Yes, once again Bravo interrupts your regularly scheduled week of Top Chef Season 3 competition to bring you a re-run. This time it’s another chance to see the “4 Star All Stars” battle between contestants from Seasons 1 and 2. For those of us who are addicted to our weekly fix of the current season’s battles, it’s time to look for another way to pass the time until the competition heats up again next week. Fortunately, some of the show’s top fans have some suggestions.
It is not common for Top Chef to bring in guest “consultants” outside of the guest judges for the week. So…why Christopher Ciccone, the man otherwise known as “Madonna’s brother”? It may have been, as some have suggested, an effort to reinforce relations with Top Chef’s gay fans, but, I expect, it mostly was a situation in which the show’s needs matched well with the needs of the guest.
So…everyone that is at all serious about cooking has had that moment when they were in the middle of executing a recipe and suddenly realized they needed to peel and chop 3 potatoes, or mince 2 cloves of garlic, or heat an oven to 350. Avoiding these moments that can seriously derail cooking are exactly what mise en place is about. When Top Chef presented a mise en place relay this week, the show did not do a great job of explaining exactly what mise en place is.
This week’s Top Chef was really part two of what began last week with the opening of “Restaurant Wars.” It all looked so predictable in the beginning. CJ won the QuickFire challenge last week and chose an all-star team of himself, Tre, Casey, and Brian to face down the ragtag remainder guaranteed-to-not-get-along group of Sara M., Howie, Dale, and Hung. Somewhere along the way it all got much more complicated. Last week we wound up with no one getting eliminated and neither team looking good. This week after the QuickFire our ragtag team ended up with a victory and, consequently, a sommelier and $200 extra in money to spend on wine. Things were beginning to look up, and the road started to look a tiny bit rocky for our all-stars.
It was not easy to make people feel affection for Marcel on the second season of Top Chef but somehow that smirk and attitude from ultimate winner Ilan Hall drove a number of viewers into Marcel’s camp. Ilan’s status as a villain in the making was not helped by revelations that he spent his winnings on ostentatious bling. Despite debunking by the folks at Food & Wine magazine, there was a definitive aura of conceit in the air. Fast-forward and it seems that Ilan’s reputation is in the process of a makeover. Is Ilan Hall back in your good graces?
I didn’t really know whether to cheer or be disturbed last week when Top Chef revealed that food blogger Andrea Strong had been at the openings of the competing restaurants in the “Restaurant Wars” episode of the show. Padma Lakshmi proceeded to read her comments and it seemed like we heard more from Strong than guest judge Daniel Boulud, a world-renowned chef. Reading Strong’s The Strong Buzz, it is difficult to discern where she gained enough food knowledge to be a credible judge alongside Daniel Boulud, Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, Ted Allen and even Padma. The buzz in the blogosphere was loud afterward and it seems the writers were in much of the same quandary as I am.
It could have been embarrassing for Top Chef that this week’s guest judge Danield Boulud had been involved in settling a discrimination suit filed by his former employees just 2 short weeks ago. His restaurant Daniel agreed to pay $80,000 in damages to 8 workers who alleged discrimination. He will also be required to train managers in employment law and ensure that race and national origin are not factors in promotions. However, with the show’s producers ignoring the issue it seems it is safe for much of the press covering Top Chef to ignore it as well. Admittedly, it would be difficult to bring into the open an issue far too common in the world of top-level restaurants that makes diners themselves a bit squeamish and uncomfortable in thinking about what they may be supporting by patronizing a top restaurant with an abusive environment.
Sounds sort of romantic, doesn’t it? Well, maybe not. This week’s Top Chef featured one of the most anticipated events for dedicated viewers, the challenge called “Restaurant Wars.” The competitors are divided into two teams that each create an entire restaurant from the food served out of the kitchen to flowers on the table. One team chose April for their restaurant name. Some found it pleasant. I found it a bit fru-fru. The other team chose The Garage. Top Chef’s invited blogger, Andrea Strong, found it off-putting to think of a garage paired with food. For me, it was reminiscent of Memphis which has a way of converting old garages into good restaurants, and, I would think, for New Yorkers other than Strong, it may bring to mind the legendary Paradise Garage, still known to many simply as The Garage.
Padma is the show’s primary eye candy. Tom has turned more than a few heads as the loveable, improbably sexy, teddy bear of a chef, and Ted was already a familiar TV personality due to his stints as a regular on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and a frequent judge on Iron Chef America. However, Gail Simmons is a bit more prickly at times (just look at that serious pose at right) and lacks the obvious fan club. However, she comes with serious culinary training and experience and none of the judges is better at delivering difficult but true observations when things go awry on Top Chef.
It wasn’t a big surprise when Rock turned out to be the winner for Hell’s Kitchen Season 3. What was probably the biggest surprise was the relative lack of drama in the final dinner service. Of course there was Julia’s conversion into an obnoxious contrarian, Josh’s inability to serve up quality crab cakes, and Melissa’s ineptness, but it was all rather uneventful compared with much of the season. Rarely does it seem that Reality TV serves up such a clear winner, and, equally rarely, such a gracious loser. Here are 5 of the reasons Rock was the unquestioned victor: