Thursday, March 1, 2012
Top Chef Texas episode 17: It’s finally over
With a whimper, not a bang.
After many months and chef-testants, too, Top Chef Texas ended anticlimactically, with the overwhelming favorite winning as expected and with none of the forced drama you expect from Bravo.
The only mild drama was a "twist" in the format: Finalists Sarah and Paul cooked their final meals in two Vancouver restaurants for a big group of diners that included their family members and the most recent cheftestant rejects including Beverly and Ed. Unless this interminably long season has burned my memory cells, that's never happened before? One of the primary diners they showed was the "Judge from Top Chef Canada." Emeril also got a lot of screen time, and there was a strange voodoo session in which Paul and Sarah had to sit in a library and quaff fine wine with Emeril and Tom. Paul chose the chardonnay, Sarah chose the cab. Well that was easy.
Both Sarah and Paul made good food; each also made a small mistake or two. It was a close call for the crowded panel of five judges, but they eventually chose Paul.
Apparently the producers decided Enough with the petty interpersonal stuff, let's just focus on the food. This created an odd frisson: It's exactly what many people clamored for all along, and yet it felt unsatisfying and dull. We take it back now, Magical Elves -- we're not producers, we're just watchers, we don't know what we're talking about, go ahead and start up some more contrived shit.
The other interesting plot point was the mode by which the two finalists acquired their team of sous chef helpers. Rather than picking them based on who they were, the finalists chose them by what they cooked. A motley crew of rejected cheftestants -- some dating back to the beginning of the season, hello Tyler guy who can't butcher -- were joined by two well known chefs, Barbara From Boston and a guy with gray hair; all had to cook a dish to compete for the final sous chef spots. Really, is that such a desirable slot? Paul & Sarah then tasted the dishes and chose favorites without knowing who cooked them. And that's how they got their sous chefs.
Each finalist ended up with one onerous chef on their team: Sarah got stuck with inexperienced Tyler, and Paul got Barbara From Boston, whom he feared would interfere with his Vision. But Barbara didn't try to screw up his mojo, and Sarah found celery for Tyler to chop.
Speaking of Paul's mojo, it doesn't spell so good. Paul wrote out a set of tasks to be assigned to his sous chefs, and one was assigned to "Kieth." The producers went out of their way to show that scrawled note; do you think they were mocking him? Magical Elves, he's a bad-ass chef, so what if he can't spell an admittedly common name like Keith? Would you know how to spell Paul's last name -- Qui -- if it weren't on his application? Call us skeptical.
And while on the topic of Paul's mojo, that half-smile he displayed after finding out he was Top Chef (wasn't Padma's delivery this time a little Alice in Wonderlandy?) was about as understated a reaction as has ever been delivered in the history of Top Chefs. The episode tried early to establish that Paul does have feelings by showing a semi-emotional reunion between Paul and his mother, father, and hot Asian girlfriend with dyed blond hair. They claimed he cried; I didn't see it.
Anyway, even that encounter was low-key, so they were prepping us for what was going to be a very blase win. Don't get me wrong, it was refreshing.
It was definitely preferable to what would have been the alternative -- the over-emoting, hand-waving, face-fanning, jumping-up-and-down, bulging-eyed geyser that would have been a Sarah win. Even before they announced the winner, long tears were dribbling down her marshmallow cheeks in anticipation. They were like a blinking warning sign: If you choose me as Top Chef, there will be waterworks, there will be confetti, and there may even be a wee bit of gloating. For a minute, she almost seemed pitiable.
But then they extracted the line from her that made you say, Nevermind, F her -- when at the end, she said she thought she should have won. Honey, this is your chance to look classy -- just say "Paul rules" and shut it. Oh well, the line gave us closure, it gave us permission to think that she and Paul each got what they deserved. Magical Elves know best again.
Grayson, who was on Sarah's team, delivered the head-scratching line of the show: "We're going to jam out with our clams out." Is that a genitalia joke? I sure hope not.