Thursday, April 8, 2010

Reactions to Top Chef Masters Season 2 Episode 1

And we're baaaack! After what felt like a million years, the chefs are back on Bravo. Season two of Top Chef Masters kicked off last night with the same fabulous "critics" (I missed Gael's hats more than I realized) and a brand new crop of too-accomplished-for-reality-TV chefs.

As the episode began, I remembered that it's kind of a pain to meet six new chefs (and their respective charities) each week. I'm already ready for the semifinals. I also remembered that it's tough to get snarky about people who have worked hard and have, justifiably, achieved success in their chosen field. Sometimes blogging is awfully hard work.

That said, this group seemed nice enough, if a little boring - which made me extra thankful for the enormous, slightly crazy smile on Susan Feniger and for Govind Armstrong's "I don't want to work with a partner" bitching. Both were mild by reality TV standards, but added a little spice to this lineup.

So, the episode. It all started with the chefs pairing off by choosing aprons (what? the knife block is too good for this crew?) and being shipped off in Lexuses (Lexi?) to Chinatown. Well, to a gas station in Chinatown, where they learn they'll recreate a favorite Top Chef Season 1 Quickfire - the gas station challenge. Their job: to cook palatable, interesting food for members of the band The Bravery, using only ingredients found in a gas station. It's a pretty well-appointed gas station, if you ask me, but still.

Unsurprisingly, they rise to the challenge, delivering some interesting food - even the purchase of hot pink "fiery" cheetos, instead of regular cheetos, doesn't derail these professionals. The Bravery (including their culinary schooled bass player) are impressed.

Moving on to the Elimination Challenge, the chefs learn they'll stick with their partners and Govind complains - a lot. Their challenge is to create a duo of romantic dishes to serve to people on dates. Which means they don't really have to work in a pair. I mean, they have to coordinate, but it's not like they're only creating one dish. The consensus at my house is that Govind needs to stop complaining and start cooking.

After a relatively drama-less prep and service (are Susan's shrimp very slightly overcooked? Quelle horreur! Really, that was the bulk of the drama), the critics lavish praise on the chefs, then criticize them behind their backs. Ultimately, it's Susan and Tony Mantuano who move on to the next round, after serving a spicy pepper shrimp and scallop dish followed by a smooth, rich pasta with truffles. It all looks good, so who am I to judge?

A few random thoughts:
  • The critics really do seem more comfortable together this season, and it's nice to see them back.
  • Kelly seems more comfortable, too, sinking into her role as (as my husband calls her) the "Asian Giada."
  • Jerry Traunfeld = Younger Rick Bayless, minus the mustache
  • I like the pairing off strategy. It's much easier to follow three dishes than six.
  • During the Elimination Challenge, none of those people looked like they were on real dates. Or, if they were, they were some of the most poorly matched dates ever. Especially the slightly husky guy in glasses with the gorgeous black girl who worked in pharmaceutical sales. I am convinced he's a blogger. And she's...gorgeous.
  • Tony is President Obama's favorite chef. Do I smell an Art Smith reprise?
  • I was shocked that Govind didn't make it through to the next round, only because I was sure he'd get a chance to redeem himself after the jerky edit he got this week. He looked better in the DVR buster, when he talked about working for Susan in high school and having a crush on her (which I'm sure her long-term girlfriend thought was adorable), but overall, he was the villain this episode and then he went home.
So...what did you think? Did you miss TCM? Looking forward to a new season? Please leave a comment with your thoughts...


theminx said...

From what I remember, Susan Feniger was once married to a man...and her ex is now married to her partner Mary Sue Milikin. Probably lots of amusement for all parties!

Govind is a whiner. Guess he thinks that being cute makes up for it, but it doesn't.

Joy said...

I'm so glad it's back and really enjoyed seeing it again. I don't mind the lack of drama with the top chef masters because it's so good to see their professionalism and personalities. I liked all of these and hated to see Govind go especially.

What a tangled mess that is with Susan and her exes!

intuitive eggplant said...

SO glad TCM is back. Got a kick out of the twist in bringing back the gas station challenge. And guess who else is back - Amuse-Biatch! I agree with Minx that it's tougher to be snarky about TCM than regular Top Chef, but Amuse-Biatch can find snark in just about anything (except their drool-worthy review of Dale Levitski's new restaurant, which is a pleasure to read nonetheless).

Cliff O'Neill said...

You nailed it on the head, what with the lack of drama and all.

Every time I hear someone complain that "it should just be all about the food," I think to TCM and how awful it is to try to blog about a bunch of perfectly nice people making really good food with few errors if any. I need at least a decent train wreck or two to make things interesting. (I'm OK with not having really horrible individuals on a show, though.)

Which is one reason I'm not blogging this one this season.

And what was it with LaChoi's bigger-than-her-head flower, anyway?