Wednesday, January 31, 2007
As you may have gathered, we have absolutely no compunction about putting our cat in a variety of chapeaux and whoring her out for promotional purposes (as Miss XaXa suggested, it’s beginning to look like that Bugs Bunny-Elmer Fudd cartoon where the shipment of hats falls out of the sky).
At any rate, this is just a whorish little reminder that, since Top Design is premiering tonight after the Top Chef finale, you should go check our new Top Design blog, Pink Navy, where you will find an account of Top Design host Todd Oldham’s political travails, the latest on the Iran diplomatic crisis, and tips on what to do with monkey fur. Just cue up the Village People’s “In the Navy” and click on the kitty to take you where you know you want to be.
It's yet another of those bedeviling questions, one that we have pondered not only throughout this season of Top Chef, but also after reading a provocative article by Adam Roberts yesterday on the Serious Eats website. Start your Easy-Bake Ovens, possums, and let us know what you think.
For a few weeks now, we, along with the Gals and Ms. Place, have been intellectually cockteasing you with riddles drawn from the collected works of Carolyn Keene, but today, we finally put out.
The first riddle involved a picture of a café and a clutch purse. Put them together, and you get "café" + "clutch" = café clutch = Kaffeeklatsch. Yes, a groaner, but that's our specialty.
And the second riddle featured a variety of cats in berets. This was easy, even by our standards. Even noted French-speaker Marcel "Jell-EE" Vigneron knows that the French word for "cat" is "chat." So what does this come down to?
Well, tonight, we, along with the Gals of Top Chef 2: They Cook, We Dish and Ms. Place of Dishin’ Dat (whose jolly clever idea this all was), will be hosting a live chat for our readers. We'd love to hear from you all on this final night of the season. A special link will be provided to access the chat just prior to the beginning of the show. Provided everything goes well on the technical end, we look forward to chatting with you, possums, on this last night of the competition.
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 canapé?”
Amuse-Biatch Readers Throw Their Tinfoil Hats in the Hair, Shouting, "Huzzah!" as Marcel Vigneron Vindicates Them
There are a lot of theories out there about the hair clipper incident, when the rest of the final five tried to shave your head one night.
Oh- the conspiracy theory about how Bravo decided to flip it and reverse it. There’s no conspiracy theory. They reversed the order of operations- that’s not how everything went down.
Their heads were shaved before they went after you?
It makes more sense that way, but that’s not how it went.
Wait- Did Ilan and Elia shave their heads after Cliff held you down?
They tried to shave my head first. Then they went and shaved theirs. That’s reality television for you.
Reader, aspiring Eve Harrington, and new Amuse-Biatch in-house paparazzo Laz is not, unlike Miss Elia Aboumrad, a man to give up easily.
After witnessing Ilan Hall playing "In Your Eyes" for Marcel Vigneron on a boombox in Las Vegas, he knew something was up. He'd watched Double Indemnity plenty of times, and though he looks nothing like Edward G. Robinson, he had a gut feeling about this one. The weekend of Cointreau and go-go boys could wait. He sat in his convertible, cowboy hat pulled low over his aviator shades, and chewed on a toothpick while pondering the saffron strands of this mystery.
And then the targets were on the move. Laz followed discreetly as they drove north in Ilan Hall's rented convertible. "So they're pulling a Thelma and Louise," Laz gruffly thought to himself, taking swigs of Pepto-Bismol à la Cliff Crooks.
By the time the rental crossed the state line into Montana, Laz had figured it all out. Of course! The signs had been there all along. The attraction between the two had been instantaneous, electric, Kenmore Pro. As Laz was later to hear Ilan huskily whisper to Marcel, "You had me at, 'Do you wanna see my knives?'"
So the two met in the bathroom, unheard by anyone save Frank Terzoli's toothbrush, and planned it all out. They would just pretend to hate each other, displaying such camera-ready animosity and dramatic confrontations that the producers would have no choice but to ensure that they ended up in the finale together.
It was risky, but well worth it. After all, once they were in the finale, it wouldn't matter who won the title and the money. No matter where it came from, $100,000 would buy a sweet little gastropub in Helena, Montana, where they could serve dishes featuring Ilan's chorizo and Marcel's foam.
Laz followed them to the outskirts of Helena, where, using his telephoto lens, he took the photograph you see above. Once they were inside the cottage, Laz approached and peered through the window.
"I wish I knew how to queet you," Ilan said breathily to Marcel.
"Just ask Elia," replied Marcel, as they laughed, and began to kiss.
And what happened next was so ineffably tender that neither we nor Laz have the words for it, and so we turn to former New Jersey governor and "gay American" (Gaymerican?) Jim McGreevey and a charged passage from his memoir, The Confession:
"We undressed and he kissed me. It was the first time in my life that a kiss meant what it was supposed to mean -- it sent me through the roof. I was like a man emerging from...a cave to taste pure air for the first time, feel direct sunlight on pallid skin, warmth where there had only ever been a bone-chilling numbness....I pulled him to the bed and we made love like I'd always dreamed: a boastful, passionate, whispering, masculine kind of love."How's that for a Wednesday morning? Well, it was just like that, Laz assured us. As for who really earned the title of "top" chef, well, we'll leave that to your imagination.
