Thursday, July 19, 2007

Top Chef: You gotta have friends

After their rocky start, it's truly heartwarming to see how quickly Howie and Joey have become friends. Heartwarming, that is, unless you're Casey, whose incompetence last week created that bond between them. But the guys are now big fans of each other's food (Howie couldn't stop eating Joey's dish during the elimination challenge), and when they were chosen as the top two, the judges' panel turned into one big lovefest. Howie won, and earned what was arguably the lamest prize in Top Chef history: a bottle of Argentinean wine. That was all. Other chefs won books or knives or invitations to go somewhere and cook – Howie won a bottle of wine that the guest judge might easily have picked up at Trader Joe's on the way there. And he immediately gave it to Joey anyway, so you can tell how much he appreciated it. That's okay, though. Howie won a much better prize this week: Joey's friendship. Awww.

The challenge was to cater a Latin meal for the cast and crew of Dame Chocolate, as well as a few other Telemundo personalities. But while the chefs were feeling pretty good about the three hours they had to cook, suddenly Tom appeared and told them that they'd "gotten a call" from the set and the chefs' time was now cut in half. Suuuuure you did, Tom. Since the judges wouldn't stop talking about the time crunch and how the chefs' plans changed, I'm sure that the challenge was really meant to test how well the chefs responded to pressure and were able to adapt. For the most part, though, I think it ended up being a non-issue. Howie, who got sneered at by Tom for still choosing to braise his pork instead of roast it, was the winner, and Sara N., who had a backup plan of store-bought tortillas, was chosen in the bottom four. Just like every week, it all came down to the flavors.

Meanwhile, I've been trying to train myself to predict the winner and loser from the first few minutes of the episode, based on who gets the first interviews and what they interview about. Joey interviewed about stepping up and being the grey horse that no one sees coming, so when he won the Quickfire, it wasn't a surprise. Lia got the very first interview of the episode, about Camille leaving, and she was the one who left at the end. So here's the deal, I think – interview about proving yourself, and you will. Interview about your "grace, finesse, style, and elegance," and you will fall flat on your face, like Hung. Interview about something anyone could have talked about, at the very beginning of the episode, and the editors are looking for a way to squeeze you in, because you're going home. See, I'm on to you, editors. I know your game.