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Common Scents

Ted Allen talks Restaurant Wars, cleavagegate, and Dale's Queer Eye.

In this post: The last word on Cleavagegate, "Rats with Hats", and Dale's Queer Eye.

How to Watch

Watch Top Chef on Bravo and next day on Peacock.

Also in this post: So-called "political correctness" (grrrrrrrr!)

But first: Just wanted to say for the record that I didn't mean to spark so much Howie-hatin' in this space last week. I've said it before: I really like Chef Kleinberg, and I like his cooking, too (excepting, of course, his infamous "Howie spice").

True, I would have liked to send him home rather than Sara because, upon watching the episode, I found his unwillingness to work with people more troubling than her flawed cooking. However, that was not an option. As we've said over and over, the decision is based on the dish. Booting Sara was the right call.

But speaking of TC's dwindling female contingent: Some people posted last week that they feel that the show is routinely unfair to the female contestants, or that some of the judges are biased in favor of men. Here, I'm gonna call bullshit. I do agree that last week's nightclub challenge presented the women with a disadvantage, and the kind of disadvantage that is less likely to occur to men (like myself) until after the fact. But every challenge is going to be harder on some players than others. I'm not going to speak for the producers, but I think the high-heels and silk-blouse problem was just something they didn't anticipate; it certainly is nobody's goal to create an uneven playing field or to show preferential treatment to men. (Why would it be?)

I've spent many hours debating the pros and cons of cheftestants' cooking this season and in seasons past, and the goal of everyone involved in this show has always been to decide every challenge fairly. And that experience applies to everybody, from Bravo (which has a female president and many female top executives) to the producers (TC's executive producer is a woman, as are many mid-level producers and the culinary coordinator) to the judges (two of whom are, emphatically, ALL woman).

And, while I would love to see Tom cooking in stilettos and a teddy as much as the next guy, it's not likely to happen -- at least, not on television. He'd lose all his cred with the "bear" community...

By the way, anybody who thinks it's "politically correct" to say that women face sexism in the workplace is, um, an idiot. (I hate the term "PC" -- it is used almost exclusively by right-wing assholes to discredit people having intelligent conversations about complex issues. The exception: Bill Maher, who is a genius. Don't get me started!)

Moving on: Restaurant Wars! What a tough challenge! I felt that the edit of tonight's show had me coming down pretty hard on Brian. In truth, I had more sympathy for him than you could tell in the episode. Several of his problems really were the fault of his wait staff, who only had 30 minutes to figure things out. Brian is such a charismatic guy; I was amazed to hear that he had no front-of-the- house experience. I also enjoyed how he smuggled his suit to the set inside of a chef's jacket. Crafty!

I also really gave Dale the business. But the sin of putting cheap, aggressively scented candles on the tables in a restaurant was just so unforgivable -- and so unnecessary -- that I had to pull out the sharp knives. And the fact that Hung agreed with Dale about them?! Unbelievable. Look, I'm not some nitpicky whiner, folks -- those candles were brand new, and they absolutely REEKED. Consider also: There are people who get violently ill from the scent strips in Vanity Fair. Almost every serious restaurant in the country forbids smoking. There are many restaurants (including Charlie Trotter's in Chicago) that will turn customers away at the door for wearing perfume, and no halfway-talented chef would permit strong-smelling flowers in their dining room. What the hell were Hung and Dale thinking?

Also, in response to my lovable mohawked brutha's crack that "Queer Eye's got nothing on me!" all I'm going to say is: Sweetie, you don't see Thom Filicia decorating with spray-painted rocks, mmm-kay?

All that bitchiness aside, I loved Dale's service, I loved his leadership, I loved much of his team's food, and I'm delighted that he and the gang all get to come back for another helping next week.

Finally, on the subject of "sliders." In case you missed last week's voluminous comments, the consensus seems to be that the term "slider" did, indeed, originate with White Castle (aka Casa Blanca or Maison Blanche) -- but that it has in recent years become common parlance for any miniature hamburger. I can live with that. One hamburger historian suggested that the term was coined by WWII Navy submariners, reflecting the greasy meat's tendency to slide across the grill in rough seas. But that's not the only name people have for White Castle's notorious little onion-steamed delights: Readers offered up Maggot Muffins, Belly Bombs, Gut Bombs, and Murder Burgers. But my personal fave: Rats with Hats!

See you next week for Restaurant Wars, Part Two! --Ted

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