Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain thought this episode would suck, but as he admits, he was wrong.

on Dec 21, 2010

Anyone for tennis?

I was watching from home this week and I'll tell you straight off: I thought this episode was going to suck. Early on, as I got the idea that somehow "tennis" and "Swanson" were going to be involved, I reached blindly for the bong. Tennis is about as interesting to me as golf. And I find golf as deeply fascinating as what a Kardashian might say next. Coming up bong-less, a Louboutin Barbie (those spike heels hurt if you don't pick up em just right) snapped me back to reality. Wrapping my wound, I dug in for what I assumed would be an hour of painfully obtrusive corporate tie-ins and silly themes: "Using only a hot plate and the thawed contents of these Hungry Man Dinners, you have 20 minutes to feed 200 drunk-ass tennis fans -- and special guest, Bindi Irwin!"

How wrong I was!

Instead, it was classic Top Chef! A slaughterfest! A high pressure face-off in which the tennis theme served as model in only the best possible way: chef against chef. And in the end, only skill, ability and endurance --not strategy, not guile, not luck --prevailed. The best food won.

Instead of the worst -- this was in fact the best kind of Top Chef: Skill-based, gimmick-free, requiring the cheftestants to draw on all their talents at cooking, work under pressure, and at end of day, (hopefully) make smart, delicious food that tasted right for the situation.

What we got to see -- as we do in only the best challenges -- is who these chefs really are. We got to lift their skull-tops and peer inside for a second, examine their true natures (and how deep their skills). This was a very revealing episode. There was heroism, drama, cowardice, bloodshed, suspense, and conspiracy. And at end of day, an unexpected victor emerged from the carnage, clambered out of the rubble with a knife between her teeth to claim victory.