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Nov 9, 2006 11:49 AM

Top Chef 2:4, or WHO cheated with extra olive oil?

Some quick thoughts on last night's Top Chef . . .

1. I love Suzanne Goin. She was one of the best guest judges they've had.

2. the low brow vending machine challenge . . . nice to see some of them really pull it off
(and I only believed it because the guest judging was a real chef)

3. I like the stricture of a 500 calorie meal for all the obvious reasons...
"yeah baby, how can you work that without the extra 1000 calories?"
I think the show should have used the nutritionist cops for both days -- it's fair to expect people to make adjustments in a competition..

4. WTF with the olive oil squeeze bottle? The Betty thing is completely different than the un-explored olive oil thing. Was the group that managed to be under 400, and so had leeway? Unlikely . . .
(cue the ominous music)

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  1. Re: point 4, you're right. The editing is atrocious. If someone is going to bring up olive oil then the subsequent unmasking should not involve sugar vs. Splenda.

    Agree re: Goin.

    Marcel/Wolverine has become slightly less annoying to me over each episode. He's basically an immature kid who's trying to stand out at every opportunity but doesn't have the common sense to match the dish to the theme. I mean, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus for Fat Camp kids? Every week he just seems younger and more foolish to me, and therefore more pitiable and less grating.

    He's been replaced in his position as Top Annoyer by Josie, I think. She reminds me of some kind of maniacal were-rabbit and manages to sound smug at any opportunity, even when she turned out that weird excuse for "pho" that was supposedly the product of training under a Vietnamese chef. I've noticed also that her dishes are rarely featured - don't think we even got to see her sushi from the Quickfire challenge - wonder what they're saving her up for...

    1. Betty bugs, plain and simple. Her "happy dance" and all around perkiness just annoy me. I was hoping that her sugar/ splenda "mistake" would get her the boot, but alas, no such luck.
      With that said, I found Mia to be shady, at least when the contestants were all together, Sam and Carlos called people out, Mia just stood there silent. Just my two cents...

      3 Replies
      1. re: anna banana

        I think Betty is as fake as a $3 bill. Her bursting into tears when she was caught cheating was as fake as her smile when she was greeting the people during the charity event challenge.

        She showed her true colors when she verbally attacked Marcel because she found him annoying.

        1. re: KTinNYC

          I really enjoyed watching Betty "apologize" to Marcel for that verbal attack, as she explained to the viewers that she felt bad about it, since she was a grown-up and should have known better than to act like that. My feelings exactly. She's not smiling now...

          This is more reality show than cooking show. My husband commented that there must have been a shortage of cooks who wanted to come on the show, as some of these people seem more like dishwashers than top chef candidates.

        2. re: anna banana

          Correction anna banana, Sam specifically stated he did not want to go there, when asked who was using extra olive oil so I don't see how he should be given a pat on the back. Mia specifically stated that Betty adjusted her recipe and she had no problem going there. Betty's team won the challenge because they served pizza, not because of Betty's cookies.

        3. It is strange since you know the producers *must* have footage of all the cooking and could easily show/identify who may have used extra olive oil.

          As for the addition of more sugar into Betty's cookies I think she made an honest mistake and she was still trying to conform to the 500 calorie limit.

          19 Replies
          1. re: heathermb

            Betty's not a nutritionist and was just guesstimating the caloric result of added sugar vs smaller serving size. For all she knew, she could have gone over the 500 calorie limit.

            1. re: scenicrec

              As I recall (and the older I get the less accurate is my recall) she said that she used 2 tablespoons of sugar...if that is accurate..that shouldn't be a problem calorically I would 2 cups......!!!

              1. re: ChowFun_derek

                She said two tablespoons. If the batch made a dozen meringues, that would be 4 calories each.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  2 tbl for an entire batch of meringue? I doubt it.

                  Besides- and most importantly- the rules stated that they couldn't change a recipe once it was locked in. I can't see how this could be "misunderstood".

                  1. re: scenicrec

                    Two tablespoons *more* than the batch the nutritionist evaluated.

                    Given the way the footage is edited, we have no idea what misunderstandings might arise, just as we have no way of knowing which were invented or blown out of proportion by the producers.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Other contestants were aware that they couldn't change their recipes. Did just half the room get this information? In a games with stakes as high as this one, I'm sure the rules were clear. "Misunderstanding" is not a good enough excuse.

                    2. re: scenicrec

                      Exactly. The rules are: don't change the recipe!
                      Pretty straight forward request.

                      1. re: chef chicklet

                        Straightfoward, but crazy. "You tested this and it didn't work. Make it again anyway"? That's sort of like asking a professional diver to jump into an empty pool.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Especially since the nutrionists signed off on the content/amounts of the ingredients and the calorie counts they would produce before anything was actually cooked. If they had stuck around while the contestants cooked and found out whether their low-calorie recipes actually worked out well, technically or taste-wise, they could have signed off on rejiggered recipes, particularly if the teams had calories to spare, made changes in portion size, etc. And if they had been there on the second day, they could also have observed or served as proctors to make sure the teams stuck to the rules.

