Hello. My name is Joshua David Stein. Thank you for joining this discussion on Tractatus Topico-Cheficus, a weekly Bravo treatise in its fifth season. [Update: Padma Superbowl Video by popular demand, after the jump.]
Three days and nineteen hours before the Pittsburgh Steelers facedown the Arizona Cardinals in Tampa Bay, the Superbowl XLIII kicked off in the Top Chef kitchen. Being Top Chef, of course, there was even more product placement than the Bridgestone Halftime show and there were more fumbles than Donovan McNabb in a playoff game.*
The guest judge was a man named Scott Conant, the chef/owner at the excellent Scarpetta. Both the quickfire and the elimination challenges were Byzantine. In one, the contestants entered their name into a blackboard spreadsheet and were then assigned a protein (rows) and a secret ingredient (columns). The secret ingredient were oats. Quaker Oats. Richard Nixon (and Herbert Hoover) was a Quaker! Quaker Oats is a division of PepsiCo! Nixon was at a Pepsi Cola conference the day JFK was assassinated! The internet has facts on it! Anyway, Stefan won. Fabio cajoled eggplant and oatmeal together to make a very realistic bowel movement. This Scott Connant didn't like nor, it seemed, did he like Fabio very much. His ire only grew.
The elimination challenge involved the "all stars," a very generous name for the losers of past seasons of Top Chef. These included Andrew, Spike, Josie, Camille, Nikki, Miguel and others. The All Stars went head-to-head against the current crop of contestants, cooking the "regional" dishes of various NFL franchises. This was Superbowl themed. Strangely, neither Arizona nor Pittsburgh were represented. Perhaps this was for the best. Arizona's regional specialty is Arby's and Pittsburgh's is goetta.
The presence of Andrew and Spike was unwelcome. Counterintuitively, Andrew's abrasiveness and Spike's oozy bonhomie were once blunted by repetition. This time with only a few minutes to remind viewers of their continued postshow presence, they turned themselves into frantic thyroid-eyed Looney Tune characters. It was a pleasure, though, to see Camille, who is cute and whose restaurant, quite sadly, burned down recently. Also, Padma Lakshmi wore the sexiest referee uniform since this lady: Jazmeen. No, Jazmeer.
So on to judges' table. Toby Young wore a pinky ring and yellow tinted glasses though he did thankfully reign in his douchery slightly. (If you'd like to be reminded of what a spineless wastrel he is, read this.) Padma had changed into something even more revealing. Tom Colicchio's watch got bigger. But the strangest thing happened: Scott Connant behaved in an extraordinarily rude way to Fabio. One would think that, being a chef of an Italian restaurant, he would feel kinship with Fabio, what with the latter's shameless insertion of extraneous syllables in the past tense and quasi-Euro-gay affectation. But no! In fact, the opposite was true. He mocked the Italian's accent. He mocked his food. He put Fabio in whatever lowly place in Connant's mind he belonged. Butta waiiiii?
A hint might be found in this Food and Wine Q&A. Asked for his "most humbling moment" Connant replied: "I've had so many; they usually involve an Italian standing over me saying 'You stupid American.'" It seems that last night Connant finally got his revenge. Partially for though he forced Fabio to waffle and crumble and beg mercy, it was Jeff, Ken doll full of pep and ideas, who went home to his Dildo Beach. Fabio and Stefan both stayed. At least they can cuddle. Stefan: I vant to go to sleep right here, jah?
*Thank you, Will Leitch.
[Thank you, Mike Byhoff, for the video(s).]