Jan 6, 2007

Top Chef 2 Marcel: A Fair and Balanced View?

Gentle reader, here is my humble attempt to explain why I sided with the majority of cheftestants in their dislike of Marcel. Having reviewed a few tapes, I have softened my stance toward this ambitious young chef...just a smidge.

Marcel threw down his gauntlet from the start
In this video of Episode One, Marcel declares that he came to win the competition, not make friends. True to his word, Marcel kept himself at a distance. In last Wednesday's episode, Marcel repeated this statement to the judges in front of Ilan and Betty, confirming what the other cheftestants already knew.

At work I depend on a team of coworkers to achieve our rather ambitious projects. If one of my team made a similar "lone wolf" declaration like Marcel did, I wouldn't like it either.
Before applying for Top Chef, Marcel must have known that he would be expected to perform as part of a team some of the time and live in close proximity with the group. His lone wolf stance coupled with his arrogance, alienated him from the others from the start. Later in this same video, Ilan mentions his distrust of Marcel, setting the stage for future confrontations.

To be fair, Marcel is quite confident and proud of his talent. He also acknowledges his shortcoming, stating in his biography that he tends to be bossy in the kitchen. Ilan admits that "if he feels that he is right about something, he will prove his point until the opposition backs down. His obstinate nature and lack of accord will be sure to get him in trouble with the other chefs in the kitchen." In hindsight, these two young men were on a collision course and spoiling for a fight.

If you’re going to throw down the gauntlet, you’d better put your money where your mouth is
As Tom Collichio points out on his blog, "Marcel is the kind of guy who has probably pissed people off his whole life - dating back to the playground - without really understanding why or how. Faced with people’s negative reactions he lashes back in even more annoying ways, creating a cycle. Under ordinary circumstances, the others may have been willing to brush off Marcel’s irritating behavior, but with little sleep and mounting pressure, they’re regressing instead into a group of petty sixth-graders."

Not only was Marcel irritating the other contestants, he wasn’t even living up to his own lofty reputation. Statistics on Marcel and his two main detractors, Ilan and Sam (from Blogging Top Chef 2) show Marcel squarely in the middle.

Ilan - 4 times in the top group with 1 Elimination win and 1 team Elimination win and the prize for team elimination. 1 group QF win and 1 time in the bottom group.
Marcel - 1 QF win. 3 times in the top group and 3 times in the bottom group.
Sam - 5 times in the top group with 1 Elimination win and 3 QF wins ( 2 individual and 1 group). 2 times in the bottom group

My motto is: Either put up or shut up. Marcel did neither.

If you are determined to go it alone, you’ll need to watch your back

Cliff rarely shows his hand. He patiently bided his time before striking, as he did with Mia. Mikey has managed to coast along for ten episodes without making enemies. Marcel, on the other hand, made himself a target with his passive/aggressive behavior. His reaction when he's confronted by someone is to smile and DO nothing. Aaargh! If I found his smirk infuriating, the cheftestants must have thought it doubly so.

As far as I can tell, Marcel was not overtly obnoxious, and it's hard to pinpoint one episode that led to his unpopularity with the group. Tom Colicchio wrote in his blog, "I replayed the episode to see what Marcel had done to spark this little mob mentality, and realized he hadn’t done much, other than speak forcefully. Obviously, the group was primed to be angry with him over the slightest infraction." In interviews on Blogging Top Chef 2, Sam, Ilan, Cliff, and Frank have said that much of Marcel’s irritating behavior has been edited out, so we really have no way of knowing what went on behind the scenes. Though the general perception is that Marcel minded his own business and kept to himself, he actively ragged on Betty during the firehouse elimination challenge when her burners failed to heat quickly enough.

Marcel's passive/agressive behavior grated on the group and wore the cheftestants down. You could see it in the last episode when he took his time to decide which course he wanted to make (he chose dessert). As he dithered, the group waited and simmered and stewed.

Marcel also tried to take away some of Sam’s glory as team leader in the catering competition by saying to the judges that he didn’t need much leadership or direction. That was a pretty blatant and underhanded move. At that moment Sam and Ilan lost what little respect they had left for him. And they weren't the only ones. Recent interviews in Blogging Top Chef reveal what the chefs think about Marcel. Even loveable Mikey says unkind words about his former teammate!

When it was Marcel’s turn to serve his course in last week’s episode, all the team members, aside from Elia, refused to help him. Tom Colicchio summed their poor behavior up best when he wrote, "I wanted to see some leadership - someone who would step up and say, "Marcel may be the most annoying guy in the world, but the show must go on. Let’s put our heads down and get this meal over with."

