Top Chef: The Freaky Five

by janet on January 16th, 2007



After last week on Top Chef, Mikey created Top Chef history by winning both the Quickfire and Elimination Challenges. What surprises were in store for us this week? ((None. It was a boring episode.))

First of all, a rant from me. On 30 Rock, Jack Donaghy taught us that the way to monetize television is through Product Integortion Integration. In plain terms, this means brand names are prominently displayed in TV shows, movies, etc., as a sort of under-the-radar (hardly) advertisement. This is why James Bond seems to ONLY use Sony products and just so happens to be using a fancy ol’ VAIO on his boat, etc. I understand that this might be a necessary evil, but I think when product integration goes overboard it has the effect of making viewers rebel.

Case in point: this week’s Top Chef episode. I mean, could they BE any more heavy-handed? I first was irked during the surfer challenge a couple weeks ago when they kept pushing the fucking RAV4. “So we went to the beach in our RAV4s, and then we saw the barbeque pits and we were like, ‘Oh man!’” and “I could tell when they stepped out of their RAV4s that they were surprised.” This week, Padma: “…en route to your location in your RAV4s.” etc. etc. Definitely not subtle.

THIS week the Quickfire challenge was the “Kraft Snack Challenge.” The official challenge was to create a “snack” food using one of Kraft’s condiments – Italian dressing, mayo, or BBQ sauce. What the hell kind of challenge is that? I mean, what? It’s like they aren’t even TRYING here. They might as well have said, “OK, Kraft Kraft Kraft, Kraft Kraft Kraft Kraft.” What a waste of everyone’s time. Sam (with a Southern Kraft sandwich with tempura shrimp, pickled peaches, & BBQ aioli) came out a winner because he had a mayo obsession in cooking school, apparently. What a weirdo. They had a second winner, Marcel (!) for his lamb kebab with curried Kraft mayo, endives, and tomatoes.

As a reward for winning, the two got to choose their teams for the Elimination challenge, which was to create a restaurant – concept, design, service, and menu. The teams were Marcel, Elia, and Cliff against Sam, Ilan, and Mikey. I was surprised that Sam didn’t choose Cliff, his ol’ buddy and a strong chef that would be sure to help him win. I think maybe Sam recognized that Cliff is one of the top contenders and is being tactical here.

The restaurant they were taking over? A then-still-unopen UWink! Gasp! “Wait,” you say. “What’s UWink?” Oh, right. You wouldn’t know because we haven’t posted on our trip to UWink on this blog yet. James and I went to UWink days after it opened. In a nutshell, UWink is a concept restaurant that fused technology with food. We met with some drama there, but you’ll have to wait for the post to hear about it.

Anyway, Sam’s team chose to name their restaurant Lalalina, which is a combination of their girlfriends’ names. “Wait,” you say again. “Ilan ISN’T GAY????” I guess not. This is good news for Katinka. The other team named their restaurant M.E.C. for the obvious reason. Lalalina was supposed to be “rustic Italian” and M.E.C. was an upscale diner.

Speaking of Katinka, she’s right – this episode wasn’t crazy interesting. Highlights from Lalalina: they didn’t have wine so all the guests were grumpy and Sam made some sort of crazy dessert with gnocchi-shaped watermelon with cream and gorgonzola cheese on it, which prompted one guest to say, “Was the chef on crack?” Highlights from M.E.C.: Marcel served the judges raw chicken and Elia’s “Best Burger Ever” was hated on by many.

If you can serve RAW CHICKEN to the judges and end up in the top three, you know it was a bad episode. The judges didn’t even award a winner, but the top three were Marcel, Ilan, and Elia, I think. I forget already. I was too busy being irked at the judges, who continually throughout this season have been bitching that the chefs are not trying to win and are just trying to skate by. However, they never recognize when people truly are taking risks, or worse yet, slamming the chefs who do. The watermelon gnocchi is a case in point. Sam should have gotten props for taking a huge risk, and instead they couldn’t stop talking about how much they hated it.

King Crankasaur 

Everyone’s getting cranky on the show, which I think makes me cranky too. The only non-cranky one, Mikey, was eliminated this week for not using the whole dishware budget. Lord, even the pretense for the elimination was boring. I also felt bad for Mikey when he basically acted out an old Jack in the Box commercial where he couldn’t pronounce the word “chipotle.”

There was a high point, however, and that was Marcel’s rap performance of his poem “These People: For all the haters out there” on the roof. The best line was: “You say my food lacks fundamentals like salt and peppa / and I’m like, yo man, whateva!” I’m telling you, Marcel is awesome!

NEXT week’s episode looks faboo, so let’s just put this episode behind us. Next week is the episode when they decide who goes to Hawaii. Elia makes some sort of “huge mistake,” and it seems like Cliff plays some sort of mean joke on Marcel? And Chef Tom says, “I think you’re going to be in for quite a surprise when you see them” to Padma and there’s a scene of her with her jaw dropping. I can only think that they tattooed “I heart Marcel” across their cheeks.

Head judge Chef Tom just wrote an entry on his blog, paraphrasing the many hundreds of comments he got regarding this episode. He says:

Before I post my next blog entry, I promised to answer a bunch of questions from the message boards. It seems that most of the comments you wrote in this week are some variation of the following, which I’ll paraphrase:

Dear Chef Tom (you hypocritical smug bastard): You like to rant on about taking risks but when Sam took a risk with his watermelon/blue cheese dish you let him have it. Also, you let Marcel skate by with uncooked chicken, which, hello, could have killed somebody. And last, honest, likeable Michael’s only sin was not buying olive dishes with his leftover wine glass money, and yet he was let go! You always tell us it’s about the food, but clearly it’s not. Love the show, despite your obvious anti-Michael, pro-Cliff, anti/pro-Elia (choose one) bias. Keep up the good work, Top Chef is our favorite show, although in protest, we plan to never watch again.”

Check, check, and CHECK! Except the protest part – I am definitely still watching (post forthcoming on two epis). Looks like CM has its pulse on the opinions of the masses. Woot.

Read the whole thing here

2 Responses to “Top Chef: The Freaky Five”

  1. RayK says:

    The only chef on TV who is freaky is Giada. Okay, freaky and extremely unattractive.

  2. [...] the chef. Cool. We talked to him afterwards and he seemed super nice. I refrained from reciting his rap back to him. Too [...]

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