TOP CHEF: Deconstructing the Dish - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

TOP CHEF: Deconstructing the Dish

September 24, 2009 by  

Okay, so I know that I carried on about how much Top Chef Masters* (minus Hubert) sucked more than anyone, and it kind of did, but their magic challenge was probably one of the greatest Top Chef challenges they’ve ever done, at least for me, and I had really high hopes for this Penn and Teller episode.  And I’ve gotta say, in spite of its strong start with Penn and Teller actually deconstructing their magic trick, it was sort of a let down.

The thing is, Penn and Teller are awesome.  I’ve been reading articles about Teller participating in actual psychological research about how your brain runs really efficiently, basically by creating shortcuts for you, and so even as your told what’s happening (i.e., in their tricks), your brain is still showing you something else because it’s what it expects.  And I think Penn is a riot—did anyone NOT laugh at the bull testicles discussion?  I want to hop on a plane and go to Vegas and see their show RIGHT NOW.  And I do get how they deconstruct their magic tricks and I do think that’s the right terminology for it, but I’m not entirely convinced that it was as related to deconstructing food as the producers might have liked.  For me, the Masters challenge of taking the steps of a magic trick and making the chefs apply that to the dishes was a more successful correlated challenge.

That said, it’s not that this was a BAD challenge, it’s more that I was a weird combination of bored and stressed out.  Mostly stressed out, actually, which we’ll get to—but bored because there are certain clichés on Top Chef that I’m just kind of over, and “deconstructed” is one of them.  I think it’s interesting when it’s done well (which it usually isn’t) and lame when it’s a situation of someone trying to throw out a word to cover their own ass (which it usually is).  It’s just like … I’m also bored with scallops, ceviche (thank you, Season Six, for adding that one to my list), braised short ribs, purees, foams, and duos/trios, which we also got stuck with during the Quickfire, to name a few.

But I was also stressed out on a variety of levels, the first one being that this was clearly a challenge that not many people were comfortable with (which supports my theory that most people who say something is deconstructed are just reaching for anything that they can find to say).  It was a tough week for some of the people who usually do awesome (and who are our favorites), and it seemed like there was one disaster after the next.

The other stressful thing was The Robin Situation.  There’s just something about Robin that I do. not. like.  As Toby said about one of the dishes, I find her “viscerally repulsive” (great comment, by the way—so honest and descriptive and if he keeps that kind of thing up, Toby could really grow on me).  There’s just something about her tight little smile and how she talks … I can’t put my finger on it, but it annoys the crap out of me and I’m clearly not alone.  When all the chefs put on red neckerchiefs in honor of Mattin, I briefly considered feeling bad for Robin, because whether they intended it that way or not, the show of solidarity for Mattin was also a dig against Robin.  But I just couldn’t bring myself to care, probably because I agreed with everyone that she has no business in that competition.  It’s not to say that Mattin did either, but he was more likable at least.

Sidenote: when Padma commented that he sure did bring a lot of red scarves, I cracked up.  Padma has been so much more entertaining this season.

Anyway, Robin’s food did look pretty good and I think that she embraced what I thought might have been a little bit too conceptual of a Quickfire, at least as much as she could or as much as anyone did, and I don’t think that her mentioning her cancer was the only reason or necessarily even A reason why she won it.  Maybe these people get sick of eating scallop after scallop after scallop—does anyone ever think of that?  I’d be all, bring on the apple crisp!  But the point is, what Eli said about her winning because she brought up cancer … well, it was a dick thing to say and I don’t approve of it, BUT (you knew it was coming) … no one that I was watching with, including myself (and any extraneous personalities hanging out in there) said anything to contradict him.  I can see why he’d be mad, or bitter, or think it was a cheap thing to do, especially when he’s in the heat of competition.  And I think it goes back to Robin being just so off-putting that either you don’t care enough to defend her or you think she might actually be capable of leveraging that information.  I think that one time when it’s actually somewhat applicable is okay, but if we start seeing her bring it up during every competition now that she won this one and mentioned it, I’ll be suspicious.

Yeah, I just realized the other part of my stress, besides just people not knowing what to do with the challenge and Robin being Robin—it’s just that there were so many DOUCHEBAGS this episode that I don’t even know where to start.  Although since we’re on Robin anyway, let’s continue with her, shall we?

For me, Robin’s most unforgivable offense was asking an over-stretched Laurine to take her food out of the oven for her.  Robin had immunity this week and Laurine was obviously struggling and it was just a tacky thing to do.  I also just hated her demeanor in the kitchen, all running around and talking non-stop and making her internal monologue external.  Billy did crack me up though by saying she’ll probably do awesome in the competition where they have to cook meth, so I suppose I owe her an indirect thank you for that laugh.  Winning one Quickfire shouldn’t go to your head that fast, but … I guess it did.  I’d really like to see Robin go next week, even before all the other people that are annoying me right now, and that’s saying a lot.