Back in December, we quoted from a profile of Betty "Spice Rack" Fraser in the LA Independent, in which Spice Rack discussed her acting career before becoming a chef, including her stint as "a 'hooker with a heart of gold' on the 1980s television 'Wolf.'" Curious about Spice Rack's role on Wolf, we turned to the Internet Movie Data Base (IMBD) and other similar websites, but found no record of her Wolf gig.
Now, let's be clear about something. Contrary to what some readers seemed to believe, we never insinuated that Spice Rack was lying about the gig. The fact that her role on Wolf didn't appear on IMDB was not conclusive; just because a tree doesn't make a sound on IMDB doesn't mean it never fell. As we were reminded, IMDB is notoriously spotty, and Wolf wasn't exactly a top-caliber show attracting careful scholars and archivists.
However, we just received news from a reader that IMDB has woken up to its spottiness, and now Spice Rack is recognized for her role as "A Prostitute" on Wolf. Mind you, IMDB misspells her name as Betty Frasier, and lists the Wolf gig as "Frasier"'s only credit, but it's the thought that counts. As Betty Fraser, Spice Rack has two credits, for playing herself on one episode of Top Chef (which rather begs the question, Just what was she playing the rest of the time?), and for playing "Chef" on Holiday Home Invasion in 2005. Does anyone know anything about this?
But for all of you who wondered, the matter is now, er, laid to rest. According to IMDB, Spice Rack, who is scheduled to return in tonight's finale, was, indeed, a whore.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
There is fresh material every day on our even more frivolous new blog (if such a thing is possible) whorishly devoted to Top Design and other matters of taste, a blog that, in defiance of Top Design judge Margaret Russell, was designed around the cat and the catty.
If you feel like taking a little sea air, or just want to hang around a bunch of epigrammatic, drunken sailors, come have a look. We'll never shout, "Man overboard," but you will definitely encounter many a "Man over the top."
When we heard that Bravo had renewed Top Chef for a third season, and would be filming it in Miami, a series of thoughts floated like soap bubbles past the windmills of our mind.
First, we thought to ourselves, Oh goody, we won't be at a loss for material.
And then Miss XaXa said, "Miami, eh? Bravo must be counting on history repeating itself. Remember Flora, and Dan Renzi, and the whole Mike-spanks-Melissa-in-the-shower controversy that was The Real World - Miami? Now that an African-American castmember has been kicked off the L.A. season for 'physically touching' another cast member, where else were they going to go? New York?"
To which we said, "Oh yes, David and Tammy, how could we forget? Well, maybe the criminal laws are just more lax in Florida than in California."
Alas, the news is not good for potential Top Chef contestants looking to commit assault and battery. Just look at this story from the Associated Press:
Frat Brothers Get Prison for Paddling Pledge
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Jan. 30)
- Two fraternity brothers who paddled a pledge with wooden canes received a two-year prison term each Monday from a judge who said she wanted to send a message with the state's first prosecution under a felony hazing law.
Florida A&M University students Michael Morton, 23, of Fort Lauderdale, and Jason Harris, 25, of Jacksonville, were led from the courtroom in handcuffs, as was Harris' lawyer, Richard Keith Alan II, who was charged with indirect criminal contempt.
The students were charged with hazing Marcus Jones, 20, of Decatur, Ga., who suffered a broken ear drum and severe bruising to his buttocks after he was punched and struck with wooden canes.
Circuit Judge Kathleen Dekker said that one year might have been sufficient to punish Morton and Harris but that she added a second year to make sure that their sentences serve as a deterrent.
A jury in December convicted both under the new law, which makes it a felony to participate in hazing that results in serious bodily injury.
They could have from 12 months to five years under sentencing guidelines.
It was the second trial for Morton, Harris and three other Kappa Alpha Psi members. The first jury was unable to reach a verdict for any of the five defendants after raising questions about serious bodily injury, which is not defined in the law. The second jury also was unable to reach a verdict for the other three defendants, and they are to be tried a third time in March.
We bet that look from judge Gail Simmons was seen a lot around the Food & Wine and Bravo offices yesterday, after someone posted an article on Food & Wine's website purporting to profile the winner of this season of Top Chef.
Food & Wine is now churning fast in an attempt to turn spilt milk into whipped cream, releasing this statement on its website:
Top Chef, Season TwoUh-huh. As even the most credulous drag queen of our acquaintance once pronounced, "Sho' thang, Shuga'." If you want a more detailed description of the whole sordid mess, turn to our pals at Eater LA. But don't say you weren't warned. Proceed at peril to your hard-won innocence.
Yesterday, an intrepid reality tv fan found a Top Chef story on Food & Wine's server. Food & Wine prepared profiles of both Top Chef finalists in advance of the last episode so that we had a story on the winner ready to publish immediately after the season finale. Now for everyone to see, here are profiles of both finalists, Marcel and Ilan. Watch Top Chef on Wednesday, January 31 at 10PM EST to find out the real winner.
According to Andy:
The answer is NO. Last year's reunion capped what we thought was a drama-filled season and turned into "The Jerry Springer Show" so I am thinking this year's would turn into a reenactment of the day that guy got murdered on "The Jenny Jones Show".
