The first half hour, I thought the competition was awesome. They were cooking, they were getting into it. I thought, "You don't need pre-made drama. Marcel drops his pan, fish goes all over the floor. You don't need to attack each other to make things interesting."
I watch a cooking show because I like to sit at home and think about my taste palate, I like to wonder if what they're making is a flavor profile that I'm going to like. I want a cooking show to educate me. And this hasn't been so much the case. Between the first two seasons, this was by far the most high profile chef they've brought in. Eric Ripert's food is spectacular. He's a gentlemen. He's the epitome of the way a chef should behave. He doesn't need to be aggressive, he's just articulate and intelligent. And he fits this description entirely of a Top Chef. So, I have nothing but good things to say about Eric Ripert.
So, let's talk about the Quickfire Challenge. I thought overall they did a pretty good job. I was feelng for Ilan. He took a chance with the chocolate and it didn't work out. I don't know what he feels about Ripert, but when you admire someone like that, and you put out a plate of food you're not crazy about, that's a melted mess, that's gotta be tough. You've definitely got to put on your body armor for that. When I first saw the Challenge, I thought that I would have liked to have done an eel dish, even though it probably wouldn't have been in the pantry. I really like putting eel and chocolate together. So I know that Ilan had the right idea of putting the chocolate and the chicken livers together. Because chocolate and foie gras work very well together. But I would have done so with bitter chocolate, not sweetened.
I found myself paying special attention to Sam in this challenge. Tom's been talking about Sam for the whole season, about how he's confident and needs to expand his horizons a little. I think Sam actually stepped up to the plate this time. He did a really nice job with the Quickfire. I thought it was ambitious. I would have named him the winner for the Elimination Challenge, just by looking at it.
This is a tricky Elimination Challenge, though. When you think food for Valentine's Day, you think elegant, petite and sexy. I think Sam really hit that. The other contestants made food that, don't get me wrong, it was kind of nice -- but there was nothing feminine about it. Also, the show is filmed in the summer, so I would have liked to have seen a few dishes with seasonal food. But because the show airs in winter, everyone is using root vegetables, for this episode and the Thanksgiving and Holiday ones. I get it, it's not easy to cook that seasonal food during a heat wave, but especially Marcel's dish. I just didn't get it. He's been cooking with this really specific style that I've been interested in, and then he lays out a celery root puree salmon dish. That's been on every menu since the late 80s. So I was a little surprised by that.
Elia's dish was basically a rendition of her Quickfire Dish. Regardless, it was cool to watch. Everyone was getting into it. Everyone was stepping above the childish behavior. From Sam's standpoint, there was a lot of growth. And then the competition's over, and they go back to the house. And you've got to be kidding me.
Suddenly it's an uncomfortable boys locker room experience. Whether you were the victim, the aggressor, or just watching. You saw it in high school. And I'm still appalled. I don't even know what to say. Everyone does stupid stuff when they've had a couple of cocktails. Sure. But if someone tries to hold me down and shave my head, nothing good is going to come of that. Nothing I've seen about Marcel leads me to believe that he'd just take that. I sure as hell would not have. This is a show about food. I know that a lot of people want to blame the producers for making this a show that's more about the drama than it is about the food. And some people want to say that this cast just has no sense of maturity. It's both. Of course everyone behaved badly. So shave heads, kick people off, get drunk, the whole thing...I don't know. As a viewer, as a former contestant, I'm personally invested in the show, on a lot of different levels. And I'm disappointed. In just about everyone.