Screen Junkies » TOP CHEF Movie Reviews & TV Show Reviews Tue, 16 Dec 2014 01:54:36 +0000 en hourly 1 5 Great Locations For Top Chef And A Few For Masters And Desserts Wed, 09 Nov 2011 15:00:09 +0000 Penn Collins Not to mess with Texas, but they probably could have dug deeper than San Antonio.

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With Top Chef having recently kicked off another season deep in the heart of Texas, one can’t help but think that perhaps they’re struggling to find new inspired locations. I’m from Dallas, and can speak to the diversity and quality of food in both Dallas and Austin (can’t really speak to San Antonio), but the fact that the producers need to use three different cities as a backdrop for this season’s competition seems a little desperate, especially considering there are a number of great cities still remaining.

So, before they announce next season, I would like to plant the following five seeds for possible locations. And because I’m so generous, I also tossed in a few places to host the other, lesser, Top Chefs. Like Desserts and Masters.


While Seattle might not be as cosmopolitan as some of the previous cities, it’s no doubt got its finger on the pulse of culinary trends, having put an emphasis on the “slow food” and “farm-to-table” approaches to cooking long before some of its bigger brothers and sisters. That’s possibly due to the fact that Seattle has some of the best ingredients, both sea and land, at its fingertips.

It’s also possibly due to the fact that 200 days of rain would turn anyone into a foodie, allowing residents to take solace only in their kitchens, the Food Network their only companion as the rain falls and falls.

Finally, you’ve got the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle. When you send the teams on a shopping mission, maybe this once we could cut out dutiful sponsor Whole Foods and inject a little more local flavor into the challenges?

New Orleans

New Orleans seems so steeped in its own culinary identity, distinct from any other, that it feels as though several seasons of the show have been filmed here. Nope. Not a one. Sure, it may not have the breadth of offerings as a Chicago or San Francisco, but no city in the United States (possibly the world) associates itself more closely to its cuisine than New Orleans.

Again, the challenges may not be the most disparate, but seeing ten chefs offer up their gumbos to the local experts would be a refreshingly humbling experience to the cocky lot of chefs. Also, I would like to see a faux-hawked chef get shitfaced on Hurricanes or Hand Grenades and accidentally out himself, but that’s probably a long shot.

This would also afford the audience perhaps a little more opportunity to see the chefs cut loose socially. By “cut loose socially,” I mean that we could see them pass out in a filthy gutter, miss their call for a quickfire challenge, then carry that shame with them for the rest of their tenure on the show.

New Orleans: Make it happen.

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‘Top Chef Just Desserts’ Contestant Is Sweet On Kiddie Porn Fri, 21 Oct 2011 01:34:27 +0000 Jame Gumb Hey kids, who wants dessert?

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If you had told me yesterday that the star of a dessert-related cooking contest was going to be arrested on kiddie porn charges, I would have bet dollars to delicious donuts that it would have been the ultra-creepy host of Sweet Genius. Turns out, I would have been very wrong. Way to beat expectations, Sweet Genius!

The real (alleged) culprit turns out to be Morgan Wilson, a finalist on season one of Top Chef Just Desserts, who has been indited on three second-degree felony charges of possession with the intent to promote child pornography.

Plano police officers searched Wilson’s residence on Sept. 27, 2010; at that time, Wilson was shown three images that had been sent from his IP address and downloaded by investigators. According to the police affidavit, Wilson admitted he had viewed these images, and signed and dated the images to indicate the agreement with police.

I still think he’s a better person than Rachel Zoe, Bethenny Frankel, and Patti Stanger.

Since my wife forced me to watch the show (no, really), I’m familiar with Wilson. To summarize his time on Just Desserts, he was a total dick, but I never suspected he was into kids, at least no more than I suspect every reality star of being into kids. But like Abe Lincoln always said, never trust a straight dude who devotes his life to making frosting. I’m looking in your direction, Cake Boss. (AOL TV)

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Giddyup: ‘Top Chef: Texas’ Unveils Contestants And Guests Wed, 21 Sep 2011 21:44:50 +0000 Penn Collins A patient nation still holds out for 'Top Scallop'.

