Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Top Chef: New York--The Midterm Report

The premier food show on cable shoots its fifth season in the Big Apple. Few things sounded more promising; as both a melting pot and the bustling unofficial U.S. capital, NY offers up endless eats, whether it's high-class restaurants, local landmarks that offer simple food done right, or the street vendors that service people with absolutely no discerning palate whatsoever.

So why do the chefs this year suck? Why has no one created a dish that made the judges beyond thrilled to have their jobs? There is fan speculation that this group is too immature to handle the standard criticisms that all contestants will receive over the course of the challenges, that they perceive being told where they fouled up a dish as nothing less than an ambush on their souls. Whatever it is, the show is perilously close to being renamed, So You Think You Can Cook?

Just like last years midterm report (remember last year? Oh Stephanie! Money is funnies, sister) I've dredged the chefs "exclusive Q & As" and personal playlists to better gauge their personalities and overall worth. It's crazy superficial, but...so is the show.

(Why are so many chefs into Bob Marley? Is that what's hot in the kitchen? "Get high, make scallops!")

LAUREN (sent back on the boat, ep. 1)

AMUSED DOUCHE: The unquestionable loseringest loser in the history of Top Chef, Lauren became the first chef ever eliminated in a Quickfire Challenge.

WHO YOU CALLIN' SUCCOTASH?: Instantly Lauren reconnected with culinary school chum Patrick. So cute! So foreshadowing!

YOU NEED MORE BACON: Those two were so sympatico that they ended up on the bottom of the Quickfire after making salads. Salads? Top chefs don't make what I make!

GET HIGH, MAKE SCALLOPS: Each playlist is accompanied by the chefs feelings on the song, and on Lauren's, the words "My husband" start off sentences six times. He's serving in the military, so of course he's on her mind. Oh look, "Don't Stop Believin'", I'd like to thank The Sopranos for making Journey cool again. I'd also like to thank The Sopranos for going off the air. I hope you took this country's obsession with the Mafia to hell with you. A Daniel Bedingfield song? You may think I like Dan and his singin' sis 'cause our last names are so similar. You may think the phrase "meteoric rise" makes sense.

PATRICK (sent back to school, ep. 1)

AMUSED DOUCHE: The youngest hopeful at 21, and still a culinary student, Patrick was doomed to be cute, gay, and out of his element.

WHO YOU CALLIN' SUCCOTASH?: I instantly took to Patrick because he shares a given name with my closest friend, also a TC fan. I instinctively knew, then, that he could not last. Way to fuck up noodles, chief. His departure also marked the first blow to a house clique, the legendary Team Rainbow, comprised of queer chefs Patrick, Jamie, and Richard. We'll never forget you, Indigo! Shine on!

GET HIGH, MAKE SCALLOPS: He loves him some singin' bitches! What a bottom.

JILL (head in the sand ep. 3)

AMUSED DOUCHE: Represented Charm City. Now I'll cough awkwardly.
WHO YOU CALLIN' SUCCOTASH?: Now I'll blow out an overexaggerated sigh, and throw in a dramatic eyeroll to show you how "over it" I am.

YOU NEED MORE BACON: Took a bold chance by throwing together "ostrich-egg quiche", but brazenness in the kitchen is not rewarded if you don't know what you're doing. Jill's "defense of the dish" was painful to witness, a pause-ridden disaster that would have made a monk impatient.

GET HIGH, MAKE SCALLOPS: Jill's funny. A Simpsons fan. Loves Oh, The Places You'll Go. ("Will you succeed? No indeed. The sound of your voice makes my ears bleed.) And her enjoyment of "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" is great: "'Baby I like it raw'--I make lots of sushi." Yeah Jill, sweetie--it's a song about ass fucking.

RICHARD (so long Violet, ep. 3)

AMUSED DOUCHE: The "bear" of Team Rainbow, he shared a first name with Season 4 finalist Blais, but this Dick choked much earlier in the game.

WHO YOU CALLIN' SUCCOTASH?: His schoolboy lust of Tom Colicchio made for great editing (see, ep. 3, the Bo Derek slo-mo editing of "The Don" entering Kitchen Stadium, I mean, um, the dining area).

YOU NEED MORE BACON: Banana-choco smores sound tempting. Unless you put vanilla foam on top and the dish sets for awhile, so that by the time people are ready to eat them, it looks like a loogie bukkake took place.
GET HIGH, MAKE SCALLOPS: Gay guys love that "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy", huh? Remember 1989? Remember when "Love Shack" ruled the gay clubs? What has happened to the taste level since? Gay men used to steal and claim much better hetero songs than that. "It's Raining Men", motherfuckers! "Save a Horse" is such a terrifying admixture of gunslinger hokum and depthless "appreciation" of hip hop culture that I abandon my post at work when it comes on the radio. Save a guitar, kill a hillbilly.

