Top Chef Season 2 Episode 10

Oh, Mikey, we feel bad for you. After your triumphs last week, you are judged to be the worst of the remaining six, all of whom did a mediocre to bad job, and you are jettisoned. We hope that you will open your own gastropub some day. Or at least run your own TGIFriday's.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

To be honest, this season of Top Chef is wearing thin on me. I no longer look forward eagerly to next week's episode. There is no single cause for this, there are several.

First there is the relentless, relentless, product placement. It's more noticeable on this show than just about any other. It's even worse than Survivor. If those poor mosquito-bitten souls get a barrelfull of Mountain Dew as a reward or whatever, fine, they drink it, it's done and over with. But on Top Chef they center a whole challenge around Product Placement. The Kraft Product Quickfire Challenge™ with the labels of those Products in constant view was just way too much.

So for this reason I am skipping the Quickfire Challenge. Besides, it was boring. Plus, they didn't tell us exactly what 'special gift' the winners Sam and Marcel got. And also, the guest judge-chef's hairdo was just annoying.

And, now I can say for sure - the season two host is about as boring as the season 1 judge, except that her wardrobe is way, way worse. I would shut her out completely except they seem to insist on pushing the image of her as a 'food expert' and thus making her utterances audible. (Do I dare hope for Lee Anne as the host for season 3? Though I wonder also if this would be good for Ms. Wong's career path. Or, if I would still care enough to pay for a season pass and watch the show.)

I did say that the show was wearing thin on me.

Nevertheless, a little about the episode itself...

The Let's Run Half A Restaurant elimination challenge, like last season, was influenced greatly by the quality of the front-of-service person. Last season, David handled this brilliantly, while Stephen annoyed his customers by lecturing to them about the food. In this episode, Cliff got a lot of flack for being a rather cold (and even scary-looking) floor manager, and Ilan also got criticism for his ineffective manner in that role. I am not quite sure how fair this is, since I really don't know of any great chefs who are also great front-of-house people. Imagine, like, Gordon Ramsay as a maitre'd.

The concepts conceived by each team were okay I think. I would have gone for the High-End Diner since mediocre Italian restaurants are a dime a dozen. I would have made the Italian concept team the losers just for the fact that they forgot to budget for wine! How on earth can you have a Italian restaurant with no wine? Geez. I think the judges put too much emphasis on the fact that Mike didn't get any olive-pit bowls or whatever, versus the fact that the other two didn't get a few bottles of wine.

That dessert on the Italian side, while criticized, is the only dish from either side that stood out for me, for a couple of reasons. First, gorgonzola cheese with watermelon is enough to make you gag just thinking about it. Second, Sam uttered the snidest remark ever with his "if Wylie Dufresne made this everyone would be talking about it" comment. (Wylie Dufresne is the chef-owner of wd-50, a New York restaurant, and a leading proponent of the molecular gastronomy school of cooking. In other words he is über-trendy.) With this comment Sam lowered himself to the same level as Marcel. Third, there is a similar Japanese dessert that combines gnocchi like dumplings (made with rice flour) called shiratama with fruit and sometimes vanilla ice cream. I see so many things about molecular-gastromy that remind me of things that have been around in Japanese cooking for ages, but interpreted in weird ways. But I digress.

Anyway, it was quite clear that of the bottom three of Cliff, Sam and Michael, Michael was going to be the one to go. Cliff wouldn't be kicked for being bad at front-of-house as long as Chef Tom was around, and Sam is probably still regarded as a frontrunner even if he thinks watermelon + gorgonzola is edible. I never got the feeling that Chef Tom thought much of Mike's abilities.

With Mike's easygoing and well-liked personality gone, things should get uglier than ever.

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