Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dear Top Chef Editing Staff: Please Stop Messing With Me

Spoiler Alert: If you haven't yet watched last night's episode of Top Chef Chicago, don't read on. Also, if you don't really care about this show, you probably don't want to read on either.

So, last week my current favorite television show hit me pretty hard. I wasn't quite ready to see Dale go, though I suppose it was inevitable the moment he became the executive chef for the obviously weaker "Restaurant Wars" team. I still contend that making two poor dishes and being a jerk who can't take either direction or criticism should have sent Lisa home before Dale. Am I wrong to think that the judges would normally think something like butterscotch scallops was exciting and different? And can he really be expected to show "leadership" with someone who so clearly disdains everyone and everything besides herself? Why is it that the executive chef of the losing team automatically has to go home? Anyway, I didn't see Dale as the troublemaker/difficult character the edit tried to make him into, and I think he is far more talented than either Spike or Lisa. I guess the lesson is you've got to figure out how to work with anyone if you want to be the Top Chef. Too bad it was the nicer of the two cheftestants that had to learn the lesson.

Speaking of the edit, I spent much of last week's episode trying to talk myself out of the fact that Dale would in fact be going home because he was so clearly upset in the interview portions of the show. I thought "no way is he the one going home, because they wouldn't give that away by showing him a little teary; they're just trying to yank my chain." But no, much of his commentary throughout the episode clearly came from a post-elimination interview in which he teared up in what I thought was a quite endearing way. Like, he really was just trying to cook the best way he knew how, and didn't want to deal with the drama some of the other 'cheftestants' were bringing into the kitchen. Maybe not the best strategy, but it won me over.

And then THIS week, the interviews were all about Richard not wanting to go home at this stage of the game, how it would be so sad for him to have been away from his wife this long and come home with nothing. I know all the chefs said some version of this at one point or another during the episode, but it seemed that Richard got at least five interviews along that line, and then there was the promo scene of Tom yelling at Richard to hurry up on his plating. It was cringeworthy, indeed. I know he's all about the smoker and the foams and the food that's a "riff" on thus and so. All that stuff I find pretentious and unintelligible, like talking about jazz. But it seems he's tried to rise above that lately, and mostly just make food that's good AND witty. So, let's give him a chance to prove that there's something more to this molecular gastronomy than whatever Marcel was "rapping" about.

The editing has been more than a little leading this season, when you also consider the huge buildup of Andrew's overconfidence the week he went home. But no, they were just messing with me this week, and thankfully, Spike and his frozen scallops went home. Don't you think these people would learn to just stay away from the scallops? There just seem to be too many ways to truly screw them up, or make them just ho-hum. I am glad to see both Andrew and Spike gone, as truly, I had a harder time telling them apart than made sense. I am not looking forward to having to look at Lisa's studied bitchface in Puerto Rico. I'm officially rooting for Stephanie hardcore, because I think she might want to be my friend and drink wine with me.

While I'm on the Top Chef topic, I just wanted to note that not long ago, I mused on my friend MEP's blog that a challenge with children as sous chefs rather than just diners was something that I'd really like to see. Those Bravo producers must be big NTB fans like me and picked up on the shout out. This being a kinder, gentler season of Top Chef, the children might as well have been seasoned line cooks for all the drama this added to the episode. Make them hold an infant and cook one handed, I tell you. There's the real quickfire.


mep said...

Thank you for posting about Top Chef. First of all, I wish that you and I were able to watch Top Chef together every Wednesday in the way we would have had Top Chef (or other such quality reality programming--not meant sarcastically--it is quality) been on the air eight years ago. I imagine that we would prepare special foods to eat as we watched and that we would drink some wine too. Ah well.

As for this season of TC, I too loved me some Dale. I was devastated that he was sent home last week. Sure, he could play nicer with others, but the "others" he was given were pretty pathetic. Spike is always only out for himself, and Lisa has the absolute worst attitude and most negative energy I have ever seen (plus a personal grudge against him).

Reading the TC blogs on, it seems like Chef Tom was indicating that he was surprised that Dale had been sent home instead of Lisa. Though, on, there are some excerpts from Bourdain who claims that Dale's butterscotch scallops were really that bad. As you point out, there really must be a curse of the scallop going on.

