February 11, 2009

I just realized that I haven’t really said anything about the current season of Top Chef, my favorite competitive reality show. Since the season is about to conclude, I should probably get around to that. Here are some largely random thoughts:

  • The new judge, Toby Young, actually makes me miss Gail Simmons. He doesn’t make me miss Ted Allen, because Young has a lot of the same flaws as Allen. It seems like Young is trying to be the culinary equivalent of Simon Cowell, but Young’s pop-culture references are strained and self-indulgent, and his criticisms are seldom on point. (“Pablo Escolar…” He actually said that in a room full of people with knives.) He’s trying too hard to be outrageous and cutting, and I’d settle for concise and purposeful. Points must go to the editors for showing what I believe to be Padma Lakshmi rolling her eyes every time Young opens his mouth and physically recoiling when she remembers that she’s seated next to him.
  • It took an awfully long time for any of the contestants to make a strong positive or negative impression on me, which is fine. There’s always that early span of a show of this type when it’s too crowded to latch onto anyone unless they’re deliriously charming or completely egregious.
  • That said, I’ve become utterly charmed with Carla. She’s outgoing and really weird, and in recent episodes, she’s actually been allowed to demonstrate the culinary abilities that presumably got her on to the show in the first place. And for anyone disappointed over the knifing of the season’s first comeback kid, Ariane, they got to see Carla rally. I’m also quite taken with Fabio, with his calculated-to-charm broken English and the cheerful derision he delivers during interviews.
  • I’ve also come to dislike Leah intensely, though I usually try and resist the urge to dislike contestants because the editors and producers want me to do so. Really, though, has there ever been a contestant so drenched in flop sweat for so long? (I did like Jamie, though I could see the fairness of her recent elimination. By my viewing, Jaime’s dish was apparently actively unpleasant, while Leah’s was just blah, which seems like a greater lesser culinary sin.) I think I’m supposed to dislike Stefan in the same way I was supposed to dislike Marcel and Hung, but I don’t mind him. He made clothes for Jamie’s stuffed animal, which goes a long way, and he seems to confine his obnoxious behavior to actual competition. Hung and Marcel were obnoxious all the time.
  • Eric Ripert is dreamy. That is all.
  • Oh, and speaking of food, Chris Mautner saves me the trouble of reviewing Carol Lay’s The Big Skinny: How I Changed My Fattitude by covering everything I might have wanted to say about it over at Robot 6.