After rewatching several shows, I can honestly say I haven’t changed my mind much about Marcel. Well, maybe a teensie bit. I HAVE changed my mind about Ilan’s behavior, which I now see was way out of line. He gained nothing by taunting Marcel except losing the respect of many viewers. By attacking Marcel, Ilan forgot an important piece of advice in dealing with passive/aggressive persons: "The passive-aggressive, perfect as they are in their own minds, simply do not get angry. They do not yell, nor are they so undignified as to lose their temper. They'll leave that up to you, so that, once again, they can justify that they are the ones in control. While you, on the other hand, are clearly a difficult and hurtful person."

Well, I promised that this post would be fair and balanced. So here are some comments in support of Marcel that I gleaned from other blog sites.

Comments in Support of Marcel

Anonymous said...
Hmmm and here I attributed Sam and Ilan's "honesty" to be an example of some really nasty mob mentality (with Betty practically salivating in the foreground of many scenes) rather than indicating their superior/accurate people-reading skills.

I posted this on another site, but feel so strongly about it that I wanted to share my thoughts with like-minded individuals (since the mob-mentality comment is spot on...) I'm really getting irritated by Sam, and that feeling grows by the week.

Sam has been such a fire-starter, using passive-agressive BS to spark confrontation while hidng behind others. It was Sam that raised allegations of wanton olive oil use (before backpeddling and saying he wasn't going to name names). It was Sam that urged Frank to confront Mike and Marcel on separate instances. And it was Sam doing the petty high school behind-the-back badmouthing, urging his minions to war on Marcel without showing his face. He even showed us that he's a bully and a jerk by getting in Marcel's face in an environment where Marcel clearly is too savvy to react (public decorum, anyone?).

Sam's a jerk. I don't care how many girls like him, he's still a jerk.

Anonymous said…
Nobody I know says Marcel is without fault. We're talking about proportion and motives here. Ilan has been doing behind the back sniggering from the beginning, and Sam is a cowardly little instigator when things don't go his way. They would rather sabotage their own dinner service instead of behaving professionally. At least Marcel is able to put aside the feuding long enough to get the work done.

Perhaps there has been an outpouring of pro-Marcel sentiment and anti-Sam, Betty, & Ilan feelings because people see a huge disparity between the offense and the punishment. Celebrating after insulting one of the dinner courses that came from your team and threatening to delay service in order to jeopardize someone's position are cheap tactics.

Anonymous said...
After being bullied, harrassed, and told to "go away", Marcel is like a gnat, a good one, because he continues to be the first one to offer help to his attackers. I don't know if I could find that kind of maturity. He's nice to them and they treat him like sh*t. It's so sad to see, but also an inspiration. What matters is how we treat others, not how they treat us. That's their sh*t.

Jessica said...
I'm a first time poster and I find myself agreeing with a lot of the comments here. Ilan had been my favorite, not only for his dishes (love a man who loves bacon!) but for his professional attitude. I was very disappointed in Ilan's behavior last night. It was one thing to try to psyche out Marcel, but to slam his dish in front of the guests was just immature and made him look pretty bad. I'll give Ilan another shot. I won't toss him aside after just one episode, but he's on probation

Anonymous said ...
Snap out of it, dudes. Ignore Marcel if you hate him so much. You're wasting your precious energy for the competition on him? Not too bright. We all heard you say you we're trying to take him out, but try doing it with your cooking if your so much better Mr. Paprika.

And here are some comments I generally agreed with ...

Bigassbelle on Amuse Biatch ...
weeny big haired twit, know thyself. they don't like you because you're a freakin asshole buddyboy. it's not so hard. pay attention!!

Anonymous on Amuse Biatch said ...
"I think I am a likeable guy"

This made me lol. Marcel annoys the everloving shit out of me. Not that I'm in love with any of the rest or even liking many of them at this point, but goddamn does Marcel for some reason seem so tiresome and grating to me.

Anonymous said... on Blogging Top Chef
None of you were on the show, so how can any of you claim that Marcel did not deserve his treatment, and that the editting cannot be blamed. They take weeks of filming and turn it into 13(?) hours, of course there are going to be parts left out. Yes it seems like editting is blamed for a lot of scenes, but here is a novel idea: Maybe it actually IS the editting that should be blamed. Bunch of sheep is what you are: "One week I love ilan, next week I hate him! LOLZ!"


