There was another gripping reality closer last week, although youre forgiven for not noticing if you suffered from McPhatigue or had overdosed on Soul Patrol. Im talking about the finale of Bravos Top Chef, which, in its emphasis on showcasing talent as well as readily packaged heroes and villains, assuredly proved itself a worthy companion piece to the channels competition hit Project Runway. Its certainly no Hells Kitchen, which serves a three-course meal of abuse from the maven of mean, Gordon Ramsay; it isnt a show about cooking with love. Top Chef, on the other hand, gave us a chance to compare and contrast philosophies, styles, and temperaments of cooking, from the charmingly reserved, no-nonsense winner, Harold Dieterle, to the frantic, emotional, and flavor-obsessed Dave Martin, to gourmet-minded tough chick Tiffani Faison. The smoothly edited series even figured out how to make up for the ouster of love-to-hate-him Stephen Asprinio an epically arrogant sommelier by focusing on the bad blood between Dave and Tiffani, an oil-and-water pair who had to work together when Tiffani faced off against Harold at the end. (The war in a nutshell: Dave likes junk food, Tiffani likes to educate eaters; shes mean to him, he cries and lashes back.) But in the end, Tiffani misrepresented to the judges the credit of one of her five-course final-challenge dishes, and, in a touch the Greek tragedians would have loved, it was a dessert Dave created and executed all by himself. After Tom Colicchio of Craft matter-of-factly called Tiffani out on her lie, it seemed no amount of praise for any of her other dishes mattered. And if any Hells Kitchen contestants had been watching, they surely would have recognized a moment more legitimately cringeworthy than any hollow Ramsay tirade.
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