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I've spent the past couple of days watching Top Chef Masters, season 3. My first impression looking at the lineup is I can't help but wonder if they're running out of 'masters'. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I'm hardly a foodie. Left to my own devices, the only restaurants I end up going to are more likely to serve burgers than anything else. That isn't to say I'm not interested in various types of food, in theory, but I don't put it into practice. Even so, I've been watching Top Chef from the beginning and I also like other cooking shows like Hell's Kitchen and various offerings from the food network. That has at the very least acquainted me with various with various big name chefs out there and this is the first season of masters where I don't really recognize anyone. It makes me wonder if they're running out of the whole 'celebrity chef' category and are forced to start using the B list. Or hell, maybe even the C list or D list since I wouldn't be able to tell not knowing any of these people.

This isn't to say that these individuals are duffers by any means. I'm pretty sure that any of them would end up near the top of a normal Top Chef season assuming they didn't get tripped up early by a challenge where they had to cook upside down while playing the battle hymn of the republic on a harmonica. Still, you can't help but get the impression that the title of 'Master' is being diluted somewhat. All of that said, it was still a fun season though none of my favorites ended up making it to the finale. I've actually watched all episodes except the finale at this point so that there's no urge to spoil the ending for anyone who hasn't seen it yet. Here's what I thought of the season.

In normal seasons of Top Chef, I've had a pretty stellar record of being able to pick out the winner, or at least the top 3. While you don't have absolute disaster contestants like in Hell's Kitchen, it's still clear relatively early who doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell. For one thing, anyone who is still in culinary school might as well just commit seppuku during the first episode and save themselves the heart break. It's harder to tell who is going to make it to the end, though I usually pick 2 contestants before the first season ends and so far at least one of them has made it to the top 2 in every season except 7 (Washington DC) which I felt was just a complete car wreck.

With the Masters show, it's a lot harder to pick a winner right from the beginning. For one, there are no real talentless hacks who got there because they had sex with a producer or are placed for drama. Every single person has got skills and often what trips them up is the idiosyncrasies of the challenge itself; the whole cook while hanging upside down thing. Because of that, you really don't know who will come out on top and so I just decided to root for people I liked. In this case, I decided I would pick Hugh Acheson and Naomi Pomeroy. Hugh just seemed like a funny guy and despite Naomi's first episode bossiness, she really grew on me. Of course, I was a bit disconcerted when Hugh got tossed right in the first ep, which had never happened before to a pick. Luckily due to another contestant's withdrawal, he was able to return and made a pretty deep run. I will also admit I was a bit disconcerted when I noticed that he had a unibrow. I don't think I've ever seen anyone sporting one of those who wasn't in some third world country or had one made up for comedy bit in a movie or tv show.

As for Naomi, I feel like she was practically the narrator for the show. They probably featured her on screen giving her thoughts more than any other contestant. It's not a surprise really since she seemed pretty talkative and open, always giving her take on things which could later be used to set up some surprise twist and she's photogenic to boot. She has really beautiful eyes, which is not something I usually notice either, but she spent so much time on screen talking to the camera it was kinda hard not to notice. She was also, based on the commentary of the other chefs, apparently one of the people with the least amount of experience and so it was also fun to root for the underdog. Unfortunately, she got the axe right before the finale which was sad since I was really hoping she would at least make it to the end.

It's been a while since I've watched the first two season so of Top Chef Masters, so I'm not sure if my recollection is accurate, but it also seems that there were a lot more whacky challenges this year. This is of course with the exception of the first episode of Season 1 which was so fucked up they had to retool the entire show because of it. You simply cannot have Hubert Keller cook pasta in a fucking bathroom and except to get other chefs of his caliber to sign up to compete. Maybe with the lowering of the prestige requirement they felt they could get the monkeys to jump through crazier hoops. The bugs quickfire comes to mind immediately as a WTF and also other challenges like taking away water and having them cook on a tour bus.

Of course, no reality show is complete without having someone to root against and it was pretty easy to find some jackoff to nominate himself. That honor went to Suvir Saran. He seemed kinda cool and funny at first, but you soon realized that that was simply covering a ridiculous amount of ego. Not to mention the attitude really got irksome after a while. I remember thinking to myself 'What a complete ponce' and then upon finding out he's gay couldn't help but think 'Way to go for confirming stereotypes, douchebag'. I couldn't have been happier when he got tossed out on his ass for that ridiculous self-righteous veggie burger of his.

Anyway, I'm going to go watch the finale and see how the season concludes. Among the three that are left, I probably like Floyd the most and frankly I never thought either he or Mary Sue would make it. He just seemed too much of a wall flower and nice guy to win and she just seemed too flaky. I don't like Traci much but it seems clear she has the most experience and it's probably hers to lose.

On a sidenote, this season of Top Chef Masters also introduced me to a dish that I had never heard of nor seen before. It was apparently popular in the 60's, which frankly does nothing to change my impression that the entire decade should be temporally nuked from the space time continuum. May I introduce the Ambrosia Salad.

Does this look absolutely vile or is it just me? I know that all that white is supposed to be some sort of whipped cream, but I can't help but think of it as mayo and it sends a shudder through me. Hell, I'm not even sure I would want to eat this even as whipped cream. Why the hell would you bury the fruit in it like it were some sort of giant snow drift? What the flying fuck could those crazy 60's spazzcases been thinking? And don't even get me started on naming it for the Food of the Gods. I have no clue what God would be crazy enough to want to dine regularly on this but I'll bet he has to inject insulin hourly.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 19th, 2011 07:50 pm (UTC)
Looks like cream to me, and it's still disgusting. Never saw it in the 1967s, though, more the late 70s and again in the last 15 years.
Sep. 20th, 2011 09:13 am (UTC)
It reminds me of the 'salads' on HIMYM that Marshal's family served.
Sep. 19th, 2011 09:15 pm (UTC)
As a child of the mid-50s I gew up in the 60s and 70s and I LOVE Ambrosia Salad. I'd pay good money to get a dish that size of it. Yup, the fact it always gave me that first "oooh, mayonaise" thought, but it wasn't was part of the appeal. God that stuff was good.
Sep. 20th, 2011 09:12 am (UTC)
Eh. If we're ever together and someone serves it, you can have my share.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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