Quick Take: Top Chef Masters, "Season 4 Premiere"
Review: Top Chef Masters, "Season 4 Premiere"
(S0401) I always get Top Chef confused with Iron Chef, so imagine my disappointment when I realized that this was the one on Bravo and not the one on Food Network. I have quite a grudge against Bravo for creating The Real Housewives... series and giving snooty, affluent, airhead housewives yet another reason to indulge in their self-importance. I can easiily split Bravo's original programming into two distinct camps: shows that make my brain leak out of my ears and shows that are boring. Top Chef is one of those shows that falls into the latter category.
I see the appeal of it, and after 4 seasons, it's apparent that quite a few television viewers see the appeal as well. I like food. I even like fancy food. And unlike the drama queens over at Real Housewives, the stars of Top Chef are actually accomplished professionals in their field; so I can respect the fact that they've been handed their own television show. Unfortunately, where the Top Chef personalities fail and the Real Housewives personalities (grating though they are) succeed is that the harpies on Real Housewives at least have personaities...where the Top Chef gang appears to be perfectly professional through and through...which is why I prefer Iron Chef for my foodie drama. Furthermore, there is at least an element of excitement on the Food Network counterpart to this snoozefest in that the contestants on Iron Chef are competing for something tangible and when they lose, there is, therefore, a tangible sense of loss.
The contestants of Top Chef, as the title pointedly says, are already "top chefs," successful culinary artists in their own right. Many of them headline their own high-end resturaunts which means, for we little people who are so very much not in Bravo's target audience anyway, we've never heard of many of them unless we're die-hard gourmet foodies. Foodie though I am, "gourmet" is not a requirement. I was familiar with contestant Lorena Garcia purely due to her recent line of Chipotle-wannabe fare at Taco Bell, the "Cantina Menu," which probably wasn't the best introduction I could have had to her work.
Because these top chefs are already respected, highly-successful professionals, it's really only appropriate that they compete on behalf of various charities: Michael J. Fox Foundation and Heifer International, to name two. It's a fabulous way to raise money for worthy causes (backed by Lexus because Bravo is, as we've estabilshed, the "rich people channel") but I can't help but feel, well, like this is a sort of "minimal effort required" competition with the fact that even the losing chef gets a donation to his or her charity of choice. BY NO MEANS am I advocating for the end of this practice, I'm just staying that competitions are dull when there is no real winner or loser. Chefs who find themselves "voted off the island" by the critics are typically unfazed (or at least they were last night), knowing that their charity will be funded, they have a successful career outside of this silly little show, and the critics just "didn't understand" their dish anyway.
So, ultimately, we find ourselves with an hour of going through the motions. There is a "quickfire" round to warm things up which is intersting of only to see how these world-class chefs cook themselves out of the bizzare combination of dry beef and catfish. The formal competition pits the blue team against the red team to create a gourmet buffet of the critic's chosen theme, this time being Mexican and Indian food. We listen to the critics yammer in the barely invested tone of the bouegoisie about delicious food that we can't taste and simply take their word for it when they declare one team superior than the other. Check please!