Top Chef Redux: Episode 2, Snoresville

We watched Top Chef last night, laptop in one hand and Johnnie Walker Black (product placement!) in the other. We typed notes with our nose and toes, leaving our eyes and ears free for actually watching the show. The brain, busily coordinating these activities, was mostly bored.

• Catering episodes are usually underwhelming, in part because they are overwhelming: keeping track of twelve people’s little canapes, which chefs belong to which animals, what the judges love and hate, and so forth. It would be great if Top Chef were a dual-screen event, with one providing the narrative and the other one doing macro shots of the food. Then we’d pay better attention.

• Anyway, the quickfire was enjoyable enough. We’re sort of annoyed that they chose Wylie Dufresne of wd-50 in New York to be the guest judge instead of one of Chicago’s many celebrated molecular gastronomists, but at least he’s an interesting guy. He burned Richard for his crappy eucalyptus thing and lauded Mark the Kiwi for his sideburns, which proves the maxim, “the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his facial hair.”

• When the cast started calling out their various wild animals for the elimination challenge, we were hoping it was going to be like Carnivore in Nairobi, where they actually serve giraffe and zebra and what have you. But no, it’s a zoo function. Shame!

• So they’re going to be at Whole Foods for ingredients every week? What of Chicago’s indigenous gourmet supermarkets? Another shame!

• Chefs, heavily edited, say the most asinine things. When Tom Colicchio asks Richard, “what do you think of the challenge,” Richard responds, for all intents and purposes, “well, it’s a challenge!” Later, when Andrew was asked, “how are your icicles going,” referring to his gelee glacier, he yelled back, “we’re sexy.” Which is kind of a good line.

• Then a lot of things happened quickly, what with the party starting and all. Richard used ras al hanout again; Padma sounded totally chilled out, but more Ativan-style than pot-style; Wylie only approves of the “odd stuff” when it doesn’t suck; Andrew is excited in an asshole way about Wylie’s approval, which will only get worse during the judging.

• Repeatedly reminded by the commercials that we’re not the target demo for this show. Tostitos are going to save me from motherhood, according to one ad? Cyanide would be faster. Yuppies in their late 30s who aspire to be “hip” and socially semi-conscious are really despicable for some reason.

• The judging. Well, Stephanie was never really in contention because of her obvious but tasty banana bread. So it was between Nikki the Alpha Woman and Valerie the Sweet Local Girl, and, well, the producers like drama. Sad to see Valerie go; we had such high expectations at the beginning of the episode, noting to ourselves, “200 black olive blinis from valerie? mmmmarscapone.” But no one could taste the marscapone! Happens. She was very gracious about it.

• Andrew wins. This is terrible for his ego, with respect to us, the intolerant viewer.

Sigh. A little dull around the edges. Next week, no less than Bayless!

[Photo: Squid ceviche, the winning dish, Bravo]

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Top Chef Redux: Episode 2, Snoresville