Hyphen TV: Slamma Jamma Barbeque

January 9, 2012

Beverly shows off her tat and her meat cutting skillz.

In the season premiere of Downton Abbey ... kidding! I'm as obsessed with that show as anyone, but if it were any whiter, I'd need to wear shades to watch it. Do love it, though.

This week's episode of Top Chef was neither Ed nor Bev's finest, I'm afraid. Ed started out our first post-Heather episode by telling all the chefs that it was his recipe that Heather used twice, one of which got a win. You guys know I'm no fan of Heather's, but pointing that out seemed unnecessary and a bit rude. Not a great beginning. For the Quickfire, the chefs had to pull out some modernist cooking and potentially win a very fancy, very expensive set of Modernist Cuisine cookbooks, which they had a chance to study before they knew what the challenge was. Cue Beverly feverishly studying the books late into the night. Oh, Bev.

The chefs could do anything they wanted to demonstrate modernist cooking, and adorably, Paul had trouble enunciating "molecular gastronomy," though he assured us that he can do it. The frenzy we saw Bev exhibit earlier came to a head when she messed up the foam-making contraption (sorry, I am clearly not a chef) as she served her dish, splattering curry foam on Padma, knocking over some pans, and reacting to the whole thing with cringingly awkward silence. Oh, Bev. She mentions in interview that her upbringing was very strict, and she wasn't allowed to go to sleepovers or parties, thus her social awkwardness. I hate to invoke a certain iger-tay other-may on this blog, but this is the flip-side of what happens under intensely authoritarian parenting: your daughter squirts foam on Padma Lakshmi on national television. Bev ended up, unsurprisingly, in the bottom along with Paul, whose endive salad didn't have enough depth of flavor. Sorry, guys. Those books are 40 pounds, so maybe you kind of dodged a bullet there.

For the elimination challenge, the chefs had to break into three teams and stay up all night to cook up some barbeque. Is it just me or is this way too much torture for the show? Don't get me wrong; difficult situations and creative solutions are these shows' bread and butter, but episodes like this make me feel like I'm watching a Saw movie or something. Anyway. When choosing their teams, Lindsay mentions that she doesn't want to work with Beverly, and Sara says that she doesn't want to work with Ed. Sara's wish does not come true, as Ed is a necessary accessory to working with Ty, and Bev gets stuck on what Chris C. describes as the "leftovers" team with the two Chrises. Another not so great start, though it's helped by Ed saying that "This is gonna be a real slamma jamma barbeque." Yeah!

Ed slamming and/or jamming in the Top Chef kitchen.

Okay, and ... Bev set off the fire alarm in one of the RVs while trying to flambé bourbon. In a pan with pretty huge flames leaping out of it. Bev! Come on! Chris C. interviews that Bev is book smart, but when it comes to common sense "she's missing a few chapters." Poor Bev. Blame her parents. Meanwhile, Paul has taken the helm on his team, using Asian flavors to separate their barbeque from the rest of the pack.

And on the third team, Sara became ill from the heat of the barbeque pit/weather and was sent by the medic to the hospital. Ed does not take kindly to this development, claiming, "If it were me, I would have pushed through it." One man down, he and Ty decide to pre-cut their meat to make serving the following day easier, even though they both know that it's a bad idea cooking-wise. When serving time comes, Ed and Ty worked out a system between the two of them that got disrupted upon Sara's return. Ed yells at Sara, saying, "We can be faster without her" and commenting on the coincidence that she arrived just in time to serve the judges and then left to sit once the judges moved on. Obviously, we don't know all the details of what happened, but I'm going to go ahead and say that a trained medic would know whether a person could indeed "push through" whatever problems Sara was suffering. I'm actually surprised that she was the only one to feel ill from the heat and the stress. I'm sure it was Ed's own stress that contributed to his attitude about Sara (see above re: chef torture), but that paired with his comments about Heather left me with an icky feeling. Ed, you've fallen a few notches for me. I hope you build that good will back up.

At judges' table, Ed's team was called out for their early meat slicing, which led to it being badly cooked. Beverly's beans were undercooked and her coleslaw was "unspectacular." Tom admonished her: "You can't just sit back there without a point of view." Let's hope she took those words to heart, since she (and Ed) are still in the game. As for Paul, he and his team took the win with their nontraditional flavors and they split $15K between the three of them, bringing Paul's personal tally to $35,000. Whoa! Now if only he could get some more screen time (not for being a jerk though, please)...

Hooray, Team Paul!

I have mentioned in this space MANY TIMES how much of a Mindy Kaling fan I am. So of course I watched her appearance on Conan, where she discussed her time with Bill Clinton and her dieting resolutions. Spoiler alert: she is a delight. Her book is also a joy. Read it, and we can have a book club discussion in the comments.

These are a few of my favorite peeps.

And finally, the season premiere of Portlandia saw the return of Kumail Nanjiani, this time as a SoCal waiter listing way too many options in his too-hip restaurant. He'll tell you how you can lobsterate your meal. Visit the Eater site to watch him in "Around the World in 80 Plates."


Dianne Choie


Dianne Choie's TV is in Brooklyn, NY. She has a cat, several reusable shopping bags, and other mildly annoying stereotypes of youngish people who live in Brooklyn.