Sep 24, 2007

Top Chef 3: Where's the Drama?

Try as I may I cannot think of anything witty or snarky to say about the last Top Chef 3 episode. It was everything I wanted a Top Chef episode to be: great challenges, fabulous cooking, outstanding guest judges, and a fair final judgment.

Bravo finally delivered and the chefs rose to the occasion, even Sara, whose food probably tasted better than the judges intimated. But someone had to go, and raw meat that should be cooked is seldom attractive, except to my pooch. Sara made the huge mistake of not crossing her T’s and dotting her I’s, as she said on the show. Her Chowhound interview was also illuminating.

So four chefs are left, and here is what I think of them:
Hung: I will always associate the words “finesse, grace, style, and elegance” with Hung, and no matter how hard he tries to be a CPA, this cheftestant shows too much insecurity to be a true bad ass. His statements about coming over as an immigrant and having big dreams revealed much to me: I know how you feel bro. Be that as it may, Hung is a classically trained chef who knows his way around a kitchen, even a strange one. His confidence in his technical skills is unsurpassed among the other chefs, but it is like Dale said – Does he have heart? In addition, if Hung makes the finals he will suffer from his lack of popularity among the other cheftestants. If the past is any indication, Hung will probably have the opportunity to choose two former cheftestants as sous chefs in the finale. As we know, both Tiffany and Marcel were sabotaged by their teams, so the future does not bode well for Hung who is not regarded a team player.

Casey: She surged ahead of the pack in recent weeks to become the final female contender. In fact she's on such a strong roll that she’s a shoe-in as one of two finalists unless she does something in the semi-finals to mess up. Bravo needs a female chef in the finale this third go ‘round or else the series risks turning into a male bastion joke. As an aside, I find it pathetic that for three seasons only one female in four makes it to the semis, and, no, I don’t buy that male chefs are better than their female counterparts. Also, our perception of Casey as a weak contestant is Bravo’s fault. In the beginning they depicted her as a pretty, ornamental woman in the kitchen, one whose skills were uneven. Now, I really have to struggle to think of Casey as a viable candidate. That was bad editing, Bravo. Should Casey win, people will always wonder if she was chosen not for her abilities but because it was time a woman won the competition. As for particulars, I will always remember Casey’s outstanding taste test challenge and the abysmally slow way she chopped those onions.

Dale: We’ve had fun dissing his taste, but he has emerged as verbally the most colorful character. Some of his better lines during the last show were:

"Some of you watching this will think you can do this. Well you know what, most of you can’t because it’s really effin hard."
Looking at the chefs from the Culinary Institute: "It’s kind of like the last supper. Jesus’ apostles of culinary greatness."
"Brian, what is that big green turd on that plate because it was crazy."
"Cooking is love; you can taste it when the chef has not had his heart broken; and you definitely know that you got laid tonight."

Dale's cooking skills are uneven, however, and I just have never thought of him as top chef material. Case in point: when the chefs had $200 and an hour to shop for their elimination challenge ingredients he glommed onto Casey. Here’s some bad news, Dale: Any friend of Casey’s gets cut from the competition. Beside the fact that you are terrible with details (forgetting the honey sauce) you also were the one cheftestant most eager to pick Hung’s brain about the quickfire challenge to find out how that dish was made. My prediction is that you will be the first of the four to go during the semi-finals.

Brian: In her interview with Chowhound, Sara expressed her desire for Brian to make it to the finals. One other blogger intimated that Brian had made it quite far, and so the signs point to Brian triumphing in some way. I wouldn’t be unhappy with a Brian/Casey showdown, but I am rooting for Hung. Yes, Brian is an executive chef, but for someone in his exalted position, he has shown very little consistency. He was a terrible leader during Estaban Cortazar’s party, but to be fair, his leadership skills are superior to Hung’s.

I would like to see a Hung/Casey showdown, but would be satisfied with a Casey/Brian finale. Whoever makes it, there’s a decided lack of buzz about this Top Chef 3 finale. In the past two seasons, anony-mouses came out in droves, snarling at anyone who didn’t support their top candidate. Where are they? The comments on my blog this TC season are as polite and convivial as the cheftestants have been towards each other. So my main question at this point is: Where’s the drama?


Anonymous said...

i want to see brian win but i see your point about casey

Anonymous said...

I think I'm pulling for Casey, but I do have a soft spot for Hung. I think your point about him never being a total CPA is spot on - there's just something about him I like.

becca said...

I don't care who wins except for Dale. He isn't in the same league as the others.

Anonymous said...

"In the past two seasons, anony-mouses came out in droves, snarling at anyone who didn’t support their top candidate. Where are they?"

You know, Ms. Place, I noticed that, too!

I recall last seson thinking the blogs were being taken over by the Bravo message board people because the posts became nasty!

And this season, that's not the case.

Anonymous said...

Near the end of last season I could barely watch it. I accused Bravo of editing to make the most of all of the drama. I remember stating in their message boards that it made for must-see viewing the first time around but unwatchable during their multitude of repeats. This year??? I like very much--I can easily watch each episode multiple times. There really isn't a villian--Hung? I don't think so. And I really don't think the other contestants really dislike him at all. I disagree about him not being a team player--I think he has been one--he just isn't one in the individual competitions--he doesn't offer to help his competitors. No I think this is going to be a good finale--I am pulling for Casey but I have a soft spot for Dale.

Marius said...

Thanks you. Thank you. Thank you, Ms. Place. I'm having problems with my blog at the moment, but you said exactly what's on my mind.

I don’t buy that male chefs are better than their female counterparts.

Amen. Interestingly, many of the best TC bloggers are women! Haven't you noticed, Bravo? And these women know their stuff. I'm with you, Ms. Place; I refuse to believe that male chefs are better than female chefs.

Excellent post!

Anonymous said...

There's a comment over on Gail's blog you need to check out, Ms. Place. Written by a poster named John in regard to Gail's observation about women in the kitchen.

I recommend you go read it. You'll know who I'm talking about when you do.

I really lost it in my response to him.

Anonymous said...

Correction: the poster was named "Robert M"

charmingdinnerguest said...

I hope Hung wins because he is fierce. He'll always come up with a product or a solution regardless of the odds against him.

If some component to a dinner were missing he wouldn't stop and whine about it. Instead he would overcome the problem with creativity, energy and hard work. He deserves to win.

Ms. Place said...

Thanks, Peach Pie, you gave me an idea for a post. I owe you one. Yes, anon 11:53, last season the vitriol was almost out of control. I think we have swung from wildly rabid comments to a nice polite group of cheftestants and viewers. The pendulum has shifted a bit too far for my tastes, however. I rather liked the tension of Season One. As far as cooking goes, I think the finale will rock. In last week's show, these chefs proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they can cook.

george said...

i also have a soft spot for hung. something that most folks haven't pointed out is that he's also the last person of color standing now that sara m is gone. there haven't been any women who've won but there has also never been a person of color who's ever been in the final 2. not that i think this should be a weird gripe fest between (implicitly male) people of color vs. (implicitly white) women, but just think it bears noting.