                          As Colicchio noted in his Bravo blog, this wasn't just a "fat camp," some of the kids there had restricted diets for medical reasons. So, while Betty's 2 T. of sugar (adding only around 55 calories to her whole batch of cookies, as she also took out two egg whites) probably didn't send their meal's calorie count over 500, if another team did in fact add an unmeasured amount of olive oil while cooking, who knows?

                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                            The blog also says other contestants accused Mia of sneaking sugar into her cole slaw. If that was in the show I missed it.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              It wasn't in the show. Rich, isn't it, though?

                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                Helps explain why the judges threw up their hands.

                            2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                              I rewatched this episode, and Betty added a lot more than "2 tbl" of sugar to her recipe- a recipe that was signed off on as being SUGAR FREE!

                        2. re: scenicrec

                          It seems that many of the chef-testants are poor listeners when it comes to the nitty-gritty details of the challenges. Both Sam and Ilan (not to mention Marisa, the annoying pastry lady) didn't present entrees last week for the TGIF challenge yet, as I recall, that was the challenge. Not a side, not a desert and not a salad - no matter how delicious or well-executed.
                          Betty was in a major bind - the judges have plainly shown that if you plate & serve bad food, there will be no mercy - as we saw last week with Emily's inedibly salty meal.
                          On a final note, if I have to see Michael's wife's panties again, I'm gonna yack and yack hard!

                          1. re: scenicrec

                            I honestly believe Betty lied so she wouldn't not get kicked off. It's no different than Otto lying about not paying for the lychees.

                            It's true the way the editing is done that misunderstandings, especially from viewer perspective can be misconstrued. There was an overall assumption that the contestants could not alter their recipe after the 400 caloric count was established, but I never once heard these rules come from the judges that the recipes were fixed.

                          2. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Didn't Betty also say she reduced the number of egg whites?

                      2. re: heathermb

                        They (the producers) could definitely have identified it - the editing was judiciously NOT showing it, although it's pretty obvious they know. Read Tom Collichio's blog at Bravo TV - he notes that they had videotape of Michael not caring about the QuickFire Challenge, even though he told Suzanne Goin that he "drew a blank". But this blog is an "after the fact" comment.

                        I think Tom's P.S. on his blog pretty much says it all - they, as judges, aren't ALLOWED to see the whole videotape - they have to judge on the food alone. Which is why Emily went home last week - her meal was completely inedible, whereas Michael's cheesesteak, while it looked bad, was at least edible.

                        Edited to say that Gail's blog says even with all the camerapeople there, they could NOT determine who, if anyone, had used olive oil.

                        1. re: heathermb

                          I'm sure the producers have all the footage but it's a reality show. Who walks around with cameras on a day to day basis and has the ability to review what someone's previous activities were? If the producers ever step in front of the camera, this reality show would loose its effectiveness.

                        2. I think the producers are incompetent. This is the second episode in which the contestant with the worst food was not eliminated.

                          The producers worry more about injecting soap-opera emotional conflicts by inventing phony controversies than about designing challenges that allow fair and rational selection of a winner.

                          When team A's sucky dish was conceived by contestant X, and Team B's equally if not more sucky dish was conceived collectively, is that grounds for eliminating X? It's apples and oranges. No wonder the judges were happy to avoid making a decision at all.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            I think they should run team challenges similar to the way things have been run on other competitive shows:
                            - split contestants into teams
                            - each team elects a "head chef" for that challenge
                            - the head chef of the losing team nominates another team member to join them on the chopping block for possible elimination by the judges

                            It just doesn't seem to be working the way they are doing it - asking the team who made what decision is just too haphazard a way to make these decisions.

                            Just my $.02

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Of course they do that (worry about interjecting drama)! Afterall, it's first a "reality" show and everything else comes later. That Top Chef happens to be about a topic we here all care about is secondary to the fact that it's still a formulaic game show.


                              1. re: adampaul

                                Iron Chef was a formulaic game show, and it depended on the cooking for the drama. Except once in a while, when they set up preposterous professional-wrestling-style grudge matches or had Kaga get a bee in his bonnet about something.

                              2. I honestly feel that Michael should've gone home based on his "this is what" attitude towards everything.
                                It's like Goin said.."nobody kidnapped you & forced you to be on the show"

                                Mia seems to be pretty ruthless. I was watching an episode on a rerun & when Ilan won that challenge with the snails she looked pretty pissed off. She did the same when Suzanne Goin told her her amuse bouche was more of a dessert than an amuse. She doesn't seem to take criticism very well.

                                As for the olive oilgate..when Sam mentioned it they shot to Mike grilling his chicken. You know he probably did given his "i don't give a crap" attitude.