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Top Chef - Beach Episode

Finally an episode that was more on food than on drama. I think this was the first time this season where the editing let us see the thought process behind the dishes and made it alot easier to understand why people were succesful and why other people were not.

Some random thoughts from the episode, I think it's time the show puts a ban on all Napoleans - NOT ONE HAS WORKED YET! It was unusual that 3 of the stronger chefs were in the bottom 3 and I was surprised that Frank went home after his stellar display in the quickfire challenge - the judging seemed to fairly inconsistent as it appeared they took Sam and Cliff's full body of work into account where in other weeks they strictly said they would not do that. I was more surprised that Elia won over Mia for the full win; yes her dish looked tasty but they also said Mia's dish was well prepared and had great flavor - I thought the comments of the surfers would have put Mia's dish over the top.

Lastly, I think it became apparent why everyone on the show hates Marcel. I was actually watching the show at my sister's apartment last night (her roommate was watching it for the firs time) and by the end of the epsiode she said "what the hell is wrong with that guy," after seeing him flirt with the 14 year olds he is unquestionably annoying as hell.

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  1. Funny after continually watching the reruns lately I am begining to like Marcel. I am not sure why.

    5 Replies
    1. re: King of Northern Blvd

      The more I see him, the more I like him. From what they have showed, I don't think he is as arrogant as people make him out to be - just self confident - which many people confuse with arrogance. He may be a little over the top with his "cutting edge" techniques he likes to talk about, but its not enough to hate the guy.

      I liked how he made Betty seem like a raving lunatic on the Thanksgiving show when she said that Marcel only thinks of himself, then Marcel replied that he helped her with her dish. She tried to say he didn't help her set up her kitchen, when she never offered to help set up his either. And what was with that outburst when they asked who she would eliminate - I had howard dean flashbacks.

      I think Marcel has a crush on Elia.

      1. re: LStaff

        I agree with you L about liking Marcel. I'm kind of rooting for him at this point. As for Betty, I have also totally changed my opinion of her and cannot wait for her to get the boot. She's scary!

        1. re: takeoutgirl

          I started out liking Betty in the very begining and now I can't wait for her to get the boot as well.

        2. re: LStaff

          Every one of these shows needs a villain. So they have edited Marcel into that role. I agree he is a confident chef with an interest in ‘non-traditional’ cooking. He stands out in the crowd making him and easy target. In fact what has he said that is different from what anyone else has said?

          And to his credit he called Betty on every complaint she had against him and she couldn’t come close to justifiably defending herself.

          And hey who doesn’t have a crush on Elia?

        3. re: King of Northern Blvd

          That was my reaction as well...I was definitely pulling for him...especially when his dish won immunity....he tries...maybe too hard...but he is willing to put himself out there and take risks...

        4. I'm new to Top Chef. Only seen it a couple of times. But I've been really put off by the credit at the end that says something about the producers, as well as the judges, having participated in the final decision. That implies, to me at least, that the chef's are being judged on their personalities and the audience response at least as much as on their food. If the winner is chosen for his/her ratings potential, then who cares? Am I the only one who feels this way?

          4 Replies
          1. re: JoanN

            check out Tom Collichio's blog from the Thanksgiving show, I think he mentions how that dynamic really works.

            1. re: LStaff

              Thanks for that reference. It will indeed make a difference in my appreciation of the show to know that the producers aren't influencing the final decisions. Only problem is, I liked his blog better than the show but I'll have to watch the show for his blog to make sense. Life is hard.

            2. re: JoanN

              That disclaimer is on every single reality and game show in production.

              1. re: JoanN

                So true but this is not how tvland works.

              2. I was really surprised and a little disappointed that the judges were so wowed by the fact that betty wrapped her eggs in a slice of ham - that's great presentation? Yikes.

                5 Replies
                1. re: heathermb

                  I couldn't agree more. It looked so beige & blah. TV lighting, maybe?

                  1. re: heathermb

                    Perhaps only by comparison's sake with some of the others' dishes ....

                    1. re: heathermb

                      Wrapping food in a cold cut is so...TACKY PERSON DESPERATION. I was all agog and aghast at that little move.

