Film and TV

Fire and Ice, Love and Hate on Top Chef: Texas

I've got to be honest with you guys. Hating on something is exhausting. It takes a tremendous amount of spiritual and emotional energy to hate something; so much more than it does to love something, in fact. I'm sure I'm not telling you anything you don't know. While love tends to multiply itself in millions of fascinating, fulfilling ways, hate simply feeds on you - sapping all of your strength to build upon itself - until you have nothing left to give except a sad little shadow of yourself. I don't like hating things.

This is how I feel about Top Chef: Texas right now. I'm too worn out to hate it anymore. Hating it just seems pointless and a furiously aggravating exercise in futility. I just don't have any bile left in me, and that's the truth. The show is ridiculous. It's a parody of itself at this point, and it's an embarrassment to Texas. But I have expelled all of that venom and my sacs are dry.

I think I've reached that odd point in reality TV programming where I'm starting to enjoy the show for the sheer absurdity of it all, because there's a place for all absurdity in the world! Right? Is this what being a Buddhist is like? I don't know. This show has taken me to weird places. I could start seeing a talking coyote at any minute now.

This week's Quickfire challenge is literally a Chinese fire drill: The contestants are introduced to three former Top Chef masters, who start cooking dishes and then hand them off to the contestants after a few minutes. The trade-offs continue for a half-hour until the cooking is done. Sarah wins. She wins $20,000. After winning nothing in Texas. So that happens.

Padma then tells the chefs that they'll be cooking a meal (and making cocktails) for 150 of Vancouver's "culinary elite," although I think that assembling 150 people who could rationally be referred to as anyone's culinary elite sounds like a bit of a stretch. But who cares, really? If I'm this exhausted and I'm not even competing, I can't imagine how bone-tired the contestants must be at this point. I seriously feel for them.

Good things about the show right now: Pretty shots of Vancouver. Funny-looking Canadian money. Cute shots of Sarah's family when she was younger, one of the rare families that actually encouraged their progeny to drop out of "proper" school and attend culinary school. This is so much easier than hating.

Speaking of Sarah, she's made the admirably insane move of attempting to make pasta by hand for those 150 people. "I'm cracking 80 eggs," she says as she VOs that the main reason she's going to win is because she's confident in herself and the other two chefs -- Paul and Lindsey -- second-guess themselves too much. I think Sarah perhaps doesn't appreciate quiet confidence; I've found that braggadocio and swagger in a person usually indicates quite the opposite once you get to know them...

"Making cocktails is not my strong suit," admits Paul, in a characteristic display of honesty. And frankly, it's more than idiotic to make chefs make cocktails. But, once Why focus on cooking on a cooking show when you can throw in some schizophrenic challenge to appeal to trendsters with minute-long attention spans? Next year, the chefs will be forced to brew their own craft beer, I'm sure. And I guess I'll watch that too.

As if to illustrate the point, Colicchio says in the next scene: "I'm not a huge fan of pairing cocktails and food." Then why are you doing this, show? And instead of caring about Paul's cocktail at all, Colicchio instead chooses to hyper-focus on his arugula garnish and how it wasn't incorporated enough into the final dish. Wait. Wait. I'm starting to feel the hate creep back into my bones.

I continue to be frustrated by the scenes after the commercial break, in which nearly every restaurateur in Vancouver is represented in mini-interviews about their thoughts on the contestants' dishes. Was this too much to ask for the episodes that were filmed in Texas? To actually feature Texas chefs, even if only for a second? To feature Texas chefs in settings that weren't eye-rollingly gimmicky? You wait until Vancouver -- on Top Chef: Texas -- to authentically showcase real area chefs?

And there it is. The hate is back. It's uncontrollable when the show is this goddamned stupid.

Willing it away, I try to listen to the judges decipher the contestants' "fire and ice" dishes and cocktails, and I try to listen to the contestants explain why they deserve to be in the finale. Replace the word "deserve" with "want to" and that's the question I want to know the answer to: Why do they want to be in the finale? All I would want at this point is to go the fuck home and opt out of this circus. I'm not a quitter; I'm a realist and a cynic.

Twelve minutes left in the show. Twelve minutes to hear the judges ramble about the dishes and cocktails and waste everyone's time. It all sounds like Charlie Brown's teacher to me at this point. Whaaa-whomp-waa-waa-whomp.

And -- big surprise -- Sheila D. from Louisville, Kentucky is once again the viewer who earned her "favorite cheftestant" (crazy Chris C.) the most votes this past week. This is just so very, very, very, mind-numbingly dumb.

Two minutes left in the show, and Sarah is told that she's moving on, but not until Padma completely screws with her and makes her think she's going home. Because that's nice. It's Lindsey who eventually gets sent packing, and she barely holds it together as Paul just bows his head in shock. I kind of prepared myself for a Lindsey-Paul showdown, but after all's going to be a showdown of Texas chefs: Paul and Sarah.

"I always knew it was going to be me and Paul," says Sarah as she toasts the man she'll be competing against next week. "Two Texas chefs."

Imagine that.

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Katharine Shilcutt