team Chicken (Carla, Jamie and Stefan) are the top three, showing that feint praise can get you far on Top Chef. All three of the chefs win the challenge, although they don’t get a prize or anything (falling low on the sponsors, Top Chef?).

Team Pork and Team Lamb are in the bottom, and the judges call in all six chefs for a tongue lashing. Toby doesn’t understand why Team Pork removed the fat from the pork loin. Dan Barber points out that the chefs removed one of the “more delicious parts of the animal.” Toby adds that he wants to have “full-blown, unprotected sex” with a nice piece of meat, but their dish was “bloodless and anemic.” Well well well. If I wasn’t hungry before, I’m really not hungry now.

The judges have similar criticisms for Team Lamb.
Tom doesn’t understand why they cooked the lamb off the bone, and Dan Barber doesn’t understand why they tenderized the lamb meat. “Baby lamb is, by definition, tender,” Barber says. Tom also points out that Ariane shouldn’t have butchered the lamb, since she didn’t know what she was doing. Hosea, who admits that he has butchering experience, left Ariane floundering with a task that was out of her league and compromised the entire meal.

I think this was the first real elimination of the show.
We’re finally down to good chefs, who know what they’re doing, and have real skills–no more Melissas, or Genes, or Gay-Boy culinary students. So I’m actually surprised when Ariane goes home, but not blown away. This makes me believe that her strong showing throughout the competition has been more a matter of producer manipulation than culinary skill. If she was really that good and that strong a contender, would she have been kicked off in episode eight? I don’t think so.

Next week: Restaurant Wars!

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Top Chef: No Limits, Except Your Own Talent


Toby Young scowling in concentration as he desperately thinks of witty, mean things to say that will justify all those Bravo commercials about how witty and mean he is.

Top Chef is Back! And as usual, it starts with shots of NYC, recap of the last episode, blah. Next!

For the Quickfire challenge, Padma is looking really lovely in a pale blue-green blouse, although Wonktheplank thinks she needs to undo a button or two. She should follow the lead of guest judge Jean Christophe Novelli, who’s shirt is unbuttoned at least one button too many, revealing a swathe of man-chest. I steel myself in anticipation of the product placement. Does he have a new cookbook? Is he starting a new show called “Cooking, Unbuttoned Shirt-Style”? Are we in for another Swanson challenge?


Jean: "Do you think they can see enough of my chest? Maybe I should unbutton one more?"

It’s even better! Jean will be hosting a new show, “Chef Academy” on Bravo (Product Placement Number One). That’s some nice internal marketing Bravo – way to reach your target audience. Someone mentions that Jean is a pastry chef, although it’s not in his official bio. In a not-so-surprising surprise twist, the challenge is to make a “sweet treat” without using sugar. Padma calls this the “Diet Doctor Pepper Quickfire Challenge” (Product Placement Number Two). I suppose that Bravo drew the line at making the chefs use Diet Doctor Pepper in the preparation of their desserts. Next season, folks. Next season.


I can't believe this photo is actually on the Bravo Web site. Did Diet Doctor Pepper pay to have it up there?

No one seems particularly thrown by the challenge. Jean’s comments are concise and curt, and mostly he makes weird faces when he doesn’t like something. I was surprised that he didn’t have more criticism of my least favorite dish , Melissa’s “dessert burrito.” That’s something you feed to fifth graders for an after-school snack, not something you serve on Top Chef.


Melissa's dessert burrito belongs at preschool snack time.

Toby Young, Nanny Cams, and the Limits of Your Own Talent

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Top Chef: They Almost Ruin Christmas


Eeeeeeeeeeeeeee!! Eeeeeeeeeeeeee!!

Start of show, shots of NYC, shots of Chez Top Chef in Brooklyn, morning routines, blah blah blah. Does it matter what the chefs say about the last episode, when we know that the Martha is going to be on? I can’t wait. Besides, all we learn in the little episode recap is that Gene almost got kicked off and Ariane feels great about her last win. Next, please!

The chefs walk into the Top Chef kitchen for their Quickfire challenge, where lo and behold, the place is decked out in Christmas gear. I bet this feels really strange because they must have filmed this in, like, July (much like the Thanksgiving episode). Everyone’s wearing short sleeves and light fabrics and looks like they’ve been sweating profusely in the summer heat. Still, in Top Chef land it’s supposedly Christmas, because the Quickfire challenge is to make a one-pot holiday meal.

And then it happens!

There she is!

The Martha.

She’s actually there, in all her preppy yet eerily masculine glory!

I can hardly hear the TV over my shouts of fan-girl joy.

When advising the Chefs on the challenge, Martha quotes Einstein: “Make it simple, but not too simple.” Technically she paraphrases Einstein, because the real quote is: ” Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” But whatever, they’re off, with 45 minutes to make their dishes. During their frantic cooking, the camera shows a long close-up shot of the Glad logo, so I’m calling the producers out for Product Placement Number One.

How The Top Chefs Almost Ruin Christmas

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Top Chef: Desperately In Need of A Blue M&M


Gail hangs her head in shame because Padma's so much prettier.

This week’s Top Chef begins, as always, with some pretty shots of New York and Brooklyn, and some shots of some really bleary-eyed chefs. Now that I know that it takes five days or so to shoot one episode (thanks to Meg), I think the chefs look so bleary because they’re really, really hungover. I mean, if I had to sit around for hours on end waiting for the camera crew to set up, while simultaneously being stressed out and nervous, I would be driven to drink copiously too.

Anyhoo, we get the scoop on last week, including Melissa’s near dismissal (I still think she should have gone home) and Ariane’s triumphant come-from-behind win. Also, we learn that Stefan is really cocky (ah, so the producers are coming back to that theme that they established in episode one, eh?) and that he has a crush on Jamie. Jamie, in case anyone didn’t know, is a lesbian (and you can buy the shirt to prove it), but Stefan seems unperturbed by this fact. He’s even made some pants for her toy lamb to prove it, which is the weirdest way to woo a woman ever.

The chefs head to the Top Chef kitchen for the Quickfire challenge. Alas, there will be no pretty-boy media-whore guest judge this time, because it’s the Identify that Ingredient challenge. Whoo hoo! We do get a nice passing shot of the Calphalon logo on the Top Chef kitchen appliances. I’m calling that Product Placement Number One, baby!

Quickfire, Elimination, Why Women Won’t Take Their Clothes Off In Front of Danny

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