Anonymous said...

Your quote about passive-aggressive people is spot-on. The shit-eating grin Marcel gets whenever one of the others pays him negative attention is telling. He's so the guy that knowingly pushes everyone's buttons, then gets all wide-eyed, "What did I do?" to get sympathy when someone finally snaps on him.

But Sam's outburst was definitely a better way to deal than Ilan's behavior. Yes, he flipped out, but confined it to a short period of time instead of dwelling and letting Marcel get into his head to affect his dish for the challenge. Ilan on the other hand did. There was even that clip from the episode where Ilan's asking if the guests are saying bad things about Marcel's dish, and Sam tells him to work on his OWN dish. It's probably at least partly a maturity and experience issue; perhaps Ilan will learn to deal with similar situations better in the future. He IS young, after all. Funnily enough, though tons of Marcel defenders throw out the "He's young!" excuse, they don't bother to do the same for Ilan -- even though Ilan's 2 years younger! This may be because Marcel visually appears to be about 16 while Ilan actually looks his age, though.

But the editing itself is a nobrainer. It's freaking Bravo -- the king of manipulative, transparent editing. Remember the PR 1 finale, when Kara Saun magically transformed from the totally nice, professional and all-around awesome woman she was the entire season to a mean cheating bitch who wanted to bend the budget rules? It was ridiculous, as if this complete about-face were supposed to justify Jay's win after Kara's season of dominance. I liked both of them, but hated how Bravo made Kara out to be such a bad guy just to prop up Jay as their winner.

The TC editing is similarly over-the-top. The first half of the season, you could've painted halos over golden boys Sam, Cliff and Ilan...now they're the mean awful boys picking on Poor Little Marcel! Come on now, the truth is obviously somewhere in the middle. Nobody is that one-dimensional or either good or bad. Marcel probably ends up making the Final 4 or something, hence his redemption arc, as there's no way his actual dishes could possibly justify his getting further than someone like Cliff. On the other hand, odds are at least one out of Cliff, Ilan or Sam is going to get cut before Final 4, so now the show is cramming their bad sides and less attractive qualities down our throats -- so viewers won't feel they were "robbed" even though they've been frontrunners practically the whole run. Bravo editing is just so freaking obvious that way.

Anyway, sorry for the length! I did obviously enjoy your Marcel analysis, as it sparked me to practically write my own essay on the subject in response :)

Ms. Place said...

Thank you for your kind comment. I had forgotten that Ilan was 2 yrs. younger than Marcel. You made an excellent point!

jinxy said...

You also have to take into account the TIMING of a lot of the behavior we have seen, and mitigating factors. For example... Before even the first challenge, the first stressful situation, and the first sleepless night, Marcel SINGLED HIMSELF out as the lone asshole. Now he's whining that he got EXACTLY what he set out for... WTF???

My mama always taught me that first impressions are crucial, and I think Marcel underestimated that. He doesn't have the time or the social decorun to correct people's assumptions about him. And why should they? Marcel is an annoying and immature prick, regardless of what the others are.

At least with Sam Ilan and Betty, I can attribute some of their not-so-nice behavior to sleeplessness and general stress level. Also, being thrown in a situation with someone as irritating as Marcel cannot possibly bring out the best in you, as was probably part of Marcel's strategy all along.

At the end of the day though, it comes down to this... You can't be a Top Chef if you cannot inspire those under you. The only thing I have seen Marcel insipre anyone to is violence, verbal or otherwise...

Also, it has to be said that if you go back to episode one... he made it very clear to the audience AS WELL AS TO HIS FELLOW CONTESTANTS that he was not here to make friends and he didnt care what anyone thought of him, and even went so far as to make snide provocatory remarks. Now he is reaping what he has sown. It's a bitch, ain't it??

Anonymous said...

wow...i completely disagree!

Ms. Place said...

Now we come to the heart of the matter, Anon. Marcel is an accomplice in his own demise.

He's not as innocent as some folks would have him be; nor is he a villain. He is young and he makes mistakes, but he has huge personality flaws. (Yes, he is passive/aggressive.) But Tom Colicchio is right: Something about Marcel's personality turns people into monsters. These people should have behaved like grown-ups, but they didn't.

Let's just call it a draw.

Anonymous said...

Thanks ms. place for the indepth, fair and balanced view and for quoting me twice. I agree, from how little we see (edits), it's a draw so far. But this week we might see the game played out differently. Love this site. posted on 10:20pm 1/15/07