Joshua David Stein (yes that Joshua David Stein) is back briefly to talk about Bravo's Top Chef whose eleventh episode aired last night. Back on Wednesday at 10:00pm, when I hadn't been exposed to the horrors of the latest episode of Top Chef, my life was cozy and safe. Lisa, I thought, the worst of the contestants could not last any longer. Surely, I thought, Bravo's producers would tire of her petty villainy, her lack of talent and, quite frankly, her ass face. Unfortunately, this woman, who I and many others have come to despise, succeeded in perpetrating her con against humanity for one day longer.
The challenge seemed promising: Restaurant Wars. We love restaurant wars. Who doesn't love restaurant wars? It combines two primordial passions: food and fighting. Since perky pesky single mother Antonia somehow managed to snatch the Quickfire challenge victory away from Dale, she was allowed to choose her team. She picked faux-hawk duckling Richard and blah blah Stephanie. This left Spike, Dale and Lisa together. Obviously we knew what team would win.
Mai Buddha, the Asian restaurant Spike, Dale and Lisa create, is an unmitigated disaster. The food stinks. The decor stinks and mistakes—many of them—were made. Spike, the unctuous oily slitherer, dons a suit and works the front of the house. He knows his team is going to lose and he just wants to save his hide. Dale beats Lisa in a coin toss to become executive chef. Lisa, on the other hand, whether by design or by ineptitude, manages to crumb up every dish she creates. Her laksa soup is all smoke and no spice. Dale, no angel himself, curses a lot and makes a bad decision regarding an unhappy coupling of scallops and butterscotch (the doughy whiteness of one not melding well with the sweetness of the other). It's clear either Dale or Lisa is getting kicked off.
Lisa stays. Dale leaves. He cries in the exit interview. He was by far one of the most talented chefs, along with Richard and Stephanie. He put himself out there. He had skills and he took himself and his work seriously. It was sad and unexpected to see him be sent packing. Especially when one considers Lisa. Lisa's entire focus seems to be shivving other contestants. She's fixated not on the flavor of the food or the success of the challenge but on protecting herself from the chopping block. She can be charming at times, a glad-handing politician. But anyone with a brain can see through her ruse. Her main technique is dishonesty. Her defensive stance and villainous grin mask a serious lack of skill. What was most disappointing about last night's episode is that a fundamentally respectable institution (Bravo!) made a serious error in judgement by electing to retain and promote a petty, crummy, talentless hack. The decision hurts not only the institution but the viewership as well. We don't need more crumminess. Dale was no hero but he didn't deserve to be let go. Lisa is no nothing. She's nothing but negativity and self-service. And I eagerly await the day when her heartbreak soup comes back to burn her.