ALEX (off to get married, ep. 4)

AMUSED DOUCHE: Destined to be among the lower-tier chefs about who the viewers say, "When they're gone, then the show really gets good."

WHO YOU CALLIN' SUCCOTASH?: Faced with the prospect of showing off on Good Morning America, the chefs are asked to create a dish that can be prepared and served in two-and-a-half minutes. Alex, disgusted by the simplicity around him, decides to bust out creme brulee.
YOU NEED MORE BACON: The renegade in Alex blinded him to the logistics of creme brulee under time restraints. His dish hadn't even set when the clock struck "your hat makes you look like a 1920s cabbie". Dude kept talking about his impending nuptials, and how his heart wasn't totally into the competition. How annoying. If you're not going to throw yourself 100% behind the ridiculous spectacle of a reality show that could possibly boost your career--don't audition.

GET HIGH, MAKE SCALLOPS: Alex loves Sportscenter. Prob'ly he thinks Stuart Scott is the last American poet. "Yeah, holla at a playa when you see him on the street!" He also likes the last good song the Beastie Boys ever did, "Intergalactic", because "it references the marathon!" Wowzee! Reminds me of white-ass Eminem fans who go cuckoo-caca over the fact "he rhymes all those syllables!" Yeah, it's called compound rhyming and Kool G Rap was doing it back when your boy was getting listless headjobs from trailer trash mamas.

DANNY (sent to the showers, ep. 5)

AMUSED DOUCHE: Filled the over-sized mold for "New York goombah", much like Season 3's Joey. Overweight, blustery, and possessed of a middling talent.

WHO YOU CALLIN' SUCCOTASH?: At first, his gregariousness was refreshing. But then the show began airing more episodes, see.

YOU NEED MORE BACON: Danny has some football story that explains why his facial hair looks like an ex-girlfriends farewell revenge. Then he starts flipping off his peers because he doesn't see why eating a sandwich with no napkin and leaving crumbs everywhere is unsanitary. He interviews that Jamie is on the rag because she tries to tell him why he should try and act like a people. The horrid "GMA" episode revealed that young Daniel has a yearning to be like Bobby Flay. He beseeches the camera with hoary Howard Stern catchphrases ("Baba Booey!") and channels his inner Jeffrey Tambor with a belabored "Hey now!" Ugh. I wish he'd channeled the cross-dressing attorney Tambor once portrayed on Hill Street Blues.

But the real kill was Danny's utter inability to recognize when his food sucked. Never has an aspiring "Top Chef" so callously shunned the reliable opinions of the judging panel.

Tom: "Danny, your dishes were subpar at their very best. Honestly, I'd rather eat at Arbys."

Danny: "Well, I stand by my dish. Also, behind it. Firmly. I'm not gonna, like, throw myself unda da buss. (sings) Two plus two is fouuur! Two plus two is fouuur!"

Tom: "I can see why homicide is so popular!"

GET HIGH, MAKE SCALLOPS: The themes to World of Warcraft and Ghostbusters and "Kokomo"? I just got the douche chills.

EUGENE (one of two chefs sent home, ep. 7)

AMUSED DOUCHE: Tattooed everywhere, probably including genitalia; fond of wifebeaters, all the better to show off said "artwork"; never attended culinary school; bald. He had the Bravo producers at "Hi, bitches!"

WHO YOU CALLIN' SUCCOTASH?: In the first Elimination Challenge, Eugene was forced to prepare an ethnic food he'd never even tasted before--Indian. Flying by the seat of his pants, he stumbled into a classic Indian yogurt and rice dish that he prepared exquisitely.

YOU NEED MORE BACON: And then Sisyphus got crushed. Eugene just turned out to be another Danny: marginally skilled, mammothly prickish. He operated under the sad assumption that the judges weren't adequately forward-thinking to appreciate his daring flavor combinations. But, one man's ignorance is one woman's bliss: if the great female chefs of the world ever formed like Voltron, Michelle Bernstein would be the cunt.

GET HIGH, MAKE SCALLOPS: "Hate It or Love It" is by the Game, not 50 Cent. Curtis merely wrote and performed the hook. Last season, Mark made a similar boo-boo on his playlist.

