Thursday, December 4, 2008

I Don't Want To Be a TV Chef...

“I don’t want to be a TV chef” said the reality TV contestants. Last night, the chefs had to make a meal that could be condensed into a 2-minute demo that could be shown on TV. And according to most of them, they never had any aspirations of being on TV. Except, I suppose, for the purposes of being on Top Chef? Per the biographies of chefs that I have read, the cheffing community seems to have diametrically opposing views of the “celebrity chef”. They are either anit-celeb chef and it’s a travesty as well as an embarrassment to the profession, or they’re just kinda casually okay about it. In any event, chances are that you will be evaluated by a number of celebrity chefs in this competition, so perhaps it would be in the best interests of the contestants to keep their feelings about TV exposure to a minimum?

But a word about the Quickfire; Amuse Bouche is a bite. Last I checked, it’s like 1/4th of an appetizer. So what looks like a deconstruction of three components on the plate, no matter how good it tastes probably isn’t going to win the challenge. And for the love, I’m pretty sure that no matter how much Rocco Dispirito loves bacon, you’re not going to need a pound for two servings. Leah just grasped the whole thing, start to finish and delivered a one-bite, breakfast-oriented, challenge-winning dish, which makes two Quickfire wins in a row for her, and prompting my wife to choose Leah as her pick to win it all.

On to the elimination challenge…

The chefs had to prepare a demonstration that would fit well in two-minute slot on a TV show. It just seems like common sense to make something that fits several criteria; can someone make it at home? Will the ingredients be readily available in your average grocery store? Can the viewer pronounce whatever it is you’re trying to make? Can you knock it all out and have a finished product ready in the time allotted with enough information provided in the segment that people will feel comfortable making it? If the answer to any of these is no, you need to rethink your process. If I, as a viewer, need industrial grade equipment, can’t find the components, am too intimidated by the name, or don’t see a pro finish that dish, I’m probably not as likely to try.

For the second straight week, Ariane had a strong showing, winning the challenge. She was in good company too, seeing as Jeff has had a few strong finishes, and Fabio has a win. Furthermore, the announcement of her win was determined live on the Today Show by all the hosts. Her dish was simple, and she took a little heat from some of the other competitors about it. But she maximized flavor and presentation in two minutes. However, for each winner, there must be a looser, and Alex, Melissa, and Jamie found themselves in the bottom three for two reasons between three people.

Jamie and Alex ended up with the same problem; they just didn’t finish the dish in the allotted time. Jamie ended up serving a fried egg that still had some raw white around the yolk. The argument was made that people would consume undercooked yolk and have health concerns. Didn’t they see Rocky eat raw eggs by the half-dozen? And Alex, while I appreciate his bravado trying to make a dessert, should’ve known better. Crème Brule in an hour of prep time just won’t happen. And sure enough, it didn’t set up in time. Melissa made a dish so spicy that, per the blogs of the chefs on the show, couldn’t be eaten. I like spicy more than most. But having eaten a habanero raw and whole, you just can’t have people serving them in a meal who don’t know what they’re dealing with. Suppose someone serves something with habanero to someone with an ulcer? You may not kill them, but they’ll wish to God they were dead. In my mind, that should’ve been enough to excuse her from the show. But Alex’s runny Brule got the boot.

Two notes in closing; first, I was very glad to see Rocco on this episode. Last year he was only a guest judge for the season premiere, and I would’ve like to see him on there once or twice more. Hopefully, this won’t be the last time we see him this year. Second, there are all kinds of etiquette to being a guest on a TV show. If you read Tom’s blog about filling guest spots, he talks about it in detail. And they’re all good points. But there are some lines of decorum to be observed by the hosts as well. So for Kathie Lee to actually spit out Jeff’s dish was inappropriate on any level. Grow up.

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