Thursday, September 13, 2007

Top Chef: One-hour layover

Let's face it: being on a plane is boring. You're just marking time as you go from one place to another. Sometimes you read, sometimes you sleep, but you're not doing anything productive. The same is true of this week's episode of Top Chef.

So what's worse than being awakened by a bounding, tickling, entirely too perky Padma at six in the morning? Having to do a Quickfire challenge minutes later in your jammies. The Quickfire was, quite simply, to make Padma breakfast. Based on her giddy behavior and what the chefs tell us about her taste for alcohol, I wonder if this challenge didn't spring from a bright idea of Padma's after a long night of partying. "I am sooo hungry! Hey, you know what would be AWESOME? If I had my CHEFS make me BREAKFAST! I'm gonna go wake them up right now!" After Hung won, playing to the judge by slipping Grand Marnier into her smoothie, Padma distributed them all plane tickets to an exciting mystery destination! Could it be Paris? Tokyo?

Yeah, it was Newark. The chefs were all excited to go to New York, but suffered yet another bitter disappointment when they were told they would have to earn their way to Manhattan. Until then, they were stuck at the Newark airport, cooking business-class airline food for Continental. Anthony Bourdain was there, and he and Tom got along like gangbusters, griping constantly like Statler and Waldorf about the dishes that were set in front of them.

For no apparent reason, other than the fact that nothing else really happened this week, the editors were straining to create some drama between Hung and CJ. They hate each other! Really! Look, CJ is blaming Hung for spilling the truffle oil in front of Padma! And there's Hung, not helping CJ finish up when he's already done! How dare he? Honestly, it all came to nothing, but they had to pretend that something happened this week. But as annoying as Hung can be sometimes, and probably as irritating as he gets to the other chefs, they tolerate him much better than I would have expected. The mentality of this season is much different from last season's schoolyard bullying of Marcel. Everyone pretty much leaves Hung alone; either they've found better ways of dealing with their frustration, or they just keep it bottled up inside.

This week's elimination was based mostly on one of those bizarre, irrational, all-consuming hatreds that the judges sometimes get for a particular dish (like Tre's salmon dish of a few weeks back, the one that earned Ted's unforgiving wrath). This time it was CJ's broccolini, and as Tom and Anthony kept telling each other how much they hated the broccolini, fanning the flames of their hate, it became more and more apparent that poor CJ was going to get the boot, especially after Tom called it the worst dish they'd had in all three seasons. So with CJ gone, I think Hung may very well be the winner of this season, unless Dale can pull out a dark horse victory. Dale is quiet, and not too flashy, but he does consistently well, and I think he could easily make it to the final. For now, so long, CJ, and I hope you eventually got your slice of New York pizza, because they owe you. And make them take you to a club, because they owe you that, too.