Top Chef: We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat & Restaurant Wars

M: We’re double dipping this time, as we were not able to get to the “Bigger Boat” episode before Restaurant Wars aired.  That said, there’s a lot to talk about, so we’re going to get right to it.  Jamie’s gone….. good riddance!

E: Woohoo!  I’m sorry to say it, and I still want to try her soup, but good riddance.

M: Now, over the first half of the season, and definitely in the previous two episodes, the judges had been making decisions that we disagreed with.  In some cases they even enraged us.  The last two episodes, however, they have seemed spot on to me.  Jamie finally had to cook, and she went home.  Carla won.  Marcel was an ass, sank his whole team, and went home.  Richard won.  Seems pretty right on!

E: Totally right on.  Great challenges, great results.  Freaking fantastic.

M: Tiffani leaving was sad, but she really didn’t do well in this challenge, and everyone left now is at least as good as her, so I wasn’t too upset, even if the Boston connection is gone.  I’m sure E will be upset, since she roots for people based solely on whether or not they have ovaries.

E: Ha, ha, very funny.  Have I mentioned how sick I am of you deliberately misunderstanding me?  Is it so wrong that I care that the female contestants almost never win these things?

M: Would it be wrong of me to root for only the men?

E: I don’t root only for women, which you well know.  I think Richard is fantastic and would be thoroughly happy with him winning.

M: Responding with sexism, regardless of the reasons (the women never win, etc) is still sexism.  This week we honored both of our heroes, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, who wanted people judged on the content of their character, not the color of their skin (which is an arbitrary genetic factor outside their control).

E: Who’s the other hero?

M: Grr, leave my grammar alone.  I say judge people based on their food and their character, not their gender.  Is that so hard to agree with?  🙂

E: Oi, dude, you’re just exhausting.  You are waaay over thinking this.

M: Quite possible, I am your brother.  😉

E: True enough. I am sad Tiffani left, but I accept it; she hadn’t been having a good run in the last few episodes, and like you say, every contestant remaining has game.

M: Anyway, let’s take a look at some of the highlights…

E: Yes, please!

M: Carla, in the fishing episode, was just fantastic.

E: Carla is always awesome.  And that has nothing to do with her ovaries.  But yeah, she was particularly awesome there.

M: Too true.  Now, holy mackerel did Dale catch one gianormous fish!  I read in Tom Colicchio’s blog that it was 37 pounds.  Damn!

E: 37 pounds, holy crow!

M: Um, I said “holy mackerel” on purpose, try to stick with the fishing theme!

E: Did I mention you’re exhausting?  Moving along, I love finding out all these odd details about Dale’s family fishing for their own food, or making awesome food out of the stuff that butchers and the general public won’t touch.  And how neat that Carla and Dale are really emerging as powerhouses within this totally stocked field.

M: I kind of expected Carla to be in the running, and while I liked Dale from the start, he’s doing far better than I expected.  Speaking of liking things, the little goofy segment where they were all saying what kind of a fish some of the other contestants would be was great.  I mean, saying that Angelo would be a mermaid?  It doesn’t get much funnier than that.  Except maybe Isabella getting Angelo to turn bright pink and hide beneath the counter by trying to get girls to flirt with him.

E: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Mike seems like a much better and more enjoyable guy than he did the first time around.

M: I’m not sure about that, I just think we don’t have someone he doesn’t respect hanging around this time, so he’s less offensive almost by accident.

E: Well, but he doesn’t like Marcel, and it turns out that he actually does respect Jen, who got the short end of some of his sexism the first time around.  Who knows – maybe he actually learned something about himself from being on reality tv, and is trying to be a better person.

M: That would be good.  As for Richard, Marcel and Fabio deciding to make one dish between the three of them?  Bad Idea Jeans.

E: What on earth were they thinking?  (And, lol.)

M: Richard and Marcel together is not a good combination, not because they don’t get along or work well off each other, but both of them often tend to put too many elements into their dishes, so there was no restraint.

E: Good point.  Their flaws are similar.  As chefs, that is.

M: True, as their flaws as people are vastly different.  However the cooking flaws came out in their dish, which had way too much going on, and seemed like they really did two or three dishes, then just combined them.

E: They dodged a major bullet there.

M: Thankfully for Richard and Fabio.  I felt so bad for Antonia at judges table.  First, they tell her she’s in the bottom, then they tell her her dish would have won the challenge (and the trip to Amsterdam that came with it) …

E: And how much would a former pothead love a trip there?

M: …if she was on a better team, then they put her on the spot by asking her point blank if she could have made her teammates dishes better and what was wrong with them, then they sent both her teammates home.  Ugh, that’s a rough night!

E: That really was horrible.  I loved find out during Restaurant Wars that she’s become known as The Black Hammer, because everyone who lives or works with her gets knifed.  Of course, they all get knifed in the end, right?  All but one.

M: I felt bad for Carla, too, because she was so excited to win, then Marcel had to act like a prick and sour her mood.  Remember a couple weeks back when I said Marcel was starting to grow on me?  Well, pretty much from the moment I said that he has imploded, turning back into the petulant little brat that I remembered and didn’t like.  It came back to bite him in a HUGE way in Restaurant wars.  What’s that they say about karma being a female dog?

E: Marcel is an ass.   I have always tried really hard to like him, because underdogs always have my sympathy, and in his own season people ganged up on him in a really ugly way (long before they tried to shave his head), but uff.

