"We do have a competition here, and we want it to be about food."
- Tom Colicchio
Really? Here's the thing: I signed on for a show that was about cooking, with a healthy side dish of drama. Instead, all we're getting is some needless drama with a little sprinkling of actual cooking. In order to include the ridiculous "shaving Marcel's head" prank, we had to lose much of the quickfire chocolate challenge, plus much of the shopping and the prepping of the food and plates for the romantic elimination challenge. I know that this is reality TV, and its main staple is drama with a capital "D." Am I an idiot for loving the process by which the wannabe
Top Chefs are required to create these fancy-shmancy dishes on very little notice - without a whole hell of a lot of time - and expected to make them sing with flavor and taste? I don't want to see hours and hours of time devoted to one subject: Marcel. I just don't! And I'm not only blaming him: The behavior of all the finalists was inappropriate, childish and just plain unacceptable. After I watched the hour, I literally had to step away from my computer for a few minutes so I could calm down before starting to write this column. I don't think it did me any good. It's the last elimination challenge before Hawaii. I guess I thought we'd actually get to see some chefs dazzle us with their culinary skills. Based on tonight's episode, these competitors do have talent - I would have liked to have seen more of that. But maybe I'm in the minority here. It just feels like the producers pinpointed Marcel as the big story right from the beginning and ran too far with it. I understand where they're coming from - they thought he was going to be a compelling character - one of those villains you love to hate. But he's not. And I don't. He's the one that's been needling everyone since day one; and everyone's been outwardly affected by him. Almost all of his fellow finalists have at one point lost focus and let themselves get caught up in all the Marcel mayhem. Is this a plan the 26-year-old has been fostering on purpose? If it is, then kudos to him. I just don't want to watch entire episodes devoted to him and his snide comments and silly smirks. And now
I'm furthering the Marcel madness by devoting much of this column to how he's been the source of much viewing displeasure. Boo.
Now on to the prank: the elimination challenge was over, and the finalists went back to their "swingin'" pad where most of them proceeded to start drinking. Elia thought it would be fun to shave her head à la Sinead O'Connor. Ilan did the deed first, followed quickly by Elia - who didn't look that bad after all was said and done. I haven't seen a woman shave her head on national TV since Joyce did it on
The Amazing Race. I remembered being awed by Joyce joining the bald fraternity. I was surprised that Elia did it - and I loved the way she took off the wig in her confessional. But what I hated was what happened afterward. The whole "let's shave Marcel's head" fiasco was uncomfortable, totally uncalled-for and a prank that went too far. Why would Cliff manhandle Marcel like that? Drunk or not, he went too far. Marcel's a stick, and Cliff's not a stick. And it was clear that Marcel wanted nothing to do with the entire exchange. Plus, no one came to his defense. Sam was just sitting there. He, of course, didn't want to be
that guy, but standing by doing nothing is almost as bad as the person who's violating another person like that. Almost. Where were Ilan and Elia during this portion of the evening? Then we get treated to a tough visit from Tom Colicchio. It made me think of when Tim Gunn had to visit the
Project Runway designers to give Keith the boot. What Cliff did was against the rules, and Tom was forced to send him packing. Cliff took it well - he knew the rules, after all. And I like the fact that he apologized to Marcel's face and confessed that he regretted what he did. He's still unbelievably stupid for going out the way that he did, but at least he didn't mess up his exit with whines and denials. I just hate the fact that the second season of
Top Chef has resulted in two people quitting and one getting asked to leave. That's not what I want to see in one of my favorite reality shows.
Let's actually talk about the food: In the quickfire chocolate challenge, I was way scared of Ilan's chocolate truffles with chicken livers. Huh? What was he thinking? I'm no connoisseur and am one of those people that can eat chicken livers. But with chocolate? No way, no how. With Elia, I feel she thinks too much about taking risks. Why did she feel the need to cook two dishes? Not necessary. Guest Chef Eric Ripert said she would have won had she cooked one dish. And not the one that mixed the chocolate with the chicken. Sam won and that gave him an advantage in the elimination challenge. Padma told the chefs they'd have to cook a five-course romantic dinner for celebrating couples. Because of Sam's earlier win, he was given the chance to choose which course he wanted to whip something up for. Plus, he also earned the chance to pick the protein - none of the other challengers would be able to utilize the same protein that Sam chose for his dish. The dish I really wanted to taste the most was Ilan's fideos with clams and saffron. I did have a problem with the fact that Marcel couldn't find any time to help Sam or Ilan, and I hope he wasn't surprised that nobody wanted to help him (although Sam did in the end). Cliff's fatty and sensual version of romance didn't win over the judges or me. The sirloin was rare and bloody and it looked tough to cut - that certainly doesn't scream hearts, love and general schmoopiness. And what do puréed lentils have to do with romance? It turns out Cliff would have been eliminated anyway; he didn't have to go through the extra bother of being kicked off. Gail seemed really pleased with the way the romantic dinner unfolded: She said it was the best food they've had all season. Meanwhile, Tom liked the food; he just didn't get that romantic vibe from the dinner.
I've been pretty quiet when it comes to Padma this season. But, I have to say that I wasn't feeling her in this latest episode, especially at the judges' table after Cliff went home. First, she asked Marcel if he was OK and apologized to him. That let Marcel wallow knee-deep in the shallow end of the smugness pool. Padma also said that she wanted to see what Marcel could do in Hawaii, so then you knew no one else was getting eliminated. I truly despised this whole focus on Marcel and the idiotic prank. He got to stand at the judges' table and act all smuggy smuggerson and that makes everything that happened that much more sad. Is it me or does there not seem to be any sort of reunion for this latest
Top Chef cast? What gives? The one for Season 1 was probably the best reunion show of any reality show ever! Was this cast too volatile to bring back together? Would you even want to see one? Is Bravo waiting until a later date? Inquiring minds (like mine) want to know.
Sam, Elia, Ilan and Marcel are going to Hawaii. I'm going to say that Sam and Elia will be the final two, with Sam and his full head of hair taking the whole thing. What are your thoughts on who the winner's going to be?
"We do have a competition here, and we want it to be about food." Tom ColicchioReally? Here's the thing: I signed on for a show that was about cooking, with a healthy side dish of drama. Instead, all we're getting is some needless drama with a little sprinkling of actual cooking. In order to include the ridiculous "shaving Marcel's head" prank, we had to lose much of the quickfire chocolate challenge, plus much of the shopping and the prepping of the food and plates for the romantic elimination challenge. I know that this is reality TV, and its main staple is drama with a capital "D." Am I an idiot for loving the process by which the wannabe Top Chefs are required to create these fancy-shmancy dishes on very little notice without a whole hell of a lot of time and expected to make them sing with flavor and taste? I don't want to see hours and hours of time devoted to one subject: Marcel. I just don't! And I'm not only blaming him: The behavior of all the finalists...