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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Commercial Interruption: French toasted

Two chefs down ... and only about eight more to go before "Top Chef" really hits its stride. But Channel Surfing bloggers Malavika Jagannathan and Thomas Rozwadowski wonder -- why not just cut to the chase, already? Take a page from last night's episode and do a double elimination every week to weed out those less-than-stellar chefs and get to the good stuff. In keeping with the French theme of last night's episode, we have a few très bonnes idées on how to speed up the process and let the truly talented chefs, who repeatedly make it to the top, duke it out for the deserving title of Top Chef. With the departure of chest-tattooed-wonder Jesse and, Hector, the first man to take a hit, we revisit our favorites so far in a stiff four-way-race for the top and, of course, our not-so-favorite moments.

Malavika: First of all, how great was it to see Hubeeeeh-rt back in action? I miss that Frenchman and his flowing locks... But I digress.

Last night's episode, in which the cheftestants had to prepare traditional French foods for some of the world's best French chefs, was brilliant in its simplicity. No crazy twists. Just a straight up cooking challenge. As expected, the cream rose to the top and the... er... sediment settled to the bottom (I love mixed metaphors).

In your previous post, Tom, you kind of picked out the four contestants who have the best chance at being in the finale: the Bo-ring brothers, Jen and Lumberjack Kevin. I'm loathe to add Misogynist Michael into that mix just because I hate him and his chauvinistic smarmy face, but he showed some promise last night. Of course, he's also been clever enough to a hitch a ride on the much more talented apron strings of Bryan, so I'm not sure how much his personal cooking skills have contributed to that success.

Unlike previous seasons, I think I'm just going to ignore everyone else. We've yet to see anything totally craptacular or spectacular from either Eli (aka Jonah Hill) or Ash (aka Jim Gaffigan-John C. Reilly), so there's a possibility one of them could be this season's Carla. Or Hosea. Ugh. I still can't believe he won.

Thomas: Couldn't agree with you more, MJ. (Sigh, like the Voltaggio brothers, how boring.)

I was just discussing this with Press-Gazette photographer/fellow "Top Chef" enthusiast Evan Siegle, and unlike last year when it seemed as though Stefan has no equal (let's face it, Fabio was there for looks and comic relief; Hosea skated by, and was unfortunately rewarded, without taking a single risk), this year has the Fearsome Four and yes, Misogynist Michael riding coattails. I think Michael Dice Clay can fire up some decent food on his own, but on two occasions, he's paired up with the Bo-ring Brothers and the best ideas have come from them. Mike's like the backup quarterback who gets to hold for extra points while Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger directs game winning touchdown drives. Flash that Super Bowl ring all you want, but you WILL be exposed over time, buddy.

It was also pretty revealing that Padma said the French challenge probably couldn't have been held this early in any other season. I'd agree. I mean, how intimidating was that collection of culinary talent at the table? It almost seemed like Gail Simmons felt out of place saying ANYTHING, the credentials from everyone else were so impressive. The judges clearly sense that this season has a strong, top-heavy field and want to push the bottom feeders so they can find a potential dark horse. Great move by eliminating Jesse after the Quickfire, though. It's only a matter of time before all the women (that includes you, he-she Ashley) hit the bricks so Jen is left to contend with the sausage fest.

Jim Gaffigan and Jonah Hill? My thoughts EXACTLY. Eli could be Carla-like now that you mention it. I just wonder if having a better Southern chef (Kevin) will always relegate him to B-status. And what about Mattin? Frenchy probably couldn't make French fries. I thought he might get sent home for embarrassing his countrymen, but I suppose Hector chopping meat with his Paul Bunyan axe is pretty unforgivable.

And Biggie Smalls Ron? Should we show Big Poppa some love? And where the heck has annoying Toby Young been?

Malavika: So many questions, so little time.

I do have to agree with your assessment -- and Padma's assessment -- that this challenge was higher in skill level than they could have ever given in previous years. Can you IMAGINE what everyone's favorite cross-armed lesbian Lisa would have done with it? In a way, it reminded me of the challenge that the final four or five received last year to cook a famous chef's last meal. It's a simple, but nuanced challenge that not only tests basic skills but creativity to interpret a dish.

I'm willing to give Eli/Jonah Hill and Ash/Jim Gaffigan a chance if only because I still feel bad for discounting Carla in last year's rat race, but the rest of them haven't really shown anything particularly intriguing to keep them on my well-refined radar. I have a suggestion -- they should all participate in a parallel universe version of Top Chef ("Chop Tef-lon"?) where Toby Young pretends to be Tom Colicchio. It can air on TV Land.

And in this one, Ashley can be a dude who looks like a lady!

-- Malavika Jagannathan, and Thomas Rozwadowski,

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