August 20, 2009

Top Chef: Las Vegas

Filed under: Not Tech, Top Chef — Chris @ 10:26 pm

I’ll start off by saying congratulations to Rick Bayless for winning Top Chef Masters. He was my sentimental favorite, but if I had chosen him I wouldn’t have achieved my perfectly imperfect 0.0% record of predictions for the season. (I’m off to a good start this season too, see below.)

So, Top Chef: Las Vegas. Let’s play spot the stereotype: slightly older, slightly insecure female contestant who doesn’t have a chance in hell (Robin), check; arrogant, slightly obnoxiously, but talented, nerd (Eli), check; gimmicky duo, one of whom will be eliminated within three weeks (Michael and Bryan), check; hot-blooded Latino, who cooks “with his heart and his balls” (Hector), check; portly, good-natured goofball (Kevin), check; macho, misogynistic douchebag (Mike), check. (Query: is “misogynistic douchebag” a self-negating insult?)

Speaking of Mike (aka The Douche), which was worse: his irritation that Jennifer C. (nota bene: a girl) could keep up with him shucking clams (not beat him mind you, but just keep up) or his blustering when Robin declined to compete in the Quickfire? And speaking of Robin, did she make the right choice? (For a lot more on that, see the end of this post.)

This week’s events gave me good reason to believe the new rules will not have to be significantly amended.

In the Quickfire, the Red Team took about 15 seconds to settle on a plan in which Preeti would shuck the clams. Preeti made it clear to her teammates that she had no idea how to shuck a clam. Kevin, at least, seemed to know how to shuck a clam better than she did (“No, it’s not like an oyster at all!”) Now, was the Red Team prepared to change their plan? Hell no. Did that work out well for them? It did not. And that’s why we have Rule D.

In the Elimination, Jennifer Z. (thank God I don’t have to look at her creepy ear hoops all season) decided to Take a Risk and Wow the Judges with a seitan-stuffed chile relleno. Seitan is never a safe bet. Quoth Kevin: “Who cooks with seitan? Nobody bleeping likes that stuff.” And that’s why we have Rule B.

On a more minor note, at Judges’ Table, Jesse—after finding herself in the bottom for disrespecting a protein (Rule C)—was a great example of Rule E in action. I don’t think she was in serious danger of elimination—that chile relleno was just too bad—but she clearly impressed the Judges by knowing exactly what was wrong with her dish and how it could have been fixed. Eve also had a pretty good explanation at hand (she shouldn’t have added that cream), but got bogged down in a distracting discussion of “complexity” as a vice that seemed to leave the Judges befuddled.

Predictions: I had a 1/17 chance of choosing the first to go and a 16/17 chance of at least not choosing the Elimination winner. Instead, I chose Kevin who, in spite of being young and Georgian and not formally trained, is apparently a very talented chef. Bzzt.

It’s inherently hard to make predictions this early in the season—it seems like half the cheftestants didn’t even register on screen—but it would be no fun if I didn’t at least try. I was very unimpressed with Eve’s fortitude. I’m guessing she’s going to crack up.

P.S. They got Ferran Adrià?!! [UPDATE 8/25: Oops, I think that’s Joël Robuchon. Not nearly as big a “get.” I got thrown by his not-speaking-English-ness.]

The analysis of Robin’s gold chip dilemma is below the fold.



Blog at