Top Chef Thoughts

Loyal reader Zeep wants me to weigh in on “Top Chef.” Here are my thoughts so far.

– Last year, when I did my impression of Top Chef, I thought the product placement deserved only light-hearted mockery. Now it’s obscene. Especially the new Glad stuff. Did you notice when Padma told everyone to clean their stations last night that she told them to use a specific Glad product? I forget what it was called but it’s so shameless. And yet…I keep watching!

– Howie and Joey have to go. Seriously. Pack them together in a Glad bag and ship them back to New York. There’s an image from next week’s show of Howie leaning over a pot, sweat dripping off his forehead, and my stomach turned. This is no comment about Howie’s looks–I’m sure some gorilla somewhere finds him very attractive–but I find the idea of him touching my food repulsive. And his personality is repulsive. I guess that means the producers will keep him on for weeks and weeks…

– The chick they kicked off last night was really likable, and you can tell how much everyone loved her when she came back from judge’s table and they all applauded thinking she was still in. That was kind of touching. But she needed to go: she wasn’t up to snuff, even by her own admission. That’s a place where the Top Chef producers are a bit evil: they pull quirky characters from Central Casting to go head-to-head with fierce chefs from top restaurants. Then, in the first few weeks, all that riff-raff gets weeded out, so the strongest characters (and hopefully, the strongest chefs) survive. Frank Bruni made a similar argument on his blog, which Tom Collicchio apparently denied, but my roommate works in reality TV: trust me, it’s a pretty corrupt business.

– I liked Norman Van Aken as a judge. You know, it always fascinates me how shocked Americans are by criticism: Simon Cowell gets booed on Idol when he offers criticism to anyone, even if they deserve it. There was a sense with Chef Van Aken, that the contestants were a bit taken aback by his rough approach. But that’s what they need:it’ll make them better chefs. And honest feedback is refreshing to see, especially with so much reality tripe–America’s Got Talent?–where the judges pander to geriatric jump-ropers and tell them that their skipping around in their skivvies is “magical.” Bring on the Van Akens.

– Hung is setting himself up to be the villain, but I like him so far. He’s focused, smart, energetic, enthusiastic, and his food looks great. That’s ultimately my litmus test for who I want to win: who would I want to cook me dinner? That’s NOT the same question as: who would I want to have dinner with? I mean, just look at last season. I’d rather starve for a week than eat dinner with Ilan. But his food looks pretty sweet.

And those are my thoughts, for far, on Top Chef Season III.

15 comments

  1. AG, you’re the best – thanks for sharing your thoughts on this show. I’m sure we’re not the only two folks watching each week. :) It seems like it could be an interesting season, and agree on your take of the show thus far. One thing I am wondering about is if this season will quickly become an obvious domination by one or two people, and I really hope that’s not the case. Also, I have a personal prediction for the season – a woman will win in the end! Eh, maybe that’s more of a hope than a prediction – I guess we’ll need to stay tuned and see…

  2. Oh man, I completely agree with you about Howie- that shot in the last few minutes with the bead of sweat absolutely made me queasy. So far, I really like CJ- it seems like he’s there to cook and not to “complain like a little girl” about what he/others are doing. Obv. they kept Joey/Howie for ratings, a little drama always keeps the folks hooked (myself included).

  3. Joey is a moron and is an egotistical jerk. Just because you are from New York (sorry NYers) doesn’t mean that you are better or tougher than the other contestants. I love seeing him cut down to size. This stupid New York bravado schtick is one of the most annoying things on all of these food reality shows. It seems that every single cooking show must have at least one jackass from New York who thinks that nobody can hang with them simply because they cook in New York. There are a lot of contestants from New York that are nice and are awesome cooks who don’t need to talk tough like Joey (like Sam and Harold). They let their food do the talking.

    Joeys comment about Hung having to cook in Vegas because he wouldn’t make it in NY was just another example of this. Why don’t you win a challenge then start braggng you moron!

    I would also like to know how Sara, who is an executive chef, can be so clueless about starting a grill or the heat of Scotch Bonnet peppers.

  4. I’m watching it religiously too and so far I agree with who has been kicked off the show, but I hope Joey is next or the other sweaty guy. I like sea salt in my food, not some guys sweat dripping off his forehead. Come on, wear a hat or something.

    As with any competition, i.e., Next Food Network Star or Top Chef you have your villains. I guess they serve some purpose but something that annoys me more than anything is attitude and cockiness. Let your food do the talking, not your mouth. So Hung, while very, very talented needs to pipe down and be a gentleman about his comments. Show some class. Tre, on the other hand wants his food and preparations to do the talking and I admire and respect that more.

    So for me, it was a tossup between the Mohawk lady (who seemed very genuine) and Joey’s mouth.

  5. “I would also like to know how Sara, who is an executive chef, can be so clueless about starting a grill or the heat of Scotch Bonnet peppers.”

    Ditto! I was like “Come on . . . I am a vegetarian home cook and possess that knowledge”!

  6. I’m kind of smitten with Dale… OK, I’m borderline stalking him but I digress. I think he’s got the experience and the technique to last a while but question if he’s got the creativity and the ability to stay focused to take it to the end. When he does get the boot, he can come cry in my arms.

  7. Myeh… I agree with all the product placement stuff. I want Hung to win or at least him and the black dude to go head to head.

    Otherwise, when is Project Runway coming back?!

  8. At this point it does seem like it will come down to Tre and Hung.

    Have you noticed there are several female chefs that kind of blend together? I can’t think of their names or really picture them at all.

  9. I was watching I think the second episode last night and was so annoyed by everything!! I ended up just changing the channel…

  10. I am liking this season much better than last season, so far. It could still be ruined by stupid challenges, overbearing product placement and the prolonged presence of an obnoxious and/or undeserving contestant.

  11. I work at NBC, and did some promotional Top Chef stuff—- I actually liked Ilan on the show last season, but he sucks pretty hardcore in real life. Marcel is an alien. Sam is cool. And hot, dear LORD he is hot.

    Anyway, non-NY readers, Joey’s “I’m from New York so I’m TOUGH and you STINK” schtick is just as annoying to us here in the city. A lot of us, anyway :)

    Love your blog, AG! You so often write what I’m thinking.

  12. I love Top Chef and am glad to see it back, although I really didn’t think Ilan should have won last season. Aaaaanyay, I think Hung and Tre are front runners, but there is something I like about Dale, CJ and Brian.

    As for the women, I’m not sure yet. Sara seems in over her head at times and I enjoyed Sandee’s personality. She seems real and down to earth. Joey and Howie are just plain annoying. If Joey mentions NY one more time, I think I’ll go through the tv and strangle him. Ugh. Shut. Up.

    That being said, even the worst of Top Chef can cook circles around ME. :)

    ~Monica

  13. Ugghhh…I noticed Howie’s sweaty moment too and almost puked. Its one thing to have someone stick their finger in a sauce, but I draw the line at bodily fluids!

  14. i love top chef, i cant stop watching. i’m jusw waiting for midnight headshavings, how FUN. i made this recipe from food and wine of padmas and it was really good…. theres a pic on me blarg…

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