                      1. re: orezscu

                        It was lovely Black Forest ham. Wrapping it made it easier to eat standing up, and allowed her to cook the eggs perfectly, while everyone else overcooked theirs.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Yup. As I said, her catering experience really showed in that dish: she was able to create something that could be eaten standing up and knew how to prepare the dish so that it would "hold" without either cooling off or overcooking. It's a skill. Not the same skill as a chef cooking for a fine dining restaurant, but a skill nonetheless.

                    2. I didn't like this episode. Having them shop for food without knowing what kind of cooking equipment they'd have available seems more fitting for a quick-fire challenge than for an elimination challenge.

                      I'm thinking Marcel can't be as bad as the show is making him appear. Elia knows him better than anyone and still likes him.

                      Surprised Mia didn't win, too.

                      Mike came off as a doofus once again this episode. Thought it was interesting and unexpected that Betty was the one to help him out. Looked like the others just handed over eggs because they didn't want to be shown up by Betty.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Chimayo Joe

                        I don't think Elia is much better than Marcel, they both strike me as arrogant and whiny. As for his gastrnomic rants, Marcel comes off as a guy who read a dictionairy but puts all the big words in the wrong places.

                        1. re: Chimayo Joe

                          It did *look* that way, but I'm inclined to think that it was edited to create that impression and add to the drama and characterization of the competitors.

                        2. For me - this is the first episode (both seasons)that had that "reality" show feel to it. I've encouraged people to watch the show on the basis that it wasn't really like the other reality shows. It wasn't the challenge itself - I thought that was pretty cool - it was the fact that the chefs didn't know what the cooking enviroment was going to be. I believe it still would have been a challenge for them knowing they were cooking on fire pits.

                          1. I'm glad my Sammy didn't get eliminated because it really looked like it could have been him. I have to say I thought the challenge was a bit unfair and totally "Survivor" like. I mean, how often do big name chefs have to cook on the beach with a pit like that? Come on, they'd have gas grilled shipped in, etc. It was weird to me how they were expecting 10 people and 40 showed up. Does that mean every surfer tasted every bit? Or did they just reply based on which ones they ate? That's not very scientific, Bravo. No wonder the judges didn't really take the surfers' comments into consideration.

                            1. I got the impression the judges didn't personally rank Mia's dish that high -- they seemed to like Ilan's pretty well, and they didn't really rave about Mia's. But since all the surfers liked it, and the choice of crab turned out to be a good one for the beach, that bumped her into the top 3 of the top 4, but wasn't enough to bump her into the win.

                              The judges were impressed that Betty took care of the eggs -- especially since so many others ruined the eggs -- it wasn't as much about a pretty presentation, as it was practical. (Aside: I am never, ever going to try to cook eggs for Gail Simmons!)

                              Yes, I like Marcel better than I did. Betty was definitely cutting him off angrily in the T'giving epi. Say what you want about his arrogant demeanor -- maybe he's self-absorbed, but he wasn't being selfish.

                              It was definitely a highlight to see Betty and the others donating eggs to Mike. Any of them could have forgotten something without necessarily being the "stupid little brother." Remember Harold and Lisa forgot a key ingredient in the street food challenge in season 1, then Harold went on to win.

                              As far as the surfers' opinions...they commented on the ones they ate, but it's also useful data to know which ones they didn't choose -- part of the challenge (as in other challenges involving a group of diners) is how well you sell your dish.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: momjamin

                                I totally started to cry a little bit when people gave eggs to Michael. I found it very touching.

                                1. re: sexy

                                  How could someone cooking a dish with seemingly 3 ingredients leave one of them at home? Michael is just a doufus.

                                  1. re: KTinNYC

                                    Sleep deprivation and constant stress. Colicchio's blog this week goes into some detail about that.

                                    1. re: KTinNYC

                                      The point is not whether or not Michael is foolish, it's that the chefs that offered him eggs had kind hearts... Ultimately, I care more about that then anything else. Um, second to that, I care about food being as tasty and scrumptious as can be :)

                                    2. re: sexy

                                      Yeah, but if Betty hadn't been the first to do so I don't think others would.