Hmmmmm. Very interesting. Would that be the one where, according to CNN, "Jonathan Schmitz...[was] accused [and convicted] of murdering Scott Amedure after Amedure announced on 'The Jenny Jones Show' that he had a homosexual crush on Schmitz"? Yes, very interesting indeed.
During last week's "Finale - Part 1" (insert clarion call), the Bravo graphics told us that Ilan Hall's dish contained "morcilla," a Spanish blood sausage. However, Ilan himself told the judges that he had used "chorizo," which he had made at home (insert onanism joke), but which does not contain blood. So which is it? Was Ilan's sausage gorged with blood, or was it not? Inquiring minds want to know.
Monday, January 29, 2007
Yes, we have heard all about the Top Chef spoiler, the big, job-imperiling whoopsie-daisy by Food & Wine magazine revealing who the winner is.
But for the sake of those who don't want to know just who killed Roger Ackroyd (or framed Roger Rabbit) or what "Rosebud" is until the end, please don't post the spoilers in the comments section. You can whisper all your naughty secrets in our ear via e-mail, but let us leave at least one unspoilt pleasure for those who are not as sulphurously jaundiced as we. D'accord, possums?
As Sigourney Weaver Screams, and Lightning Flashes, Amuse-Biatch Special Guest Star Sir Ian McKellen Cries Out in Anguish, "It's Alive! It's Alive!"
When Alien* came out in 1979, the ads ominously informed you that, "In space, no one can hear you scream."
That may be well and good for outer space, but take our word for it--in a badly decorated space, everyone can hear us scream.
And they will, as we tackle Top Design, Bravo's follow-up to Top Chef, in our new blog, Pink Navy. We have fallen out of the frying pan, and into the Biedermeier, and when we deplore the décor, you'll know about it. And possums, it's no use putting the plastic covers on the couches; our claws can cut through anything.
So possums, come aboard; we're expecting you.
*(By the way, if you really want to have some fun, deconstruct the movie for your sci-fi geek friends as a prescient parable about AIDS, the construction of the female identity, and the male fear of penetration; every time the alien attacks a man aboard that spaceship, watch just where that tentacle goes in.)
Amuse-Biatch Photoreportage: Miss XaXa Lives La Vida Loca at the Hi-Life Cafe with Alex, Er, Carlos Fernandez
At any rate, Miss XaXa drove six hours on Saturday for a taste of the hi-life at Chuck and Carlos' restaurants. A full report will be forthcoming, but here, to whet your appetite, is a little photoreportage amuse-bouche.
Basking in the glow of the light off the tangerine sorbet walls of the Hi-Life Cafe, and one step closer to her life's ambition, Miss XaXa whispers to Carlos Fernandez through clenched teeth, "So, are you gonna go straight, or am I gonna have to do some damage?"
Chivalrous Kyle the bartender, adept at keeping ladies company and plying them with booze and witticisms.
Two regulars send themselves into giggles by teasing Carlos whenever he walks by: "Carlos, pack your knives and go." And because Carlos is a man with a sense of humor, he doesn't claw their eyes out.
The Coca-Cola cake was so good that the gentleman in question insisted on being photographed while licking the plate. And no, that is not Fran Lebowitz at the table, though if you look real quick, and look at what the man is doing....
On Elia Aboumrad:
Chef material? Not just yet. Why not? Her insistence on making everything to order "a la minute" during the "Hollywood cocktail party" was a really bush league move. And the "I quit" business--same episode.( Leaving the line for emotional reasons--unforgivable in a professional kitchen). Everybody who's ever done a volume passed hors d'oeuvre party knows from painful experience that you have to make compromises. (half cook that shit in advance!) Drunks want food fast. They want it hot. They want it NOW!
On Michael "Beer Bong" Midgley:
Let this guy run a kitchen and the food and booze would be running out the back door with his cooks--who he'd probably be drinking with. That said? I love this kid. There would have been a place for him in nearly every kitchen I ever ran. Probably the grill. (Don't let this Manimal NEAR saute!!)
On Betty "Spice Rack" Fraser:
Forget about. Very limited skills--and it showed.
On Cliff Crooks:
VERY solid cook. And will definitely be a solid chef as well. He crossed the line Big Time with the Marcel incident and he knew it. He deserved to get canned, would have been canned--and surely sued--in any professional situation where he behaved similarly. Period.
On our chulo chef, Carlos Fernandez, whom he (unintentionally?) dubs "Alex":
Nice guy. And back in the minor leagues--where he should have stayed.
On Sam Talbot:
Probably the closest thing to Chef material this season--with the most chefly demeanor and attitude (generally speaking).
On Marcel Vigneron:
But his Chef potential? Presently zero. You have to get along with the people you work with--and I can't imagine this guy "working with others" over time. He's petty, vindictive, immature, a loudmouth, not a team player by any stretch of the imagination.
On Ilan Hall:
Okay: So Ilan cribs his offerings shamelessly from Andy Nusser. And he's a manipulative, conspiratorial, vindictive, weasely little shit....(Hardly impediments to a career as a chef). These are classic assets. If Ilan has a fatal flaw, it's that he let Marcel get up his nose so easily and predictably. And that when he (again and again) conspired to sabotage or screw over his enemy--either directly or through surrogates, he was both obviously behind it--his fingerprints all over the place, and worse--FAR worse-- unsuccessful!
