Thursday, November 12, 2009

Can We Talk?

There have been two constants in the TV world of Top Chef, Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons of Food and Wine. From Season One, they have been the most prominent faces of series. Tom, more than anyone, has benefited greatly from being on Top Chef. I doubt Diet Coke or American Express would have sought Tom out as their spokesman had it not been for massive success of Top Chef.A man pursuing his own Pimpage Kingdom, full of commercials, guest appearences, cookbooks, and TV shows. Yet as his kingdom grows my respect for his work on Top Chef continues to plummet. Last night's efforts illustrate the reasons for my discontent.

Let's do a quick recap. The Elimination Challenge had our six remaining chefs drawing knives to each pick a Las Vegas themed casino to visit and draw inspiration from so that they can create a dish for 175 party guests. This type of challenge works much better in Project Runway than it does for Top Chef but here we are. The bottom three were Robin, Eli and Jennifer. This episode's Judges were Tom, Padma, Toby and Nigella Lawson. Not a bad foursome to tell us truthfully what tastes good and doesn't taste good. The race for Elimination is seemingly between Eli and Robin. I say seemingly because generally when a judge says it takes all her self control not to spit your dish out of her mouth, that's a surefire sign you are out of there.So we have 3 judges at the party who definitely say they don't like the dish and the fourth finding fault but not throwing it under the bus just yet.Over at Robin's table no judge wants to spit out her dish or never eat it again. She gets dinged for the over firmness of her Panna Cotta and for not putting the sugar glass on her dish. Fair enough criticisms since Robin, yet again, chose to make a dish she's never attempted to make before and hasn't done sugar work.

At Judges Table, Eli has to face Tom's conviction that Eli's dish was and I quote here "The dish was a failure." Nigella was confused and Padma hated the flavors. Robin, now making her fourth appearance at the losing Judge's Table gets to deal with Tom and his little idiosyncrasies. Such as when to serve or not serve part of a dish. I don't know how many times we've heard Tom bitch and moan about if something is a failure, don't put it on the plate. Even as recent as Ashley and Eli's salty gnocchi dish back in Episode 7. Now apparently Robin should have used the failed sugar panes. She is also criticized for her stiff Panna Cotta. Once the chefs leave the room, judging continues. Nigella, when faced with a choice between eating sawdust and Eli's dish, would chose sawdust. Tom hammers Eli's textures and execution. Toby points out the obvious, the distinctly unappetizing appearance of Eli's soup. Robin gets penalized again for not putting the sugar panes on the plate. Tom also points out her failure to make Panna Cotta as soft as it should have been, because it's a dish that's so simple to make. Actually in Tom's world everything is much easier when Tom is doing it but I didn't hear him saying Eli should have been able to make soup since soup is so easy to make. As we head into the Elimination I thought Robin had slipped past again and the clueless Eli would finally be packing his knives. I was wrong.Does it bother me that Robin was eliminated? Not really, she was never in my top four contestants. What does really bother me is past performance. Not of the chefs but of the judges or I should say Judge Tom Colicchio. During past seasons, when someone's favorite chef was auffed Tom would always proclaim that the worst tasting dish is the bottom line judgment that counts. That trumps everything else. Can anyone honestly say Robin's dish was the worst tasting, according to what we saw and heard? It gets worse. It turns out that Tom didn't hate Eli's dish. Oh no. Here's an excerpt from his blog on Bravo's website.

Between you and me, I kind of liked Eli’s dish. It was not successful by a long shot, and I understand why my fellow judges truly did not, but I enjoyed it. I think the raspberry dome should have topped the other elements (circuses happen under the big top, right?) — it would have been fun in a way befitting the circus theme to break through that to find what surprises awaited beneath. Even so, the theme was better realized than in Robin’s dish, where she just never translated the Dale Chihuly glass sculpture from the lobby of the Bellagio to her dish. The colors of the flowers in that handblown glass sculpture are so vivid, the texture so striking, and yet we were handed a piece of white panna cotta in a pale purple sauce with a pice of amber sugar on top (which, incidentally, made the photo taken for the episode, but didn’t make it to our plates). Right now every pastry chef who watched the program is thinking, “Ohmigod, there are SO many ways to pull this off!” If you know how to work with sugars, you cold make little translucent flowers in a host of colors, using dyes. Even if you’re not proficient enough to work in sugars, there are myriad ways to work with the colors and the idea of flowers. Panna cotta is basic, simple fare, but Robin’s wasn’t well done; the texture was wrong. And the sauce was terrible. What can I say? At the end of the day, every element of her dish failed. Eli’s dish was less bad. And so it was Robin’s turn to go.

