Top Chef 12.10.08

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When Archie Bunker called his son-in-law “meathead” on “All in the Family,” it entered the lexicon as both an insult and a term of endearment. But not until this season of “Top Chef” had I ever considered that “meathead” might actually be a physiological disorder, an actual psychological/anatomical condition that causes the sufferer to, literally, have a head full of meat. That’s the only way I can explain the phenomenon of Danny–a sweet but sorry competitor–who last night showed such bad judgment, such muddleheadedness it’s scary to think that this person’s allowed to hold a knife.

The rest of the cast is settling nicely into their roles–Stefan, the aggressive European; Jamie, the feisty lesbian (who needs to stop saying, “I deserve to win this” in each video aside); and Fabio, the charming Italian.

Like all good stories, last night’s episode had set-ups and payoffs: Jeff’s tomato sorbet, which Stefan fiercely advocated against, earned greater accolades than Stefan’s terrine; Danny’s incomprehensible decision to plop cooked mushrooms into Carla’s salad (served, indefensibly, in wonton bowls; to quote Amanda Hesser’s Twitter feed, “It’s not 1987”) had Carla squirming at judge’s table, keen to clobber the Meathead but too ladylike to give in.

And what of the Meathead? It’s a simple truth that there are certain people in this world who are meant to use their brains and others who are meant to use their hands. And while Danny certainly doesn’t fall into the former category, there is a chance that Danny might have a career in the latter category; not, necessarily, performing every day kitchen tasks–cutting up a chicken, say, or scaling a fish (those might confuse him)–but something better suited to his talent: like sticking labels on to bottles of BBQ sauce.

Ok, I’m being a bit harsh, but Danny really aggravated me. It was his thoughtlessness that really got to me: his shoulder-shrugging, steam-rolling personality, the kind of personality that lets bad things happen without acknowledging that bad things are happening. Tom’s look of astonishment when Danny said that he still stood by his plate–even after the judges tore into him–said more than this whole essay does; I’m sure I don’t speak just for myself when I say: good riddance.

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