Wednesday, January 31, 2007

New York Times' Frank Bruni Spills Purple-Prosed Foam of Love All Over "Top Chef"

We know, possums, we know.

Our hypocritical hubris in referring to the prose stylings of New York Times food critic Frank Bruni as "purple" has no doubt resulted in a thunderbolt coming from the general direction of Mt. Olympus to strike us dead. Well, "arse" longa, vita brevis.

So, yes, in today's Food Section of the Times, Bruno (it's so unfair to refer to him by the plural, "Bruni," since he lost all that weight) tackles the phenomenon that is Top Chef, in the process making the Bravo execs at 30 Rock very, very happy.

Here, then, the cherce bits:

Marcel Vigneron’s self-love is as garish and repellent as his winged hairdo, which looks like an attempt to evoke “The Flying Nun” without a headdress or a habit.

Only in contrast does Ilan Hall seem humble and winsome. Don’t be duped. In this season’s first episode he flatly declared, “I want to be famous.” And as he inched ever closer to his goal, he sometimes regarded his adversaries with a look of unalloyed contempt.


For all its generically hyped-up drama, cheesy gimmickry and abject fealty to the tropes of reality television, “Top Chef” really is about cooking: what goes into it; what comes out of it; what reliably succeeds in the kitchen and on the plate; what predictably doesn’t.


“Top Chef” came into its own this season, its second, as it found a kind of traction that many other cooking-related shows — a bloated field at this point — haven’t.

Its contestants and judges wound up in gossip columns. Its twists and turns fueled chatter on the Internet, including the possible disclosure of the victor in tonight’s episode, which was taped a while back. Its ratings rose to an average of nearly two million viewers a week, according to Bravo, and that number put it well ahead of the second season of “Project Runway,” Bravo’s runaway reality hit, which will embark on its fourth season this year.

The reasons are many and varied. “Top Chef” did a deft job assembling a racially and ethnically diverse cast of characters, a shrunken high school in which every clique had a representative. There was the peevish whistleblower (Marisa), the priggish A student (Elia), the good-time blonde (Betty), the disheveled slacker (Michael), the laconic hunk (Sam), the trash-talking spitfire (Mia).

“Top Chef” offers the reliable, although perhaps not always intentional, hilarity of its blunt product endorsements and of its host, Padma Lakshmi, a k a Mrs. Salman Rushdie, a model-turned-actress whose epicurean musings are less riveting than her sluggish, mouth-full-of-molasses style of speech and strenuously come-hither poses.

As she makes her costume changes you can almost read her thoughts: “Does this skirt go with hamachi?” “Is this too much cleavage for a chicken liver canapĂ©?”

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