                                  2. Marcel flirting with the teen boys..yep, that was strange.

                                    I am sick of Betty too..used to like her. I liked Mia's dish but did think Mike was smart to buy the cooked chicken (dumb to forget the egss). Frank did not share his eggs..and got kicked off.

                                    Is it karma, Earl?

                                    1. While the judges did seem to like Ilan's tortilla, despite it's being overcooked, I think the top three in the elimination challenge came down to Mia's dish being the surfers' favorite (though the chefs liked it alright); Betty impressing them with the deft handling of the egg and the combination of flavors (they mentioned chanterelles), moreso than about presentation in the end, which I think at the beach probably just impressed them in its relative sophistication compared to the other plates; and Elia's layering of sweet/salty/etc. I don't know what they thought individually, but it's always the guest judge who casts the deciding vote on the winner, and the regulars who decide the loser.

                                      In her bravotv.com blog, Lee Ann Wong says that in addition to Mike's rotisserie chicken (which she says was dry), Mia used frozen crabcakes. Perhaps that's one reason the judges weren't bowled over by her dish. Lee Ann also mentions that Elia's waffle with syrup, eggs, hame, etc., tasted sort of like a McGriddle.

                                      Wingman said, "the judging seemed to be fairly inconsistent as it appeared they took Sam and Cliff's full body of work into account where in other weeks they strictly said they would not do that."

                                      This inconsistency is the one consistent thing about the judging, based on last season. They love to say they're basing their decision on that week's performance alone, and sometimes they are, but they very often take into account the contestants' performances up to that point in deciding *not* to eliminte someone.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                        "the judging seemed to be fairly inconsistent as it appeared they took Sam and Cliff's full body of work into account where in other weeks they strictly said they would not do that."

                                        That's so true, IMO.

                                        1. re: C. Hamster

                                          I think the current episode's worst get in the bottom three. At that point, as the season moves on, it makes sense for them to take into account the talent demonstrated for the entire season.

                                      2. on Marcel: I think that he believes because he has experience in the avante garde, he is himself avante garde. I don't like how he seems to be an island, while others work together better. However, if he would listen to others, and go back to some basics he may have the most potential of them all.

                                        Michael: Man, was I cheering for him for so long. I wanted there to be some poorly communicated culinary genius behind the blustering fool... I think my hopes have been dashed.

                                        Frank: If I had been put in Frank's position i would have stuck with the quiche theme, but figured a way to do a deconstructed quiche. A rich fritatta, salmon on top garnished with grilled pie crust. Find a way to construct an oven-like vessel with inverted pans and some of the charcoal.

                                        I think this show was pretty neat, because it really engaged me in thinking about what I'd buy. I would have assumed no oven, but a heat source of some sort. I would have skipped the eggs, planned on cooking some fruit and found something to do with bread in the vain of toasting/battering with some warming spices and gotten something like a procuitto to add some protein and a salty balance.

                                        another thought: canned dough and oil are cheap. Someone could have gotten some in the off chance that they'd get a chance to fry up some donuts. If it didn't work out, there wouldn't be a huge loss.

                                        What would you have gotten?

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: amkirkland

                                          That's what I kept thinking... why no frittata? I personally think Frank is as big of a doofus as Mike is!

                                          1. re: Katie Nell

                                            Even my wife, who generally couldn't cook her way out of a paper bag, kept shouting Frittata!

                                          2. re: amkirkland

                                            I was thinking along the same lines! Frank could have made a great omelette; or could've maybe even grilled the dough like flatbreads, and layered a salmon and zuchini scramble on top... I probably would make some kind of huevos rancheros, or breakfast burrito of some sort. Refried black beans, avocado, tomato, bacon, onions, queso fresco or feta, cilantro....Breakfast food rocks! I liked this show a lot because it took quick thinking, and the kind of skills that leads to leadership in the kitchen. I admire Marcel for thinking of the watermelon soup. Gazpacho anyone?

                                            1. re: amkirkland

                                              I completely agree with you about Frank. He could have used the crust for something else instead of constantly stating he was trying to do a quiche. All right already. It didn't work - move on or out!

