Thursday, January 15, 2009

Top Chef - Sorry to see you go?

Though I love Top Chef, and will pretty much always watch it, I have to admit this season has to have the weakest chefs by far. And I think last night a line summed it up best. When the judges were critiquing Ariane's lamb, and they asked about the baby lamb, she suggested she didn't know baby lamb was tender.

Now, by no means am I here to say I'm a better chef than any of these people. Far from it. These people have dedicated their lives to the craft and would own me in any kitchen competition. All of them, including the contestants that didn't get on.


Not knowing a young animal would be more tender than the older version, it seems like something a chef should know.

But I've gotten far ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning.

Quickfire - Make something with canned stuff.

This Quickfire annoyed me for a few reasons. One, it wasted Hung. Why have him on? They made the tenuous connection that since he's fast, you all have to be fast, but if I were Hung, I would have been insulted. He won Top Chef so he obviously is a little better than simply being "fast." Whatever - we see Hung for 6 minutes and he floats out of there like one of Marcel's foams. So long Hung.

Second - nothing they made really looked inventive, well prepared or enjoyable. Seemed like the extent of the cooking was to throw a few different canned things in a blender and heat it up. And I don't think I can even blame the chefs on this one. Because Hung was there, the producers decided to give the chefs only 15 minutes to develop an idea and then cook it. I can't even get dressed in 15 minutes. Why the speed? This challenge was stupid.

Stefan wins with I don't even remember. Spam and something. Hosea is pissed because he gave him Spam. Whatever. I think there were seeds of a cool thing here that got glossed over. Opportunities were missed.

But let's wash that out of our system with a nice little trip to the farm. The nine remaining chefs split up into 3 teams. Each team received a meat (or protein if you're reading this in the kitchen of Nobu) they had to then use in a dinner. Chicken, pig and lamb. The catch? Instead of going to Whole Foods, they went to a farm and could only use what they found.

I think I would see this as an opportunity to be able to cook with some cool, fresh ingredients, but the general consensus seemed to be that it kinda stunk. Obviously Whole Foods offers a larger variety, but still - cooking with fresh, farm raised stuff you pick yourself seems quaint and cool to me. But who am I? Maybe it really does suck. I will say there were some chefs there that didn't seem to have a problem with it (Jamie and particularly Jeff who probably save Radhicka with his use of green tomatoes) but by and large the group seemed lethargic.

And it showed in their food. Even the winners (chicken group of Carla, Jamie and Stefan) had plenty of complaints. The other two teams? What a mess.

And Ariane not knowing how to prepare lamb was the kicker. While it seemed as though Padma really didn't want to send her home, how can you not? If the show is based on the dish in front of you and not past successes, then really, Ariane had to go. She was lost around the cut of meat, not knowing how or what to prepare. Sure, neither Leah nor Hosea helped her out, but by now we all know how cozy they feel with one another, and they're certainly not going to throw one another under the bus in this early stage of woo. Wait until they have to go up against one another.

And that's the other balancing act the chefs have to deal with on the show. When teamed together, sure you want to beat the other team, but first and foremost you go for self-preservation. Leah didn't do much, but her thinking is sound - not doing much means there isn't much to judge. Yes, the judges pointed that out and used it as a red herring to build suspense on who might be leaving, but I never felt Leah was in any danger of "packing her knives."

So Ariane leaves, which I thought was a long time coming. A caterer who came a long way with some solidly cooked dishes, in the end I think her lack of training and creativity hurt her.

Next week - Hosea and Leah get vertical!

No comments: