Thursday, November 09, 2006

Eliminate Me! Top Chef 2 Episode 4 Leaves a Bad Taste

I don't know what to think.

First Mr. Junk Food (Michael) makes a mockery of the quick fire by creating a disgusting amuse bouche from vending machine foods (Snickers and cheese puffs) that looked more like a product of elimination than food, then the judges decide not to eliminate anyone from the elimination round. (FYI - Carlos won unneeded immunity with his sunflower seed mini cake.)

The only thing that episode four made me want to eliminate was watching this episode.

I don't do recaps, so if you haven't seen the episode go to Bravo's website and check out the capsule episode descriptions, video highlights, recipes and judges' blogs.

I do do opinions, commentary and ranting and raving, so if that's what you want, please continue reading. The only problem is that I don't much feel like spending much time on this worthless episode.

The elimination challenge was four teams creating low-calorie food for a camp for diabetic children. The menus were to include a main, a veg and a dessert. Promisingly enough Betty and Marcel were on the same team, but they played nice.

(Once again, not much on the food, how the flavors were developed, etc. This has become a show about personalities, not the food. Hey, Bravo, how about a show on Top Concierge or Top Men's Room Attendant, it would be almost as much about the food as this series is turning out to be.)

The kick is that each team's menu had to come in under 500 calories as computed by your team's official nutritionist. Once the numbers were done, your recipe was locked down, you were not allowed to change anything. Let the fun begin.

1. Betty, Marcel and Frank won with their "kicking" pizza, meringue cookie, berry lemonade and fruit skewer. Betty's cookies weren't working so she tweaked the recipe the next day, but felt she was still way under the calorie count. Cue the foreshadowing music here. (Think of the music you hear right before the shark appears in "Jaws.")

In addition to the judges' liking the flavors, it was a big hit with the camper kids (hey it's pizza). Thank goodness the team talked Marcel out of proscuitto. I wonder if Marcel even remembers his childhood, or what kind of childhood he had. Wait a minute, maybe I really don't want to know that.

Frank was declared the challenge's winner for his pizza. His amuse bouche also had garnered praise from guest judge Suzanne Goins.

2. Two teams including Sam and Mia were called in to discuss what went wrong. Sam mentioned there was a lot of olive oil where olive didn't belong being squirted around when the teams were cooking sans nutritionists on day two. He declined to name names, but Mia wasn't shy and spoke up about Betty's bloop with the cookie.

The judges seemed aghast, yet again as in the Otto incident not as upset or determined to draw an ethical line in the sand as I would have thought. Much was made of the complaints only coming after the teams were in front of the judges for not doing a good job. The lesson here, don't tattletale if you lose, but do the right thing beforehand. One hopes that was the lesson and not just that the judges and producers just didn't want to lose the talented and entertaining Betty from the competition.

Next episode or if you watch one of Bravo's many reruns of the show, check the credits out after the show. Judging decisions are made with input from the producers. Not that moral ethics were twisted here to have Betty stay or anything, but the amount of editing of what we don't get to see in the discussion is obvious.

Anyway, Tom comes out to talk to everyone, Betty tearily fesses up and says she didn't understand the rules and Tom says everyone pay attention, play by the rules, no more warnings. (Wonder if there is a Top Chef time out room?) Then the bombshell, no elimination this week.

Wow, what does that say to me the viewer? That they didn't want to penalize the lousiest chef that week without letting Betty go, but they didn't want to lose Betty, so hence no elimination.

Let's also talk a minute about understanding the rules. This seems to be a consistent issue. Last week you had contestants making desserts and other non-entrees for the ENTREE contest for TGIFriday. This week you had people making sweets for the amuse bouche (a small bite of a pre-dinner appetizer thingie). I know there is pressure, but please people for $100,000, pay attention. You can't win (but can get eliminated) if you do the wrong thing. (How about season one finale with Dave only making two dishes instead of the required three.)

Is this very different than Otto not reporting the case of lychees? In some ways, yes, other, no. There was no intentional or unintentional theft. Otto was on the losing team and someone was going to go, so he fell on the knife, so to speak. Otto was not as forthcoming as Betty was about the truth. Chefs in the competition in both cases knew about the rule breaking before judging yet waited until it appeared it was a way to save themselves. Both cases are kind of grey (as opposed to black and white), but is Betty's a lighter shade? I think so, but I wonder how I'd feel if it was Michael.

Anyway, I am not thrilled with Betty not having consequences for breaking the rules since I was so adamant about Otto going, on the other hand I am thrilled she wasn't eliminated.

I guess I am morally ready to be a reality show TV producer.
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3 comments:

ljn said...

The judges themselves weren't clear about the rules. They suggested that the team that made smoothies should have added yogurt...obviously a change in the recipe. Betty acted like a Top Chef should - she saw a problem with her food and made adjustments to fix it within the 500 calorie guideline...a sign of a good cook, not a cheater.

FJK said...

Yes, but the rules were the recipes were locked down.

Perhaps the judges own ambiguity accounts for their decision not to elminate anyone.

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