Friday, December 04, 2009

With a Grain of Salt

Alas, our darling damsel Jennifer ducks out of the final competition that'll be between Bryan V, Mike V, and Kevin. Though twat-Tom was pleased with the duckiness of her dish, her braised duck legs, confit duck breast and foie gras vinaigrette ducked up her shot at the big prize. Though Bravo makes certain to edit the judges table with as much ambiguity as possible, they coyly dropped the hint at the start of the episode when they featured Jen saying how "even an extra grain of salt" can get you eliminated at this point. And it was, ultimately, the fact that her dishes were oversalted that caused her to leave.

Or, for those amongst us more jaded and who saw the new promo showcasing the brothers jousting/fencing with rolling pins and a spatula, Jennifer finally had to go because we had to have this final three. Salt, drama, siblings, bacon, grapes, whatever. I felt bad when she had to do the Jeff Lewis head turn to avoid crying right at the camera, though.

There can't even be any debate at this point that this leaves the very strongest three cooks and chefs in the competition, and that this final three is, by a wide margin, the most talented group ever on Top Chef. So relax, fans, there will be no sneaky, sucktastic Hoseaing of the final. Whoever wins is a worthy winner. Kevin cooks great food and always seems to please the judges' palates. Bryan combines creativity and cooking to serve up some of the most succulent and sophisticated dishes ever displayed on this show. And Michael, well, plenty of people will be gnashing their teeth and pissed if he wins, but not because he doesn't have the culinary chops. He's twice been tagged as Picasso, and as of last night, he also got his second "genius" comment. His cooking is innovative and challenging, combining technique and unusual flavor profiles with often flirty or fanciful results. What would upset viewers about him winning is that he's simply been portrayed as an asshole.

Jen was darling just before her swan song. I loved the little visit to the Rutherford Hill wine caves with Tony Terlato himself for a private tasting. Jen, of course, whimsically asks the big guy how much alcohol is in the juice! I will refrain from commenting on her newly permed hairdo out of kindness for the cutie. (This is a courtesy that I will not extend to Padma's bangs. What. The. Fuck. Padma? Between her hair and Gail's boobs unceremoniously falling out all over during the crush party it was a strange moment for feminine wiles.) Also cute about Jen? How badly she wanted to win the Prius in the quickfire challenge. She admitted that she didn't even have a CD player in her car and that she still listens to her high school mix tapes. Though endearing, I certainly wouldn't have begrudged her upgrading and winning. But, alas, was not to be. They had 30 minutes to cook something that showcased grapes while on the moving Napa train with Michael Chiarello judging.

Anyone watch Top Chef Masters? I've always liked Chiarello and I think he can cook. But he was such an asshole on that show that I was wondering if he was going to dish out more shit to these contestants. Instead, he was jovial and kind, complimenting them all, save for his disain with Bryan for using concord grapes, as they aren't local. Fuckers. If they didn't want him to use concords, why put them out there? As a trap? Fuckers. Kevin struggled with motion sickness on the train and Bryan, well, besides the concord thing, he always bombs on quickfires, so it was Mike V who won the Prius by using not just the grape in his scallop-grape kabob thingy, but also the leaf and stems in other elements of his plate. This fact should actually thrill those are now thoroughly reVOLTed by him, because, as you probably know, there's some Reality Show Rule where those who win the car don't win the grand prize. Don't believe me? Just ask Colby Donaldson, or Richard Blais, or Memphis or on and on and on.

But it naturally just made Mike more cocky entering the elimination challenge where they ended up having to cook two dishes for the crush party. Mike, for his vegetarian dish, made a 63 degree egg with vegetable pistou and I was shocked by this not because his idea was that when you'd break and mix the egg, it would become a pseudo-custard, but because I had no idea that eggs were vegetarian. Can someone out there please explain to me what exactly is vegetarian about an egg without striking other political cords? Anyhow, though Padma made some noise about how her egg could've been cooked more, that didn't go very far, because I think Tom was like, "pregnant shmegnant don't eat the raw egg Padma, yours is already fertilized as we can all see and I'm sick of people thinking I'm the baby-daddy and then laughing like that'd be absurd cuz you're too hot for me and I'm just hot in a gay-bear way but even though I'm soo over that it doesn't make me gay to notice your awful bangs even if I'm not banging you" so that he could devour more of Mike's turnip soup with foie gras and poached pear.

Kevin, meanwhile, as usual, cooked at the opposite spectrum by serving up roasted carrots and beets over a carrot top puree for his veggie dish and brisket over pumpkin polenta for his other dish. He got called out for his brisket not being tender enough, but he tried to talk his way out of it, saying that it needed to be more "toothsome" because it was over soft polenta and whatever. Ok. Look. I like Kevin. I think he's adorable and can cook. But, personally? I don't want to eat his food. Admittedly, southern cooking isn't my favorite genre anyhow, but it's just not really interesting sounding to me. On top of that, I go against the grain for those who think that Kevin is infallible in his wonderfulness. His talking game here was fine, and I have come to understand that part of the unfairness of Top Chef is that, sometimes, people can put up a good enough fight at judges' table defending their dish and they don't end up leaving. This sucks for the less eloquent or less inclined to verbally joust, but it's part of Bravo TV, you know? I had no problem with his defense of his meat here this time, but it reminded me of Restaurant Wars and his idiotic defense of his too rare lamb when he admitted that Laurine wanted "medium-rare" to be cooked more and then he said he didn't think either of them was right or wrong. Uh, that was talking in circles and there is a right and wrong when it comes to temperature of meat, and it was him talking around his major screw up. He never admits when he muffs it.

