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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Commercial Interruption: "Eeeeeet's-a Top Chef, not-a Top Shcallops!"

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). Finally, the long, LONG wait -- OK, only two weeks, but still -- for "Top Chef's" return is over. The contestants, after being spared for the holidays, er, mid-July realistically, returned to the kitchen with one goal: Wow the judges. While it seemed like a simple enough request, Channel Surfing bloggers Sara Boyd, Thomas Rozwadowski, Adam Reinhard and Malavika Jagannathan are less than impressed. But hey, at least some of us got points in this week's power rankings! Ahh, the silver lining.

And by some of us, clearly, I do not mean me. I refuse to accept that Ariane is here to stay. (*Sigh*)

Sara: While having "Eeeeeet's-a Top Chef, not-a Top Shcallops!" back in my life is a great feeling, I can't help but be quite disappointed by this week's episode. The challenge was plain and simple and should've boasted of amazing dishes -- make a meal that showcases you as a chef, no limits, no rules, just make good food.

Here's what we got: tuna tacos (um, can we get any more genital euphemisms in one dish?), a nasty whole red snapper -- with attached head and eyeballs -- and scallops galore! The judges critiqued the dishes using phrases like, "tastes like cat food," "I've found the weapons of mass destruction" and "it's like Tom Cruise's cameo in 'Tropic Thunder.' "

OK, I honestly don't even know what that last one is supposed to mean -- point being, this challenge shouldn't have evoked some of the judges' harshest comments. Papa Colicchio warned the chefs -- the food they're making just ain't cutting it. They needed to prove themselves. Personally, I'm still waiting. If it wasn't for Fabio being just too darn entertaining, for Chrissakes, I would rule the episode a complete anticlimactic failure -- blind taste testing, a chance to critique the other contestants, the need to impress new judge Toby "I make movie analogies out the yin-yang" Young? This should've been the most interesting episode yet. No fault to "TC" producers -- they tried their best. Too bad the contestants didn't follow suit.

However, for some reason, I really want a Diet Dr. Pepper ... I hear there's nothing diet about it.

Malavika: For Chrissakes, eets a me-a Faabio. And ai theeenk thaat Saaara's comments are molto bueno. Theees eees a-top chef, but where aaare the chefs? All I see are schallops! OK, it's really difficult to write more than a few sentences in Faaabio-speak, so I'll go back to "Eeenglish" for a moment. I'm not as disappointed with the episode because I thought the twists -- blind judging and peer judging -- gave the episode a unique spin.

The double elimination at the end made up for last episode's holiday spirit crap. And, well, the producers have figured out that they just need to put Fabio on the camera to explain the most mundane detail because eeets-a hilarious. From a food standpoint, though, it was -- well, to borrow a technique from new judge Toby Young -- it was like the first 25 minutes of "Saving Private Ryan" without the Nazis and the rest of the movie. Just painful to watch. As a vegetarian, I don't really hold the love for the seafood in general, but witnessing the overuse of shcalllopps by both Jamie and Carla plus the whole head of a fish made me slightly queasy. Like I was watching "Speed 2: Cruise Control" queasy. Is it just me or do the contestants seem to produce better food in the quickfire challenges?

Adam: It was queasiness all around for me last night: Whether it was the sight of Gene's snappers fried whole and staring up dead-eyed from the plate; Stefan's "I Make Good Babies" t-shirt (why are you hitting on the lesbian all the time then?); the whiplash I encountered from new judge Toby Young's bewildering cinematic references; or the we're-watching-them-watching-themselves weirdness that occurred when Team A got to peek at Team B eat their food on a kitchen monitor. Oh, and Ariane's combination of cauliflower puree and pineapple chunks...URP. I just threw up a little in my mouth thinking about it.

The best part, as Malavika pointed about -- at least, the part with the best-looking food -- was the Quickfire. And I'm not just saying that because I'm partial to desserts. It seems to me these cooks do better with tighter time constraints. When they get hours and hours to prep, they seem to over think things (Gene, you know I'm talking about you. So long, you crazy bastard) and come up with sub par dishes. But when they have 45 minutes to whip something up, they're focused, determined, and their food overall comes together better. Any thoughts?

Thomas: I'm just grateful that Fabio lives to deliver some more witty banter. The harbinger of doom that was his undercooked lamb really had me worried until the judges raved about his pasta. It reminded me of that scene in "Cliffhanger" where Sly Stallone is getting repeatedly kicked around by Michael Rooker. You keep thinking to yourself, "Good god, this man is done!" But no, Sly rises to the challenge, defeats the evil mercenary, and all is good in the world again.

I think the pressure of elimination is where you separate the pretenders from the contenders. I mean, let's give Leah some credit for making a dish that she's never made before -- and at least goin' out guns blazin', if need be -- instead of taking Melissa Lee Roth's lazy route and whipping up something boring and simple for the sake of safety. Gene's risk taking, as the judges pointed out, was also admirable. Our fallen gangsta homie just never had the chops. It reminds me of "Happy Gilmore" and how Adam Sandler was unable to hone his creativity in a way that adapted to the subtle intricacies of golf's short game.

Also, I'm done hating on Ariane. I thought this anything-goes challenge would expose her limitations, but she made it to the Top 3 and impressed the overly critical-snooty French judge. My new found admiration for her endurance reminds me of the underdog Cleveland Indians in "Major League" and how nobody gave those sad sacks a chance until it was too late to recognize. Or remember in "Can't Buy Me Love" how Ronald Miller is always getting stepped on and ...

OK, I'm done with the bad Toby Young-esque movie references. I really did like how the chefs got to play judge for the day. I think they'll learn from that experiment and make better food because of it. Well, maybe not Carla.

Sara: Another "Can't Buy Me Love" reference? Really? That puts your total to four in this blog's history. I bow to your greatness.

And here come the early power ranking scores --
Malavika - 10
Kelly - 10
T-Roz - 6
Adam - 6
ACon - 5
Ms. Q - 5
Boyd - 0

Yes, I have zero. Let's not rub it in -- the pain of Ariane's continual presence is more than enough punishment.

Catch "Top Chef" 9 p.m. Wednesdays, on Bravo. And don't forget to send us your power rankings for next week's episode!

Sara Boyd, sboyd2@greenbaypressgazette.com ; Malavika Jagannathan, mjaganna@greenbaypressgazette.com ; Adam Reinhard, areinhard@greenbaypressgazette.com; Thomas Rozwadowski, trozwado@greenbaypressgazette.com

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2 Comments:

Its good to know that I can miss two weeks of the power rankings and I'm still tied with my roomie.
Expect me to join next week and be ahead of Boyd

By Anonymous Anonymous, At January 9, 2009 at 6:07 PM  

I'd say five points is alright for one week of play. Also, this episode helped me to remember who Jamie is.

By Blogger Ms. Quarter, At January 12, 2009 at 1:59 PM  

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