As long time readers of Just Hungry may know, I used to recap every single episode of the Bravo TV reality show Top Chef. The first season had me glued to my…er, computer screen. However for various reasons I did not do so for the third season that just concluded. I did watch it though, and have just a few thoughts.
I am gradually catching up on the Daily Grind, which includes some recorded or downloaded TV shows (yay Lee won Joseph! OMG Katie really got her just desserts, the biatch! (only UK readers will know what I’m talking about)). I’ve watched the first two episodes of Top Chef 3 (aka Top Chef: Miami), plus the Season 1 vs. Season 2 smackdown. I enjoyed the smackdown episode a lot - it was fun to see old favorites again. Wasn’t Stephen’s new maturity impressive? Dave hasn’t changed at all! Tiffani looks sort of like a female version of Mario Batali. And god, Ilan was awful. Etc. etc.
It’s fun and all that still, and the season 3 contestants look varied and interesting, but I just can’t bring myself to recap and analyze each episode of this show any more as I did with seasons 1 and 2. (Judging from the email, I guess a few people will be disappointed…sorry!) It’s a bit of work to assemble screen shots and things, and analyzing TV cooking shows isn’t really a focus of this blog after all. And to be honest, Top Chef is nowhere near being the best or most interesting food-related TV show any more. Plus, the constant, in your face product placement that I complained about during last season is even worse now! It’s really hard to bear. (I also got an email from some PR person wanting to ‘work with me’ on ‘promoting Top Chef’, and well, I’m really not interested.)
When I started doing recaps and reviews of each episode back in season 1, I was one of the few doing it - I thought the show had a lot of potential, coming as it did from the producers of Project Runway. Now there are a zillion blogs and forums doing this - Bravo TV’s site alone has about a thousand of them. The best, by far, in my opinion is from Season 1 favorite Lee Anne Wong, who also cooks the winning recipe for each ep in The Wong Way To Cook, still a horrible title but the video itself is nice. So there are plenty of places to get your Top Chef fixes.
It only seems like yesterday (actually it was in January) that season 2 of Top Chef ended, leaving many of us baffled and rather disillusioned at the Ilan over Marcel decision. Nevertheless, season 3 is already looming on the horizon. It’s set to kick off on June 6, with a season 1 vs. season 2 All-Star Clash. It’ll be the final four of season 2 vs. the final four, minus LeeAnne Wong (who is presumably not included since she’s on the show’s staff, so to speak) but with everyone’s love-to-hate-him target Stephen Asprinio. Marcel vs. Stephen! I have to admit I am looking forward to that at least.
Some more highlights according to the press release after the fold:
I don't have much to say about the finale of Top Chef. Just this:
I am mildly surprised that Marcel and Ilan won this round, to go through to the final head to head. Though I must admit that at this point I don't really care much about the outcome since I don't care much about any of the four semi-finalists. The whole Elia accusing Marcel of 'cheating' sequence (with zero shown support from Ilan or Sam) was so awkward I'd rather forget it.
Extra virgin olive oil goes rancid just as fast in the fridge as at room temperature, so storing all those bottles in the fridge is pretty meaningless. Another great report on Harold McGee's blog.
The recap of this episode is brief, because I want to discuss something else about the show itself. But the recap and review first.
- Cliff was probably going to get booted anyway. Lentils and beef sounds good as combo, but he didn't execute it right. He was playing it too safe.
- I did feel really bad for Marcel, and Cliff and the others were incredibly stupid in what they did - especially Cliff, obviously, and he deserved to get kicked off the show. Still...seeing him with a shaved head would have been funny...
- Why was it up to Padma to yell "you idiots" to the contestant? She has that much authority? If it came from Tom Colicchio fine...but from..Mrs. Rushdie? (I have admitted already that I dislike her more and more, which is why I probably noticed it.)
- Elia looks great with a shaved head! So does Ilan. They should both keep the look - there's a precedent for sexy bald top chefs.
Ilan's chocolate truffle with a chicken liver center is a close second to last week's watermelon and 'gnocchi' with gorgonzola sauce by Sam for the "what were you thinking" wacky food award. I do dimly see his logic though, because of the texture of the liver when cooked...but still. Liver. Chocolate.
- Geez, how did they get Eric Ripert (of a Super Serious New York Restaurant (Le Bernadin) on this mess show? 15 minutes of fame blabla...
- I always wonder in these situations - did the Romantic Dinner couples have to pay for their dinners? I wonder if I'd pay for a Top Chef dinner myself...there's always the risk of Chocolate Covered Livers... .
- Apparently (though it was sort of lost in the confusion) Ilan's dish was the winner...demonstrated here by Lee Anne. Looks nice!
So anyway, after the totally unnecessary and condescending tease about which chefs would be eliminated (which was obviously going to be 'none' since Cliff was disqualified for manhandling Marcel), all four remaining chefs jet off to Hawaii for the final rounds.
But there's a bigger question to be asked...
Oh, Mikey, we feel bad for you. After your triumphs last week, you are judged to be the worst of the remaining six, all of whom did a mediocre to bad job, and you are jettisoned. We hope that you will open your own gastropub some day. Or at least run your own TGIFriday's.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
To be honest, this season of Top Chef is wearing thin on me. I no longer look forward eagerly to next week's episode. There is no single cause for this, there are several.
After a two week hiatus, the show returns to our screens big and small, with an extra-longish episode. The theme of the show can be summed up in two sentences:
Everyone loves Michael - even, this week, the judges.
Everyone hates Marcel.