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Having already knocked out the coasts and Chicago, Top Chef producers have decided it’s time to visit (sigh) the flyover states. Next stop: Texas. The show will bounce between Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio in the upcoming season, which premieres on November 2nd.

This season’s bizarrely random smattering of special guests includes: Charlize Theron, Pee-wee Herman, Cat Cora, John Besh, Tim Love and Patti LaBelle. Do you think the contestants will find themselves pandering to Pee-wee’s well-documented love of porcini mushrooms?

I’m kidding. I have no idea if Pee-wee Herman likes porcini mushrooms.

Host Padma Lakshmi and Judges Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons will be joined by chefs Emeril Lagasse and Hugh Acheson.

Can a humorless host please synopsize the upcoming season in a meaningless sound byte?

“Just like Texas, this will be our biggest season ever,” said head judge Tom Colicchio.

Thanks, Tom.

Here is a list of the hopefuls. I recognize none of the names and three of the restaurants. See if you can beat me!

Nyesha Arrington, 28 –  Los Angeles, Calif., Wilshire Restaurant.
Lindsay Autry, 29 – West Palm Beach, Fla., Omphoy Ocean Resort &Michelle Bernstein
Jonathan Baltazar, 36 – Long Beach, Calif., Heights Cuisine.
Ty-Lör Boring, 34 – Brooklyn, N.Y.,  Spasso
Molly Brandt, 30 – Hollywood, Fla., Allure of the Seas for Royal Caribbean
Chaz Brown, 29 – New York, N.Y., Fatty Crab
Kimberly Calichio, 27 – New York, N.Y.,  Fishtail by David Burke
Beverly Kim, 31 – Chicago, Ill., Aria Restaurant
Chris Crary, 29 – Los Angeles, Calif., Whist Restaurant in the Viceroy Hotel
Andrew Curren, 32 – Austin, Texas 24 Diner
Berenice deAraujo, 33 – Miami, Fla., Sra. Martinez
Janine Falvo, 37 – Atlanta, Ga., Briza Restaurant
Richie Farina, 28 – Chicago, Ill., MOTO
Sarah Grueneberg, 29 – Chicago, Ill., Spiaggia
Chris Jones, 30 – Chicago, Ill., MOTO
Edward Lee, 38 – Louisville, Ky., 610 Magnolia
Whitney Otawka, 30 – Cumberland Island, Ga., Greyfield Inn
Simon Pantet, 30 – Seattle, Wash., Twenty-Two Doors
Colin Patterson, 37 – Seattle, Wash., Sutra
Laurent Quenioux, 51 – Los Angeles, Calif., Vertical Wine Bistro
Paul Qui, 30 – Austin, Texas, Uchiko Restaurant
Keith Rhodes, 39 – Wilmington, N.C., Catch Restaurants
Grayson Schmitz, 27 – New York, N.Y., Exec. Chef
Tyler Stone, 22 – Sacramento, Calif., Personal Chef
Heather Terhune, 39 – Chicago, Ill., Sable Kitchen and Bar
Chuy Valencia, 25 – Chicago, Ill., Chilam Bilam
Nina Vicente, 29 – Seattle, Wash., Spur Gastropub
Ashley Villaluz, 25 – Seattle, Wash., Sous Chef
Dakota Weiss , 35 – Los Angeles, Calif., 9:30 Restaurant and The Backyard

If the list seems long to you, you’re not alone. They have increased the field from 16 to 29, though only 16 will be making it to Texas. Why are they doing this? Who the hell knows. Probably some sort of “bigger is better” philosophy because they’re in Texas and everything is bigger in Texas. Like the size of the list of mentally retarded people they execute. That’s huge.

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5 Reality Shows That Allow The Contestants To Keep Their Dignity Wed, 14 Sep 2011 23:00:03 +0000 Penn Collins These are the most-respected reality shows, which is tantamount to the distinction of being the tallest midget.

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While many thought reality TV to be a passing fad, or even something to tide us over during the recent writer’s strike, it’s become clear that the genre isn’t going anywhere.

It’s durability is made all the more amazing by the fact that virtually every show adhering to reality TV conventions makes its stars or contestants look like giant assholes or morons. However, there are exceptions to this rule. Not coincidentally, the exceptions are held in higher regard than their baser brethren.

