“Top Chef” Bottoms Out

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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7 Responses to “Top Chef” Bottoms Out

  1. stuli1989 says:

    nicely insightful post 🙂

  2. zappa says:

    There may be more male celeb chefs,but,Martha,Rachael,Giada,and Paula are kajillionaires(I deliberately left out Ina not just because of the sick kid thing but because I think she is a huge snore)

  3. MorganLF says:

    Zappa-I agree Ina=snore. Bourdain always comments on her creepy friends, dead on.

    Karen do I detect a Coliccio feud in the making? He was there the night I squared off with Brooklyn, in fact they were behind us when we were hailing the cab.

    I have not seen the finale yet hoping to catch a re-run but I always figured it was Blaise. I’m glad Carla won “fan favorite”, I like her she’s funny and so eerily resembles a black Howard Stern, that I become fascinated with looking at her.

    As for the food world being a boys club just remember they all grew up eating mama’s food first.

  4. catsworking says:

    Morgan, I do remember how close I came to actually meeting Tom Colicchio back in November. If our cab hadn’t pulled up as Tony and his posse came up behind us… But I wasn’t utterly fed up with him then. This season of Top Chef really put the lid on it. One-man Mt. Rushmore of food, my ass.

    I’ve only seen a few minutes of Ina Garten and she seemed pretty bland. I don’t know anything about a sick child.

    Zappa, good point about the money. The women don’t have to run restaurants and lust after Michelin stars when they can make a killing on the cookbooks and merchandising. I think the women inspire more loyal fan bases than the male chefs because women relate to them more. I’d lump Emeril in with them because I think he does a good job of reaching out to women and doesn’t try to make cooking a macho thing, as if you can’t be any good at it unless you slaved in a restaurant kitchen.

  5. zappa says:

    Karen
    Ina Garten was contacted by The Make A Wish Foundation on behalf of a young boy whose dying wish was to cook with her AND SHE SAID NO. After some scathing press,she agreed(the prior commitments somehow disappeared)When her people contacted the boys family,they declined.Make A Wish has made arrangements for the little boy to swim with dolphins. What an evil witch.

  6. adele says:

    ZM,
    I’ve liked a lot of Ina’s recipes, even though she’s not the most exciting host on TV, but I was pretty appalled by her not fulfilling that poor kid’s wish. However, I’ve heard a couple of times (can’t verify) that Ina and Jeffrey had a child, who was so profoundly developmentally delayed that he/she had to be institutionalized. If that’s true, that could be a reason, though not an excuse for her refusal.

  7. catsworking says:

    Wow, I hadn’t heard anything about this incident with Ina, but it doesn’t raise my opinion of her one bit. I feel really sorry for any kid whose ultimate dream is to cook with her. Seems like it sets the bar kind of low. Bravo to his parents for declining her belated offer to make things right. Why let her off the hook and garner some good press, courtesy of their ill son?

    Cheray, you’re right. If Tony has one commendable quality, it’s making the public more aware of all the grunt work done by the unseen and unappreciated hordes from other countries who work in kitchens. I just wish he’d get off his high horse about making us see where our meat comes from. That squirrel-skinning scene in the Ozarks sent me over the edge. My yard is full of those little guys.

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