Monday, October 31, 2011

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

Top Chef: Just Desserts - Season 2, Episode 10

In the final episode, our three finalists are put through their usual paces. Each of the chefs must make a showpiece, an entremet cake, a bonbon, a plated dessert, and a bread course for the judges and a bunch of Names. There's also supposed to be some connection between the desserts and the chefs' loved ones, but it's fairly pointless. The Names help out as sous chefs on Day 1, and as we've seen in the past, eliminated contestants come in and are forced to help on Day 2.

Each chef gets two helpers, one of their choosing and one chosen at random. As fun as it would be to see someone get stuck with Dr. Teeth, it is not to be. Matthew gets Megan assigned to him, then chooses Carlos. Chris gets Rebecca, and chooses Amanda. Sally gets Vanarin (who everybody's forgotten), and chooses Orlando. This last choice is most important, because Sally knows full well that she's weak at making showpieces, so she sets Orlando to executing her design.

All three chefs work hard to impress the diners, though Matthew makes the weird choice to wander so far out of his comfort zone in service of risk-taking that everything he makes winds up looking so-so, with the showpiece being particularly ugly. That brings it down to Sally and Chris, and... Well, let's see...

Chris has been a focused overachiever from the start, while Sally has gone with the flow. Chris' story of leaving behind a newborn daughter with a heart condition is played to the hilt, while Sally has an ostensibly typical home life. And there's the most decisive factor: Chris made his own showpiece, while Sally used the help she was provided and expressly told to use. Well! We can't have that! Chris naturally takes the title, which is understandable and well-earned, though I don't think anybody can claim to be surprised.

So, shall we spend a moment talking about the season as a whole? If you don't count Top Chef Masters -- which I don't -- this has unquestionably been the gentlest crop of contestants this franchise has ever seen. A lot of people found that boring, but I thought it was a nice change to watch a competition that centered almost exclusively on challenges and not on maladjusted psychotic douchebags. Nobody wailing about their mommy's red-hots. No snide junior high cliques. No catty, backstabbing, egocentric bitches throwing glitter bombs. No homophobic jerks tearfully talking about their children while sitting on a stash of kiddie-porn. Just a bunch of mature adults, doing their best to excel in a competition that put their skills to the test. Novel, huh?

The challenges ranged from fine to great, with no real catastrophes to piss me off. If there's one issue I took with the season, it's that the judging showed no improvement from the lackluster panel last season. Gail is still a perfectly genial host, but Hubert still looks like he wishes he were eating savory dishes, Dannielle still shows no sign of why her opinion is any more relevant than your Great Aunt Betty's, and Johnny has become even more wooden and cranky.

Like I said, I'm pleased that there was no sucky challenge that turned out to be unwinnable, because there's almost nothing that makes me angrier. If there is something that can achieve it, though, it's the Chef-22. This isn't specific to Johnny; Ptom and Padma are known to indulge in this ugly practice. But at least they usually have the good grace to spread it out over multiple episodes. Johnny chided someone for having the temerity to make him wait after chiding someone else for not making her dessert to order, literally in the span of five minutes. In this finale, Sally is given a sous chef to help, and then punished for using said help. So, sorry you lost the weight for nothing, Iuzzini, but I'm afraid your television persona needs more of a workout than your biceps.

Overall Grade: B
Overall Season Grade: B

1 comment:

cretan snail said...

are you not going to be blogging top chef texas? say it ain't so!