February 13, 2009

"A Top Chef... whose default personality is not 'adorably half-asleep' (Harold, Stephanie) or 'kind of an asshole' (Hung, Ilan, soon-to-be Stefan)."

The case for Carla:
She has a spirit animal, she claims to be a former model, she yells "Hootie!" in public a lot, and her impression of a tortoise is unrivaled. She's fantastic. And not in a contrived, I'm-trying-so-hard-to-be-a-reality-show-personality kind of way, which is what I suspect of Fabio most of the time. I think Carla's genuinely like that....
Of course, everyone loves Carla's personality, but it's not Top Person. It's not even "Top Pussy," as Fabio said yesterday, explaining why he wasn't going to stop in the middle of a challenge to go to the hospital because he broke his pinkie finger. And anyway, if we're voting with our hearts, I ♥ Fabio. Cooking, in pain... that was hot.


Bob said...

Althouse's inner Sade makes an appearance.

Joan said...

According to Bravo's Burning Questions blog, Fabio dislocated his finger, he didn't break it, thank God. He deserved the win but I loved seeing Carla come in a very close second with her divine peas.

As the weeks pass, Stefan is revealing himself as not as good as he thinks he is. He has made some very serious missteps, and we can only guess that the producers are meddling to keep him on the show. Every one of the judges agreed that he had overcooked his salmon and that the spinach was lame, although there seemed to be some agreement that the dill sauce was nice. Stefan also blew the football-themed cook-off very badly. I'll be disappointed if he takes it all.

I love how Fabio and Carla both have just hung in there till the end to really start showing their stuff. They are both creative and talented and don't make excuses when something fails. Fabio is I think the most imaginative chef they have on this season, but he hasn't been recognized for it.

Regardless, from the past few seasons, it's pretty clear that a perfect roast chicken will give you a win no matter who the judges are.

BJK said...

Stefan's biggest strength can also bite him in the backside: overconfidence. When he has freedom to do whatever he wants, he makes a very good dish. The more restrained he is by the challenge, the greater the chances he'll cook what he wants instead of sticking to the objective.

Carla's biggest advantage is that she's not afraid to do pastry, which is often something that takes down would-be Top Chefs. She doesn't have the confidence or assertiveness that Stefan has, and that has come close to sending her home a few times. I find her (show presence) to be completely unpredictable from challenge to challenge.

Fabio has been a show favorite pretty much all season. I was really afraid that he'd lose for cooking my home city's cuisine in the NFL challenge. (Sidenote: I didn't realize that all my dishes should include venison and cheddar cheese; I'm surprised they didn't include a 6-pack of Miller Lite while they were at it.) He kind-of coasted for the past few weeks though, just being content with letting someone else get knocked out. Still, I hope that he wins; it also helps that I really like Italian food.

Hosea is the long-shot. It will be interesting to see how he cooks in the final contests without Leah to distract him.

UWS guy said...

Stefan will be top chef. I for one welcome our ayrian overlords.

LarsPorsena said...

Carla is just too precious sometimes.
Hosea likes to talk a good game.
Fabio is trying to charm his way to the win.
Stefan, man can that guy peel an eel.

john said...

Never seen it, but I have a question: How does Fabio keep his hair out of the food?

Beth said...

I like Fabio, but love Carla. I'll be very, very happy if one of them wins Top Chef and the other wins Fan Favorite.

I would love to see Carla host a cooking show.

All the same, that was not gumbo she cooked at the football challenge. But whatever it was, it must have come out well in 20 minutes. It makes me hope she has an advantage with the final challenge being in New Orleans. I saw a big pile of oysters in one of the previews. I hope she's thought about where they'll be and when, and has practiced shuckin' dem ersters.

Beth said...

And yes, big props to Fabio for doing so well with his dislocated finger. But that's what cooks do. I've finished shifts with a broken toe (dropped a heavy break pan on my foot), a cut that later needed stitches, and a nasty burn that required treatment. Put some ice on it and keep working.

Joan said...

Beth, ITA it wasn't gumbo, but I just this morning watched the Wong Way to Cook video on it, and it actually sounded and looked really tasty. There's something fundamentally wrong about chiffonading your greens and then briefly sauteeing them with your holy trinity, but if all you have is 20 minutes and your theme is New Orleans, what else would you do?

Beth said...

Joan, true; whatever it was, it must have been tasty. What I like about Carla is her ability to take classic techniques and adapt them quickly to the challenges. And it was that challenge that got her confidence going.

As soon as she called her little mudbugs "crawfish" instead of "crayfish" I knew she would be okay.

Hey, you know that "trinity" is! Cool.

reader_iam said...

I love Carla.

Both Fabio and Hosea remind me of male friends IRL, both nice guys.

Stefan gives me flashbacks, and not the good kind.

BJM said...

I was relieved to see Leah eliminated, she was painful to watch, she simply didn't have enough experience. Jamie would have been more competitive and interesting in the final five.
However, over salting is inexcusable at this skill level, but so is poorly cooked fish. All the cheftestants have an epic fail, as in the rest of life, timing is everything.

Who do you think will be final two?

Stefan looked to be a final shoo-in until the over cooked the salmon and served mediocre spinach. Just as Casey Thompson had a lock until her semi-final fade out, allowing the erratic Dale to advance to final two. Will Stefan blow it?

Hosea and Fabio have cooked so unevenly under pressure that the newly confidant Carla could edge either of them out in the semi-final rounds.

The dessert course may be Hosea's undoing if he goes head to head with either Stefan or Carla in the final two. Although I think he's savvy enough to bring a solid dessert for the finals. Fabio is the Joker in the deck, a wild card. A perfectly roasted chicken does not a Top Chef make. He has to bring it.