The other person that really annoyed me was another one we’ve already mentioned, and that’s Eli.  I know he complained non-stop about camping last week and I didn’t really care—I thought it was kind of funny, although I know if I’d actually been there camping with him I’d have been beyond irritated.  I think between that and his cancer comment this week, there are probably fans starting to turn on him, but for me, his capital offense was the stupid pressure cooker.  It absolutely blows my mind that if your pressure cooker is so beat up that it’s being held together with blue painter’s tape, that you would still use it when there are plenty of working pressure cookers in the Top Chef kitchen.  It’s like … I am no chef, and I am especially no physicist, but I do understand how a pressure cooker works and that it relies entirely on being able to maintain SERIOUS pressure.  Why would you think that painter’s tape is going to fix that problem?  Are you KIDDING ME?  And I mean, if you want to be stupid on your own, then whatever, go ahead and do it.  But it exploded all over Bryan too, and once your stupid mistakes become someone else’s problem, that is not cool.  It’s inconsiderate and he should’ve used a working pressure cooker.

Michael continues to be a douchebag that I hate, but I have to admit that he did a pretty awesome job this week, sadly, so we’re still stuck with his smug, smarmy attitude.  And Mike Isabella didn’t do anything bad enough to get kicked off either, so he too remains.  I realized this week that he’s just a total mouth-breather.  And I don’t even mean it in the usual figurative insulting sense—I mean it in the actual, literal sense.  Mouth-breather.

It was, however, a really good week for my two personal favorites, Jen and Kevin, though.  I was REALLY concerned about Jen, since she kept saying she was out of her element and clearly had no idea what she was doing.  And when she was running around the store just buying ingredients and saying she was just buying stuff and would figure out to do with it when she got to the kitchen, I was like, “Oh honey no, BAD PLAN!”  And then the scenes with her dodging Tom were hilarious—I think we’ve all been there at some point and in some form, and it was so plain that she had no idea what she was doing (rather than this BS of “not having time” to talk to him—we’re onto you, girlfriend!), and I thought … this might be the first shocker elimination of the season, and I will die, because I want Jen in the top two.  Thankfully, she pulled through and did awesome, and ended up in the winners’ circle.  Did you guys crack up when Padma called her name and her head whipped around in shock?  I was completely entertained.

And Kevin!  My little Yukon Cornelius totally pulled through this week.  I had one split second of almost getting really mad at him when he said his biggest competition was the Brothers Voltaggio, because I was like, “Why does everyone keep discounting Jen?!?!” but then I realized that he meant in this particular challenge, and not in the challenge as a whole.  And I can see that, since Jen wasn’t putting out vibes of confidence and strength for this one, you know?

But it was interesting because Kevin had almost the same dish that he made last week and didn’t do so hot with, and there are definitely people who would’ve let that get into their head.  But Billy made an interesting point early on, and he said, “Kevin isn’t gonna mess this up twice.”  And he was SO right.  And I think that’s one of those things that really makes Kevin a better chef than most of these people, is that he’s willing to learn from his mistakes and try harder and do better.  Some people fail at things and just give up entirely but Kevin, while goofy and lighthearted and about as un-Voltaggio as you can get, is also intense in a way that probably gets overlooked very often.  It’s easy to see why he’s so successful at such a young age, and I love him and he’s still my favorite.

And I was glad that he won pans, which is something actually fun and useful, and not a freaking cookbook, which is what the so-called “Vegas money” was on.

In the end, it was Ron who got sent home, and let’s face it—it’s been coming for awhile.  Billy suggested when he came out that maybe he should arrange some sticks voodoo-style between him and the judges, but I’m not even sure that would’ve helped.  I think Robin got VERY lucky that she had immunity this week, and Ash and Laurine are probably not going to be around much longer.

Alright, lots to talk about this week!  What were your thoughts?  Do you think Ron was the one who deserved to go, or should it have been one of the others?  Who was the itchiest sand in your panties this week?  Didn’t Ashley look cute when she actually SMILED in this episode, TWICE?  Were you as nervous for everyone as I was?  And was there anything I missed?  Take it to the comments!

*I forgot to tell you guys that I transferred to a new office in Chicago and I’m right around the corner from Rick Bayless’ restaurants (yeah, they all share a building), including his new, more casual one.  I’m thinking I might have to make a little lunchtime jaunt and let you all know how it is, if I can ever round up enough scratch to make it happen.

SB has many interests, including photography, her pets, entertainment, traveling and writing. She does have a day job, but that mostly amounts to her being a sarcastic young woman with a lot of time on her hands, which is why she appreciates the opportunity to recap.


9 Responses to “TOP CHEF: Deconstructing the Dish”

  1. cinethia on September 25th, 2009 11:49 am

    I think that in every group there’s that ONE person people dislike and in this one it’s Robin. When she goes…. which we know she will because “simple” only goes so far …. it will be someone else. I think it’s all about how they want to play the show. That being said the quickfire WAS about their own personal angel/devil’s and for her cancer and her health couldn’t get more personal. I think she personified the challange BECAUSE she made it personal where as the others only did a typical healthy/unhealthy dish. She’s not my favorite, but I do think she’s being portrayed as the annoying, irritable one. That spot could easily be filled by Eli in my opinion. And have you noticed how the king of the douchebags Mike Isabella always ACTS like he has NO idea what a dish is… eggs florentine in this case, but then totally explains what it is to the diners?? What’s up with that?

