This week on “Watch What Crappens,” Matt Whitfield (Yahoo!), Ronnie Karam (trashtalktv.com), and Ben Mandelker (bsideblog.com) ask important questions such as “What happens when you put a lap band in zero gravity?” and “Where is Tia Carrere these days anyway?” Believe it or not, this all pertains to Bravo and the latest shenanigans on “Real Housewives of New Jersey,” “Real Housewives of Miami,” “I Dream of Nene,” “Eat. Drink. Love.,’ and “Top Chef: Masters.” Yes, we cover all those shows AND gossip. Big episode! Come listen!
A few weeks ago, I was invited to attend a holiday cooking class held by the “Two Hot Tamales” Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, the two chefs most recently famous for ascending the ranks of Top Chef: Masters. In addition to finding fame (or rather, additional fame) on Bravo, the two head up several restaurants including The Border Grill, which has become something of an institution here in Los Angeles. It was at that much-lauded eatery that the cooking class took place, and to say I was excited about the event was an understatement. With my friend Sly in tow, I trekked to the restaurant’s downtown location where for two hours, we learned a bevy of tips and tricks — all while watching Chefs Feniger and Milliken joke, cook, and occasionally fumble through what turned out to be more of a demo than a hands-on class. Plus, as a special treat for us, we enjoyed the fruits of their labor: a three course meal and a cocktail. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
For two seasons, Top Chef Masters was the civilized, fun palate-cleanser to the cutthroat Top Chef, and with its humble star-ratings and gentle competition, it proved to be a fun lark for everyone involved. In its third season, however, the show has undergone a revamp, which has left viewers complaining of boredom. Almost every Top Chef fan I’ve spoken to over the past several weeks has admitted that they hate the new season, and some have even announced that they’ve removed it from their DVRs. Now with just one episode left, we must ask how did this once excellent spin-off fall so far?
Full analysis after the jump…
I’m very excited about tonight’s Top Chef Masters, and no it’s not because I’m super hungry this morning. It’s because yours truly (along with Michelle Collins) got to be a DINER on the elimination challenge. I can’t say if you’ll see me on TV or not (you will at the very least see Michelle in the background — I already spied her on the preview for tonight’s episode), but chances are high you will. After all, Michelle and I were the very first people to walk into the restaurant. Plus, we happened to sit at a table that was directly in the background of the judges (unplanned!). We were quite elated by that, but you probably won’t see me because this random guy from the L.A. Times came and sat next to me and effectively blocked my STAR FROM SHINING.
I don’t know if it’s a spoiler or not for me to talk about the food; so I’ll refrain for the moment (I had to sign a contract), but I can say that the two of us had a blast. And that Michelle asked Naomi if she worked as a server at the fast food restaurant.
Fingers crossed that one of our more inane comments gets chosen as a sound byte!
Top Chef Masters premiered its new season last week, and there were some key changes this time around. Gone: hostess Kelly Choi, and judges Gael Greene and Jay Rayner. In their place: the ubiquitous Curtis Stone and famed critic Ruth Reichl. Also out the window is the star system that had the judges rating each experience on a scale of one to five stars, with the highest vote getters advancing to a finals round (where then the game would change and the lowest star earner would go home). Now Masters simply whittles down the pack in classic Top Chef style, with the winner each week earning money for charity and the loser going home.
And so I must ask: do we like these changes? On the one hand, the new format allows for a familiar, streamlined experience that perhaps ups the stakes. The tradeoff is the originality of the star system (not to mention the joy of hearing James Oseland coo, “FOUR STAHS!”). Also, I’m not sure we’ll be missing Jay Raynor terribly, but our dearest Gael? She was my favorite part of the show! On the upside, Ruth Reichl seems to be doing quite nicely. Why not have a power duo of Ruth and Gael?
And lastly, there is the Curtis Stone factor. On the one hand, the Aussie chef seems to be everywhere — do we really need him taking over Bravo? But then on the other hand, he’s a bit more natural in front of the camera than the Choi-bot (but oh how we love our robotic Asian hostesses).
Where do you stand on the issue?
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After weeks upon weeks of promotion and hype, the much anticipated “fight” episode of Top Chef: Masters arrived last night. This was finally the moment when we’d get to see the ultimate meltdown: a veritable imbroglio between Ludo Lefebvre and Rick Moonen. What could have possible led up to this most unprofessional altercation? And what would the fallout be?
Well, don’t get too excited. What we saw in the promos was essentially ALL we saw on the show. There was a trifling backstory to it all (seafood master Rick got to cook fish & chips for a pub challenge; Ludo thought it was unfair), but truly, the big fight lasted all of ten seconds on screen, with Ludo complaining about Rick’s advantage — perhaps tongue in cheek — and Rick unleashing his now trademark “Hey! HEY! I’M TALKING HERE!!” And then it was over. Or at least, that’s all Bravo deigned to show us. We immediately cut away to the Critics Table, thus sweeping the rest of this impasse under the proverbial rug. Booo.