Sunday, October 22, 2006

Episode One, Part 2: Frogs & Snails & Puppy-dog Tails

After the drinking and the bitching, they’re back in the kitchen for the elimination challenge. They split into two teams, Orange and Black. They will have to make a dish from five secret ingredients, à la Iron Chef, and the results will be judged by the other team. The orange team cooks first, and their ingredients are snails, processed cheese, artichokes, potatoes, and bar peanuts, which, naturally, throws the contestants into a tizzy.

Suyai: “The cheese totally threw me; the peanuts totally threw me.” Luv, we think that’s what may get you thrown off.

Carlos on marital aids: “Very important. Must refrigerate cheese when using cheese products.”

“Keep it simple, make it taste good, stay alive”: the stoned Stockton Socrates strikes again.

And then, at last, we are able to break out the Calvados, for we have our first tears of the night, and the season. Suyai is just crying through the whole thing. Well, we say to ourselves, the salt in the tears should help the seasoning.

That takes care of sweat and tears; we’re only missing blood, and Marisa helpfully obliges by cutting herself, then proceeding to make the same lame pastry-chefs-and-sharp-knives joke over and over again. Marisa seems blissfully aware that it would have been more apropos to say that that pastry chef is not the sharpest knife in the kitchen. Personally, we think it was the knife trying to punish her for those pig tails and the camouflage skull cap.

Elia: “I hate the cheese. I didn’t know what to do with the American cheese. It’s just this funky product that shouldn’t exist." We can't wait to hear Rush Limbaugh playing a tape of how she pronounces the word “American.” It gets even better at the team judging, where Elia speaks sarcastically of “DeeLeeShoss Americahn Cheeze.” The team judging is also brightened by Padma’s cleavage and strappy heels, deeleeshoss americahn cheezekayk.

Despite hating the cheese, Elia manages to produce one of the two favorite dishes, along with Ilan. In trying to decide which one they like best, Tom asks the chefs, “Which one would you pay $16 for?” This made us laugh out loud the second or third time we heard it. Why? Well, we had just read the New York Times article on the emergence of the $40 entrée, and the article points the finger at none other than Chef Colicchio.

“I blame Tom Colicchio for this,” said Barry Okun, a New York lawyer who has established a personal price limit of “between $50 and $60” per entree. “It’s not that I’m happy about it,” he added. Mr. Colicchio acknowledged the influence of his pricing, adding that restaurants like those of the Bistro Laurent Tourondel group in New York “completely ripped off the concept” of focusing on individual elements. To which Mr. Tourondel replied, “He should look back at the old-time steakhouse menus that were around way before Craft ever existed.”

See, Marcel? That's how it's done.

Then it’s the black team’s turn to cook, and their ingredients are frog legs, chicken liver, eggplant, cornflakes, and peanut butter. No major dramas here, and no promise of spilt bodily fluids, unless you consider Marcel’s come-on to Tom Colicchio: “A little bit of grenouille? Pretty stoked on it.” Oh, Marcel, you naughty boy; you make it sound like you’re offering frottage. And it’s adorable that Spiccoli knows the French word for “frog.”

Another one who’s stoked is Mia. Correction: she’s “fricking stoked on the ingredients. It was Sunday dinner at Grandma’s house.” As she later tells us, she grew up hunting frogs as a little girl. Her Southern fried frog legs are the favorites with her peers. As Mia puts it, “I see finger lickin’.” Ilan’s testimonial: “I bit into it, and stuff dribbled down my chin.” (Ilan, baby, we would have licked it off).

Any good will from the testimonial evaporates when Ilan beats Mia to win the best dish from the judges. Mia’s expression sends shivers down our spines. We silently counsel Ilan not to go near any frog ponds.

Suyai, Marcel, Carlos, and Otto are marched to judges' table to the strains of “foreboding music,” as noted by the closed captioning service. The NeckerChef claims he had a bad day, Marcel says he doesn’t know why he’s there, other than because the others want to get rid of him. Gail, being Canadian, and therefore nice, finds one nice to say about Suyai’s dish: “There was a lot of good potato in there.” In response to Tom’s queries about his dish, Carlos responds: “It wasn’t my crowning achievement, but I didn’t think it was crap on a plate.” Tom disagrees, saying, “I had a hard time getting that down.” (Confidential to Tom: get Carlos to talk to you about overcoming the gag reflex.)

In the end, Suyai is sent home, but not before she finally embraces her victimhood, deciding to look on the bright side of things: “I know how to flambé now.” Some flame out, and some flambé out. We salute you, Suyai (and not just because, thanks to you, we won the pool on the season's first crying episode).

We end with the preview for the full season, scored, courtesy of the closed captioning service, to “fast techno music.” There’s Padma, getting tough!: “I don’t know what you guys were thinking.” Ay mami, more, please. And there’s Anthony Bourdain, making drug allegations! And Betty, calling Marcel a “selfish, self-centered, egotistical bastard!”

Finally, and best of all, there’s Frankie the Bull, telling Marcel: “If you ever touch anything personal of mine, I will beat you so bad that your mother will not recognize you.” “Top Chef” meets “The Real World” meets “GoodFellas.” We love it. Our favorite part: Marcel doesn’t look scared, but rather, like a pig in shit. We can’t wait.

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