Friday, November 20, 2009
The Silence of the Lambs
So the mini Bocuse d'Or, presided over by Thomas Keller and other Bocuse cookerati, was just the challenge to knock out Eli and his undercooked lamb, leaving us with the most solid final four in the history of Top Chef. Since the start of the season, Jen, Michael, Brian, and Kevin have dominated this competition. Between them, the foodie four has managed to win every single elimination challenge, with Jen logging one, Bryan and Michael three wins each, and Kevin five, including taking top honors at this Bocuse challenge. In doing so, he locked up a chance to compete for a spot on the 2010 American Bocuse team, along with a crisp 30k.
Kevin's only failure this season came during restaurant wars, when he notoriously served bloody "jello" lamb, but managed to get Laurine kicked out instead because the dish was ultimately hers and it was her responsibility to have sent the lamb dishes back to him to cook properly. But if that one challenge faux pas on redbeard's record haunted him at all, he was given the opportunity to silence the screaming of those lambs when he chose lamb over salmon as his protein for the mock-Bocuse. But just like Clarice Starling, he couldn't take on the tricky task without consulting a more seasoned pro for advice on how to properly sous vide his piece of meat.
And we all know by now exactly who knows all the culinary tricks on this season's Top Chef. Whether you want to emulsify eggs, dehydrate garlic, or flambe a flower, look no further than the Voltaggio brothers, who've turned more tricks on a day in a Vegas kitchen than Airforce Annie does on each episode of "Cathouse." Lucky for Kevin -- though potentially a missed opportunity for us sadistic viewers -- he chose to consult the non-sociopathic, non-overwhelmingly ego-saturated younger brother Michael and instead asked Bryan how to prepare his protein. Honestly, I thought this was pretty ballsy of Kevin at this point, because this is a competition, and if he'd have asked me, I'd have been torn between being a competitor and telling him to fuck off and being a "good sport" and helping him out. (A third option, which would've been incredibly naughty, would've been to give him improper directions and sabotage him. Which, by the way, I've wondered in passing isn't what Kevin did to Laurine -- fucked up her dish, even if it was subconsciously.) Bryan, of course, had this dilemma cross his mind, but it was merely a passing thought, and as he explained, cooking is about learning and teaching others, so he told Kevin exactly what to do. In doing so, he ironically probably lost out on the 30 grand himself and the opportunity to Bocuse it up, because Bryan's dish was, overall, much more intricate and beautiful and showcased a couple of culinary clever twists that the judges appreciated. But Bryan's lamb didn't cook exactly correctly, and Kevin's did. So even though the judges agreed that Kevin's dish was "too simplistic" they awarded him the win for a lack of any mistakes. Have the lambs stopped screaming, Kevin?
Also cooking lamb with Kevin and Bryan was big loser Eli. Lamb is quickly joining panna cotta as a dish of death for this program, as over the past couple of seasons, bad lamb has claimed a lot of decent cooks. Eli managed to turn out an interesting looking dish, but his arugula coulis couldn't cover up his way-bloody lamb. It puts the sauces on its meat! But it still manages to go home, leaving viewers to rejoice at the best final four ever!
Meanwhile, while Kevin chose the lamb for "sustainability" reasons -- most definitely the buzzword and social conscience of this season's Top Chef, Jen managed to climb back on the horse and take the win at the quickfire challenge when she made a seafood ballotine with calamari that looked pretty damn tasty. Kevin also racked up cute karma points when he winked at her in happiness after she got her good review from Padma and guest judge and former Bocuse chef, Gavin Kaysen. However, in the elimination challenge, she undercooked some of her salmon which kept her out of the running for the win. But she made good looking dishes that most of the judges agreed tasted really good, and it seems like she's pulled her shit together to head into the semi-finals. Also notable is that Jen also showed a lot of class and paid back Bryan's Kevin-helping karma by helping Bryan get his plates together in time.
And that gives us the perfect segue to talk about the one who has not wracked up good karma or been shown to display a lot of class. I have tried. I really tried and initially got behind Mike V's swagger because he could cook his ass off. But it hits a point where enough is enough, and I know they're editing him to make him look like a perfect jackass, but it's also not like they're making him say some of the shit he's saying and with the attitude he's saying it. Talk about Silence of the Lambs, fuck, It's now hit the point where he really shouldn't be allowed to sit down and give his confessionals unless he's outfitted with a contraption like this:
I mean, seriously, this dude manages to always say something obnoxious anymore. It actually hit the point where even I was exasperated with him when he mouthed off about Jen hitting a wall and having nothing left to offer in the competition. (This was shown just before Jen won the quickfire, making him look even assier.) But, lucky for him, I enjoy rooting for the villain and I actually found his assholery funny by the time he idiotcially whined about not winning the quickfire by saying that they never specifically said they were supposed to make a ballotine, when in fact that was specifically stated, and that if he had known he was supposed to do that, he could've made a better one than Kayson could ever make. I mean, I actually laughed at this point because they're getting such great asshole material from this guy. It would be one thing if he was spouting off saying this stuff with a light attitude or smirky swagger a la Stefan, but instead he's devolved into actually saying this stuff with a serious, smug, and sneering edge to it, which just makes it so damn obnoxious. Worse, it makes him look so small and petty, as though he's going out of his way to cut down not just Kevin now, but absolutely everyone who anyone might perceive as being a good cook, because Chef Michael just must be the smartest and most technically gifted chef ever. He's actually comical with it, though, sadly for him, unintentionally comical, much like Kristen Wiig's weirdo character who one-ups everyone she speaks to.
He's at the point where I don't think there's any possibility of a redemption edit for his "character" on the show. I seriously cannot wait for the reunion show to see Andy Cohen start picking at this scab and to see how Mike is going to react to it all. Will he be able to laugh at how he was portrayed? Or is he going to bring his sourpuss along and whine about how unfair it was and reinforce the perception of him being a self-serious shit and make Andy's "Jackhole of the week" list?
That said, though, his dish wasn't a judge favorite this week because Alex Stratta found a bone in his piece of salmon, and no one was a fan of his cucumber-tzatziki garnish, but, overall, he still managed to turn out one of the more interesting dishes. But the question is, is he also getting wound tighter and will his hubris do him in? If he can show up in Napa and cook the way he's capable, he could still win. But if he shows up and serves his ego with some fava beans and a nice chianti, he might just get knocked out.