Thursday, March 13, 2008

Top Chef Chicago: Taste the Boredom

The highly anticipated new season of Top Chef: Chicago premiered last night. ::Yawn::

As with past seasons, hints of impending drama were introduced early on with the hope of setting the hook in the collective cheek of the audience. First up are Jen & Zoi, who announced to all that they are a couple (to quote Andy Cohen "a laaaaydeeee couple"). Next we have Andrew, who looks like he lives on the rapidly crumbling edge of a paranoid nervous breakdown - it's just a matter of time before this one comes unhinged. Mr. Andrew made it clear right off the bat that Richard is out to get him. (And I'm guessing that, if he makes it past the next episode, others shall be named in his conspiracy theory.) He's also partial to the "F" word, but then again, so is this entire group. Spike (Bravo's answer to K-Fed?) left me with an eerie feeling that Britney Spears might show up at a judging table. And sadly, I was fairly certain was that the lovely but tragically timid Nimma would be the first eliminated, knowing as I do that too much salt and/or lack thereof has felled mightier chefs than she...As for the food, well...Richard's Peach Taleggio pizza and Stephanie's Duck L'orange were, at least visually, (which is my only way of judging, of course) the standout dishes and the high point of the show. That being said, even though the bios of this group of contestants indicate strong culinary backgrounds, we saw a lot of really simple errors and lack of knowledge, including not enough and too much salt, both from the same person; thick, inedible pizza crusts, a serious lack of mayonnaise making skills, an attempt at an avant-garde Duck L'orange that was senselessly deconstructed, baffling the judges; chefs that didn't know their piccattas from their Milaneses, and a nacho "souffle" made with everyone's favorite nacho souffle ingredient - mashed potatoes...

What I liked: That the contestants were able to bring some of their favorite ingredients along, something that has in previous seasons been limited to finalists. I also liked the edgier and more wicked Rocco ("it wasn't just the gnocchi that was dense"). Of course, those close-ups of Padma shoveling huge, unwieldy chunks of food into her mouth while her eyes roll back in rapture are not without entertainment value...

What I didn't care for: The kinder, gentler Bourdain (I'm hoping that he had just flown in from somewhere exotic, and was just too tired and too full of warthog anus to be his acerbic, curmudgeonly self...) In my opinion, when all was said and done, it was just kind of boring for a premiere episode. Nothing much new, nothing terribly inventive... some recycled hawk rockin' and an incredibly NOT FIERCE Malarkey asshat double...I hope it's that it's just too early to tell what path Top Chef: Chicago will take. But if things continue on like this, it's going to be an awfully long season...

16 comments:

Emma said...

I think you hit the Andrew thing right on the head. He looks ready to go off the deep end at the drop of an asshat. Kind of a Dave Martin-like personality without any of the Dave-charm.

I give the premiere three shrug rating but I will watch again to see if things improve.

Anonymous said...

Haha, when I saw Andrew for the first time my immediate reaction was "Is this guy for real?" Did you guys hear him say "Andhewaslike CASA MUTHAF*CKERS! Anditwaslike PHATNESS!"
Also,
Is Marmite the same thing as Vegimite? Cuz Mark called it Marmite, but then Rocco referred to it as Vegimite?

The Java Junkie said...

Vegemite is made from leftover brewers' yeast extract, a by-product of beer manufacture, and various vegetable and spice additives. The taste may be described as salty, slightly bitter, and malty - somewhat similar to the taste of beef bouillon. The texture is smooth and sticky, much like peanut butter. It is not as intensely flavoured as Marmite and it is less sweet than the New Zealand version of Marmite.

Vegemite is popular with many Australians and New Zealanders, who commonly consider it a "national food." It is considered an Australian cultural icon and can be found in shops around the world, particularly where there are large populations of Australian expatriates. It has not been successfully marketed in other countries, apart from New Zealand, and has failed to catch on in the United States, despite being owned by U.S. food giant Kraft Foods. When seen in the United States, the Vegemite label often does not contain the Kraft logo.

source

Anonymous said...

