Ok, that’s more like it! Top Chef is getting back in gear, raring up for next week’s premiere of the Vegas season. Even the Masters have stepped up their game. It also helped that the show imported 12 Past Cheftestants for the elimination challenge. Some were true stars, some…well, they must have had a free social calendar.
While I enjoyed this episode, and I’ll get into some of the highlights in a second, I want to focus on a couple of things that pop into mind. First is the dominant theme of the episode – Winky’s jerky behavior contrasted with that of Doobie and Theoden. It’s almost as if Winky forgot he was on TV for a moment – amazing as that may seem for such a camera hog. Did he forget that The Twelve are not just out of culinary school? Heck, Ilan actually won his season! Winky must be a truly awful boss. He is one of those people who forget that it is not an honor to actually work with someone, it’s a job. If you’re lucky, you may learn something and not get too jaded.
Meanwhile, Doobie and Theoden understand. They took these accomplished chefs and used them to supplement their work and make a good meal, incorporating their strengths along the way. Winky never realized this was the actual challenge. The food? Of course. But the real challenge was one of management skills.
Of course, even if Winky was a dick, I still wanted to see him slug Dale. Seriously, dude, is it possible to show just a glimmer of respect for someone who is clearly your superior in the kitchen. He’s a friggin Master! Winky may have it coming, but he’s done more in his career than Dale has even fantasized about. For hopefully the last time ever…Shut. Up. Dale.
The other thing I want to discuss is something that really bothered me. As the dozens of you who regularly read my little diatribes know, I hate the current crop of judges and the star system with a white-hot burning passion. The title of this article is one of Gael’s lines about Winky’s swordfish. Based on the comments we viewed, the judges hated Winky’s fish. They criticized virtually everything about his meal.
At the same time, the twist that put the luncheon outside in the sun messed up The Lo. Her menu choices were fine, it was prepared well. But the effects of having the hot sun beating down on raw seafood hurt it. She really had little time to prepare an alteration. What did they expect? A menu choice screwed her. Plain and simple.
So what pissed me off? The grades given made no sense. Granted, The Lo probably wouldn’t have made it up to stave off elimination – she was down 1.5 after the Quickfire and the diner scores. However, how is it possible that Gael gave Doobie and Winky the same grades? No one said a single bad thing about Doobie, and they skewered Winky! In addition, Jay had Doobie only a half of a star ahead of Winky. What kind of ass-backwards system is this? Bert gets a pass, he graded well, Theoden edged out Doobie and the other two a distant tie for third. But Gael? Theoden 5, Doobie/Winky 4, The Lo 3.5. Again, the “feared” Gael Greene proves useless. Jay? Not much better – Theoden 5, Doobie 4.5, Winky 4 and The Lo 3.5. Gael’s grade actually cost Doobie the victory.
And don’t get me started on the trio of 5’s for Theoden. The diners had Doobie earning 4.5 stars and Theoden TIED with Winky. Shouldn’t taste account for more? Theoden got top grades for presentation and for sheer volume of dishes. He deserves props, but a perfect score when his taste grades equaled those of the Winky’s mushy fish? Stupid.
Quickfire – The ingredient taste test … and, the Masters totally sucked. I mean, really sucked. Some of us could have beaten them. My wife would have kicked their ass. Theoden only got five of 20 correct and some of the choices were peanut butter, ketchup and maple syrup. Winky won with only seven correct. That’s just sad.
Elimination – Cook a luncheon for 200 Hollywood insiders. To do so, they get help from The Twelve – Fabio, Jamie, Elia, Spike, Richard, Ilan, Antonia, Brian, CJ, Dale, Alex and Betty. Some heavy hitters here – and Alex and Betty. First twist – venue change. Second twist – cut a helper.
The Meals – Bravo doesn’t go into subtitled detail, so bear with me:
The Lo. Asian buffet with an array of sauces and condiments – including a noodle salad, pork ribs, raw bar and sea scallops.
Winky. Rustic Italian Buffet – including 3 antipastos, risotto three ways, prime rib, swordfish, lamb shank and desserts.
Theoden. 18 Dish Buffet. 18! Including – some carrot thing (Sorry, I listened three times and still can’t figure out what he said), some oyster thingy, Vietnamese Gazpacho, some beets, lamb and desserts.
Doobie. Mexican Food Buffet – including a luxury guacamole bar, classic tortilla soup, a pork dish, shrimp sauté, and a Blais-created avocado ice cream.
Final star tally – Theoden 22, Doobie 21.5, Winky 19.5, The Lo 17.