    I did really love how Ron was such a graceful loser. I hate it when they protest or have NO CLUE why they are going home!! I think losing with grace says a lot about a person!

  2. SB on September 25th, 2009 4:04 pm

    Yeah, I agree that there’s always that one person in every group, but I think I might identify more with the Robin dislike than usual because I work with someone just like her who never. shuts. up. EVER. And it just drives you nuts. And I agree, bringing it up was applicable to this challenge. Like I said, I don’t think it’s necessarily the reason for her winning this challenge and I don’t think she was trying to use it as like an ace up her sleeve or whatever, but if she starts bringing it up a lot, I might change my mind.

    I don’t know if I think Eli has enough personality for me to hate him that much. I’m not sure who my next target of hate will be. Probably Michael V. He REALLY pissed me off in that last episode. And then I’ll have someone to hate all the way through the end. 🙂

    And I ALSO agree about Ron being a good loser! He just seems like an all-around great guy and I bet when he’s cooking stuff he’s familiar with, he’s a really good chef. We’ll miss you, Ron!

  3. strunkette on September 25th, 2009 4:04 pm

    Great recap as always SB. So much to share but no time. I’ll just say I pretty much agree with you about everything 🙂

  4. SB on September 25th, 2009 4:05 pm

    Come back when you get time, Strunkette! I always love hearing your thoughts. 🙂

  5. Kelly on September 25th, 2009 4:34 pm

    This episode didn’t grab me as much as others have, so I had lots of random thoughts during the show. I finally realized why Michael V. creeps me the heck out–he totally tilts his forehead down in his talking heads and even when he’s standing in the line-up. For some reason that makes him look uber-serial killer-ish. Also, when he was really whacking at the chicken with the gigantic cleaver, I wondered for a second if I would really care if he just chopped all his fingers off. Heh.

    I also realized why I’ve always had a soft spot for Laurine, even though her food is nothing special. I was feeling really uncomfortable during the scene where she was dropping the f-bomb every other word, and it finally came to me that she looks just like this lady that ran Bible studies in the town where I went to college. And since this lady was seriously the nicest, sweetest person I ever met, seeing her doppelganger curse so furiously seemed wrong to me.

    I was totally not feeling Jen this episode. She whined about being classically trained — “Poor me, I went to a great culinary institute and I never learned how to deconstruct a dish.” Call the wahmbulance, Jen!

    I’m with you, SB, that the chefs do the same few dish types over and over. And while there was no ceviche on Top Chef this week, ceviche did show up on Grey’s Anatomy this week as the nickname for a girl who’d been thrown out of a boat and chopped up by a boat propeller. I immediately thought of Top Chef. 🙂

    Definitely not sad to see Ron go. He never stood out to be in any way, and he never seemed to execute his food (even the dishes he claimed to prepare all the time) at a high standard. And next week we get Robin paired up with Mike I. I wonder how much of her nattering Mike will take before he blows up at her? And is it wrong that I’m kind of looking forward to that moment?

  6. SB on September 25th, 2009 4:45 pm

    Kelly, that comment was so full of win! I am sitting here cracking up at my desk on an otherwise totally boring afternoon, so thank you. 🙂 That serial killer part was too much and TOO TRUE, and I love you for it. And the Laurine part too. I think our brains probably work really similarly, at least while watching TV. 🙂

    I don’t watch Grey’s but I’m glad you thought of our little Top Chef … every time I see a scallop my eye starts twitching. It probably would for foam too, except WHO DOES THAT. It’s not a question, it’s a statement. 🙂

    I’m with you on Ron, although I will miss the entertainment. Voodoo? Snakes? SWORDS? Good God, Ron, you were something else, and that is ALWAYS a compliment in my world. (Also, why do I keep talking to Ron in these comments?)

    I am soooooooo with you on the Robin and Mike I. explosion! Can’t wait, it’s going to make my week worth it. Thank you, producers! You’ve made a catty recapper very happy. 🙂

  7. tw111 on September 26th, 2009 1:36 pm

    I don’t think I can ever dip into ceviche again, thanks to Sandra Oh’s awful nickname for that mangled patient on Gray’s Thursday….

  8. meg4fancast on October 7th, 2009 2:13 pm

    This has been such a great season so far. I love every challenge except the deconstructing one/ Penn and Teller. Fancast hosts a live chat each week with the newly eliminated chef. Check it out-

  9. meg4fancast on October 7th, 2009 2:14 pm

    This has been such a great season so far. I love every challenge except the deconstructing one/ Penn and Teller. Fancast hosts a live chat each week with the newly eliminated chef. Check it out!