Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Rankings after Ep. 4

1. Julia - stayed under the radar, I must assume through a solid performance that Ramsay didn't even bother to question. Also performed well on the palate test.
2. Josh - I can't help but like him even when he screws up because of how honest he seems to the camera. "I screwed up. No excuses." I TRUST him!
3. Bonnie - This may seem like an odd choice, but I think Bonnie did two great things in the fourth episode. 1) She rocked the palate test (and did not cheat!). 2) She made a very convincing plea to stay, even though she wanted to go home, and it was a risky move playing the empathy game with Ramsay ("I'm sure you made mistakes when you were starting out too, and I'm learning from mine.")
4. Jen - Jen escaped the palate test altogether, and I didn't see her doing anything great in the kitchen. But Ramsay picked her to nominate so she was the best of the girls during service, and I thought her nomination was a good one. Plus, I like her honesty about her trash mistake.
5. Rock - If I didn't think this antagonism with Josh was absurd, he might even be my first choice, but I think he's expressing that he has this awful grudge that Josh really isn't giving him the fuel for, and I worry about that.
6. Melissa - Still think she has a poor attitude, and after Ramsay overruled her nomination, I'm sure she'll get an inflated head and her attitude will get even worse.
7. Brad - No idea what he contributed this time, and doesn't really have that interesting a character to me.
8. Vinnie - The right choice to go. Even if he's not a violent hothead, and has endured much Ramsay torture, he has still proven that he lacks humility.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Episode 4 Recap: Overruled.

What happened to letting the customers decide? The comment cards were supposed to decide the winner or loser yesterday, but Ramsay decided to take matters into his own hands. Twice in a row.

"There are no winning teams," Ramsay says. So he lets Rock and Jen pick a nominee from their respective teams to go home. Rock picks Josh because of his increasing vendetta against Josh. Rock decided that before the service. Really poor form, Rock! I'm starting to like him less. Jen picks Melissa, apparently because Jen likes Bonnie more than Melissa.

And Chef Ramsay says that he's disappointed that Rock and Jen have not picked the worst performers, and decides to make the nominations himself, picking Vinnie and Bonnie.

But was it really so egregious? Josh screwed up the palate challenge, putting the men's team squarely behind early in the challenge. And he may not have stood out as bad during service, but he certainly didn't stand out as good.

Even if Ramsay's decision to overrule was somewhat justified with respect to Josh, how can he quibble with Jen's nomination of Melissa? Ramsay himself called her out to tell her how badly she performed, saying that she would not be nominating anyone tonight. If she were not a proper choice, why did he chastise her like that? It makes me wish Jen had said "I nominated Melissa because you pointed out that she performed badly, Chef Ramsay, and I agreed."

But really, why even go through the process of nomination if it's just a test to see if they pick who you'd pick? Why doesn't he just start picking people off after dinner service, no discussion?

As we all know, Vinnie went home, and it was probably a good choice - he was never able to overcome his arrogance. It was hard not to laugh at the gigantic posterior bobbing away from the camera down that long hallway in slow motion.

Now for the bitchiness quotient, I suppose we're left with Melissa and Rock.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Rankings #3

Here are my favorites after the 3rd episode, in descending order, based on a number of factors such as what I can discern of their talent, and whether they're a whiny bitch.

  1. Julia - Honest, forthright, and unintimidated. Hell yes.
  2. Josh - Josh's camera confessionals are quite likeable, and he seems like a contender talent-wise.
  3. Rock - Shone on tonight's episode, but he should take care to keep his ego in check.
  4. Joanna - Showed integrity, though she has an edge. Would have liked her to stay longer.
  5. Melissa - Melissa seems very bitchy to me, but she also seems quite good. She hasn't pissed me off enough to slam her for that alone yet, but I hope she's learned her lesson about Julia.
  6. Jen - She seems like a mediocre chef, but admirable the way she stepped up and self-nominated.
  7. Brad - Make more of an impression on me. More than burning the Wellingtons, and randomly being named the leader, that is.
  8. Bonnie - Oh, how I like that there's a cute girl with my name on a reality show. But she hasn't shown any talent, and I don't like her prejudice against Julia.
  9. Vinnie - He rubbed me the wrong way the first episode, but seems to be improving on the not getting in people's faces thing.
  10. Aaron - I actually like Aaron quite a bit, but he wasn't cut out for reality TV.

The lesser of two pieces of garbage: Recap #3

I was cheated out of the second half of the second episode (last year they showed the previous week's every week, right?), and missed the recap at the very beginning of this one, so I spent the first few minutes trying to figure out who the heck got cut last week. The numbers are even, so it was a guy... and it wasn't Aaron?! Vitriolic Vinnie? No, he's still there. Well, he can't have been that important if I don't even remember him.

