“Top Chef” Bottoms Out

March 29, 2011

By Karen

After 79 episodes, all that remains of this season’s Top Chef All-Stars is one more cook-off and a reunion. Can anybody remember the first dozen chefs? They must all be retired by now, driving everybody at “the home” crazy repeating glorious tales of the time they puréed peas on TV for “this really famous bald guy — not Brynner, not Savalas, aw, you know — he had this really tall girlfriend called Pardner.”

In last week’s faux finale, Antonia inevitably got the boot. Seriously, a woman was never going to win this. Stephanie Izard has been the lone female Top Chef since the show started, right?

If Top Chef demonstrates anything, it’s that celebrity chefdom is a boys’ club. Martha, Rachael, Giada, Ina, and Paula are mere tokens, too prissy, cute, sexy, or motherly to ever cut it in a real kitchen.

Mike benefited from the Quickfire challenge’s sadistic twists by getting to choose how Richard or Antonia would suffer. Predictably, Mike went after Antonia because he wants the final finale to be between men — him and Richard.

If Mike ever found a baby robin languishing on the sidewalk, he’d stomp it to death and laugh. Even when he’s crowing about being on top, Mike never lets self-confidence make him pass up an opportunity to do someone dirty. Gracious and fair aren’t in his vocabulary.

So Antonia had to cook with canned goods while physically tethered to Carla (in a cameo appearance) à la sack race, and Richard had to prepare hot dogs with one hand and overdid it with the ketchup.

Mike was limited only by having one pot and losing his utensils after his dish was essentially finished. And guess what? His prowess at shooting fish in a barrel won Mike the Quickfire.

The Elimination challenge involved preparing a “Last Supper” for 3 accomplished chefs. Max Silvestri at Eater shredded that absurd challenge name admirably, so I’ll let him have at it.

Even after Wolfgang Puck declared Richard made Wolfgang’s dead mother happy with his strudel, spaetzle, and goulash, Colicchio couldn’t resist an “It’s not hot enough” kvetch.

Antonia was supplied with rancid fish to serve Masaharu Morimoto, so she presented Plan B fish (tuna) beautifully in a bento box. Morimoto found her miso soup too salty, and Colicchio damned the whole meal as having “too much flavor.”

Too much flavor. Does he ever listen to himself? He single-handedly made “bland” a 4-letter word.

Mike lucked out again — in spades — with no-brainer fried chicken and biscuits for Michelle Bernstein (whoever she is). He wrapped an egg yoke in dough and called it the “biscuit,” and the coating fell right off his dried-out chicken.

Richard was pronounced safe, but Mike and Antonia were sent back to the kitchen to prepare “one last perfect, totally gratuitous bite” because clearly Mike’s food wasn’t supposed to be that much worse than Antonia’s.

So Mike produced a glob of lobster topped with raw beef. Comments ranged from, “the lobster didn’t ‘wow’ me,” to “the beef was bland,” his curry was “over-spiced,” and someone actually “despised” his olive-caramel sauce.

Antonia cooked grouper. Tom, who’d been wearing a look of pained constipation the entire episode, offered the only real criticism, calling the fish “very aggressively” spiced.

So naturally, Antonia had to lose because Mike has a penis.

For the finale, I’d love to see Mike and Richard cook their best in a well-equipped kitchen without spoiled ingredients so someone can win honorably. Fat chance of that.


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