Thursday, February 12, 2009

Top Chef NYC: Week 8-12

Why am I hating Top Chef so much lately? Is this the end of their glorious run and are they hanging on life support that is supposed to be cut off? Are they facing the inevitability that the show had run its course? Remembered how some of the shows like "NYPD Blue" or "News Radio" were once a great show in the beginning, only to suck @ss in the end and hanging by the threads when they ran out of good stories? Top Chef Season 5 fully reminded me the awful last few seasons of those once promising show.

In all fairness, it's not just this season sucked. Better part of season 4 was on its own demise with awful planning of challenges, contrived rivalries, bad confessional interviews that looked force fed by the interviewer, and awful elimination decisions made by the producers...ooops, I mean by the judges.

Let's recap a bit by going back since my update of Top Chef series:

Week 8: The puppeteer behind the scene decided to eliminate Arianne (winner of two of the previous Elimination challenges) because of her handling of the lamb provided by Blue Hill Farm. Considering the lovebirds of Leah and Hosea was more intriguing and their development of impending romance was giving the show that dirty mutt factor. It's also noted that Bravo TV aired video clips of Arianne being disappointed that Leah pretty much sold her out and that she felt the other contestants all knew about the flirting going on between the two. Is it no wonder that the show decided to keep the most intriguing elements of the show in tact?

Pretty much the show would rather get rid one of its most competent chef with winning track records than a few contestants who have not stepped up in recent challenges and was also the contributing factors for making this offending lamb dish. Funny thing was that Hosea was the brain behind the plans to take the bones out of the lamb, which offended the judges because they all felt the lamb with bones would provided more flavors. Arianne in the video clips recorded after her elimination called him a coward, which she had every right to call him out.

Stefan, Carla, and Jamie won with their chicken dish.

Week 9: This was the most offending firing of the season I thought. They decided to install restaurant War at this juncture of the season, which pit two teams of contestants against each other to create a restaurant in just over a day. The winning team of Euros (Stefan & Fabio) and Lovebirds (Hosea and Leah) created a blase fusion fare called Sunset Lounge. Based on the dishes, it's mostly a touch of European with a few of seafood dishes. In other words, all four of them have some hands in this creation.

On the other hand, the other team consist of Radhika, Jamie, Carla, and Jeff came up with an Asian themed restaurant called Sahana where it included Garlic Naan, Curry carrot soup, and Cinnamon and Saffron lamp chop where only one of them (Radhika) had experienced in making these dishes. Guess who's in charge of the kitchen for that team? Not Radhika. For unseen reasons of why not one of them wanted to be in front of the room, Radhika took it upon herself to be the hostess and in charge of decor for the made up restaurant. Even though her team is not that familiar with the Indian/Middle Eastern theme cuisines, she risked it and trusted her team to make those dishes.

It paid off somewhat. The reason the team lost was the awful desserts made by pastry expert (Carla) and the awful attentions to details in the front room by Radhika. The controversial decision to let go Radhika for her management skills is somewhat shocking to me considering this is not Top Restaurateur. Just like the task for who can make the best TV personality at an earlier challenge, I cannot really see how the front of the room relates to this. I can understand if the chef have experiences working as waiters/host/managing restaurants failed miserably in the front of the house position in this task, but clearly none of them in this team have done this before considering none of the four owned a restaurant (Carla owns a catering business).

Speaking of Carla, for a woman that failed to make veggie dish by adding a scallop and now failing a dessert dish considering that is what she do best. It's quite clear to me that Top Chef pretty much lost its way at explaining these awful elimination decisions. It was one of the reasons why I don't kept these updates regularly as I should as their decisions were confusing at best.

Week 10: This is a humiliating battle if you asked me. The remaining contestants are going head to head with the former contestants of Top Chefs from past Seasons. Some of whom I couldn't recognized or easily forgotten. The supposed All-Stars included Spike, Andrew, & Nikki from Season 4 (recognizable because it's only last season), Andrea (the only one to get eliminated twice in the same season) & Miguel from Season 1 (Choc-la-funk), Josie from season 2 (ok I remembered her), and Camille from Season 3 (who?? Couldn't they get CJ or Howie?).

The humiliation is this, if you can't beat any of the losers from the past seasons in a head to head cooking battle of the regional cuisine you are assigned to, then you might as well be disqualified for winning this season's Top Chef.