On THE INCIDENT:
I agree with those who suggest that it would have been fair if EVERYBODY involved in the "full-Nelson incident" had been kicked off the show. The event reflected most poorly on Ilan. Who came off as an instigator--and a weasel. It would have been appropriate for him to have stepped up and thrown himself on his sword when Cliff got canned. Wouldn't (and shouldn't) have saved Cliff--but it would have been the Right Thing to do. Instead, he behaved like a punk and let the black man take the fall. It was sickening to see him stand silently by while Cliff took the full freight. Notice that Cliff kept his mouth shut, blamed no one else, took his jolt like a man.
"My friend, Ryan, and I
Hanging at Underbar."
Posing with the Vita prep."
"With my Woman
My girlfriend, Carolina."
"Not sure what's going on in here."
"I love these guys!"
"Jill and I
My breast/best friend!"
"Me and Hedy
Hedy runs our kitchen at Grub. She's a very strong and talented woman."
"John and I
John is a professional organizer whom I've known for 25 years. He organized my life."
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Friday, January 26, 2007
Reader and part-time paparazzo Laz was in Las Vegas today for his weekly chips, convertibles and Cointreau go-go boy extravaganza when he happened on something. Driving through a side street, he heard the very loud (if tinny) strains of Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes." As a Peter Gabriel fan, nay, connoisseur, Laz was intrigued. He drove closer to the source of the music, and his nostrils were assailed by the unmistakable scents of saffron and garlic.
And then Laz saw him. There, in front of Marcel Vigneron's residence, stood Ilan Hall, unshaven, having just quit his job at Casa Mono and driven for two days to Las Vegas. On the trunk of his rental car rested a still-steaming and symbolic pan of paella, and hoisted on his shoulder was a boombox, blaring out the heart-tugging Peter Gabriel chanson.
Though transfixed (and not a little touched) by the tender spectacle, Laz had enough presence of mind to whip out his cell phone and take this shot, which he then forwarded to us. We have only to thank Laz for his tenacity, and to wonder, What will Gary and Kenny have to say about this? Miss XaXa in turn wonders, "Can sweet, sweet saffron foam be far behind?"
Possums, we had quite the coughing fit (from the smoke, bien sûr) when we read a shocking allegation about Padma on the Best Week Ever blog. Selon the BWE kidders' exclusive!:
According to a source who worked on the set of Top Chef, the ex-model turned trophy wife turned hostess Padma Lakshmi allegedly enjoys smoking pot on set, giving a whole new meaning to the term “Quickfire Challenge” — see, cause she’s allegedly lighting up a joint instead of a stove! Anyway. Exactly how often this happened is disputed, though we were assured it was allegedly “fairly regularly.”We're shocked, possums, shocked. We knew she had said "No!" to fashion sense, and we thought she had also said "No!" to drugs. Miss XaXa wonders, "Is this why Michael "Beer Bong" Midgley stayed on the show so long?"
We don’t know whether this has ever happened to you. You’re in the middle of—
“Uh-uh,” interrupts Miss XaXa. “Remember our younger readers.”
Right. Let’s see, how do we say this delicately?
Ok, so, let’s say you’re breaking the Sixth Commandment (despite being raised Catholic, we’ve fallen so far from grace that we actually had to look up what it was), or committing the crime against nature (no, Jessica Simpson and Ken Pavé, we don’t mean hair extensions), and it’s going well—very well, in fact—and then your codefendant calls you by the wrong name, or worse still, mispronounces your real name.
What do you do? Do you stop what you’re doing and correct your codefendant?
Of course, that’s not our real dilemma. Our philosophy is: if they’re good at what they’re doing (or their nickname is “Chrome”), we don’t care what they call us. As a practical Southerner, Miss XaXa says, “Why do you think I call all my boys, ‘Sugar’? It avoids the whole problem.” (And that’s why we call everyone, “Possum.” It’s so much cheaper than a PalmPilot or a little black book.)
No, our real dilemma is, Do you kiss and tell?
“Oh, puh-leeze,” responded Miss XaXa. “Have you any idea what the phone lines and the brunch restaurants sound like on Sunday mornings in Chelsea, WeHo and the Castro? It’s nothing but kiss and tell. In fact, the telling’s usually more fun than the kissing.”
As always, we had no answer to what we call her “Mason-Dixie line.”
So here’s the scoop, possums. On Wednesday night, during Bravo’s post-show webcast, “Watch What Happens,” Amuse-Biatch got a shout-out from none other than button-eyed Bravo VP, boy reporter and blogger Raggaydy Andy Cohen himself.
Mind you, being on the West Coast and wanting to avoid spoilers, we had no idea it was happening. “Typical of so many bad dates,” says Miss XaXa. “So many times you’re not even aware it’s happening, and you don’t even have Rohypnol as an excuse.”
Raggaydy Andy, answering a question from John from Long Island (“Um, watching last week’s episode, it seems like Cliff's attack on Marcel took place before the head shaving; did that happen?”), started off his answer thus:
“That’s a really good question. There’s been a lot of conspiracy theories on blogs [like]Ah-MOOSE-beeyotch, hilarious Top Chef blog, they have some great stuff on there….”