MELISSA (left with Eugene, ep. 7)

AMUSED DOUCHE: Maryland native with striking blonde bangs that look rather like rake tines hanging down her forehead.

WHO YOU CALLIN' SUCCOTASH?: I can't recall one thing she cooked that didn't make a smirk crease my blotchy face, but she did try and sabotage Alex at the Judges Table by insinuating that he didn't really want to be in the competition, while she, the Great Rake-Banged Warrior, would slaughter the developing denizens of entire daycare dungeons to stay on and fight!

YOU NEED MORE BACON: And talent. And personality.

GET HIGH, MAKE SCALLOPS: Well, Beatles and Talking Heads fandom bodes well for anyone. But then she reveals her favorite book is On the Road. Bleurgh. I guess one could say that Melissa cooked like Kerouac wrote.


AMUSED DOUCHE: Inconsistent chef who positively pales in comparison to Season 3's Lia. Ah, Lia. Isis in a chef jacket, that one. Magnificent smile, gorgeous eyes, wild brunette locks screaming out to be lovingly pulled--but we must move on.

WHO YOU CALLIN' SUCCOTASH?: She's a good barometer of this season. Sometimes real good, other times real garbage.

YOU NEED MORE BACON: One half of the cringeworthy "showmance" with Hosea. While both admit to having significant others back home while they battle it out for fame, glory, and money, that does not stop them from aggressive flirtations. It all reminds me of that Seinfeld "schmoopie" shit. Where's Jenn Biesty to Olympic toss some metal chairs when you need her?

GET HIGH, MAKE SCALLOPS: I wonder if Jack Johnson helps ease the humiliation of getting owned by Colicchio in the stew room.


AMUSED DOUCHE: Rhymes with "Attica". An Indian chef, but don't pigeonhole her!

WHO YOU CALLIN' SUCCOTASH?: Her sweet personality (and the fact she hates Stefan) makes her easy to root for, but she ain't no Stephanie. None of these women are a Stephanie. A Casey, maybe.

YOU NEED MORE BACON: Another teeth-grindingly inconsistent chef. She's won two Quickfires, and immediately after each she shits the bed in the Elimination Challenge. Furthermore, her last ruination of the nighttime sanctuary gave uber-douche Toby Young the opportunity to unleash that WMD quip he'd been honing for a few weeks.

GET HIGH, MAKE SCALLOPS: Lenny Kravitz? How is you gangsta?


AMUSED DOUCHE: Blonde bombshell who actually winks during the opening credits. (Anyone still get moist?) Owns the DiLido Club. Yes.

WHO YOU CALLIN' SUCCOTASH?: A natural leader with a Hung-like skillset and ego. He views Top Chef as a showcase for individual style, from presentation to palate, with the bravery to experiment whenever its prudent.

YOU NEED MORE BACON: He should be kicking ass, then, in his field of house, I mean, mediocrity. But the pieces aren't quite coming together as one amazing whole. He's likely one bold ingredient, one bolder style of preparation, away from really separating himself.

GET HIGH, MAKE SCALLOPS: Favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird, which some still claim was ghostwritten by Truman Capote. C'mon. Even Danny knows that's bullshit.

All good Fugazi-engendered goodwill is wiped out by a 311 mention.


AMUSED DOUCHE: Bullet-head with annoying facial hair.

WHO YOU CALLIN' SUCCOTASH?: Has 2 EC wins. One came at the infamous AIDS benefit, which inspired Tom to visit the chefs in the stew room and implore them to start fucking cooking shit that tastes good, you witless assholes. GULP.


GET HIGH, MAKE SCALLOPS: "Raining Blood" is the greatest metal song ever, Bullet Head. "One" isn't even the best song on And Justice For All.


AMUSED DOUCHE: Fan-friendly Italian chef who is probably exaggerating the accent.

WHO YOU CALLIN' SUCCOTASH?: I'll give him credit for "spherical olives" prepared so that they have the consistency of eggs: hard on the outside, soft on the inside. That's the only food so far this year that made me go "Wow, I'd like to eat that. That is some thinking outside the rhombus nonsense right there."

YOU NEED MORE BACON: Along with Stefan, comprises the "Euro Duo", each man intent on bieng the first non-native Top Chef. They bond over soccer, food, and Euro kissing. I dislike jingoism among my fellow Americans, why would I think any differently when two "fresh out the boat" people do likewise?


AMUSED DOUCHE: DC-based caterer with hair like Beaker and a 200-watt personality. The oldest chef, at 44.