None of the supposed All-Stars have made it to the Final and were eliminated very early like Camille and Josie. Most of this season's chef have no problem taking down the no-namers like Camille, Nikki, Miguel, and Andrew. It's the popular ones like Spike, Andrea, and Josie that beat up the three favorites in this contest (this season's Stefan, Fabio, and Jeff).

You knew right then and there in that this season is going to suck when your top three chef couldn't beat the retreads from the past season. Just imagine for a moment, this season's TOP CHEF winner can't beat the retread from the past seasons. If Stefan wins, people will point out that Andrea can beat him, so can any chef that outlasted Andrea in Season 1. Hence that is the problem, the honor of winning the title will be blemished for this season if Stefan is the winner. Jeff was sent home when his ceviche couldn't outdo Josie's version of ceviche. Don't worry Jeff, you will get a redemption soon.

They decided to give Carla the win to build up her confidence and re-energized the viewing audience as the "Underdog" to pull for.

Week 11: This insulting humor of this season's elimination challenge continues! Since they ran out of ideas, they came up with an elimination challenge of having contestants copying Chef Eric Ripert's famous dishes served in his restaurant Le Bernardin. The one that get to the closest to Ripert's signature dishes win. Here's the underlying question: what happened if the contestant decided not to follow the rules and think outside of the box by creating the dish better than Ripert? Even if it was better, he/she will be disqualified because it didn't come close to Ripert's version. Pretty much, the show was using Ripert's dishes as the benchmark and I can tell you that not every gourmet critic was a fan of Le Bernardin's dish.

Fear not, because the contestants all decided to do the copy cat work instead of taking the risk of thinking outside of the box. Either they have no confidence in trying to outdo his dish or they are just scared of being eliminated. Personally I think both.

Poor old Jamie who didn't like Ripert's dish of Sautéed Black Bass & Braised Celery with Serrano Ham Peppercorn Sauce has to recreate a dish she thought that was not good. See! That is a problem and she has to stick by the rules of creating a dish that Ripert introduced. I'm willing to bet Jamie who had worked with legendary chefs like Anita Lo and Jean-Michel Bouvier could come up with something more innovative than Ripert's dish if she was given a chance to do it. Alas, she guessed wrong on how the bass should be cooked and incorrectly braise the celery as it was too salty.

Funny that Leah had apalled the judges by quitting in the quickfire and just didn't have it in her to continue. She looked mentally drained as fatigue in this duration of contest is affecting her. Leah was doing great early on and just didn't have it lately. In the end, they decide to keep the backstabber and the quitter over a dish that shouldn't be replicated in the first place. Again, poor ol' Jamie.

Stefan won the challenge as many pointed out his dish was the easiest to do (Baked Lobster with Asparagus & Hollandaise Sauce).

Week 12: At this point, I can care less on who is going to the finale. Being pared down to a final five with one more elimination to go before the finale, I'm begining to be disillusioned as the tasks were getting mudane and the editing process also were tipping on the upcoming eliminations. Somehow with the feeling of watching Leah and her lackluster confessional interview, it becomes clear she won't make it. Watching Carla getting all excited was enough for me to puke when I get the realization that she is in.

The task was to create the last supper request for five experts in the culinary world. Sort of like the last meal of a condemned prisoner before he get executed. Let's just hope none of them get choke by something they will be served.

The final requests made were:
1st Course, Leah (for Wylie Dufresne): Eggs Benedict
2nd Course, Stefan (for Marcus Samuelsson): Roasted Salmon with Potatoes and Spinach
3rd Course, Hosea (for Susan Ungaro): Shrimp Scampi with Tomatoes Provençal
4th Course, Fabio (for Lidia Bastianich): Roasted Chicken with Roasted Potatoes and Leafy Salad
5th Course, Carla (for Jacques Pépin): Roasted Squab with Fresh Peas

You can guessed that Wylie Dufresne will be the hardest to please consider his dish was the easiest to make. You pretty much have to make something spectular out of something that is so ordinary. While the other four dishes are a bit more complicated, but have higher ceciling for the wow factor, the eggs benedict would need to be the most fanciest egg benedict in the world. You can give me any molecular gastronomy or any wild creative egg benedict, but in the is still egg benedict.

It's pretty obvious that Leah got the short end of the stick. However, she had long overstayed her welcome. As in for the winner, Carla won this challenge as the reclamation project of making her look good to be slaughter by Stefan in the final continue on.

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