Why I Miss Blais.

By Ezra Kleinrichard_1

Apparently there was no recap this week. Strange! Suffice to say I’m happy with the outcome. No one in the final four is an obvious mismatch. You could have seen the case for Jeffrey or Jamie, but in these last few episodes, the talent has bunched.

So, a few disconnected observations, few of which have any bearing on tonight’s episode. First, did anyone else notice Season Four runner-up Richard Blais talking some serious smack? He’s got one of those blog things — all the kids have them now, they come with your MyFace page — over at Bravo.com, and he’s taking an Attackerman approach:

I am, quite honestly, much more of a seafood guy than Hosea. I completed a fellowship at my alma mater, the CIA, in the fish kitchen. I’ve put to rest and cooked thousands of lobsters. I’ve filleted just as many salmon. And yes, I’ve pinned down eel, and cut everything from Opah to Shad. My first chef position was at a restaurant that had a fish tank where a poisonous blowfish resided. When that fish passed away, I cut it. Just to know I’d done it.

I filleted a deadly blowfish just to watch him deflate. Or something. More succinctly: Suck it, Hosea. But hey, Hosea’s easy pickings. A graf or two later, Richard steps to Stephan:

Lobster with asparagus and hollandaise might as well be a culinary school dish. Of course, that’s the shear beauty of Ripert’s cuisine. It’s so simple that it gets you mad some times. But I’d agree with Hosea. Stefan is on a tremendous run. One of, if not the best, the show has ever seen. It’s not cumulative, as we always hear, but have a little more fun, you’re a chef, there’s matsutake mushrooms over there! We are watching a diver, who has a few great scores under his belt, do a straight dive on his third attempt. A basketball player in a dunk contest doing a lay-up.

This isn’t Omar calling Marlo a punk, but it’s close. Blaise! We miss you!

Which brings me to a different point: Stephan might be the season’s best chef. Hell, he might be the show’s best chef. But he’s crap to watch. Technique makes for good food and poor TV.

I’m not defending excessive use of foam, but Top Chef should think about choosing contestants who make more visually and intellectually interesting food. Instead, the show goes to great lengths to ignore the fact that we the viewers can’t taste the food. The good dishes rarely look much better than the bad dishes. A perfect beurre blanc is hard to distinguish from a mediocre beurre blanc. Particularly given the absence of HD. That’s fine, so far as it goes. We trust the judges. (Except, of course, for Toby Young.) But the show itself could do more to compensate: To make the construction and creation of the food more interesting.

That’s what Blais brought to the table. My favorite Top Chef moment, to this day, was watching Blais think his way through the challenge of perplexed tofu. Watching him conceptualize the dish — Q: what would confuse tofu? A: to taste like meat, to have grill marks, to smell of beef fat — I didn’t need to taste that dish. I knew why it deserved to win. He showed his work. And that’s of value for those of us who cannot taste, but can only see.

8 responses to “Why I Miss Blais.

  1. So Carla used to model? Seriously?

  2. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that she used to model – she is so frak’n clueless. I’ve wished for her to be voted off but she keeps producing a decent course. Frustrating… But Stephen keeps producing decent fair (most of the time) and he annoys me more than Carla does.

    (just goes to show you that all types can deliver the goods even though they may be challenging to manage)

  3. More importantly, nobody has gamed the competition as effectively as Stephan since Hung. Hung intentionally played middle of the pack to the very end. It was masterful calculation to do so. It’s harder to do since the rules change each season. This year the barely visible in the backgrounds of scenes subtext is how Stephan has played everyone against each other. The first hug and kiss after Leah was kicked off was for Stephan not her as promoted on the show loverboy, Hoseah. Jamie actually sat on Stephan’s lap in her prior episode. The guy is gaming everyone behind the scenes and it’s tension we aren’t getting to see.

    The producers have a funny idea of how to play things. They worked hard to make Hung look like a bad guy in Season 3 and failed. Now they are missing the tension building as Stephan picks away at everyone. The produces conspired to keep Leah’s technically poor food in the competition far to long without the tension to justify it.

    We already know the game is rigged. At least take some time to make it look less so.

  4. Adding to that thesis is Hosea’s evident obsession with Stephan: He’s the guy to beat, he gets people off their game, he’s so arrogant, etc, etc. Stephan is deep in Hosea’s head.

  5. Hosea is someone I really liked in the beginning and now am beginning to dislike quite intensely. I hated Stephen initially and now love him. Beyond that, all I can say is thank god Leah is gone, and I’m sorry that Jamie is.

  6. I love Stefan. I think he’s great to watch. He’s funny and smart, and confident! He has been the one to beat since he won on knife skills in the first episode. I am still rooting for him, tho Fabio has to be fan fave and he says the most hilarious stuff.

    Hosea is the last of the whiners remaining. (Leah and Jamie were the others!) Hosea’s got so backstabby of Leah after making out with her. Ick! I wish Jeff was still in instead of him.

    Carla has steadily grown on me, so I am glad she’s made it this dar. And I totally believe she was a model. She’s tall and thin with great bone structure.

    This might be the best season ever.

  7. Not sure what your cable/satellite provider is doing, but this entire season of Top Chef has been in HD on DirecTV. It looks great.

  8. Also in HD on Time Warner Cable – just showed up a few weeks ago.

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