I agree that the show was kind of a yawner, but the first episodes of any season of any Bravo reality competition show always are. I think the sheer numbers of contestants at this point does it. Soon, it will all be more interesting. The thing that continues to rub me the wrong way about this show is the lack of representation of Southern and Cajun/Creole chefs. I can only think of 2 truly Southern chefs that have been on the show, and NONE from Louisiana. I know that any chef that pigeon-holes themselves into one cuisine is destined to trip up, but I just think that if a New Orleans chef were given a chance, he/she would shine. Why has a chef from New Orleans never been cast? New Orleans is a very important culinary player, and I think it's ridiculus (and deliberate) that out of approximately 50 chefs that have been cast, none have been from New Orleans. Besides that, while Chicago and Miami are certainly deserving culinary destinations, New Orleans has a deep foodie heritage AND we could really use the good publicity as we continue to rebuild. Tonight's episode of "Make Me a Supermodel" came to New Orleans, did a great photo shoot, had some fun, and helped build a Habitat for Humanity home. I thought, "New Orleans looks like a great place to vacation," and I LIVE HERE! I just can't understand why Top Chef continues to disregard this great city.
Sorry for the rant, this is something I feel very strongly about and Java and Shamu, y'all have such a great blog, I just felt like you would understand.
-mariemg

Chicago eater said...

First, Chicago's food scene is about a whole lot more than deep dish pizza.

Second and something else fustrating about Bravo that you mentioned is that they keep trying to recycle the most popular personalaties and that is not fair to the contestents from any season - either the new ones or the copies.

Anonymous said...

Making mayo is an absolute basic. If dude can't do that he's frickin doomed.

J.J. Jimbo Jones

Anonymous said...

I felt kind of bad for hat guy. He looked like he was going to cry at the judging.

Anonymous said...

I like the new look of your site. The white background makes the reading much easier. Keep up the good work!

Shelly

The Big Shamu said...

Mariemg,
I don't think Bravo is snubbing New Orleans as a foodie town but I think it has more to do with production logistics. That being said, having an episode of Make Me a Supermodel shoot there is a very good sign. I think Top Chef will eventually get to New Orleans.

Anonymous said...

I think Richard will be the winner this season.

The Troll said...

Hmmmmm. Well, I too liked the lockers full of stuff from home. And I thought both challenges were well-designed tests of a Chef's skills.

I also found Andrew and Spike to be obnoxious talentless wiggers. Looked at the bios for the first time and added Erik to the wigger list. At 38, he's prolly the world's oldest living wigger.

Ryan talks WAY too much and it's a disgrace he doesn't know what Piccata is. As bad as not knowing how to make Mayo.

A quick perusal of foodie blogs revealed the most FAQ was:

"How the hell did that clown graduate from C.I.A.?"

Trust me on this, the only requirement for graduating from C.I.A. these days is paying tuition.

aqua said...

bwah!
love the labels for this post, especially warthog anus!

oh and to New Orleans anonymous I think this show has exemplified that if you can only do one thing (saffron) you go far. case in point, obnoxious prig, ilan

EB of SpiceDish said...

Can we discuss that these potential "top" chefs didn't know what a piccata was??? I mean even if you're not a foodie, trained chef, or even wide awake person.... if you've ever passed by the Lean Cuisine section of the freezer section then you know what a friggin' piccata is!

The Java Junkie said...

Couldn't agree with you more, eb. Shamu and I were just discussing how unfamiliar some of those folks were with things like the piccatta - and as long as we're talking here, what's up with the mashed potatoes in a souffle????

P said...

I've totally been waiting for the premiere of the show. I guess I am still having withdrawal symptoms from season three, but I thought that this was a bootleg bunch of folks.

I'm with the Chicago Eater. They tend to have a "passive Person", a "Hunk and/or Resident Hottie", a "Know it all A**hole", and any other variation of what you remember from the seasons before.

And poor Neema. Reminds me of Clay. It just seems as if they have to pick a weakest link to make it easier to give someone the boot. That GAWD forsaken flan/cauliflower flan-ish creation that looked like pureed baby food was ridiculous. And Shrimp Scampi. How easy is THAT to cook.

So, we'll see.

P said...

Oh, and Java Junkie: His mashed potato souffle didn't even have a good presentation. It was sloppy and nasty, you think?