Top Chef – Texas: Block Party

E:  Well, you knew it was coming. Really, how many times can they show inconsistent, wacky Chris pining for his lovely wife and child before giving him the boot?

M: Quick admission…  I was an idiot this week.  I went to re-watch last week’s LCK On Demand before watching this week’s episode, but accidentally selected this week’s, which opened with the shot of Chris J, so I knew who was gone before ever even starting the episode.  I’m not sure my viewing experience would have been much, if any, different, but still, I don’t like to know the ending before I watch.

E: Oh, that bites.  I quite agree; I expected him to go next, but I would not have liked it confirmed.  Before we get too far in, however, we should start with the mise en place relay.  I really love that challenge.

M: Agreed, that’s always a winner.  I don’t mind them working in groups or pairs during something like this (and in general I don’t mind it on Quickfires), and this episode’s was no exception.  I have to say, I was amazed that Paul and Ed not only didn’t get their shrimp on their plate, but if I heard correctly as a rewound it, didn’t even cook it.

E: Yep, quite right.  Shocking, huh?

M: I’ll say.  In fact, I’d say that’s got to be the biggest miss I’ve seen in the history of quickfires.  On a positive note, I loved that Chris and Grayson beat the supremely overconfident bully twins, I didn’t want to see the two of them rewarded with either credit… or cash.  Nyuk nyuk nyuk.

E: M, I’m sure you were with Chris when he said he was sick of team challenges feeding huge groups of people.  The Entertainment Weekley recapper had a great bon mot about this – the season is starting to feel like Top Caterer rather than Top Chef.

M: It’s funny, when they were performing the challenge that’s exactly the word I though of…  caterer.  Now, to be fair, there have been tons of catering-type challenges in Top Chef history, and tons of challenges where they have to cook for 200 people, or some ridiculous number like that.  The problems I had with this week’s were three-fold.  First, they give them the parameters that it’s a block party.  Now, I don’t know about what’s served at block parties in Tom or Padma’s circles, but none of the block parties I’ve ever been to have had haute cuisine.

E: Nope, and there it is. They want “elevated” food, but they don’t give them challenges where they can produce it.

M: Second, they’re in freaking Texas in the summer, don’t make them cook outside in the sun, the food’s going to suffer, and that’s not an indictment on their ability to cook.  Third, seriously, you give them 30 seconds to menu plan and 2 and 1/2 hours to prep?  Why do that, unless you want the food to suck?

E: Yeah.  There’s a fine line between challenging the chefs, and dooming them, and this fell on the wrong side of the line.

M: As have more than a few challenges this season, unfortunately.

E: No argument here.  And oh, the perils of chicken salad.  You knew the second Grayson and Chris picked it that one of them would be going home, didn’t you?

M: It was a pretty safe bet, yeah.  I couldn’t imagine a winning dish coming out of something that’s only positive reference in pop culture is when people say that someone turned chicken s##t into it.  As I said, I hated the parameters of the challenge, but seriously, why would you choose that?

E: I have no idea. Now, I don’t like chicken salad…

M: I don’t like it either, due to my dislike of mayo.  Though, I will say, replacing it with a “tofu emulsion” is not likely to get me in line to try it.

E: Snort. And I do like meatballs…

M: Mmmmmm, meatballs.

E: But at least chicken salad is a dish – as opposed to serving people a single meatball, which was just odd, don’t you think?

M: Given the parameters, I don’t think serving people a meatball was odd.  However, I don’t think it was a significant step up from chicken salad, either.

E: While it’s not that exciting, I thought Tom was being a little nasty to Grayson.  “Did you really think you could win with a chicken salad sandwich?”  “Obviously not,” she realizes.  Really unnecessary, Tom. I felt like they were pissed that she ended up in the top, and spared no chance to make her feel it.  Uncool.  (One of the bloggers on bravotv.com thinks that Grayson changed Tom’s mind on the topic, but I don’t agree at all.)

M: Hmmm, it didn’t seem to me like they were pissed she ended up in the top, just that she chose chicken salad.  I loved, however, that Grayson stood up to him on it, especially compared to the meatball.  One of our fellow WordPress bloggers, The Food and Wine Hedonist, thought that Tom’s lack of reply about  the meatball meant that he didn’t disagree.  I didn’t see it that way, he seemed to me to think the meatball was fine.  Which it would have been as an accompaniment, or as part of a sub (though not as a burger, as Fabio found out on All-Stars).

E: Right, exactly – you don’t just have a meatball on it’s own.  The whole thing reminds me of Zoe in Chicago with their other block party, going home for pasta salad.  It’s an essential part of that sort of meal, she felt. Ah, Top Chef.

M: Exactly.  If you’re going to give them a crappy challenge with crappy parameters, expect a crappy menu.