Then, at the commercial, I find myself staring at those ten faces for the text messaging contest, and suddenly it comes to me. EDDIE! of course! Man, I was rooting for him. That's sad - I remember when he said he wanted to prove that little guys can accomplish big things. It may be better that I didn't have to see that.

OK, so - the first task: cooking breakfast for the armed forces. Clever, as was the navy guy who said "if I had known my food would have gotten here faster, I'd have joined the army." And indeed, the girls cooking for the army won, with Waffle House line cook Julia at the helm. The prize? A helicopter ride - one of those things that Bonnie thought that she would never ever in a million years get the chance to do. And of course, QT with the big guy.

Aaron collapsed right before the boys' potato-peeling punishment began. CONVENIENT, ISN'T IT? I'm just kidding. Chef Ramsay was somewhat ambiguous as to whether the doctor mandated that Aaron not return, or whether it was more of, say, a liability issue. In any case, Chef made the call to let him know he can't come back, and Aaron's disappointment, which may or may not have been scripted, was heartbreaking. Oh, Aaron of the trembling lower lip. Poor Aaron. He was a cutie pie, very out of his league, an aged teddy bear among those brusque young bucks. I guess the retirement home chef life is a little slower paced...

The remaining four all gunned for the title of "leader." I missed why the guys needed to have a leader, actually, but it didn't seem to matter to them, either - they all wanted to be it. In what I think is a good strategic move, Josh changed his "vote" to Brad at the last second. But wait, who the hell is this "Brad"? I've never noticed him before... he looks like a slightly heavier Vinnie with a less interesting face. No matter, "Brad" it is, though Rock seems to seethe a bit.

Dinner service. The boys start strong, then slow down at some point when "Brad" burns the Wellingtons, and is caught red handed trying to scrape the burned part off. Other than the Wellingtons, I can't recall too many big mistakes in the guys' kitchen other than your run-of-the-mill "do it over, it sucks."

The girls, who haven't really been able to get anything done at all, catch up when Brad's Wellingtons set the guys back, but only enough to bring everything to a halt. Because um, Jen burnt the Wellingtons too. And the girls' side made at least three Huge Mistakes, sealing their loss.

By "Huge Mistake" I mean the kind of mistake that routinely gets one of those blue-tinted flashbacks, the kind that Chef Ramsay marks as truly egregious, usually attempting to make the errant chef recognize that he or she is not only the worst chef that ever lived, but isn't really much of a human being, either. Here were hell's bitches' mistakes:
  • Bonnie served a raw scallop ("I can't trust you ever again")
  • Joanna put rancid crab in the risotto ("You didn't smell the crab?!!!")
  • Jen picked spaghetti out of the trash and tried to reboil it ("Garbage?")

Instead of the least bad chef picking two nominees, Ramsay tells the team to discuss and pick together. I fully expected the nominees to come from the three Huge Mistakes. Joanna seems to accept her fate for the rancid crab episode, and suggests herself and Jen. Silly Jen, didn't you ever watch Seinfeld? Adjacent to refuse... is refuse.

But for some reason, people started picking on Julia's lack of knowledge again, and she ends up as one of the two choices. Bonnie cited in particular that Julia didn't know what a creme brulee was. Melissa also tossed in a general sentiment, apparently based solely on prejudice, that Julia could never run a Michelin-grade restaurant. See, I know what a creme brulee is, but I actually have no clue what a "Michelin-grade restaurant" is. Joanna, who presumably does know, jumped in and shouted, "that girl could run a Michelin-grade restaurant." That's right, Joanna.

Did Julia even do anything objectionable here? Not knowing what creme brulee is is not a crime - they didn't get to it, so we don't know if she would have screwed it up. Admitting that you don't know what creme brulee is on a televised reality cooking show takes balls, and Julia's got them. She isn't afraid to stick up for herself, she isn't afraid to tell the truth even if it means praising someone she's trying to beat, and she isn't afraid to admit when she doesn't know something, no matter what these petty-minded individuals might think of her.

Not only did Julia not do anything wrong in this episode, but she stood out as doing many things well. Besides acting as the clear leader during the breakfast task, and helping finish the guys' breakfast service, it was Julia that prevented the garbage spaghetti from being served. No one thought to mention that, and Julia herself was too humble to take credit.