WHO YOU CALLIN' SUCCOTASH?: Usually chefs who skate by much like Carla has would be met with scorn by the TC fanbase. But how many chefs get cooking tips from spirit guides, have special calls with their spouses in case they lose each other in a public place, and give the best defense (honest, spirited, humble) of a bad dish by anyone facing elimination?

YOU NEED MORE BACON: She's fantastic to listen to, but she ain't built for this.

GET HIGH, MAKE SCALLOPS: Patrick's like, "Who does that 'Money' song? The, 'Money money moooney'?"

Me: "The O'Jays."

Patrick: "Did they ever do any other songs?"

Me: "Yeah man, 'Love Train', 'Backstabbers'..."

Patrick: "Oh man, you mean they did good songs too? I was really hoping it would have been some one-hit wonder group. I hate that song!"


AMUSED DOUCHE: 41-year-old Jersey cougar mom (and Nora Roberts fan) out to prove she can kick young tail.

WHO YOU CALLIN' SUCCOTASH?: Has two wins, one for perfectly appealing to a target group that just so happened to be her peers, and the other for knowing how to properly cook meat. Each season I am astonished by how many chefs undercook meat and/or don't know how to utilize seasoning. Well, every season but this one. They're still fucking up obvious things left right and center, of course, but the massive mound of cocaine I snort before each episode really takes the edge off.

(Note: Blogger does not actually use coke. Blogger in fact does not even take aspirin.)

YOU NEED MORE BACON: Padma spit out Ariane's dessert in the second EC--and yet Ariane stayed. This has caused Danny, Jill, Gene, and Melissa--in exit interviews only--to question her continued presence on the show and (in Gene's case) to accuse producers of "rigging" the results. How quickly we forget that in the "GMA" episode, there were two more instances of judges spitting out food: Tom with Melissa's hell-hot shrimp, and Kathie Lee Gifford with whatever the hell Jeff made.

GET HIGH, MAKE SCALLOPS: Natasha Bedingfield. Or is it Benningfield? Fuck you!


AMUSED DOUCHE: Ballsy and competent, this blonde lesbian with the colorful arms is the only woman left who stands a chance of making it back-to-back bitches in the winners circle.

WHO YOU CALLIN' SUCCOTASH?: For the first half of the season, the eternal bridesmaid. Girl cooked her ass off and just couldn't get a break. No immunity, no cookbooks. But she hung in there, and last week earned an EC win for scallops.

YOU NEED MORE BACON: Scallops scallops scallops! Lee Anne Wong is gonna shoot the next fuckin' chef that looks at a fuckin' scallop, you understand? To quote Fabio: "This is Top Chef, not Top Scallop!" Usually Fabio's overwrought grandmother-evoking interviews make my eyes disappear, but this time he pretty much nailed it. Maybe we can see some more out of the Little Lesbian That Could now that she's actually won something.

GET HIGH, MAKE SCALLOPS: Fandom of Feist and the Gossip don't surprise me one bet. She's gonna get the pussy pass revoked for no Sleater-Kinney mention, though. And I love that she hates on the popularity of "Don't Stop Believin'" and says "Only the Young" is better. 'Cause it is. Like second-best Journey song ever.

She also loves AbFab. Dye your hair, get some laser surgery, and holla at a girl.


AMUSED DOUCHE: Did Vince McMahon have a hand in casting? "You know what this show needs? A villain from another country! Anyone hear remember Muhammad Hassan? The Muslim wrestler we had on a few years ago? He was Italian! I mean you could take somebody from Florida with a real good tan and have 'em be..."

"Actually, we were thinking Nordic."

"Why work out when you have steroids?"

WHO YOU CALLIN' SUCCOTASH?: A Finnish chef who spent much of his formative years in Germany. Winner of the first EC challenge, Stefan is passionate, brusque, bold, and confident. Made a creamy chicken pot pie dish that I really wanted to try.

YOU NEED MORE BACON: He's also a fuckin' knobhead who needs a few near-death experiences to level him out somewhat. He's a terror to work with, he married (and divorced) the same woman twice, and he shamelessly hits on a lesbian. Not to mention that whole fuckin' emulsion/vinaigrette thing (you need to get a life, arguing about that shit). If he wins, this is official worst season ever.

GET HIGH, MAKE SCALLOPS: Hahaha, he has "Don't Stop Believin", hahaha! You'll never win Jamie's heart. And do I see GNR's cover of "Live and Let Die"? I have always questioned Nordic musical tastes. To top it all off he's "too OCD" to read. Fick dich. This guy makes me wanna adopt Hung.

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