M: I didn’t watch that season, so I never saw any of that.  I just found it really interesting that as soon as I started coming around on him he pulled a 180, and got himself booted for it.  No self awareness.

E: Also, didn’t he learn from his own season that he is not gangsta?  He looks like a complete and utter prat when he tries to rap.  He can’t even swear with authenticity.  And he is not, by any means, the most notorious and diabolical contestant on Top Chef.  That’s – well, I don’t know.  Angelo?  Spike?

M: You know, I’m not exactly sure who it would be.  Probably Angelo, since every time he “helps” someone they get sent home.  That’s pretty diabolical.

E: Spike made quite a few moves to deliberately harm other’s chances – lying about pantries being empty, making food off limits he didn’t even want to use for the firehouse lunch challenge, and generally trying to mix it up.  Marcel isn’t bad ass – he’s just bad.  Didn’t you kind of have a man crush on Fabio in this episode?  He loomed large, and was totally in charge.  I was frankly surprised he didn’t win.

M: While not having a man crush on him, I thought he was at his best in this challenge.  He really has so much charisma, it’s fun to watch, but even more so the way he guided and directed the wait staff was just masterful.

E: Have we ever seen anyone better at front of the house than he is?  Of course not!  And I wanted to hug him for sticking up for the wait staff, yet managing Dale so well that he calmed instead of enraged him.  Are you going to call me a bigot again if I say that his performance would have made our Italian grandfather proud?  Great food and warm, magical hospitality. That’s what it’s all about.

M: I’ll let it slide this time, mostly because you’re making such a fuss, but partly because that part where he calmed Dale was just great.  I thought the win was down to Fabio, Dale for picking then running a really smooth team and, as opposed to Marcel, being willing to subjugate his own ego for the better of the team, or Richard.  Dale said that Fabio was the steal of the “draft” in the fourth round, and he was a hell of a pick then, but he got Carla as the last person chosen.  Seriously?  She’d won two of the last elimination challenges, you might want to pick her sooner!

E: Well, forgive me, but that’s where some of the sexism comes in.  The other contestants don’t take her as seriously as her food deserves.

M: Except that Antonia went high, so nice try.  It quickly became clear which team was going to create the better “pop up restaurant”.  I do have to say, in the middle of the bickering, but before the service started, I had a few moments of doubt.  I’ve seen a bunch of times when the team that’s at each others throats manages to pull of better food and win, and at first look the food for “Etch” looked like they were making better dishes.

E: Yes.  Tre, for example, got scuttled by Restaurant Wars when it appeared he had the stronger team which would sail to an easy victory.  And we heard a lot of good comments from dinners for both restaurants.

M: I think that was the show editor trying to keep us guessing.  For the most part I wasn’t buying it, as the bickering and lack of leadership or cohesion really killed them in the execution of their dishes.  While “Bodega” had a simpler idea and may not have had quite as elegant or complex dishes, they were executed perfectly and their food worked together in harmony.

E: Perfectly composed dishes where the meat is raw, or oversalted?  Ack.  Whether you do simple or complicated, you have to bring the flavor, and that’s all there is to it.  I really wasn’t expecting the win to be so very lopsided, though.

M: Again, I think that was the editing.  Lastly, a quick point on the “pop up restaurant”.  I though Ludo Lefebre’s description of it was pretty funny.  He called it a “one night restaurant that can last up to two months”?  That’s a long night!  Ludo lives in LA, so he probably got that idea from watching the “teenagers” on the original Beverly Hills 90210, I guess.

E: Snort.

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One comment on “Top Chef: We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat & Restaurant Wars

  1. the presidentrix says:

    I found a few episodes of Top Chef: Masters on primetime on-demand! I haven’t seen the season from the beginning, but what I have seen has been pretty entertaining. Fabio, Carla and post-anger-management Dale are cracking me up. A lot of the chefs’ food sounds sooo good, but I was happy to see Richard back from some previous season (didn’t he do a wasabi-chocolate thing? or something?) If I’m rooting for a single chef, it might be Richard, because I think I remember regretting that he didn’t win his season, at the time. I’m pretty excited just to see where it goes, though, because as you say, all the chefs still in play cook really exciting dishes and rise to the occasion when given pleasantly bizarre challenges.

    Not sure what’s so confusing (or threatening, or even disagreeable) about E’s point about sexism, though. Doesn’t it seem fairly consistently to be the case that if one out of four contestants on Chopped is a woman, she almost always goes home in the first round? And on the occasions when Bobby Flay beats his opponent on Throwdown, it’s almost always a woman. (Yes, the tasting is a ‘blind’ tasting, but since Bobby Flay barbecues and gingerifies everything he touches, you know the judges know which cupcake is which). And the women almost never make it to the final rounds of Top Chef. Maybe all or most of the female chefs in the world are just worse than all or most of the male chefs. That’s *a* theory, anyway.

    If one group of contestants seems consistently disadvantaged over another, why shouldn’t E be invested in seeing that disadvantage diminish or cease? (Or even lapse for a single season? It would make things less predictable, at the very least). It doesn’t have to be about the fact that she, herself, is female. Or that I am. No?

    If I had to guess, I’d say that the Top Chef judges are less willing to let male contestants go after any one mistake. It might be easier to see the women as contestants who had their chance and blew it, while they take the male contestants more seriously as visionaries who are ‘real’ contenders for the win. Especially if the dude has a stronger or more entertaining personality, they don’t want to let the dude go before they absolutely have to. If judges and audience members alike are less likely to get invested in the women, it hurts less to axe them.

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