Ramsay asks Joanna for the nominees, and she first names herself, then names Julia - but wait! Jen presents herself as the second nominee! She fesses up to the trash-spaghetti incident in a noble gesture that prevented the possibility of grave injustice. And she is spared, Joanna sent packing. Why? My guess:

  • Ramsay was impressed by her honesty
  • Ramsay did not like Joanna's retort, "I would never give you trash," and rightfully backed her into a corner with her own rancid crab
  • Joanna has been somewhat of a wild card all along, and Jen has been under the radar

Also, maybe Ramsay didn't think pulling trashed spaghetti was that awful. I couldn't quite read his face - there was certainly disappointment, but did I also sense some self-doubt, a bit of wondering as to whether he himself would serve reboiled spaghetti from the top of the garbage, not touching other trash? There likely wouldn't be many germs, and what germs there were would be killed upon reboiling. Would you do it, if no one would find out?

I think reboiling discarded spaghetti is the lesser of two evils, and Ramsay made the right choice on that alone. But Joanna - she showed some real integrity this episode, in accepting her nomination gracefully, and in defending Julia. I'm sorry it had to be her.

Julia being nominated - now THAT'S some real garbage.

Monday, June 11, 2007

First two episodes, screwed up

I watched the first episode and half of the second together, a week after the premiere aired. I figured the second episode would be on again this week, but it was not; therefore, I am missing half an episode to analyze. In other words, I'm off to a very rough start.


I rarely watch the season premiere of a reality show. They all begin with confessionals about how intense Reality Show is going to be, and what a great opportunity Reality Show is, and how much the contestant wants and needs Reality Show Grand Prize, and how the contestant is the Be All and End All of Reality Show Theme Trait. Yawn. How could this not be boring coming from a cluster of a few too many people to keep track of, none of whom have done anything interesting or relevant yet? This is why I imagine producers encourage contestants to spew instigatory soundbytes in advance of the show, but I digress. I prefer to jump in at the second or third episode, and get my first impressions in the middle of the action.

This episode 1 was no exception, and I won't get into it. The banter continued until Ramsay made his abrupt entrance, starstruck expressions all around the cast, and then GO! 12 chefs spring to the kitchen to make their "signature" dish. "You on a plate," Ramsay later quipped. "Signature dish" is a concept I find fascinating. What would I be on a plate? Spaghetti with a kilogram of parmesan cheese? French toast with strawberries and whipped cream? The world may never know.

Judging begins; first up, "Vinnie." Though "Vinnie" presents himself as a badass in his web picture and in the show, I find it difficult to take this "Vinnie" spelling seriously. Ramsay says Vinnie's dish is a disappointment, and Vinnie, in a classic rookie chip-on-the-shoulder mistake, responds, "I don't think so." After Ramsay smacks him down, he says in a camera confessional that Ramsay's just intimidated by him. OK, Vinnie's either got an attitude problem or is way too into playing tough guy for the cameras.

Some standout moments during the rest of the signature dishes... three of the dishes involved scallops, and none were good. Melissa, short New Yorker with long hair and a high opinion of her own looks, was the first to win Ramsay's praise. A number of times, Ramsay had two of the contestants taste a dish one of them made and give their opinions. Julia stood out as honest when she complimented her competition's dish, and the chef agreed.

I'm writing this over a week later, so I don't remember the dinner service well. I do remember the aftermath - Tiffany made a snide remark about Julia's lack of culinary sophistication, Melissa got to pick, and Melissa nominated Tiffany to my delight after essentially promising not to. And she got sent home. Yay! I was worried she was going to turn out to be a real bitch if permitted to stay on. Her post-axing comments were cryptic - I thought she said something like, if Chef Ramsay picks based on heart, he made the right choice. Hm.

Second episode

Like I said, I only watched the first half, and remember little except Aaron's misguided descent into some sort of a breakdown, and Ramsay constantly making bad jokes about Eddie's height.

We'll try to do a better job on week 3.

Hello, food world

I am what you might call the worst candidate to blog about food. Here are some of my anti-qualifications:
  • I lack a talent for making my own food. I'd like to say "I make a mean ..." anything, but I don't.
  • Whenever I try to cook, I leave the kitchen an incomprehensible mess.
  • I am clumsy, and my fingers fear my brain instructing them to hold a knife.
  • I don't eat certain foods for religious reasons.
  • In fact, I am squeamish about killing animals often used to make foods.
  • I was raised on processed food and fast food, and the Croissan'wich is still probably in my top ten favorite things to eat.
  • I'm not even that good a waitress. I was known as a tray-dropper.
  • I've never been to a bunch of important food countries, such as anywhere in Europe.

So why am I doing this? Because in spite of the above, I love food, I love eating out, I love occasional feeble attempts at cooking as long as someone else helps me with dishes, and for some reason, I love television about food.

This summer I will attempt to blog Hell's Kitchen and we'll see how that goes. The second episode just aired, so I have some catching up to do. In the meantime, you can entertain yourself with my Yelp reviews.