Add to that, I wondered if his rare-lamb wasn't a silent sabotage on Laurine, and now this week, he's the woodfire grill expert, and we see him giving Jen advice, but then the grill gets all fucked up and it's all Jen's fault. Granted, it was her dish and was her fault, but she thought Kevin was looking out for her. Kevin's the dude who point-blank asked Bryan Voltaggio temperature and technique questions and got them answered properly and it helped him win. But when he "helps" someone it generally leads to their downfall. I wouldn't mind that if he'd own it and take a little glee in it. Then again, perhaps the grill was just a bad coincidence and Jen was going home for a salt issue anyhow and it wasn't predetermined because of her previous faltering and Bravo's need for the battle of the brothers and kewpie doll Kevin. Salt, people, she oversalted!

For his part, Bryan Voltaggio has pretty much risen to become a really lovely guy on the show.

He speaks about how much he wants to go to the finals with Mike, and they give the contrasting shot of Mike saying that the "right" thing to say is that he wishes Bryan luck, but that he really wants to beat him and would be "relieved" if Bryan got booted out now! So there it goes for sure -- he does know the right thing to say, but then says what he really thinks anyhow! I love it. I have a feeling he'll NEVER have that kind of candor in front of a camera after watching this season air and hearing people's reactions to him, though. Anyhow, Bryan made fig-glazed short ribs and for his vegetarian dish a goat cheese ravioli with squash and fennel that "swept-away" Gail and made me want to lick my screen. Though there were some nitpicks about not enough salt and not enough fig flavor, he ended up winning the elim challenge, though this brought him no hard currency nor car.

So, the tally as I have it for the final three so far is:
Mike V -- $15k in a quickfire, $10k for Restaurant Wars, and a Prius
Kevin -- $15k in a quickfire, $30k in an elim challenge, a set of Calphalon, and GE appliances (which everyone agrees suck, but, still)
Bryan -- $0. So far, I think he's been bageled. He even refused the $2.5k his brother tried to give him from Restaurant Wars.

Who looks like the big winner? Yeah, I don't see Bryan leaving empty handed, and I have no trouble with that. I would love to eat at his joint someday. But, in this triumvirate, I have no trouble with Kevin winning, either. Just cause his food is not my thing doesn't mean I don't see the care, thoughtfulness, and yum factor for others in it. And Mike, of course, asshole he may be, but a badass cook he also most certainly is.

Now, I also want to talk about Bravo's new, other cooking show, Chef Academy. If you haven't watched it yet, it's much more Bravo-y than Top Chef. By that, I mean to warn you that the spontaneous drama is totally scripted, and the Michelin star Star Chef is Jean Christoph Novelli, whom the New York Times proclaimed the "world's sexiest chef," and who absolutely loves to be totally tan, totally French and totally psycho on TV. His histrionics and jerking around of the nine students is Machiavellian and sometimes borderline malicious, and you won't learn a thing about cooking by watching this show. It's all centered around food, but they exclude major ingredients so that his dishes can't be replicated at home and it's much more competition than classroom. As for the contestants, there's an OC Housewife chick and even a bona-fide porn star.

In other words, this show is pretty effing entertaining! I'll be watching it.

In contrast? Bravo's new design show, Launch My Line. Trainwreck. From the creepy twin gay hosts who want to be known as D-Squared but will definitely be known as Double Ds to the "dandy" and his dandy expert and the entire concept of there being a designer from another field getting paired up with an expert in fashion and they're going to only use 10 fabrics all season and whatever the fuck else strange constrictions get placed on them, Bravo is contorting itself to replace Project Runway, but I think Heidi and Tim can rest easy for a while. Trainwreck. In other words, I'll be watching it.


Alice said...

You are so right on about all this, it's as if you're in my head. Yeah, I was stunned about the "vegetarian" egg dish, too.

And yeah, I was always a fan of Chiarello until TC Masters. I'm glad he was charming on this episode.

The car does seem to be a jinx. Carla won the car, too. Just today one of my fellow foodie friends tweeted me if I was pulling for Kevin. Strangely I have found myself now rooting for a Bryan win just because of the lack of reward he's gotten.

Chef Academy? Only watched once, but Chef is hot and so is porn star. Launch My Line - trainwreck for sure, but I would kill for that creation that the one woman did that kept revealing one new look after another. Bravo and Susan, you all entertain me.

SusanD said...

Alice, make sure and check out Chef Academy next week, as the hot porn star serves his food naked. Nice!

I'm betting that the woman who created that changing outfit wins the whole season, so they'll bone her out of the win on all the challenges leading up to it.