                                            2. I think that the challenges where they cook in a nonprofessional setting tend to favor those who have catering experience (like Betty and Mia), because caterers have to be able to prepare and serve food in a variety of circumstances. People who have spent their careers in professional kitchens (like Sam and Cliff) seem to adapt less well.

                                              On the Marcel controversy, I think I have to agree with Frank: he's not a bad guy, he's just immature and often behaves in a rather an annoyingly juvenile manner. I have yet to see him prepare a dish I thought looked great, though. Stephen, for all he was a pompous twit, put together some really impressive (at least impressive *looking*) dishes. Marcel, not so much.

                                              Which brings me to my final observation. After reading all the complaints about how this show is all about the drama and personalities, and not about the food, I realized there's one big reason why this is so much more true for this show than it is for, let's say, Project Runway: unlike clothes, there's really no way for the audience to judge the contestant's offerings. We can see the dishes, we can hear them described, but we can't smell or taste them. In other words, there's really only so much that a competive cooking show can be about the food. Even Iron Chef is fun mainly because of the way it's a take-off on a sports broadcast, with play-by-play and tension artificially created by the time constraints, not because of the food.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                Perfectly stated, Ruth. Same producers as Project Runway, but with that show I can judge for myself as the sense is visual. With Top Chef I need taste and smell. We must rely on the judges' opinions, biased as they may be. Which is probably why nobody at work talks about Top Chef the way we do about Project Runway.

                                              2. How in the world is Ballcap Mike still on this show, other than as the requisite reality show trainwreck contestant? He "cooks" with all the aplomb of a beer-belching fratboy punching up a Circle K microwave burrito at 3:30 am. Rotisserie chicken tacos? Please.

                                                Elia's McGriddle looked like something a kid would pile onto a breakfast tray for Mother's Day.

                                                13 Replies
                                                1. re: markp

                                                  I think they keep him on because he might fry a tire or something. He's potentially very good bad TV.

                                                  1. re: markp

                                                    MIke could have an awesome show on the food network.....it'd be fun just watching him cook food.

                                                    1. re: Xericx

                                                      Mike can be his own Saturday Night Live skit. A couple of beers, tunes playing, a bong hit, cooking up some chow...Dude!

                                                    2. re: markp

                                                      I know!! Every episode Mike somehow just squeaks by-I have no idea how (he SO lucked out that his chicken tacos were being judged by surfers).

                                                      1. re: christy319

                                                        Actually, the breakfast tacos sounded pretty tasty, and a lot more creative than some of the other dishes. I think Mike is probably a better cook and less of a buffoon than the editing makes him appear to be. Yeah, he's not a creative culinary genius, and he doesn't have the haute cuisine training of some of the others, but he's worked in a lot of restaurant kitchens, so he's probably got a pretty good grasp of basic cooking techniques, and his food usually seems to get points for tasting good. At the Thanksgiving challenge, Bourdain said his potatoes were "Flintstonian" be he also said they were the most satisfying mouthful of food of the meal. And he and Ilan worked very well together on the Social challenge -- I'd trust a guy with his kind of cooking background to deep fry something any day.

                                                        So while he's not Top Chef material, he's probably very good at putting together more casual dishes, and for some of the challenges, that's what it's all about.

                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                          I agree. Plus, it appears that his goal is to own/operate a sports bar/grill with really good food. I'll bet he can nail that. He'll be great with getting out to the front of the house and interacting with his customers.

                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                            The show is called Top Chef, not Top Line Cook.

                                                            1. re: zee

                                                              Duh. That's why I said he's not Top Chef material. But someone who can consistently put out decent (if not stellar) food under pressure is going to justifiably stave off elimination until they whittle the field down to a few serious contenders (and even past that, as happened last season, if one of the serious contenders "screws the pooch" on a challenge). He survived the firehouse challenge because his dish was at least edible, while Emily's wasn't.

                                                              My point was that there's a reason he's still in the competition, even though the editors have done their best to made him look like a buffoon.

