Top Chef Episode 3: When Condecension Backfires

Many life lessons from last night’s Top Chef, in which Stephanie eked out a victory with her Mexican cinnamon wonton shells, as served at a block party in an UNNAMED Chicago neighborhood. Could somebody please name it?

1) Rick Bayless is a fashion icon, with that blousy purple shirt and the very light facial hair. Maybe a Mr. Wizard with a twist? OF LIME AND CILANTRO!

2) Jicama can be used in lieu of a starch. Also, if Miguel is willing to lapse into Spanish pronunciations for “taco” and “chorizo,” the least he could do is pronounce jicama properly (i.e., HEE-cama instead of hicamma, like a hiccup)

3) Richard’s restaurant, Trail Blais (Blais being his last name), would be better named “Blais of Glory” (thx Anthony)

4) Mental note, upon viewing Quickfire upscale taco challenge: lesbians ironically can’t make tacos (zing!)

5) Corporate sponsorship — Padma tells the contestants to “jump in your [product placements]” and drive to the (Clorox front) block party. Mmm, Cloroxtinis for everybody! Alternatively, “Sexy Drink,” made with lavender. Is lavender really sexy? We think of it more as laundry

6) This is the second time in a row that no one knows how to cater. We hate things in a row!

7) The show’s editing leads us to believe that the Red Team is going to win, and the suddenly, no, the Blue Team comes out on top. Because when all we get is hyperkinetic half-second shots of fifteen different food items, we really can’t make independent assessments (unlike on Runway, where at least we have the same number of senses as the judges do). So the producers can jerk us around as much as they’d like for the first half of the season, until enough of the chaff has been whittled away that we can start paying proper attention to who’s doing what

8) The Red Team defends itself by saying, oh, it’s a Middle American block party, so we made lowest common denominator food. This is incredibly condescending — bunch of New York chefs go to bungalow country and think people don’t know what they like? Chicago is, in many ways, a purer eating city than New York, and its avant-guard culinary scene and copious fatness prove it. As Rick Bayless himself put it during the judging, “good food sells to everybody.” And condescension sells to nobody (except a small set of high-income strategic self-deprecators, but that’s another story)

Yes, life lessons all. Next week: Daniel Boulud and Richard Roper for some reason!

[Photo: Stephanie’s winning recipe for “Mixed Fruit with Oatmeal-Pine Nut Crumble, Cinnamon Sugar Fried Wontons.” Seems like all you need to do to win this competition is cook well! (Bravo)]


MP:Boston’s Leila — with whom we watched Top Chef last night — noted that the block party street looked like John Hughes’ fictional town of Shermerville, IL:

What we found out is that each one of us is a molecular gastronomist and a locavore, a sous chef, a classicist and an innovator. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Block Party Club.

Apparently a parody of a scene in an important movie we haven’t seen. But funny anyway!


Top Chef Episode 3: When Condecension Backfires