E: Now can we please get over the picnic food?  More wicked queen challenges, please!

M: Seriously!  We want to see these people at their best, not see who can make the best of really lousy situations.

E: I don’t entirely agree – I do want to see them being challenged.  Sometimes that leads to great food – remember breakfast on the beach in season two?  I just don’t want it to be every week.

M: No, I don’t, but only because I didn’t start watching until season three.  I take your point, though, and agree with it in principle.  Still, I will say that if any of us viewers ever go to eat their food, it won’t be something they conceptualized in a Toyota Sienna (or whatever product placement they had that season) then cooked in a parking lot on a Bunsen Burner.  Keep those kinds of things to the Quickfires.

E: Again, I think you’re overstating things, but I agree – if I ever get to Moto, it won’t be for chili or smoked brisket.

M: Look, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying there shouldn’t be twists and difficulties in the elimination challenges, there definitely should be.  However, they should be within the parameters of putting the contestants in a position to make a really good meal.  Limiting their time severely doesn’t do that.  Making them cook in 110 degree heat in the midst of a swarm of bees doesn’t either.

E: Oh, I did feel quite bad for Chris about that, although you’d think someone with a bee sting allergy would know that the LAST thing you want to do with bees is disturb them.  Not the way to get them to leave you alone, dude.

M:Those are the things they need to keep in check.  Things like having Heathly Choice sponsor it and make the meal they already chose healthier?  I’m good with that.  Back to the episode, though, Chris’ pre-made chicken s##t… er, salad sandwiches did him in, as expected.

E: Okay, I have no idea what you’re referencing.  More importantly, I will miss Chris.  He comes across as a really nice person, with really interesting ideas about food.  At least Chris is getting a nice fat paycheck out of it!  Not at fat as Paul’s 50k winnings, of course, but still, better than nothing.  I don’t know how you can deny Paul’s the one to beat anymore, M.  I’m not even sure who could beat him at this point.

M: Well, if you recall, when I said Paul wasn’t necessarily the favorite that was a couple weeks ago, and he’s had a big couple weeks.  So yes, I definitely agree that he’s the odds on favorite now.  However, as we’ve seen in the past (Richard Blais in season 4, Angelo in season 7), the person who leads for most of the season doesn’t always win, so I wouldn’t agree that no one could beat him.

E: Fair enough.  (Although to be enitrely fair, Stephanie had won as many challenges as Blais, so it’s not like he was the overwhelming favorite people make him out to be.)

M: I agree that she did well, but watching that season he was the clear favorite, and her win definitely felt like an upset no matter how many challenges she had won.

E: I just don’t get that.  He was confident, and she wasn’t, so maybe that lead to you perception, but the judges didn’t favor him.

M: Moving back to this season, Ed has been pretty good, Grayson has been sneaky, and the bully twins both have talent.  And don’t forget Bev, if she gets back in and the final challenge is short ribs…

E: I sure won’t.  Speaking of Bev, Padma asks us if Chris has met his Kobyashi Maru in Last Chance Kitchen.  Love!  Her best voice over ever!

M: Oh, see, I’m too much of a geek.  The Kobyashi Maru is an unwinable situation meant to test a candidate’s reactions.  Head to head against Bev was entirely winable, meant to give him a chance to get back into the competition.  Ok, Mr Literal signing off now.  Apologies.

E: What, for being too precise, or taking almost a week to watch the episode?

M: Um, yeah…  both.

E: By the way, I LOVED Chris on Last Chance Kitchen.  Tom explains they’re holding head to head competitions in the Last Chance Kitchen.  “For what?” Chris asks.  Hee!  He’s the only person that didn’t get what was going on – a chance to keep competing.  Dude just wants to go home to his wife!

M: Or the fact that he was the first one who just went to the kitchen of the contestants house, not the Top Chef Kitchen, and stared at a bottle of honey for 10 minutes?  That was fantastic.

E: Much as I liked Chris, I was happy to see Beverly win.  First off, I really want the person who comes out of Last Chance Kitchen to have won more than one round…

M: …which Chris would have, since there’s still one more LCK…

E: Okay, but no one has the same underdog feeling that Bev has.  I feel her need to prove herself, to prove her detractors wrong.  It’s a good story.

M: Can’t argue with you on that.

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2 comments on “Top Chef – Texas: Block Party

  1. Bully Twins = lol.. I’d really love to see Sarah get booted this week and get OWNED by Beverly in LCK. Although, she’d probably be a sore loser about both.

    As for challengers to Paul, I’d say it’s Ed. He’s got serious skills with a lot of variety. His downfall is that he messes up from time to time. Paul’s rarely off his game, though. btw – thx for the link

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