Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Rotten Egg: The Top Chef recap
I want to start this recap by pointing out the awesomeness of the fact that, at this very moment, the Top Chef website has a banner ad for Campbell’s string bean casserole. Yeah, you know the one: With the cream of mushroom soup and the onion rings from a can baked into creamy white-trash goodness. Ahh, bliss.
But I digress, possibly because I just want to avoid the unfortunate topic at hand: The premature ousting of my Baltimore homegirl Jill. Now maybe we here in the Baltimore region were getting a little cocky, what with Christian Siriano’s big win on Project Runway. No, we’ve never had a Real World—Baltimore. No, there are no Real Housewives of Baltimore County. But perhaps, we thought, we had some secret Bravo TV reality mojo. We thought wrong.
I began to suspect as much when Jill proved to the be the only chef who didn’t even attempt to make a hot dog or sausage for the New York hot dog challenge. (By the way, the show’s admirable restraint in not using a hotdog challenge lasted all of one episode.) Her sliced hot dog sushi screamed “wiener!” not “winner!” to me. And I was right. (Nice, however, to see Radhiki win for her sausage kabob-y thing. She seems sweet. Also, any competition that puts Stefan in the bottom three—as veins of fury bulge from his bald Finnish cranium—is fine by me.)
I next suspected that Jill was in trouble when she chose a soft-ball sized ostrich egg for the challenge, although she had never worked with an ostrich egg before. General rule of thumb: If you don’t know how to open your main ingredient, it’s probably not wise to cook with it. Luckily, Fabio and his trusty chisel were available, and she eventually popped that sucker open.
Of course, Jill wasn’t alone in questionable food choices. Hosea wanted Dungeness crab, but settled for crab-in-a-can—the Spam of the sea. Self-sabotaging Ariane volunteered to make a lemon meringue martini, although, by her own admission, she’s no pastry chef. Padma’s napkin would apparently agree.
As for Melissa’s choice to make a chilled cream of corn soup? Fabio may have scoffed it for being too simple, but did he learn nothing from butternut-squash soup-gate from last year? These judges love them some simple cream soup.
I thought it was positively diabolical for the show to invite rejected contestants to judge the meal at Craft, although I do wonder: What’s was in it for them? Sitting around a table insulting people on a show that you unsuccessfully auditioned for doesn’t make you look cool, it just makes you look petty. It’s not like I was watching that and thinking: “These people were clearly robbed!”
Ultimately, it was Fabio, Melissa, and Carla (who made apple tarts with a random piece of sweaty cheddar cheese on the plate but somehow stole the judges’ hearts) who were the top three. (One last thing about Carla: Don’t you feel like the cartoon version of her should show up on a line of Hallmark greeting cards? Maybe it’s just me.)
The elimination process got lost in translation as Fabio began pissily defending his beef carpaccio dish. “I don’t even know why I’m here,” he barked. “Because we liked your dish,” replied Gail, the words “you moron” clearly implied. Fabio immediately demurred, and turned into Borat: “I’m glad you like it, that’s why I make it.”
So Fabio is our winner. (And off he went to gloat to the object of his fiercest rivalry and most passionate man crush, Stefan.)
Bottom three: Hosea, Ariane, and Jill. Although Ariane was saddled with the awkward knowledge that Padma hocked her meringue into a napkin, it was Jill who failed the simple Q&A portion of our elimination.
Indeed, not since Sarah Palin faced off with Katie Couric has someone looked so blindsided in an interview.
“How can we be sure you won’t make this mistake again?” Gail asked.
And here is Jill’s answer, sadly, verbatim:
“Um. . .I think. . .I understood the mistake that I made. . .but the pressure of the time and um. . .I had an idea and um. . .tried to execute it the best I could.”
Cut to the judges, all looking like they just swallowed some of Ariane’s meringue.
It was at that moment that I knew homegirl was toast. Oh well, Jill. You’ll always have your fans in Baltimore. I’ll look for quail egg on the new Red Maple menu.