Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having interest in Top Chef Season 7 DC, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the season is now screening. God save Tom and his younger Doppelganger.
"All war is based on deception."
- Sun-Tzu "The Art of War"
"MC level, yo, I stay high as like a treble
Foes who oppose get plucked like rose pedals"
- RZA, "Bells of War"
Perhaps no period is as fecund nor as dangerous as school lunch. Diverse and at times hostile social elements, kept at bay or at least segregated during academic classes, commingle. Rowdy bullies, nascent meatheads, freaks, geeks, and queers all stand in line under the oppressive smell of institutional cooking, something steamed and something sanitized. Tray in hand, they wait to be served by a gruff cafeteria lady who discretely glops on more Sloppy Joe to the students she adjudges emaciated. School Lunch: There shall be blood! School Lunch: There shall be fights! (The Honors students shun the forming circle around the wrestling combatants and snicker, "Sucks to your Ass-mar!" but still eye them furtively even as they keep their eyes glued to the Formica table, not wanting to be targeted themselves.) At the same time, there is no greater agora than a cafeteria, where after-school trysts are arranged, where intellectually unchaperoned students vigorously debate whether Antigone was right to disobey Creon, where germs of ideas—born in an unsanitary agar dish of dirty jokes and open minds—take root and fester into sublimity.
And it is during School Lunch, more than even on any athletic pitch, that true rivalries occur and thrive. Last night on Top Chef, surely we witnessed a germinal rivalry as epic as Hector and Achilles. I am, of course, talking about the emergent duel between Angelo "The Prince" Sosa and Kenny "The Beast" Gilbert.
Frantic clacks and shouts echoed and redounded against the hard tile floor and cinder block walls of the cafeteria. Lunch is a battlefield, sang Kate Bush, and this one was in particular what in Vietnam they called "the shit." Enemy forces amassed at a staging ground outside the kitchen doors, children soldiers conscripted to learn increasingly meaningless skills for a fruitless life and to eat increasingly fruitless school lunches for a meaningless sum [$2.60 though in reality, not reality TV, that number is much smaller.] The children soldiers are led in battle by our four brave generals: Padma (assisted by two aides-de-camp, Tittie Prime and Tittie Optimous), Chef Tom "44% Of Bravo Wants His Bald Cock In Their Slits-n'-Holes" Colicchio, Gail "The Tail" Simmons, and Sam "Assistant White House Chef/Assistant to The White House Chef" Kass. But the real enemy is within the gates.
"My nozzle is shlimozzled," complained Angelo, with kabuki grimace. Angelo needed his nozzle unshlimozzled in order to perfect the peanut butter mousse in his deconstructed Ants On A Log, that after-school standby of peanut butter on celery. [Usually it's served with raisins but none were last night seen, so I suppose it was just Log.] Said Log was meant to be the vegetable component of a meal that despite the financial strictures imposed by a nation bent on war and CAFO subsidies had to include a starch, a protein, a vegetable and a healthy dessert. Angelo rushed to Jersey Kevin, who had a surfeit of nozzles, to beg nozzle. But Kevin, unmoved, said, "Nah, nozzle no no," to interspecies nozzling and reserved his own nozzle for use by his team. "We seek no wider war," he said, "but neither shall I give quarter to mine enemies." Angelo pulled a sad mug and returned to his station, filling a piping bag with his unaspirated peanut butter and squeezing it desultorily onto a canoe of celery.
Nearby Kenny "The Beast" Gilbert fumed. Why fume, he, to see enemy fail, impaled by mechanical error? The answer lay bare Sosa's perfidious heart and the truth of Donne's famous adage: Kenny and Angelo were wed in destiny. [Or, to put it in romcom terms, Kenny was Larry Valentine and Angelo was Chuck Levine. No homo.] In the impotence of Angelo's nozzle, Kenny saw his own sputtering expiration. Then, raw with rage, began to comprehend his rival's nefarious plan. Though, Tom Colicchio's statistical analysis, delivered sotto voce behind a bank of ovens, hastened Kenny's realization: Angelo and Tracey, one half of the team, were immune based on the results of a Quickfire challenge so ridiculous as to not rate mention. Kenny and Ed were not so lucky. If their team was in the bottom, Kenny and Ed bore twice the normal risk of being eliminated. And so, Angelo's Nothing On A Log was not a snack as much as a Snake in the Grass.
Here now eight souls stand before the Panel of Life and of Death: Kenny, Angelo, Ed, Tracey, That Creepy Guy from Lost, Herpes Sore, Blond Greenpoint Angel, and Tamesha. Each have committed unpardonable sins but with bitter irony it must be noted that the most foul sinners are those most safe. Herpes has braised her breasts in sherry for middle schoolers. Yes, no actual alcohol was left on the rubbery chicken from which the 6th graders could cop a cheap jag but I did hurt my hand trying to reach into the television set and shake Herpes by her Herpean shoulders and yell, "What are you thinking, you stupid idiot!" At the moment, the odds were slightly better for Kenny and Ed since out of eight people, six were vulnerable and therefore their odds shifted from 50% each to merely 16%. And when the judges sent Blond Angel home—and here I hurt my other hand trying to reach into the set to grab Herpes and offer her as a replacement vanquishee—the unhappy duo's survival was assured at 100%.
But Lo! There is another serpent in the grass, proferring unwanted apples: That Creepy Guy From Lost. He's the kind of dude who butts into conversations at adjoining tables at restaurants. "I do believe Donkey Kong was invented in 1981." "Orange isn't a primary color." "Allen is A; Essex is 1"—not even true—"The term is Fingerspitzegefuhl!" Sure as shit, he couldn't keep his yap shut last night (though, neither should he have since he was appealing for his own hide). Angelo, he posited, had scotched the competition in a cynical conniving strategy to send Kenny home. Well, OF COURSE HE DID! This is the Seventh Season of the Seventh Seal, the last step to Rapture. Top Chef no longer has the monopoly of power to use and debase its contestants in cynical product-placement driven gauntlets of humiliation. Angelo Sosa is a Michelin-starred chef and a man sharp enough to sabotage his nozzle, a silent scapegoat that nevertheless provides cover and leaves the real perp free to walk the streets blameless. It's the perfect crime. Sosa is a bold Leopold, a new Loeb in the cunty kitchen.
Angelo is gaming the game. Angelo is the monster in the machine, the monster created by Magical Elves. He's the kid who read The Prince at an age before the id has been tamed by the super-ego. He's the bright pupil wending his way through The Aeneid in AP English Lit, dreaming of the Trojan Horse. He's read of Kissinger's Cambodia in American History and admired his shrewd realkpolitik. He followed avidly Tony Hayward's progress in the Round the Island Race. He's the kid during lunch period selling Doritos and Snickers on the side at a steep mark-up. Tom Colicchio and the rest of the Top Chef poobahs might bemoan his cynical gamesmanship. But what's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba, that he should play by their rules?