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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Commercial Interruption: "Top Chef" Power Rankings revealed!

Sometimes there's just too much television for one Channel Surfing blogger to handle. That's when we need a break to sit back, relax and indulge in some friendly back-and-forth (via email of course, we don't actually like to speak to one another in person). Wedding bells are in the air, and Thomas Rozwadowski, Sara Boyd and Malavika Jagannathan are ready to toss some mango sticky rice at Gail Simmons after last week's episode ... though Sara was apparently distracted by some unexpected "melons" at the ol' bridal shower table. A new "Top Chef" episode, with Martha Stewart, airs at 9 p.m., Wednesday on Bravo.

Thomas: Maybe it's just because last week's goodbye to Alex (we hardly knew ye, Andy Capp) was so telegraphed, but Wednesday's "Top Chef" episode was one of the finest in the short history of the show. Both challenges also made up for, in my humble opinion, the worst Elimination Challenge ever put forth -- last week's silly little made-for-TV experiment that led to Daniel signing off with "Bababooey." Yep ... that's just who you want to reach with your culinary expertise -- Howard Stern fans. (For the record, "Mushroom Surprise" Daniel also referred to his food as "splooge" this week, and he meant it as a compliment. Back in high school, my friends and I used to eat at Dairy Queen on occasion, and they served this side of white gravy with a chicken strips basket that looked like ... well, the same term was used and was not meant to be remotely flattering.)

Anyway, why not find out who can cook first before sticking them on the air to be the next Bobby Flay? I mean, as an avid watcher of Food Network, I understand what they were trying to do with an exploding medium. But "Top Chef" really dropped the ball with that challenge -- one that potentially cost a really good chef, Jamie, because she was putting the camera before her cooking, and rewarded Ariane for making ... salad.

Redemption, however, came in the form of that truly awesome Quickfire food tasting bracket showdown. The set up of Stefan Dougherty as uber-villain -- he'd be a great foil to John McClane in "Die Hard" -- was phenomenal. Sure, the bald Euro has some natural arrogance. But he can back it up with his knowledge and skill. And while I didn't agree with his button pushing of Gangsta Gene (I was hoping Gene might stab him in the dome), I like that he can be forceful with his opinions, but still have a sense of humor throughout most of the show. I'm really liking the strong personalities this season -- even Hosea is growing a pair -- but c'mon, how is Ariane pulling the wool over everyone's eyes? She's supposed to be gone by now!

Sara: I fully agree. Wait, what? I agree with T-Roz? The judges' praises of Ariane's continual half-assed cooking is making me a bit batty!

Seriously, why is this woman still on the show? She made a turkey -- how risque! She made a cold salad, basically chopped some veggies (and um, watermelon?) and threw some balsamic vinaigrette on it -- genius! She cooked lamb and nearly served it raw -- CLEAR STANDOUT WINNER! But I digress. I mean, after all, she didn't have a cookbook to do any of it. Such a brave, brave woman.

As much as Ariane's win last week bugged, the fact that Jamie got on her high horse stating everyone knew she was the clear winner, and telling Ariane moments before the announcement that "she wanted this win" was even more appalling. Oh, how the mighty fall. Going into this challenge, I was a big, big fan of Jamie -- the whole Stefan having a crush on the man-hating lesbian is just too entertaining (Does the word 'lesbian' mean anything to him?) -- but now, I feel like this is "Project Runway's" Kenley bubbling up. I love that she claims this challenge was hers to win but then boasted that her Indian carrot puree was subtle. Also, how is it fair that Ariane wins the challenge for "simply cooking lamb" when Fabio was punished for "simply making sea bass?" A little consistency, please judges!

Speaking of the judges -- since when is huuuuuuuge cleavage appropriate for a bridal shower? I mean, we all knew -- and Roz hoped -- that Gail would be showing off the goods, but man, no one will be looking at the bride if Padma shows up to the wedding with that rack of lamb.