We might be delusional, but we swear we also heard Tom Colicchio saying, “Yeah,” and laughing in the background, and Lord knows that when Papa Bear laughs, our porridge is just right.
And we knew, just for a moment, what Pauline Kael felt when she went to watch Willow and found that George Lucas had included a character named General Kael.
Anyway, thanks for the shout-out, Andy. And possums, if you want to check it out after your brunch of ricotta-blueberry pancakes, Negronis, and Valium, the link is here.
It’s under Top Chef - Jan 24, Part 4, at the 2:05 minute mark.
P.S. And an Amuse-Biatch shout-out to reader egyptchick7, who was the first to break through our Rohypnol haze, slap us around a little, throw some cold water on us, and let us know what had happened.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Garbled Speaks: Joaquín “El Baisano Jalil” Pardavé Rolls in His Grave, Hands Elia Aboumrad a Tinfoil Hat from the Amuse-Biatch Collection
Herewith, a more or less faithful transcription (we’re not stenographers, so we might be off on a word or two) of the portion of Elia Aboumrad’s interview with Chow.com’s Joyce Slaton on the subject of Marcel Vigneron. The interview itself can be heard here.
Joyce Slaton: By the end of the show, you seemed to have a big problem with Marcel, where it seemed like you sort of started off sort of allies. I think you worked together in Vegas. Is that right?
Elia Aboumrad: I trained him for the opening of Robuchon, yes.
JS: Right. And it seemed at the beginning, you sort of seemed to take his side, and defend his dish, at least it seemed that way, and then by the end you seemed completely frustrated with him and want very little to do with him.
EA: The thing is, I always, like, try to speak for the truth. And when his dish was good, his dish was good, I wasn’t gonna lie. Also the relationship between him and I was very different. He never spoke down to me, he never had a fight with me because I was his sous-chef, so I think—on the opening of Robuchon—I think that gave him a different way of looking at me in the competition, I guess, because he was always trying to be nice and polite, so I had no problems with him most of the competition.
JS: So what hap—? I’m sorry. What happened to sort of sour you on him?
EA: Well, because then he started, at the finale, I think, he started feeling more pressure, I don’t know, and he just started doing the things he would do to others to me. Marcel cheated throughout the whole competition, different times, and he was never called out cheating. Everybody knew.
JS: How was he cheating?
EA: I don’t know. He had agar in his bag and he would use it to change the density of the sauces, or one day he had recipes from Joel Robuchon. These were little details that I think were the things that made Betty and Sam and Ilan and everybody be so mad at him.
JS: So why didn’t, why didn’t anyone bring, certainly there was other allegations of cheating, why didn’t anyone bring Marcel’s cheating up with the judges?
EA: I did, and then I think they’re gonna show it at the finale. I don’t know how they’re gonna edit it, what am I gonna do? you know. I am not the producer, I’m just one of the contestants. I have no saying in this whatsoever, because it’s gonna be edited again.
JS: What happened the night that everyone, that you and Ilan shaved your heads? The way that it looks is that you guys decided, you were drinking, you were silly, you decided you were going to shave his head, Cliff held him down for a few minutes, and it didn’t end up happening, and then, afterwards you and Ilan shaved your heads. Is that what happened? ‘Cause in the show, in the editing they show you—
EA: That’s exactly what happened. And I didn’t drink, I don’t drink, I don’t get drunk, I was just, like, Well, now that we have this machine, and now you wanted to do this to Marcel, which I wasn’t involved in, like they put the blogs. I didn’t even know about this joke until it was happening and I go then, Ok, guys, I’m not gonna defend him, but I’m not gonna help you either, you know. So when Marcel went away really upset, I’m, like, Well, we have this machine, I’ve wanted to shave my head my whole life, and I finally have the guts to do it, and Sam was like, well, if you do it, we’ll all do it. I’m like, Are you serious? And then we like started joking around, and then it happened and I really enjoyed it, I have to say that we had a lot of fun that night, and I—
JS: Do you feel bad at all about what happened to Marcel? I mean, it looks, it looks a little, it looks a little sad, I mean it’s hard to see, to say what happened there, but—
EA: No, I don’t feel bad because that was not the way it happened, and, no. [laughs] I mean, I didn’t help to do it, but I was not gonna either stop them. I mean, this was a joke they were playing on him, they didn’t went through with it. Marcel has been, I mean, he has insulted people in so many ways during the whole competition that hasn’t been shown, like his verbal way of talking to people I think it’s worse than tackling him to the floor and trying to shave his head. This happened. I think it was a guy’s joke, it was in between them. He was being a, I don’t know, very arrogant with all of them all the time, and then when he needed help he was like, [baby voice] ‘Oh please’
JS: So do you think it was right that Cliff got kicked off?
EA: I don’t think it was right that Cliff was kicked off. If it was had been for his food, yes, but not for that, not for that because so many other things happened during the show where people should have been kicked out, like for cheating, and they weren’t, and then, Oh Cleef is a bad boy, he’s being, I don’t know, I thought that it wasn’t necessary.
