Thursday, June 14, 2007

Midnight Confessions

Don't listen to a word Richie tells you--I am not a good cook. Sure, I can make a meal and it will taste OK, I'm not going to poison you or anything. But the preparation of the meal and the actual cooking takes me forever, and I am mentally bound to that recipe like white on rice. Which, of course, is why I love it when Richie cooks. Richie doesn't need a recipe. He's got this knowledge of food and ingredients indexed in his head like I do Buffy episodes and American Idol contestants. It's amazing to watch him in the kitchen. He just rifles through the cabinets and the fridge and the freezer, and then usually less than an hour later, terrific smells come wafting from the kitchen. An added plus is that he cleans as he goes, so when I do the dishes after dinner, there's basically nothing to do except the silverware and the plates from which we ate. When I cook, the kitchen looks like a war-torn country, what with all the smoke and tears and scattered pots and pans.

Which is why I love watching Food Network and Bravo's Top Chef, much for the same reason that other people might watch American Idol or Project Runway--they love the craft, they love the idea, but there's no way in H-E-DoubleHockeySticks they could ever replicate what was being created onscreen. Last night was the premier of Top Chef Season Three, and Richie happened upon it totally by accident. We had been watching the Ken Burns documentary The Civil War on DVD--it's one of my early birthday presents Richie and the kids gave me--and when the episode was over, Richie went about his business of flipping channels and went about mine of getting us Pirateland-ready for the weekend. When I was walking through the living room on the way to the laundry room, Richie excitedly told me that Top Chef was on, and well, then laundry was put on hold.

Amazingly, Top Chef does what Food Network cannot with it's reality show--create drama. Because isn't that the base reason why we all watch the reality shows? We love to see the catfighting, the posturing, the bombast, the egos. Heaven knows, it certainly keeps me in my seat. Project Runway and Top Chef are truly feathers in Bravo's cap--unlike the unwatchable Top Design and Shear Genius.

This year, Top Chef is in Miami, which I think is great that the show is traveling around the country--it really sets it apart from big sister Project Runway. The contestants this year also seem to be a little more mature (though it's not too big a leap from last year's childish chefs) and certainly more skilled. I will be excited if this year's group is on the same line as Season One's group.

Let's talk about the winners and losers, beginning with the Quickfire Challenge, which is usually used to award immunity or a leadership role. Clay has packed his knives and has gone back to Mississippi--a sad sack if there ever was one on this show. I mean, it's never a good idea to go into the same business that basically killed your dad. Bless his heart, I knew he was going to be the first to go when they did the Quickfire challenge to make an 'amuse bouche', and this poor fellow made a gazpacho. (For those of you like me, who don't know what either of things are, an 'amuse bouche' literally means 'amuse the mouth' and is just a small bite of something, and gazpacho is cold soup--a whole course unto itself!) The winner of immunity was Micah, who is not a man but a South African woman, who made this delicious-looking spring roll out of like, canadian bacon and balsamic vinegar. Man, it don't get better than than, to quote my mother.

The Elimination Challenge was truly challenging this go around. The challenge was to make a surf'n'turn plate using some unusual meats like ostrich, abalone, rattlesnack, eel, frogs legs, geoduck (which is pronouned gooey-duck, not GEO-duck, stupid me!), black chicken, monkfish, sea urchin, and kangaroo. I know there are more to add to that list, but I just can't remember them all. We had two chefs who could not cook and plate their dish in the allotted two hours, but then it was ultimately poor Clay who fell, due to the inedible food that he served. Tre was deemed the winner for his ostrich and abalone concoction, which surprisingly did look appetizing. I would at least try it, you know?

If Tre and Hung (the runner-up for this challenge) were smart, they would become best friends and quickly make a short order of all the other contestants. I think the two of them together would be unstoppable. Tre even complimented Hung's food.

The show has done something different with the judges this year. As always, we have our host, Padma (who has apparently put her streetwalking clothes on hiatus), and our Head Judge Tom Collichio (who maybe over identifies with Tre, the overachieving bald contestant) , but instead of a constant third judge, they are rotating between Gail from Food & Wine magazine and Tom from Queer Eye. I prefer Tom to Gail every day of the week. The guest judge this week was Anthony Bourdain, who is a favorite of mine for the same reason Simon Cowell is my favorite judge on American Idol--he expects a good performance and doesn't mince words when he does or doesn't like something. He loves it when the contestants act starstruck to see him, and especially loved it last night when Howie quoted one of his own books to him. Bourdain ended up awarding Tre (the winner) with a set of autographed books.

So, overall, a very good episode. I'm really looking forward to more. So, for now, I'm going to pack my knives and go.


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