Alas, poor Dale. He rocks the egg station in the quickfire, coming up just short of the victory and then gets punished with the worst team. One of the Bravo bloggers (Harold maybe?) seemed to think that Antonia getting to pick her team was too much of an advantage. I think I agree. Maybe she could have had first pick of one chef and Dale the other as a sort of second place winner?

I am still excited about the final though. I love Stephanie and am really pulling for her. However, I love Richard too. He was a little off-putting the first couple of episodes with his tricks and torches (and kind of a jerk when he wouldn't share mayonnaise with Andrew) but I have to come to really respect his creativity, his level-headedness, and his willingness to take risks. I think he is a little bit adorable. I don't know what I think of Antonia. I'm not sure she's much of a visionary, but she does stay calm and seem able to execute things well. Lisa, there's not much to say. I do think she has more talent and vision than Spike so I'm pleased to see her in the finals insofar as it means Spike is at home in the bathtub with Mark and Andrew . . . though the TC producer will probably bring the other people back as helpers. I always hate that.

I agree with you on the editing. I felt they were totally setting us up for a Richard exit. Dale's tears . . . so real, so touching.

I think it's been a good season all in all, except with too many team challenges. I would like the judging to be more consistent and would like it if they would adopt a sort of cumulative approach in the judging that acknowledges that they're considering performance to date. As one of my sister's friends pointed out to me, if they just admitted that factors into their decision, they wouldn't have to change the judging standards every week.

I wish the season had featured more Chicago chefs, but I have been pleased with the guest judges so far.

When I have caught my breath post-baby and post-dissertation, we'll have to go on some kind of TC culinary tour. I know Season 3 Dale's restaurant here opens in the fall. I'm hoping Stephanie does something new as well. I have to admit to yearning to try Perilla in NYC and also Richard's place in Atlanta.

When it's time, we'll pack our knives and go.

Anonymous said...

I only joined the TC bandwagon midseason. MEP kept telling me I would love it, which I didn't doubt, but I wasn't allowing myself to accept new programming at the time. However, one Jet Blue flight with TC on the screen in front of me, and I was suddenly intrigued. I had only seen about 3 episodes before Dale was so cruelly canned. I wondered if I had maybe misread his talents having not being a viewer from the beginining. However, in true Bravo fashion, I have been able to catch up on most old episodes due to the marathons they run. What I saw only emphasizes to me that he should not have gone and that Lisa is officially a B-I.

I guess not knowing any top chefs myself, I've been struck at how absolutely arrogant so many of them are. Is this typical, or just casting? For that reason alone I was happy to see both Andrew and Spike go. I think this is also why I like Stephanie. Cool, collected, and genuinely surprised as she keeps winning. I don't mind Richard or Antonia either (though I'd rank the 3 in that order), but I want Lisa to fall on her face in Puerto Rico...not sure why I have to be mean about it? Maybe it's that terrible haircut I caught a glimpse of in the scenes for the finals. Doesn't she remember how everyone turned on Rosie O'Donnell around the time she went with the butch-lady haircut?

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading this blog. It is refreshing to see that others share my opinions of this season of Top Chef. I would love to watch with others just to discuss these types of aspects of editing etc. Dale going home was extremely upsetting at my house. My husband isn't sure he can watch anymore. I just wanted Spike and Lisa to go home before Dale. He was clearly a better chef than the others. I am looking forward to shake down in Puerto Rico. I too hope Lisa falls hard in the finals. Oh well my natives are very restless so I must go.BDavin

Anonymous said...

i am in love with top chef and with all of you for watching it and blogging about it. if only we could all abandon our children for just a few hours for wine and food and the top chef finale... anyway, i think they should have had a shocking ending and canned the whole bad restaurant team two weeks ago. the top three are clearly just that, and really, i just want to hang out with all of them. because i love that it seems like they all actually love each other too, which is really quite rare, i think. (though the same was true this past season of project runway too... apparently i just want everyone to get along) anyway, back to the point. i love top chef. i bought the cookbook for my sister for her birthday and am really just sad and jealous that i didn't buy it for myself. here's to good food that other creative people can cook!

Anonymous said...

Seriously, I was looking forward to an update about the trip to the lake and the 7 hour car ride and write about "Top Chef"????
I think E and O watch too much TV :)