Top Chef Recap

By Jason Lee

July 9, 2009

Judging by the scores of the bottom two this week, they should also do Taste No Evil.

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This week on Watch What We Say: The Masters bring a little magic into the kitchen.

"He does acerbic well."

That was a behind-the-scenes comment made by one of our prolific writers at BOP regarding a new writer here on the site. It may seem pretty innocuous, but believe me, it instigated a hair-pulling, mascara-streaking, hand-wringing personal crisis that would have made even the biggest drama queen among the Real Housewives in Orange County turn to me in disgust and say, "Chill out, dude" before downing another dirty martini.

In case you guys hadn't noticed, the pieces on BOP can sometimes be a little (how do I say this nicely?) . . . . acidic. Every now and again, we can be a little . . . condescending. Caustic. Some might even say "acerbic."

Of course, being the neurotic, self-confidence-lacking homosexual that I am, I immediately thought to myself, "Do I do acerbic well? Am I writing enough acerbic pieces? Oh lord, what if everyone at BOP is talking behind my back about how boring, bland and banal my writing has become!" A quick glance at my recent pieces illustrated just how much of a "rah-rah" cheerleader I've become for most of the shows I've reviewed or recapped. Top Chef: Masters, Dollhouse, HawthoRNe . . . I'm pretty quick to find redeeming qualities in all of them.

And probably by now, you guys are wondering "Not only are you NOT acerbic, you have a bad tendency to ramble as well." Okay, let me get to the point. In this piece, I'm going to try and reclaim my roots. I'm going to recapture some of BOP's trademark acerbidity (is that a word?). Look out world, here comes Mr. Pissed Off!

. . .

So okay, for a number of reasons, all of which I'll get to, last night's episode was definitely the most "Top Chef-y" episode of Top Chef: Masters so far. But in a stupid way (ummmmm, yeah, stupid!) I think up until this point in the season, the show's producers have done a commendable job of creating a unique viewing experience that stands alone from the original Top Chef show.

We have less drama and fewer instances of emotionally-wrought confrontations over food that may or may not be good. Instead, we have better scenes of people doing better work and engaging in heartfelt discussions about the charities that the Masters are competing on behalf of. It's made for a different and wholly satisfying show – wait, I meant stupid show! It's made for a stupid show!


In this week's episode, however, the producers have injected the show with elements that inevitably harkens back to the original Top Chef. For one thing, the four Masters on this week's episode feel reminiscent of character types that we've seen in the past. We have easy-going Douglas Rodriguez, pioneer of Nuevo Latino cuisine, who has the relaxed charm of surfer-talking Mike from Season 2. We have Anita Lo, a famed NYC Asian chef who has the crossed arms and scowl of Lisa from Season 4. We have John Besh, whose sunny personality keeps him cooking in New Orleans and whose good looks remind me of Jeff from Season 5. And we have Mark Peel, who runs one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles. He doesn't remind me of anyone.

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