In a mood made foul by the bitter cold and a case of angina, I felt no charity toward Top Chef. We'd been jerked around by jerks, dicked around by dicks and pointed at by pointy shouty asshat wop-hating clowns. Happily, I think this was the best episode yet. This mostly had to do with the presence of Eric Ripert of Le Bernadin. Part Mousquetaire part Matt Groening character, Ripert was at all times calm, gracious, and classy. The same could not be said for the cheftestants.
Let's start with Leah Cohen. After tonguing Far Side stand-in Hosea Rosenberg two episodes ago, the still-employed and amazingly still-dated Cohen embarrassed herself even further during the Quickfire Challenge. She's like a black hole for dignity, this one. The challenge, a tripartite fish killing tournament, was presided over by Chef Ripert. In it contestants had to de-bone and butterfly filet two sardines, filet an arctic char and finally skin and filet an eel. Cohen whined her way through the first round, crumpling her forehead and looking beseechingly heavenward. Sorry, sister, ain't nothing up there but fluorescent lights!
IN the second round, Ms. Cohen received a beautiful arctic char. This she ruined. Ruined. Debased. Defrauded. Denuded. Disrespected. Humiliated. Mutilated. But these are the challenges a chef changes. Shit happens, you put some parsley on it, smile and—to borrow a catchphrase from another Bravo show—you make it work. Instead, Cohen—looking evermore like Pontormo's plaintive St. John deposing Christ—gives up. Ripert looks on in disgust. Viewers at home recoil. Hosea regrets more than ever pressing his lips to her. She loses. Stefan wins.
This is the main point of the post. That Leah's actions showed disrespect toward the profession and reflected, in the worst way, her whiny bullshit nonsense. But what made the episode wonderful is how much we learned:
- Nail an eel through the head to make it stop squirming! Thanks, Stefan!
- Monkfish must rest. Thanks, Tom!
- Carla, you are crazy and weird but also a genius. Letting the sauce cool down in order to identify its components was a masterful act of culinary forensics.
- Well respected chefs like Eric Ripert don't give two shits about Naked Mole Rat Toby Young. Did you see the look of unguarded contempt he shot Young after the bald dildo-man made his tortured puns? Thanks, Chef Ripert!
Additionally, though the judges made the incorrect decision in sending pouty muppet rana Jaime back to the morass of arrogance-conducting mud from which she emerged, the essential dilemma was an interesting one. What is worse: Leah's inability to perceive the complex flavors of Ripert's sauce through inattention and/or ineptitude or Jaime's epic braised celery fail, an error which she knew she was making but to which she could not find a solution. In my mind and in the mind of most 12 step programs, recognizing one has a problem is a necessary step in solving that problem. To the extent that one can identify what one has done wrong, one can fix it. Leah knew she had fucked up but only in the vague cloudy way that she is cognizant that she is disrespected and pitiful in a general way. Think Charlie in Flowers for Algernon. Jaime knew exactly how she had erred but had neither the intelligence nor the creativity to find a solution. And so the last vestiges of Team Rainbow faded from the Top Chef studio. Now two Europeans, a crazy Big Bird, a Far Side character and Leah, a quitter, remain.
[Thanks to Pedro Byhoff Almodovar for the video.]