As Mister Hippity noted, it's been three weeks since we last visited the Top Chef kitchen and its attendant retinue of woe, beauty and product placement. On Wednesday at ten, the shlooop sound of the knife bifurcating the words Top and Chef was like a dinner bell, telling us it was time to come home. Then British piece of shit Toby Young showed up as the new judge and home seemed a lot less homey.
Before we get to all the things wrong with Mr. Young, let's take a moment to cycle through the Quickfire Challenge. The challenge was sponsored, apparently, by the godawful beverage Diet Dr. Pepper. It was entitled the Diet Dr. Pepper Ultimate Sweet Treat Challenge. The chefs were forced to create sweet things without using sugar. They were strongly encouraged to use Diet Dr. Pepper. Not seen in last night's episode, the shaky handheld footage of Fabio being waterboarded by Top Chef producers with cans of Diet Dr. Pepper. "Basta! Basta!," he cried, "I wheel coohk weet the Dohctor Peppeer!" Aryan, ladychef from the bowels of consumerism, had no qualms, chirping "Diet Dr. Pepper" every chance she had. That is why, sadly, she might win. This time she didn't. As French pastry chef Jean-Christophe Novelli mentioned, her dish sucked and her cream wasn't whipped. Instead it was Radhika who won with her bread pudding which was nice and didn't have any Diet Dr. Pepper in it. Someone's going to die.
In the elimination challenge, chefs were divided into two teams for a blind tasting. There was little guidance beyond Mr. Collichio saying, "cook what you want." Each team cooked for the other half plus the team of judges which included—besides Monsieur Novelli, Padma Lakshmi (still single?) and Tom Colicchio—the new judge, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People author Toby Young. Mr. Young replaces Gail Simmons.
It is unclear exactly why the producers chose Mr. Young whose main claim to fame is fucking over Graydon Carter, being an EPIC FAIL and who maintains an entirely deserved reputation as a self-serving whiny drunk pissant. True he was a restaurant critic for the Evening Standard for a few years but he knows little bordering on nothing about food. (Something to which his current state of joblessness attests.) Gail Simmons may have been whiny and a bit mean but she knew about food. Instead what Young brings to the show is cruelty and what he thinks to be bons mots. Take a look at how he judges the food before him. Instead of responding to the flavors, Young spits out soundbites you can be assured he thought of earlier, perhaps while practicing his scornful scowl or tweezering out unwanted and ingrown thigh hair from his pasty legs. Jeff's avocado sorbet is like Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder. Radhika's bisque contained "the weapons of mass destruction." Eugene's dish was the "bland leading the bland." Good job, Toby Young, you were (slightly) witty.
Empathy has never been Toby Young's strong suit and no one ever said he was a nice guy. (He isn't.) But the thing that made How to Lose Friends and Alienate People even vaguely tolerable, that is Mr. Young's portrayal of himself as a bumbling loser, is now absent. (One can argue that being offered a cush VF editorship undermines that argument but at least Young was open about how he fucked that up.) On Top Chef Young is still the asshole he always was but there's no longer any vulnerability on his part. Infuriatingly and dishonestly, Young still clings to the aggrieved party mythology that justifies his cruelty but at this point it's outmoded and obsolete. Now he's just a bully.