JS: So I guess you’re not in touch with Marcel anymore?
EA: No. He called me a few times to watch the show together, and I was going to. I have to say that I called him back, and I then I realized that, we have this voting competition on Tv.com, and every week they just kick someone out, so the ones that remain in the competition keep on competing, I mean, it’s obvious that he hired a hacker—
JS: He hired a hacker? Are you saying—? I’m sorry. It’s obvious that he hired a hacker and gives himself more votes, is that what you’re saying?
EA: Yes, it’s evident. It’s evident, so after I saw that, I’m, like, no, you know what, Marcel? I can’t, and he’s like why? I’m like, you know why. I don’t wanna hang out with you, period. You go and there, and every time you vote for Sam, Ilan or me, he gets more four votes, and then when you vote for him, he gets a hundred votes, with one vote—
[Joyce Slaton laughs]
EA: So it’s evident. It’s not even done in a smart way.
Well, possums, we didn’t think we’d have to quote Elton John so soon again, but hey, hey, the beetch ees back. Fortunately, so is the food, at least for most of the episode.
Here, then, the obligatory synopsis (though you’ll have to forgive us if our notes aren’t exact, since we were laughing too hard to catch everything; as Nancy Mitford was fond of saying, it was “blissikins”).
The show began with montages of the four finalists—Marcel Vigneron and Elia Aboumrad in Las Vegas, Ilan Hall and Sam Talbot in New York—packing their bags to travel to the “finale” in Hawaii. There was also footage in which—shockingly!—coworkers of all four finalists said nice things about them on camera. There was even footage of Marcel in an apartment with two other guys—Gary and Kenny—whipping up new and exciting dishes, as if to say to the audience, “See? He’s got friends, maybe even room mates. He’s not a total pariah.”
We also got to see that, young follicles being what they are, Ilan’s and Elia’s hair had started to grow back. But that wasn’t the only surprise. When we first caught a glimpse of the new and improved Sam Talbot, we were surprised that Bravo, slavishly given as it is to product placement, didn’t emphasize Sam’s recent discovery of the Mach 3 and Pert Plus. And it seems that he defied Ilan’s accusation of “wussiness” by finally taking the clippers to his own hair, as the greasy topknot appears to be gone as well. Alas, all it did was emphasize just how elfin his features are, practically ideal for a Franklin Mint series of Lord of the Rings characters.
(Speaking of product placement, we were definitely convinced that Marcel is a good sport by the little routine he did when they entered their hotel suite in Hawaii and he feigned excitement at finding “fine champagne,” a bottle of Korbel, waiting for them. A man who is a master cook at Joël Robuchon’s restaurant, and therefore knows that Champagne is an AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) and, consequently, that to refer to Korbel as “champagne,” let alone “fine champagne,” is not only an act of extreme charity but very possibly a WTO violation, nevertheless does just that—and on a cooking show, no less—to satisfy Bravo’s insatiable product-placement whores. Once we wiped away the tears of laughter, we asked rhetorically, “How can anyone possibly say that Marcel is not a team player?”)
At LAX, on their way to Hawaii, Elia, Sam, and Ilan arrived conveniently (and contrivedly) before Marcel did, giving them an opportunity to start slamming him in the comfort of Business First Class. (Remembering the deceit on the plane to Paris during the last season of Project Runway—what we saw was staged, and it wasn’t the real plane they took to Paris—we wondered just how real this little scene was.)
Once in Hawaii, the finalists were met by the reigning Miss Hawaii in a shockingly ill-fitting and fugly yellow dress (paging Kayne Gillaspie!), and taken for a helicopter ride to a wondrous Hidden Valley, there to have a celebratory Hawaiian lunch with guest judge Alan Wong. We were immediately reminded of Nancy Drew and the Mystery of the Golden Pavilion, from which we learned everything about Hawaiian culture and cuisine before we’d so much as heard of James Michener or Magnum P.I. Chef Wong seems like a lovely, sincere, and hospitable man, but the whole traditional Hawaiian prayer before the lunch, featuring a buff, half-naked man, was decidedly uncomfortable and smacked of the sort of retrograde, pandering tourist ethnography that is the hallmark of the Nancy Drew books. (Although, as Miss XaXa pointed out, looking at a half-naked man with perky nipples as he blows a large conch is a form of worship for some people.)
After lunch, Padma Lakshmi informed the finalists that there would be one more Elimination Challenge, and that two of the cheftestants would be sent home. The challenge? To put a personal spin on traditional Hawaiian luau dishes for Chef Wong’s birthday luau.
During the cooking and serving process, Elia went into full-beetch mode about Marcel, complaining about offenses various and sundry. Ilan and Sam then tried to convince Elia that she should say something to the judges about how Marcel cheated: “If I say something, you have to say something.”
At Judges’ Table, the judges spoke long and well about the various dishes, relieved to have the focus finally back on the food. There was even a little scuffle between Padma and Tom over Sam’s dishes, with Tom taking Sam to task because his dishes involved no cooking, just marinating, which Padma insisted was cooking of sorts. (We’re going to borrow Alanis Morissette for a moment to talk about how ironic it was for Tom to make a crudo on the Today show today of all days.)
