November 13, 2008

Top Chef, Season 5

Filed under: Top Chef — Chris @ 1:09 pm

Let me take a stab at blogging Top Chef this year… though I’m not particularly excited for this season and last night didn’t get my hopes up. There’s a well-known tendency for competition reality shows to get stale after a few seasons and Top Chef is no exception. I think it’s not because the challenges have gotten repetitive (they have, but they’re usually fairly interesting), but because one grows weary of watching the cheftestants make the same mistakes over and over again.

Here’s a few quick guidelines for the cheftestants of the future.

Rule #1: Never make a salad. If it’s great, it’s just a salad. If it’s not great, you’re going home. Just ask: Lauren, last night; Carlos (Season 2). [UPDATE] I forgot Marcel (Season 2), who probably would have been the Top Chef if he hadn’t served a salad (with a failed attempt at a vinaigrette “teardrop”) in the finale.

Rule #2: Never make something you’ve never made before. Especially not some random Chinese noodle you just assume will work in your dish. Just ask: Patrick, last night.

Corollary #2.1: Don’t assume you’ll get bonus points just for trying. Daring counts for very little.

Corollary #2.2: Never make dessert. You’re probably not good at it.

Rule #3: Never be a culinary student, a caterer, or a Mom. For obvious reasons. Just ask: Patrick, Betty (Season 2), Antonia (Season 4).

Rule #4: Never make risotto. The judges can be persnickety and risotto is easy to nitpick. Just ask: Howie (Season 3).

Corollary #4.1: If you make a risotto, make it Rocco Dispirito’s way. Otherwise, his face might betray an emotion.

Corollary #4.2: Never try to be cute and call something that’s not risotto a risotto. That’s not cute. Just ask: Almost everybody last night.

Sub-Corollary #4.2.1: Don’t be cute with culinary terminology in general. Especially French culinary terminology. Just ask: Casey and her non-coq au vin (at the French Culinary Institute!) (Season 4).

Rule #5: Never be the team leader. If your teammates fuck you, you’ll probably take the fall. Just ask: Tre (Season 3), Dale (Season 4).

Rule #6: Never try to shift the blame. Aka the “under the bus” rule. It never works, and it makes you look like a jerk. Just ask: Dale (Season 4), Elia (Season 2).

In closing, I would like to attempt to unpack Stefan’s assertion that a vinaigrette is not an emulsion. (My first instinct is to say Daniel loses the argument by virtue of having douchey notches cut out of his beard. But let’s follow this through.) An emulsion is “a stable suspension of small droplets of one liquid in another” with which it does not mix. For example: mayonnaise. Although a vinaigrette is undeniably “emulsified,” it is not stable (i.e., the vinegar and oil begin to separate almost immediately if left to sit), and therefore not an “emulsion.”

So Stefan is arguably right, but he’s being an asshole. My kind of asshole.


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