(Although my mouth was watering as he pulled the chickens out of the oven, I could smell the rosemary and crispy rendered bits.)

So it may come down to the dessert course on the final round again, and let's not forget that Hung pulled it out with a pedestrian but perfectly executed chocolate cake.

Each season as a favorite stumbles over a dessert course I'm shouting at the screen "Why didn't you perfect a dessert, you moron!"

Just as most Survivor contestants don't practice making fire, simple camp crafts or learn to read a farging compass. What's with that?

Beth said...

Desserts on Top Chef, fire on Survivor - to which I add learning to drive stick for Amazing Race.

Cedarford said...

Top Chef is a guilty pleasure, like Bravos Celebrity Poker was before that. I tape and watch it. Glad I stuck with it after the dysfunctional cast of misfits they tried for Drama!!! in S2 had me thinking of swearing off the show.

My favorite this season was Antonia, from NJ. She left well before she should. Not on cooking, but over not being adept at lamb-butchering. I had her in Final 4 over bug-eyed, spidery, but interesting, Carla. And Hosea, who I kept ancipating would be the next gone the past 4 or so episodes.

Unlike past years when you could root against a real bitch like Tiffany, or the evil Illan or actually FOR the so natural an asshole he doesn't even realize he is one, Hung...this year is different.

I'd be fine with Carla though she isn't as good or as consistent as Fabio or Stefan. If she wins she goes back to DC in the Age of Obama and has black power elite lining up to dine. Fabio has enough charm and skill and media exposure to attract investors already. A Top Chef victory would give the Italian guy plenty of additional offers to "Front" a good restaurant and be part-owner.
And if you asked all the guest judges who they would personally hire to put in a high end establishment who they would have confidence in to "get it right" almost all the time - 75-80% would chose Stefan. He has been the most consistent and skilled of the contestents over this season.

TMink said...

I have not seen Top Chef, but you guys are a good recommendation for it. I see this show and the golf reality show as a bit different in that there is a competition. Hmm, that criteria would include top model which I can't see watching.

The key is a competition you enjoy I guess! No guilty pleasure there.


BJM said...

Cedarford, your last paragraph expresses what I have been thinking; that Hosea is either the odd man out or a dark horse.

blake said...

I really wanted to tweet MST3K's "Home Fabio Kit" sketch for Althouse when she said she loved Fabio but I couldn't find it (just a few decoys on YouTube).


Harry Flugleman said...

My favorite thing about Fabio is his reaction to being at the bottom of the quickfire challenge. Right after the quest judge names him as one of the worst, they go to an interview of Fabio being pissed and trashing the judge. Makes me laugh every time.

Fabio on Rocco DiSpirito: "He's not really Italian." HAHA!

And I love it that he uses singular forms of nouns instead of the plural. “There are football helmet all over the place.” “I love hotdog.” It goes so well with his accent. It would be great on the last episode if we find out that he is actually from Michigan.

Carla is wonderful. She was my least favorite at the beginning, and now she is my favorite. The patience and friendliness you see from her is so rare in a kitchen. We line cooks tend to be arrogant and short tempered, whether we are good or not. She is good and she isn’t a savage. I want her to win even though it is sure to be Stephan. Regardless, I aspire to be more like Carla.

Beth said...

Hi Harry,

I'm with you. Carla's temperament would be a nice thing in a kitchen. I'm many years past being on the line, but I well remember how important personality could be in shaping a night's service.

One chef I worked with was funny and kind, until the night got busy; stress was not his friend. There were three women on the line - me, the sous chef and the fry cook. We'd sing in harmony while we worked and it would settle him down immediately.

Issob Morocco said...

Stefan's in the basement looking for recipes from above. Carla's in the kitchen mixing up the love, Fabio's on the pavement looking for a cooking range, while Hosea's boiling rutabaga & sweatbreads, ain't Top Chef Strange?

Cedarford said...

Folks who haven't watched it should. It is addictive. Yes, it is cheesy, with staged interviews, editing that focuses on One Moment in the competition that is "sure" to be important with the Judges later, but frequently never is...And all that clumsy "drama-building" sometimes so obvious it is like dropping the iron anvil and announcing as it falls, something is sure gonna happen...stay tuned!

And we love the competitions when it is announced that the contestants must do something - show skilled knifework, do something highly original with an egg dish....and we see Harolds incredible carving skills losing out to Stephen's plate of microsmears of various gunk or Fabio's artistic, complete cutting edge take on eggs loses out to Carlas mental leap to the obvious that so many past contestants did before with variations on "Green Eggs and Ham!"
At least Fabio said the Eggman was effectively an idiot that didn't judge by his own rules.

Harry Flugleman said...


I love singing on the line! Sang tonight. There is something so nice and calming about it, with all the stress, yelling and heat.

Beth said...

Harry, now I'm all nostalgic for those days. Even the heat, the knives, and the cursing at waiters. Especially the cursing at waiters.

BJM said...

Cedarford, the quick fire criteria was perfectly cooked eggs, so two thirds of Fabio's trio was outside the challenge as was Stefan's Panna Cotta with Mango Puree no matter how well prepared (aside from the poached egg mimicry, as a panna cotta freak I thought both very appealing texture and flavor pairings that I will try).

However the mouth feel of Lychee soup is off putting to me, so Fabio's Lychee Soup with Melon Yolk doesn't appeal, although it was very cleverly presented.

Fabio and Hosea are so brimming with creativity that they often miss the point of the quick fire challenges.

Carla's green eggs and ham were not very creative but obviously perfectly prepared to Chef Dufresne's taste.

When Fabio earns a Michelin star he can trash talk Dufresne, until then; dovrebbe fermare lamentare ed il cuoco!

Stefan vs Hosea = boring TV, so I hope not

A Fabio vs Stefan final would be fabulous, don't you think?