During Judges’ Table, we were distracted by the outbreak of soul patches among the men on the show, with Ilan being the sole soulless one. We confess we’ve never seen the point of sporting a merkin under one’s mouth, but chacun à son propre goût and all that.
We were snapped out of our soulful contemplation when Tom called Elia on her bullcheat. It was actually Ilan who set the ball rolling, “Elia and I were talking…all of us feel…blah blah blah,” and Elia floated cheating accusations against Marcel. This did not please Tom, who looked on the verge of spontaneous combustion. When pressed for details, Elia was unable to provide any. Sam, who earlier was encouraging her to talk, hung her out to dry, as did Ilan. And Tom let her have it with both barrels, and Padma sent her packing. Pobrecita de Elia. She trusted those two gringo boys, and look what happened. Tsk tsk. You should have remembered the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Gadsden Purchase, querida. And then Sam got the axe. Padma was so genuinely verklempft at having to let Sam go that she said Ilan was going to the Top Chef “final” rather than “finale.”
Of course, the episode was full of the usual unintentional double entendres—“feeling the itch in the back part of my hard palate,” “cause a reaction in your throat,” “Ilan’s leg in my lap,” “My poke is the best,” Elia’s unfortunately named “tuna juice” creation—but the real doozies came after the elimination, when Ilan and Marcel were the last two standing. To wit:
Ilan: “I can’t wait to make you cry tomorrow.”
Marcel: “Don’t flatter yourself. It’ll take more than a little paprika to make me cry.”
Ilan: “I’ve got more in my knife kit than paprika.”
For Jeff Stryker’s sake, who writes this stuff? It’s like sub par Gordon Merrick, or premium ChiChi LaRue, the sort of dialogue usually uttered in a scenario featuring tool belts, baby oil, and a Tangerine-Dream-on-Quaaludes soundtrack. Indeed, we nearly got a chortle-induced hernia when the West Coast broadcast we saw carried an ad for “KY Brand Intrigue.” And a friend of ours, a real con-o-sewer of these things, pointed out that “Marcel” and “Ilan” are archetypal Bel Ami names, proving, if proof were needed, that Bravo really has taken the “gay network” crown from Lifetime.
But really, we were most reminded of that Technicolor Western camp classic, Duel in the Sun (referred to by wags as Lust in the Dust), David O. Selznick’s folly of a follow-up to Gone with the Wind, in which Gregory Peck, playing poky cowboy Lewt McCanles, and Jennifer Jones (Mrs. Selznick) in brownface, playing “lusty half-breed” Pearl Chavez, love each other so much that they hate each other. In fact, they hate each other so much that they finish by killing each other. At the end, they have a real humdinger of a shootout in a cinematically craggy landscape, then crawl, bleeding, across the rocks to make out and die in each other’s arms. It’s quite something, and our money’s on Marcel for the Jennifer Jones part. (Why? Just take a look at these choice bits of dialogue: “Under that heathen blanket, there's a full-blossomed woman built by the devil to drive men crazy” & “Pearl, you're curved in the flesh of temptation. Resistance is going to be a darn sight harder for you than females protected by the shape of sows.”)
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Here, then, is our transcript of the 30 seconds or so it took for Tom 'n' Al to discuss this:
Tom Colicchio: Last episode, things got a little out of hand, and they were drinking quite a bit. They said they were going to shave their heads. They asked for a handheld camcorder, and they actually filmed themselves. There was no crew around, no production around at the time they did this, and it got a little out of hand. And Cliff kind of manhandled Sam there [sic]. As you can see, Cliff’s a much bigger guy.
Al Roker: Yeah. And you got a lot of email about this.
TC: We did. People were really upset, but you know, our feeling was that this happened--
TC: This wasn’t …you know, how can you have two contestants show up with shaved heads and I mean they’re trying to look like us [pause for laughter that never really came], but shaved heads, and Cliff’s gone, and not explain this. So I think we had to show it, and some people were upset that it was kind of violent, but this happened.
You can watch the full video (and the crudo demonstration!) at www.today.msnbc.com.
We read an interesting rumor (Snack via Eater LA) that, as of today, Ilan Hall has quit his position as a line cook at the Mario Batali-owned Casa Mono. Do any of you possums have confirmation or further information?
Again, from the Raggaydy Andy Cohen interview of "dear hunter" Sam Talbot, published today, January 24, 2007:
I HAVE TO START WITH THE GROUP'S DISLIKE OF MARCEL. IT SEEMS LIKE A "LORD OF THE FLIES" THING BUILT AND BUILT AS THE COMPETITION WENT ON. IT SEEMS LIKE YOU GUYS JUST DIDN'T LIKE HIM BUT IT'S HARD TO SHOW HIM ACTUALLY DOING ANYTHING TO YOU GUYS BECAUSE THERE ISN'T ONE INCIDENT THAT HAPPENED... CAN YOU EXPLAIN IT?
It's not that he is a bad person.. The lord of the flies thing is not the right mentality. Marcel has great ideas and is a good cook. He is an instigator and it is hard to explain. There's a lot of things that he did. Did he deserve to get manhandled? NO. That was ridiculous. When Frank threatened him, that's not right. I don't hate him. He has an ability to get under your skin and I have heard that the producers are finding a hard time showing why he's provoking us. You're not going to find one incident but it's a lot of undermining, sly vindictive comments that built and built and built. You're never going to see him lash out at someone -- it's not like that. It's all under the breath stuff that drove us crazy.