For these five entries, you can expect a cringe-free hour of TV, which is pretty much the most praise you can lavish on reality television shows.

5. Top Chef

If you get yelled at, it’s because you didn’t cook something well. Not because you made out with a pastry chef in the hot tub or stepped on too many people’s toes. The drama is, by and large, in the contest, rather than the characters. Historically, being a jerk or an angel doesn’t hurt or help you; what you do in the kitchen does. So the stars seem to be themselves, without adopting some weird Real World/Road Rules Challenge persona.

Further, no one is out to embarrass one another. Contestants work together, and the judges are quite matter-of-fact. Sometimes painfully so (e.g. Tom Colicchio). While drama and conflict might be the name of the game in reality television, this show makes the competition the star, allowing the participants to maintain dignity.

Unless they cook with scallops. This is Top Chef, not Top Scallop.

4. Project Runway

Project Runway allows its stars to walk away in one piece for two separate reasons. Firstly, it’s a show on which the contestants are creating something. If you’re a jerk or flirt or ditz and you are able to craft a beautiful gown or creation, more than likely all will be forgiven. It’s not like you’re a real housewife whose biggest accomplishment was knocking back a bottle Pinot Grigio during lunch.

Secondly, considering the cast of characters on Project Runway, unless you sprout lavender wings and a swastika starts glowing on your forehead, you’re probably going to seem like a well-adjusted, sane person, all things considered.

It’s easy to appear like a bastion of self-respect and composure next to the likes of Christian Soriano and that dude with the backwards neck tattoo that he can read it in the mirror, but these contestants distinguish themselves further by creating some pretty amazing stuff.

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‘Top Chef’ Needs More Cooking, Less Gimmicks Thu, 10 Mar 2011 21:56:19 +0000 Jame Gumb The road to “Hell’s Kitchen” is paved with good intentions.

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Last night’s episode of “Top Chef” was a sad indictment on the American educational system. The five remaining contestants were whisked away to the Bahamas where the remainder of the season will take place. After the Quick Fire Challenge, judge Tom Colicchio informed the group that Elimination Challenge would involve cooking for “Bahamian royalty,” and the chefs seemed genuinely excited at the prospect. After all, who wouldn’t be? Me.

Now, I’m not exactly a member of the foreign service, but when you start talking about a royal family for a country that’s 50 miles off the U.S. coast, it catches my attention. Shouldn’t I have heard of the King and Queen of the Bahamas at some point in my life? More importantly, how does a former colony in the Americas end up with their own king? Unfortunately, the chefs never thought to ask these questions, and went about preparing for their royal engagement, only to find out they’d been duped. There is no Bahamian royal family (GASP!), and the meal was for the “King of the Junkanoo” at a tiny restaurant. In short, they prepared a meal for royalty, but they ended up serving commoners.

Now, the fact that none of the five chefs knew that there is no king or queen in the Bahamas is bad. I hope maybe someone did, and it was edited out by the producers. But that’s irrelevant. This is a cooking show, not a social studies class. Why should Antonia be punished because she didn’t pay attention in school? More importantly, what purpose did the trick serve? I know improvisation is an important skill for chefs, but there’s a difference between having to adapt to a situation and having to scramble because you were lied to. The entire situation may have been entertaining to watch, but at the end of the day, it didn’t help in determining who is the better chef.

Throughout the season, the chefs have been asked to participate in numerous challenges that have had absolutely nothing to do with their culinary skill. For example, in episode 10, they were told to create a meal for the employees of a Target using only ingredients and cookware found in the store itself. Granted, this challenge had some redeeming value, as it showed the chefs ability to think outsid the box and work with ingredients on hand, but it was still disappointing to see Angelo go home for salty soup. Of course it was salty! All the food came from Target.

A similar example came from episode 12, when the contestants had to make a meal using only items from the Ellis Island ferryboat. When “Top Chefs” are reduced to boiling hot dogs and mixing popcorn with fruit, what does that prove? Nothing, but at least this was only a Quick Fire.