                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                And no most of the challenges seem more about being creative, learning how to improvise, pulling rabbits out of hats, than about casual dishes. Tom mentions this on his blog.

                                                                Ruthie- Did you not mean double DUH!! Why place blame with the editors? Michael can only portray who he is - stupid is, stupid does.

                                                                1. re: zee

                                                                  Zeelie, my point was that challenges that emphisize and reward improvising and pulling rabbits out of the hat are not going to favor someone who is classically trained and used to working in professional kitchens in high-end restaurants with premium ingredients, which is what we think of when we think of a Top Chef. They reward people who have experience producing edible food under all kinds of conditions using less-than-optimal ingredients. That's why the contestants with catering backgrounds tend to do better in challenges like the beach challenge.

                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                    I don't think they necessarily reward improvising nor rabbit tricks as much as taste and creativity, not bland like most of the dishes Michael produces. I’ve noticed that the dish can still win even if presentation sucks.

                                                                    Judge TC thinks the contestants would fare better if they tied creativity with tasteful dishes.

                                                                    I really get what you were saying Ruthless and you were right two out of three. The ladies, Betty and Mia are used to catering and came out in the top three, just as well as Elia who is classically trained. It doesn't really seem to matter where one has trained. Either they have it or they don't.

                                                                2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                  I always chuckle when someone says so-and-so is "not Top Chef material." By what standards? Harold? There isn't enough history racked up to be able to judge exactly who is "Top Chef material," not to mention the fact that it's a fake-o title thought up by a cable network. It's like saying someone isn't "Survivor" material.

                                                          2. re: markp

                                                            Wonderful comments, I couldn't say that any better myself.

                                                          3. Please, please, please let them kick Betty off! And Mia soon after! They both get on my nerves!

                                                            What all was on Elia's waffle? I thought she mentioned peanut butter and cheese when she was talking about it, but then they didn't mention peanut butter at the judging I don't think? This is the first thing I've really been obsessed with trying, just because I'm curious!

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Katie Nell

                                                              The recipe is on the bravotv.com web site -- basically a waffle, refried beans, egg, muenster cheese, and ham.

                                                            2. Colicchio's blog explains why Frank lost: "If he could have let go of his quiche idea, he would have realized he had all the ingredients for a great frittata, easily pulled off in a pan over the open fire. ... Of all the misses, his was the worst ..."


                                                              I don't believe those girls were 14. Looked more like 19.

                                                              1. Harold's Dieterle's blog points out something I missed: "They’re still not listening. It’s a Quickfire Challenge. These are very clear rules. And Marcel was the only person who made an entrée."


                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  I noticed that, I just wasn't sure whether some of the dishes qualified as entrees or not. I thought, for example, Frank's dish could have been considered an entree.

                                                                2. I didn't see last season's episodes and have only followed a couple reality shows but I think it must be a strategy when these the season begins there is a lot of focus on personalities and potential rivalries, it is a way of hooking viewers. However, as the show progresses and the contestants dwindle down it becomes more of a competition of skill and of course there are fewer contestants that they have to cover so the editting might not be as drastic.

                                                                  1. I have discussed this with several culinary luminaries, and I feel it is high time Marcel was exclusively referred to as "Hugh Jackman's 'Wolverine.'"

                                                                    Regardless, it's funny to see the kid serve as a foil for all the boiling-over goiter-gabbagoons (Frank, Betty). These old flops get veins on their necks just thinking about him. He'll finish in the same spot as season one's Stephen, but at least he's still aiming above the horizon. Betty wrapped food in a cold cut, a trick I have not seen since a bad mom hosted my Cub Scout den.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: orezscu

                                                                      Orezscu, you deserved 50 cool points for your comments about Marcel and Betty.

                                                                    2. Betty and Marcel are just good TV folks. And Frank and Mike are hilarious. I especially enjoyed Frank's toothbrush issue. Oh- and Sam could come cook for me anytime. I would love to see Mia go soon. And I have a feeling we are going to see some fireworks from Ilan or Elia- they seem to be boiling under the surface. It's a fun show for food dorks like me.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: kloomis

                                                                        You haven't watched all of the episodes shown so far, right?