And we apologize, possums, for that loud cackle you heard in the background when we read the sentence in bold. Most unprofessional of us.
From Raggaydy Andy Cohen's Bravo blog interview with Sam Talbot, published today, January 24, 2007:
YOU ARE GETTING FLACK FOR NOT JUMPING IN AND STOPPING CLIFF WHEN HE ATTACKED MARCEL IN HIS SLEEP. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?
In watching the show when Tom called me out for not doing anything.. I mean... Cliff is not my co-worker or brother nor is Marcel. I am not related to them and they are grown adults. Every action has its consequence. I was sitting on the couch not doing anything. I didn't know that this was going into fruition. I was just sitting watching. Everybody was drinking and it got out of hand. When they showed me sitting on the couch saying "go in there" I was saying it because I thought he was going to come back with a bat or something. I thought he should go in to see if he was ok. If Cliff actually hurt him or a fight broke out I would've stepped in. At that moment I didn't feel like a babysitter. I didn't think he was in danger of bodily harm at that minute. At that point everybody was drinking and I wasn't in charge or the babysitter. Not to sound crass but that's how I saw it.
SOME PEOPLE THINK ALL OF YOU SHOULD'VE BEEN ELIMINATED. THOUGHTS?
Reader "Anonymous" sent us this screencap from last night's Bravo rebroadcast of last week's episode. In this screencap (compare with the screencap below from last week's broadcast), it appears that a miraculous magnification has taken place, and a mysterious black fog has fallen over the lower and right-hand sides of the screen, where once upon a time a lushly betressed Elia Aboumrad appeared on the floor with her face in her hands.
Will miracles never cease? It's definitely time to grab the Reynolds. Next thing we know, Mother Teresa will be disappearing from that cinnamon bun.
Mia Gaines-Alt got a belated birthday surprise Wednesday, though it wasn't a good one. Two days after she turned 33, she watched while she kicked herself off the Bravo network reality cooking show "Top Chef."
She knew what was going to happen because most of the season was filmed over the summer. She just wasn't expecting the world -- or at least a small slice of it -- to see her get kicked off the week of her birthday.
"(My family and I) all cried and watched it together," Gaines-Alt said. "I knew it was coming, but we figured it was not going to air until Christmas week."
In this week's show, Gaines-Alt was on the losing side of a two-team challenge in which each team attempted to outcater the other at a cocktail party. Just as it looked as if the judges were going to give her team leader, Elia Aboumrad, the boot, Gaines-Alt stepped in and offered to go home instead.
Even after watching herself give up a chance for $100,000 and a feature in Food & Wine magazine, she still believes it was the right call.
"I always have to be satisfied with the decisions I make," said Gaines-Alt, who owns Feed the People, a barbecue restaurant in Oakdale. "I realized that there was no way they were going to give (Elia) a second chance. I understand it is a competition, but I'm only human. … She may not have even had a job to go back to after the competition. I already have something to go back to."
One bit of good news for Miss Josette Eber is that "the exposure from the show has improved business at Feed the People. 'Even before the show actually aired, the buzz went out and the place was packed,' Gaines-Alt said. "A lot of that has died away, but we are consistent now. … If anything, I might need a bigger location. It's kind of frustrating for people who come out here from Modesto but can't get in right away because there is a line."
As Miss XaXa found out in person, those Modestans are in for some good beans and 'cue.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Come sappiamo tutti, "vespa" vuole dire "wasp" in italiano. In fact, according to Wikipedia, "'Sembra una vespa!' ('It looks like a wasp!') exclaimed Piaggio president Enrico Piaggio when he first laid eyes on what would become the most successful scooter of all time." Now, our knowledge of entomology is pretty spotty (though we do know a cockroach when we see one, [Gregor] Samsa Talbot), but a wasp and a gnat seem pretty closely related to us.
It's a Ridgeline and I really love it. Big and functional."
As a Southerner, Miss XaXa has a thing about boys with trucks, and this picture of her Chulo Chef, Carlos Fernandez, atop a big truck sent her into lustful titters (one part Harajuku girl to three parts Dorothy Malone trying to seduce Rock Hudson in Written on the Wind). "Oh, Carlos, it's so butch," she purred. But Carlos would no doubt like us to remind you, possums, "Friends don't let friends drive (or dial) drunk."
"Me and Truck
Me next to my new truck."
Wait, Beer Bong drives a truck? You could have knocked us over with a peacock feather.
On behalf of New York City pedestrians, we were greatly comforted to find this photograph of Cliff Crooks' motorcycle alongside the other pictures in the photo album, which show Cliff enthusiastically endorsing Grey Goose and looking, oh, let's say, just this side of sober. In fact, for a second our eyes blurred and we swore that his bike was a Kamikaze and not a Kawasaki.
I enjoy riding my bicycle."
Well, it is "No Name-Calling" Week, and we just don't have the heart to say anything mean about Otto Borsich, so let's just say that, "Biking is great exercise and great for the environment!"