Perhaps the worst example was from episode 6, where the participants were split up into groups and taken out on chartered fishing tours in order to catch the meal they would be cooking that evening. Granted, it’s important for a chef to know his or her ingredients, but this was ridiculous. One’s ability to catch a fish does not reflect on one’s ability to cook it. If someone had came up empty, would they have been sent home? That’s like sending Tom Brady home from the playoffs because he can’t kill a pig and tan it’s skin for a football. Apparently, the producers disagree, since the previews for next week’s episode show the remaining chefs diving for shellfish. If I wanted to watch “Deadliest Catch,” I’d have DVR’ed “Deadliest Catch.” I want to watch “Top Chef,” damn it.

Sadly, when it comes to tricks and gimmicks, the contestants aren’t the only ones being set up. In episode 12, it was the audience who got punked. After sitting through an entire hour of nonsense involving family histories and personal journeys, the judges were “unable” to reach an agreement because all the dishes were so spectacular. Give me break. This culinary miracle just happened to take place on the most contrived, overly emotional episode of the season, when family members of each contestant were in attendance? How convenient.

From what I’ve read, there won’t be any double eliminations in the remaining episodes, which is strange. TV schedules are decided months in advance, but I suppose the producers and the network just said, “Sure, what the hell? We can do an extra episode on short notice. No biggie. Oh, now we’re flying five people to the Bahamas instead of four? Great!” Even if I’m all wrong, and I’m just being a cynical bastard (which is entirely possible), that’s no excuse. This isn’t the Special Olympics! They aren’t all winners. If they honestly all did that great of a job, do an elimination Quick Fire and send someone packing. If no one goes home, it’s no longer a competition, and I just wasted an hour of my time watching assholes cook for no reason. That’s what the Food Network is for. This is Bravo. I want blood!

People watch “Top Chef” because it’s smarter than its competitors, and it doesn’t traffic in manufactured drama. I’m not going to stop watching anytime soon. And the fact that it’s taken eight seasons for me to get pissed off speaks volumes. Keeping a show fresh is difficult, and for the most part, the producers have done a spectacular job. But these recent gimmicks and pointless challenges aren’t going to do the show any favors in the long run. After all, the road to “Hell’s Kitchen” is paved with good intentions.

Like Reality Television? Then Click Here to Check Out Reality Star Gary Busey’s 13 Craziest Moments!

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WHAT’S ON TV TONIGHT: WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 12th 2009 Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 Blindfolds, bickering, shackles, mounds of snow, and serious daddy issues. All things you might find in Pamela Anderson's bedroom. Your TV preview begins now!CHECK OUT WHAT TO WATCH AFTER THE JUMPNOTE: ALL TIMES EASTERN AND PACIFIC!!!

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Blindfolds, bickering, shackles, mounds of snow, and serious daddy issues. All things you might find in Pamela Anderson’s bedroom. Your TV preview begins now!




Spike TV
Time: 9PM – Midnight

Reasons to watch: Ahh, Return of the Jedi. The final chapter in the Star Wars saga. Go back to a more simple time before George Lucas took your childhood and dunked it in the shitter flushing repeatedly. I’ll take Ewoks over that pod race anyday.

Time: 9 – 10PM

Reasons to watch: Bear goes to the Arctic Circle to hunt wild reindeer. Nice try Grylls. We all know that you’re secretly hunting Santa. You keep out of that workshop, you hear me? Those toys are for ALL OF US.


Time: 9 – 10PM

Reasons to watch: In the opener for Season 5, the wizard is shackled and buried alive in a transparent coffin beneath ice and snow. I’ve heard of being buried beneath snow. And I’ve heard of being buried beneath ice. But never the two together. Consider my mind freaked!


Network: Comedy Central
Time: 10:30 – 11PM
Reasons to watch: A college booking causes trouble between Showalter and Black. They’re alway fighting, these two. I wish they would hurry up and just bang already.
Network: Bravo
Time: 10 – 11PM
Reasons to watch: The final four contestants are given the task of cooking while blindfolded. Last time I tried that I wound up finding LEGO pieces in my lasagna and burned my penis pretty badly on the panini press.


LETTERMAN (repeat)
Sacha Baron Cohen, Joel McHale

Gordon Ramsay, B.J. Novak

KIMMEL (repeat)
Larry King, Marissa Miller, Chester French

Eric Bana, Holly Williams

Jon Hamm, Hugh Dancy, Kitty Daisy and Lewis

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