Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Team Cougar Takes a Victory & Chef Love Blooms

Among the things I learned in tonight's episode:
1. Creme Brulee... not the best thing to make when you've only got an hour.
2. Why Top Chef will always be better than "Next Food Network Star".
3. Eggs benedict, the ice cream cone, and the bloody mary were all invented in New York City. Who knew?

I thought tonight's episode asked a very interesting and relevant question: does a top chef need to be able to do TV? Being on TV -- whether it's doing a small demonstration segment, or a whole TV show -- requires a few essential things. First, the chef must be confident and comfortable presenting their food to an audience. Second, they must be able to bring their style/dish down to a level that the home cook can understand. And third, they must have genuine personality - they must be enjoyable to watch. They must be... entertaining. 

Self promotion and confidence are certainly important things that every real top chef has - they must, or else they wouldn't be top chefs. And having a TV-friendly personality (and skills) has certainly helped many chefs gain superstardom (and super profits). But I don't agree that a chef has to be able to do TV to be successful. Yes, they need to be able to give an interview. No, they don't need to be able to cook on TV. They don't have to be able to bring their food down to a "home cook" level. Some (dare I say, many) chefs just aren't TV friendly, and it hasn't stopped them. 

Key point being - I think there is a big difference between "TV" chefs and real chefs. Don't get me wrong - I love me some Bobby Flay - but being able to create good TV and good food don't always go hand in hand. Which is why - for real foodies - Top Chef will always be better than The Next Food Network Star. Because good, inspiring food is entertaining enough by itself - I don't need the extra entertainment value. Yes, Top Chef IS a TV show and is definitely cast for personality. But the difference is that it centers around the food - not the character of the person who presents it. The best, most original, most inspiring food always wins - hands down. 

All of that said... I do generally enjoy the development of the characters on Top Chef each season. Each year, the heroes, the villians, the token gays, and the crazies emerge. And we love it. This season, I'm particularly enjoying the progression of what I think is the first Top Chef Romance! It looks like love is blooming for Hosea and Leah - for the second time, they've been caught getting their flirt on in front of the cameras. Who knew they could get so comfortable with each other so fast? Carla thinks they're just expressing their "sexual tension". But I'm pretty sure someone called Leah "the flirt with the big rack" one or two episodes ago, so looks like she's living up to it! Can't wait to see what happens...

And for the first time, Top Chef has it's own resident cougar! Ariane, the perky, tan New Jersey mom, took her first victory today after spending the first two weeks of competition on the bottom. Her simple beefsteak, watermelon, feta, and balsamic salad was a hit with the ladies of The Today Show. One of the most simple dishes, it still represented a unique flavor combination that a "home chef" could make. I thought it was maybe a little too elementary, but it must have been good!

Looking forward to more culinary action (and maybe some drama too) next week!

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