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.

19 comments

  1. i just recently watched my first few episodes of “top chef” and i have to say, i think it has a fatal flaw: the viewers at home have no idea what any of the food tastes like. how are we supposed to evaluate who the best chef is if we can’t taste the food? i know, there’s presentation and the judges’ opinions (and most of the time people are just rooting for the personality they like the most), but i feel like watching this show is like watching a version of “project runway” where you can’t see the clothes–you just have to take nina garcia’s word for it that the dress was fabulous! i don’t think i will keep watching…

  2. The look on Tom’s face and his statement about moving on after Danny was missing the point is worth staying up late to watch.

    Jamie is missing the point too. Someone else was better; get over it.

  3. I have to say, I don’t think my hatred is quite as fierce as yours, but Danny definitely deserved to go home last night. What the hell was with those mushrooms? Who thinks “I’m just going to put some mushrooms on the bottom of the salad someone else is making as a nice little surprise.” Um, what? I think that Carla exhibited saint-like restraint. I would have thrown Danny right under the bus if he’d done that to me, even though it apparently would not have been necessary.

  4. I couldn’t believe he kept saying that he thought his dish was good.

    Jamie keeps coming in the top 2 or 3 and not winning so I can understand her being frustrated but she should stop complaining about it and saying things like ‘we all though I was going to win.’

  5. I applaud you for being witty, creative and accomplished, but this essay suggests that you’re also arrogant. The smartest thing a smart person like you can do when someone else fails miserably is to be kind. No one’s questioning your right to say what you did, but counting Danny out of the culinary world and essentially calling him brainless based on one TV show is plain mean. That’d be like me no longer reading your blog because of this one nasty entry. People screw up, and when it’s done on TV, I prefer to be more compassionate than critical. I hope Danny learns from this experience and his mistakes, and if he’s really passionate about cooking, I’m sure he’ll find his niche soon.

    p.s. I also object to your dividing humanity into those who work with their brains and their hands and somehow implying the former is superior. Luckily, my job is the former–lucky because I’ve also worked jobs that are the latter, and they are A LOT more trying.

  6. Good luck at Tristan und Isolde! I love The Ring, but T&I I can only take in small doses. Hopefully it will be more interesting live.

  7. Agree completely with blog reader. This post reeks of arrogance. Passing judgment on someone you’ve never met based only on what you saw in a TV show is ridiculous. You yourself know how heavily edited these things are (you had that short-lived thing with Food Network, didn’t you?) and to say he doesn’t belong in the culinary world — as if you’re some grand gatekeeper of the industry — is the epitome of ignorance and pompousness. Be careful Adam, it’s a big step off that high horse.

  8. To the people accusing Adam of arrogance — please. Passing judgment on the contestants is what reality TV is all about.

  9. To the people accusing Adam of arrogance — please. Passing judgment on the contestants is what reality TV is all about.

  10. Adam, I’m a loyal reader of your blog, as well as a working chef. Yes, Danny’s behavior on this show has been a bit disturbing, but he’s chef de cuisine at a decent establishment, and I doubt he got there by dumb luck. Your derogatory comments, generalizing people who work with their hands (which likely includes many of your readers), really show a side of your personality that I hadn’t seen before, and I don’t like it.

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