Malavika: I think Gail's entire "look at me, I'm getting married" routine was a bit tiresome, personally. Buuuuuut, before I get carried away, let me spend a minute on the "Today" show episode.

It's no wonder Ariane wowed with tomato and watermelon salad because it's hard to believe the women of the "Today" show (aka Kathie Lee Gifford) are qualified to judge anything food-related beyond Rice-A-Roni and string cheese. By the way, it appears she did not showcase said salad on the "Today" show, opting instead for mushroom and herb goat cheese bruschetta, which is also something I could probably make and therefore doesn't qualify as "Top Chef" material.

Mad props have to be given to the Quickfire "taste test" challenge from last week that went down in an NCAA college basketball bracket form -- truly brilliant. The person who stood out most to me this week was Hosea, who has previously been sort of an under-the-radar chef, but learned to grow a pair and go head-to-head with Stefan in the final round. Of course there was Ariane's underserved win in the Elimination challenge, but Tom Collichio points out in his blog entry that if Jamie had simply taken credit for conceptualizing the entire dish, she would have tipped the scales in her favor. Because, let's be honest, carrot puree ain't rocket science and had the judges known Jamie was the team leader, they wouldn't have crowned Queen I-Use-A-Cookbook the winner for yet another episode.

Or would they?

Thomas: I think this is a nice segue into the first annual "Top Chef" Power Rankings (stealing from MJ's "Project Runway" idea, which stole from Bill Simmons' NFL idea.) Each week, we'll compete against one another by ranking the remaining 11 contestants, with simplified rules as follows. If someone in your top three wins the Quickfire, you get a point. If your No. 1 seed wins the Elimination Challenge, you get 5 points. Each week, you also have to designate someone to sit at the bottom, and if that person is eliminated, you also get 5 points. With Ariane, the Salad-Making Wonder Mom still around, strategy could get mighty interesting. No points for cleavage.

Winner at season's end gets a Gladware Basket O' Fun (OK, real prize outside bragging rights to be determined). "Top Chef" fans are welcome to provide their own rankings in the comments portion -- we'll score and keep you in the weekly mix, as well.

Let the ranking begin!

1. Stefan
2. Fabio
3. Jamie
4. Radhika
5. Leah
6. Hosea
7. Mimbo Jeff
8. Gangsta Gene
9. Melissa
10. Ariane
11. Crazy Eyes Carla

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

1. Mimbo Jeff
2. Stefan
3. Hosea
4. Jamie
5. Fabio
6. Leah
7. Gene
8. Radhika
9. Ariane
10. Carla
11. Melissa

-- Malavika Jagannathan,

1. Fabio
2. Stefan
3. Hosea
4. Jeff
5. Leah
6. Jamie
7. Gene
8. Melissa
9. Ariane
10. Carla
11. Radhika

-- Sara Boyd,

1. Stefan
2. Jamie
3. Eet's a me! Faaaabio!
4. Hosea
5. Leah
6. Gene
7. Radhika
8. Jeff
9. Ariane
10. Carla
11. Melissa

-- Adam Reinhard,

1. Stefan Dougherty
2. Jamie "always a bridesmaid" Tanner
3. Fabio
4. Gene
5. Leah
6. Radhika
7. Jeff
8. Hosea
9. Melissa
10. Ariane
11. Carla -- After a near-miss on team new, I fear it's time for the ostrich to pack her knives and go ...

-- Friend of Channel Surfing, Kelly McBride,

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Boo, bird lady. She needs to go for the only reason that I get freaked out every time they show her interviewing. I don't like being freaked out.

By Blogger Ms. Quarter, At December 16, 2008 at 7:34 PM  

Ariane is a sweetheart, if a mediocre chef. Gail has cankles and hopefully will have an allergic reaction in an upcoming episode, rendering her inactive for the remainder of the season.

By Anonymous Chris Kenny, At December 19, 2008 at 6:08 PM  

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