Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Top Chef: Running with Cleavers

As always, spoilers abound.

Close-up Watch. Dale, Joey and Howie are featured in the “Previously” segment, but none particularly strongly. Joey gets an interview up front about how frustrated he is about being a perennial laggard. That means one of two things.

Quickfire. Ninety minutes and frozen pie crust. Sarah is cooking rabbit. I don’t recall seeing that protein on the show before.

I liked Howie’s contrast between chef desserts and pastry chef desserts. By the way, I would be hard pressed to ever eat anything Howie made for me, given the way sweat literally drips off his face while he’s cooking. I kind of like him as a cast member, but I’m starting to root against him based on the gross-out factor. Dude, mix in a headband.

Dale: these are some of the best dishes I’ve made in the competition. Ooh. Not a good look on the judge’s face. And he ends up in the bottom three.

Joey gets the Quickfire win. The Unmotivated Closeup in on a roll.

Elimination: Cook a Latin dish for the cast of a Telemundo soap opera. Why Telemundo? Well, in addition to both being owned by NBC’s parent company, they’ve teamed up to hype Top Chef to the Hispanic audience.

Based on the interviews, I’m guessing that CJ, Sarah M., Dale and Tre will not figure in the final judging. The show spotlights a particularly portentous conversation between Lia and Casey who apparently have become very tight and a mutual support network as Casey puts it.

Padma said at the top of the show that the challenge was about timing. When she introduced the Elimination Challenge, she mentioned that the schedule at the soap opera changes constantly. I knew that would come into play, but I thought that the chefs would have to cool their heels (and dishes) while a shoot went over. Instead Colicchio tells them that the schedule is moved up an hour and a half. So the challenge now is how well can they adjust.

It probably says something good about the quality of the cast that they keep coming up with these gimicky challenges. In past shows, the first few episodes were devoted to clearing out the cannon fodder brought on to round out the cast. This year's cast, if nothing else, has the deepest bench.

Sarah’s going to be in particular trouble because she making seviche and acid takes time to “cook” the seafood – time that can’t really be shortened in any way. Maybe Howie too – he’s not only doing braised pork, he’s cooking yucca which I’ve found to be pretty fussy – cook it wrong and it turns out mealy.

After they feed the cast, it’s clear that Sarah N, Casey and Lia are in the biggest trouble, with possibly Hung rounding out the bottom four. Whichever Top Chef exec thought of doing the eye candy thing has to be hating life as the three prettiest cast members are now on the chopping block.

They’ve especially been playing up Casey’s non-cooking attributes. She had a bikini shot in a preview (but not in the following show) and they did that ridiculous poll last week about whether Joey and Howie hate or want to date her. As if two fugly guys can’t hold both emotions simultaneously.

Judge’s Table

I’m officially annoyed at this bit of only picking two people for the top. Among other things, it keeps us from getting to know the other cast members.

Funny how Howie and Joey are buds and the show didn’t let us know until now -- because they spent two weeks plugging last week’s episode as big drama because the feuding chefs had to work together.

Anyway, despite Joey’s observation that Howie ought to cook something other than pork, he wins with the pig again.

Bottom four and Hung may be the biggest dick we’ve had in three seasons. He’s just absolutely never wrong about anything. If you don’t like his food, get a new tongue. But he really can't say anything when Tom admonishes him about whirling around with a cleaver. Knives are supposed to stay on the cutting board. Even I know that.

The Poll

Every week they conduct a text message poll and this one proves definitively that they haven’t broken out of the chicks-n-gays demographic. Tom Colicchio wins 48% of the vote as sexiest judge. Only because Anthony Boudrain isn’t on the panel. And poor Gail. Only 14%. Personally, that’s where I’d go, but that’s just me.

Elimination Result.

Lia came in from one of the loftiest positions in the history of the show – Executive Sous Chef for the legendary Jean-Georges Vongeritchen. But French-Asian fusion didn’t give her much experience with Latin cuisine. And Casey has had two bad Eliminations in a row and lost her support.


Anonymous said...

I'm going to miss Lia. Casey's dish was clearly worse and showed more lack of skill. Lia seems to have gotten the axe solely because she was out of her comfort zone.

Granted, for someone who works with Jean Georges V., she never really kicked as much ass as I thought she might have. Though to be honest, I'm also going to miss the eye candy as well.


Pho said...

So true, 54. She has a mighty resume and is just silly cute.

dirtgirl said...

Personally, I thought that guacamole on a piece of lettuce was pretty pathetic for an entree challenge. But once Casey and Lia declared themselves BFF's and got significant airtime, it was clear one of them was going.

Penultimatina said...

It all looked pretty tasty to me (although it made me want to move back to Chicago). I wonder how bad that rice really was. Hmm.

Pho said...


Interesting you bring up That Toddlin' Town. It will be the setting for Top Chef 4.