I call Shenanigans! What can you say? How about your judgment sucks? How about apologizing to Nigella Lawson for disregarding her opinion as worthless. It's not like she's some young giggling vegetarian ingénue guest judge, she's Nigella Fucking Lawson. Did you not hear her say she'd rather eat sawdust?? How about a little consistency with your judging? Failures, do they belong on the plate or off? Which is easier to make, Panna Cotta or soup? Better yet, which one do you think a Top Chef should absolutely know how to make and please make sure you notice I didn't write Top Pastry Chef?

There you have it. If anyone has suggestions for Tom's replacement, now's the time. My vote? Nigella Lawson or Michelle Bernstein. And please bring back Gail full time. The Top Chef world would be a much better place for it.

14 comments:

Making Space said...

Nigeeeeeeeeellllllllaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!

Tom. Ppphhhhhhhhhtttttt.

There you have it. MakingSpace expresses herself eloquently again.

K9 said...

gail is the best. she gives detailed commentary and she is also generous and generally sweet natured. i loved that bit from nigella about how a panna cotta should quiver like the inner thigh of a 17th century courtesan. holy smoke! grherhaa

i look forward to elis exit. he lives with his parents the dirty freeloader. mans gotta go down.

Buzz Kill said...

I found it funny that they sent them out to the casinos for inspiration - wearing undershirts!

Of all the blown judging, this one really sticks out. Like you, I think Robin is not TC material and should be gone - but not for this dish against Jen's and Eli's. Tom obviously took past performance into consideration here (although he swears he didn't - again).

You didn't touch on Jen much here, but she pretty much served a beef cube on a cocktail sword. And I'm sure it was Bravo editing that kept Gail from really being a factor in the judging. And your right, Tom pretty much gave Nigella a big FU.

Next week will be interesting to see who the 4th in the final 4 will be. 4 weeks ago I would have said Jen hands down. Now I'm not sure at all. And if the judges off Kevin or one of the brothers, I'm going to stop watching.

Big Shamu said...

I didn't touch on Jen because so much of the judging of her dish seemed to focus on the boring nature of the dish and the texture of the meat. It sounded like some got perfectly fine meat and some got chewy. Not good to be sure but not spitable. The other reason why I didn't touch on it was the whole rant Tom went on about Medieval cooking. He's taking a ton of heat about what he said and since I haven't a clue to the history of meat prep in that period I think it was just as silly as the the whole challenge. And let's face it, Jen's earlier performances have kept her in the game but if she doesn't step it up she too will be gone.

moi said...

Shen. Ani. Gans!

Certainly, I don't believe Robyn has Top Chef makings, but hers was not the worst of the three dishes up there. Hell, it even LOOKED better than Eli's, which was a barf baggy mess.

As for Tom's dumb ass commentary regarding the spiciness of medieval cooking, he's a leetle bit off the mark. Spices were introduced to Europe by Marco Polo and therefore didn't actually become either readily available or used until the late middle ages. And then only in aristocratic and royal kitchens. So Jen was right to deal with the challenge from a conceptual level, rather than trying to duplicate a medieval dish per se.

Oh, and I'm with K9: Bring back the utter class act that is Gail Simmons

LaDivaCucina said...

I say Gail AND Nigella. But I think Nigella lives overseas so that won't be happening. Michy is a more feasible option and besides she bitch-slapped Toby about how to pronounce "paella."

Big Shamu said...

A moment that will live in my TC heart forever.

Mrs. T said...

RIGHT ON!!!

LaDivaCucina said...

Shamu just WAIT til I tell you what Michy told me last night at her restaurant.....blog post to come!

Big Shamu said...

Did she tell you to tell me to stop stalking her?

LaDivaCucina said...

heheh.....I will tell you this now and not on my post: I told her that we (as in you and our TC blogging buds) wanted HER as the next judge for Top Chef and she said, "That ain't gonna happen." I'm sure she's too busy actually cooking, she was working hard in the restaurant in her chef whites.

I told her that's too bad and that we LOVED how she dissed Toby about how to pronounce "paella." She laughed and said: "He's not a very nice man."

She was super sweet and accommodating. Ok, gotta get ready for my class....

Big Shamu said...

Yeah, I knew it was a long shot but damnit, a girl can dream can't she?

TROLL Y2K said...

Axe Tom. Axe Doughboy. Axe Padma.

Replace with Scott Conant, Tom Allen, Gail Simmons and a nice looking broad with a more pleasant personality than Padma's.

Making Space said...

What would a nice looking troll broad look like? Hmm... the mind boggles...