A quick review of last night’s “Top Chef” coming up just as soon as I get some soup in Wisconsin…
After being annoyed that Bravo went with a rerun last week (who does that in the middle of a reality season?), it was a relief to have an original “Top Chef” on last night, and a fairly solid outing at that. It wasn’t as crazy as this season’s Restaurant Wars, but the episode after that almost always feels like a comedown.
At first I was bothered by the Quickfire challenge, which seemed like a more shameless plug than usual for another NBCUniversal property. But I think my initial reaction was like what Richard said about the other chefs: I just had trouble wrapping my head around the idea that presentation – which is an important part of this level of cooking, even if it should always take a backseat to taste – was the only thing that was supposed to matter. Sometimes these extremely specific challenges yield memorably weird results (I think back to Hung’s candy-colored plate o’ sugar back in season 3), and while there wasn’t anything incredibly inspired, some of the dishes looked cool, and Angelo’s bit hot mess was funny enough to justify the whole segment.
Then we got one of my favorite types of challenges: “make us a dish in the style of Restaurant X,” this time involving New York’s legendary Rao’s and its owner Frank Pellegrino, whom I remember well from his days as the head of the north Jersey FBI field office on “The Sopranos,” along with guest judge (and fellow “Goodfellas” alum) Lorraine Bracco. Quickfires should be for gimmicks and weird restrictions, while I prefer the elimination challenges that just give the chefs an opportunity to cook at the highest level, and a bunch of them (basically, everyone but the three pasta guys) did very well with this.
Tony Bourdain was on fire with his quips this week (“some poor bastard in Witness Protection is eating this now”), and while I’m bummed to see Tre leave, this felt like a much more fair ending than what happened to him on his original season. Also interesting to see how incredulous everyone was that Antonia won the challenge. For someone who made it to the final episode in her season, she seems to get very little respect from both the other chefs and from many “Top Chef” fans that I know. Be interesting to see if there’s any blowback from that reaction.
What did everybody else think? And since it’s been a while since I wrote up an episode, how are you finding this All-Star season?