Top Chef: Creeping towards the Finale
So, I'm not really sure when it became acceptable for finales to last multiple weeks, but there you go. This week, Hung, Casey, Dale and Brian all ended up in Aspen where they figured two of them would be cut prior to the, er, actual finale. Turns out only one chef would get cut because of the high talent. (Normally, I'd quibble about this, but it's true...they are all really good chefs.)
It seemed fairly clear from the start that Dale and Brian were on the shakiest ground, and as Brian continued to get more and more airtime during the show, I figured he was toast. And he was. Which leaves Dale (who really rallied this week), Casey (everyone's favorite, and not just because she's hot) and Hung.
Below the fold, more thoughts on the show, including some quotes from Anthony Bourdain's most excellent blog.
On Casey -- Bourdain says it well below, but it's clear she's really hard NOT to like. She seems really well-grounded, someone who it would be fun to hang out with, and by every account, a great, GREAT chef.
Casey won the Quickfire. And for those commentators here who wonder what "heart" or "soul" means -- in relation to food (The judges frequently reward Casey with the remark that her food is somehow more "soulful" than others. That she has "heart") -- let me make it simple for you. They mean her food has a pleasing FLAVOR. Chefs usually mean -- when talking about "soul" ( or "heart") -- that the food has a depth of flavor that is both exciting and somehow, strangely, comfortingly familiar. As if the ingredients belong together the way macaroni and cheese -- or peanut butter and jelly -- or other, similarly beloved childhood combinations feel "just right."
Got it now, conspiracy theorists? "Heart" does not mean "nice rack". "Soul" does not mean "looks like Jennifer Aniston". The woman is GOOD. How many times does she have to prove it? Give her the respect she deserves.
Hung is obviously the Marcel of this show, but like Bourdain, one statement he made during the show really made it clear -- he's competing here, not acting as he would in a restaurant. Why should he help a struggling Brian out? He wants to beat Brian (which he did).
As for Dale, what a crazy story, that he'd not cooked for over a year prior to the show, and that regardless of outcome (which despite his performance, seems clear to be a 3rd place), he's reaffirmed that he's a chef. True.
Finally, some more great quotes from Bourdain:
At this point in the competition, it was a bit of a low blow, dragging the contestants to a trout stream in the freakin' wilderness and making them clean and cook fish over propane for the Quickfire. Something of a come-down after Le Cirque and the French Culinary Institute. I think they deserved better treatment this late in the game and a cleaner shot at the brass ring. And it was a terrible waste of a great judge.
Eric Ripert is probably the greatest seafood chef in the country (one of the greatest chefs -- period, but he famously specializes in seafood). His restaurant, Le Bernardin didn't just get four stars from The New York Times and three stars from the Michelin guide -- it has gotten them EVERY TIME. An unbroken, perfect record going back more than 15 years -- when Eric was suddenly, and unexpectedly called on to step in as chef. To remain as relevant and widely loved in Manhattan, the most competitive, capricious, dog-eat-dog, and outright vicious restaurant environment in the world is an amazing accomplishment.
On the other hand we DID get all that nice B-roll of a gleaming RAV4 driving the contestants home from the boonies. I just hope that before leaving the campsite, everyone remembered to police their areas and deposit all waste in one of the Glad Family of trash bags.