TV review: <i>Exotic tucker takes the Top Chef cake</i>

01:43, Jan 31 2009
CELEBRITY SPECIAL: It's a wonder they haven't done <i>Top Celebrity Chef</i> with bake-offs between high-profile cooks like Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver.

If you had to pick the best from the current crop of the reality-TV genre then I'd say Project Runway, Tom Gunn's Guide to Style (except Tom's female side kick gives me the major cramp) and Top Chef.

In this latest new series of Top Chef (Tuesday, 7.30pm TV3) the competitors yelp with glee when they are put up on the top floor of a Miami hotel that comes with a hot tub.

They rush out on to the balcony and collectively ooh and aah at the view of the gorgeous ocean. But what always amazes me on these shows where competitors have to sleep over is that the producers are too mean to shout the talent a room of one's own.

It's all very well getting to stay at a posh hotel, but if you can't have your own boudoir what's the point?

Sharing a room with a stranger is stressful enough, and if you got stuck with a snorer or sleep walker or talker you'd be unfairly disadvantaged through lack of sleep.

The lucky guy who was sharing with Clay, the first to be kicked off, gets a room of his own for the rest of the series so he's already ahead.


Clay was a lousy cook, with a bad case of the sweats, who wanted to become Top Chef to make his father proud.

The only trouble was that the father had topped himself and I had a horrible feeling that being the first to be voted off Top Chef might have made Clay follow suit.

He worried me when he really didn't have a clue why he was in the bottom four and when he said farewell he believed he'd made life-long friends. Good grief, he'd only been in the crew one night.

As for the first quick-fire challenge, sprung on competitors when they were eating exotic nibbles at a meet and greet, they had to rush to the buffet table and choose a selection of delicacies to make a signature amous bouche.

Ignoramus here didn't even know what an amous bouche was but I looked at the chefs' busy, unwashed hands fiddling and arranging the food and felt queasy when judges Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons got to taste them.

Guest judge was Anthony "Air Points" Bourdain, who has gone as grey as a badger and promised to the winner of the first challenge that next time he was in New York he'd take him out for yakitori and get him "savage drunk".

Poor old chef Howie nearly got thrown off the show because he failed to complete his surf and turf dish in time, but talked his way out of it by quoting a relevant passage from Bourdain's book back to him – which went down a treat.

I know women swoon over Tony but I think he's over-rated, too skinny to be a real chef, and all those fags must have shot his taste buds to hell.

The weird and wonderful names of food stuffs on this show would have the most knowledgeable foodie and Cuisine magazine reader reaching for the tucker dictionary.

Exactly what are heirloom tomatoes or frog legs lollipops, and do people in the United States really eat black chicken, alligator tail, gooey duck, kangaroo and snakes?

Of course, Bourdain makes a living flying round the world to find the exotic and has dined on monkey brains, so his guts must be cast iron, to say the least. Put it this way, you wouldn't want to be sharing a room with him post-prandial.

When Tre won the first challenge his heart must have sunk when his prize was revealed as a stack of the collected oeuvre of Bourdain – all personally signed, of course. Even a hand-held blender would have been better than that.

I loathe Dale from Chicago, who has a tattoo running down the flesh of his inner forearm on the subject of being passionate about food. He and a female competitor with the hilarious name Sandee Birdsong sport mohawks and look one sandwich (club) short of a picnic lunch.

As for the judges, Gail Simmons is a long, cold drink of water and the others entirely forgettable. I'm sure everyone on Top Chef likes to keep mentioning Tom Colicchio's full name because he has such a great-sounding surname.

Colicchio actually sounds like a food, possibly a cross between a mango and an egg plant, with light-green pipped flesh, which crunches when you eat it.

I think Hung's going to clean up, even though the winner of the first challenge usually goes on to win, according to form.

It's a wonder they haven't done Top Celebrity Chef, with bake-offs between Gordon F Ramsay, Jamie F Oliver, the surviving Fat Lady, and Anthony Son of a B Bourdain.

They could keep a swearing jar in the corner and every time someone cursed they'd have to put a tenner in. By the end of one show there would be enough to grub stake the whole series.

The Dominion Post