This week’s Top Chef began with yet another “blah blah blah my kids” montage. Only this time, the twist was that the kid in question was Bruce’s (aka Arthouse Guy Fieri). Also, it hadn’t been born yet and it isn’t his biological child (important details). Bruce is adopting! …I admit, this was one of the most tolerable “blah blah blah my kids” montages, as far as those go.
That led into the quickfire challenge: Kids’ food! For this one, Padma led in Blandly Inoffensive Australian Man™ Curtis Stone, known the world over for his ability to say words and wear a shirt. Stand there! Read the prompter! Padma no doubt exhorted. And Stone complied, saying, and I quote, “Hurrrr, blah blah blah moy name’s Cuhtis, maite.”
Actually, Stone brought in some wiener kids — some clean-looking, well-dressed wiener kids, to be exact — who we were told were the children of famous Denver restaurateurs. Luckily, the show didn’t try to boringly explain who those restaurateurs were (“Oh, Corbin Weaselburg? He’s like the Godfather of mid-Atlantic butter house.”) and instead cut straight to business.
The challenge was to “reinterpret a classic kids menu item” — like mac and cheese or chicken fingers. This turned out to be a hard one, because it wasn’t clear whether the chefs were being asked to make a kids menu item more sophisticated (they mentioned kids menus being too “dumbed down”), healthier (they mentioned all the fried stuff), or just yummy (they were being judged by actual kids).
But that’s not all! They had to try to cook it on “kid-sized” tiny cookery! WHOA, STUNT-COOKING ALERT!
I’ll be honest, I hate stunt cooking. That’s for people who like reality TV and not food. I remember promos for that show Extreme Chef on Food Network, where the chefs had to cook in rain storms and butcher a hog while riding a dirtbike or whatever. That idea was rightfully shitcanned (sadly, we still have Ginormous Food). Luckily, before you could sing “fat guyyy on a little stove,” the kid food challenged totally redeemed itself by introducing us to this season’s best guest judge.
This is Nael. I’m not sure how you pronounce that (Nail? Nah-EL, like Gael Garcia Bernál?), but I’m going to pretend it’s “Nail,” because if this baby dragon didn’t like your dish she’d rip your wig off and nail it to the wall (metaphorically). God damn, there is truly nothing scarier than getting clowned on by tweens.
This was the moment Carrie realized she was actually getting owned face to face face by someone young enough to have a favorite Paul brother:
BRUTAL. And yet this was wonderful TV. Truly compelling ownage. Can we have Nails roast people every show? Take some notes, Graham.
It actually makes sense that kids would make the harshest food critics. Kids are all like eccentric little manor lords and Howard Hugheslets, who will only eat brown M&Ms or mac and cheese that comes from a certain-colored box if you let them. 85% of your job as a parent is basically to starve them out until they deign to try new things, and to force feed them until they stop being pains in the ass (true story: my grandmother would make you eat anything you didn’t finish for breakfast). It’s tough but it’s the only way. Have you ever met someone who’s an adult and still a picky eater? It’s the worst. A friend of mine dated a girl who ordered “only bread and meat” at In N Out and then would meticulously pick off the crispy ring off the edge of the patty. No one wants that. Picky eaters are unmarriageable.
Anyway, after the quickfire it was onto the roots challenge, in which the chefs were tasked with making a meal “based on your own heritage and backgrounds.”
Ohhh, now I get why they did the montage about the adoption to open the show. It’s all about parents and kids, heritage and so forth. I see what you guys did there. It’s true, celebrating traditions and ancestors is one of the coolest things about food. That being said, this challenge allowed for a maximum of melodramatic backstory.
Thank God Top Chef isn’t Chopped, and most of these contestants aren’t as lame as you usually find in reality TV, or else this could’ve turned a series of Olympics style human interest stories. Sure, there were sob stories, promises to dying relatives, and the dead watching over the living like Obi-Wan (Luuuuke, use the pressure cooker!), but most of the tears actually felt earned. You don’t get that with most basic cable reality programming.