Top Chef Week Two: Otto “bows out,” not much food and a lot of drama about lychees

October 26, 2006

The QuickFire challenged lived up to its name: It was quick alright. The contestants woke up at the crack of dawn, got some fish from the market, and made sushi for a grandfatherly-looking master sushi chef, his interpreter, and the spokesmodel hostess. Out of the 14 contestants, we viewers got to see about four dishes. Um, didn’t the other people cook anything? Cliff won for his mango-jalapeno oysters. And like that, it was over.

The elimination challenge divided the contestants into two teams – Vietnam and Korea. They had to prepare foods from those nations to serve about 1,000 guests at a fundraiser. They had $500 and an hour to shop. To sum up, the Korean team got drunk and disorganized; the Vietnamese team ran smoothly with Betty serving up drinks with a smile. Vietnam won. There was also some drama about Otto possibly stealing some lychees, but we’ll get deeper into that later. To make a long story short, shamed about taking exotic fruit without paying for it, he “bowed out” voluntarily. End scene.

Where was everybody?
Wife: I’ve complained repeatedly that there are too many contestants… but I’ll be a hypocrite and echo: “Where was everybody?” Especially during that QuickFire challenge, when we saw that nice old sushi chef eat only four or five dishes from a handful of contestants. Rather than just leaving some contestants on the cutting room floor, let’s really get cracking and eliminate them on the chopping block.

wolverine_flying.jpgHusband: I have to agree. In addition to no people, there really wasn’t much food or cooking in this episode. Therefore, my effort to be the evenhanded and interested foodie fails. I’m left to dive into the superficial — Marcel’s hair. He didn’t appear much, but there was one intriguing shot of him during the judges’ ripping of the Korean team. His hair is enormous. Marcel must be a fan of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, or perhaps he’s trying to win a part in the new Wolverine movie as “Young Logan.”

How did Ming Tsai do as a judge?
W: Ming Tsai is just too cool for school. I turned on him a little bit when we got the Blue Ginger cookbook and found he requires you to make elaborate, time-consuming sauce mixtures before making any of the dishes. Who has the time? Or those bizarre ingredients? But as a judge he was duly critical, if obsessed with team Korea’s subpar rice. I also liked how he corrected Josie, the purported Vietnam expert, twice on her pronunciation of “pho.” Oh, snap.

060960530501_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_.jpegH: Like my wife, I’m a bit down on Ming Tsai because of the Blue Ginger cookbook. If I was told to use one more star anise, I thought I was going to go insane. Star anise are so intense, and they have a flavor I’ve never been fond of. But over the years, Ming has redeemed himself as a great codex of culinary knowledge. I think he clearly demonstrated this on Wednesday’s episode. He gave sound advice, even-keeled criticism and satisfying smackdowns. I liked him as a judge.

The lychee controversy…

lychee.JPGW: Omigod, alright, Otto mentioned something about some “free lychees.” You’d think he held up that Korean grocery store with a glock or something. Yes, he should have been honest and returned the lychees when he realized they hadn’t paid for them. But Marisa, Miss Self-Righteous, could have spoken up when she overheard him saying that. Instead, she connives and whines hours later, disrupting her team and ultimately getting Otto kicked off. Wait a minute… Why am I getting so worked up about this? It’s a reality show for Pete’s sake. You’ve done it again, you Top Chef editors. Catty moments just suck me in.

H: Could Marisa be any quicker to throw someone under the bus? To explain in more detail, Otto pointed out to the group after they left the grocery that he thought they got some lychees for free. I interpreted this as him saying, These were on the cart, but I don’t think we paid. Marisa later stirs up this issue by calling in Tom Colicchio, who inspires Otto to leave the prep work and return the lychees to the store.

The way I viewed the scenario was that Otto pointed out something to everyone, yet only an hour later does anyone seem to care. At some point, rather than being a child, you pony up and say, “Let’s fix this problem.” Instead, Marisa tried to act like she was not responsible — she was part of the team, she was there when the lychees were purchased or not purchased, and it was only Otto who noticed and said something. Additionally, when at the judges’ table, Marisa attacked anyone who disagreed with her about anything. I am really hoping this is an editing trick rather than childish behavior. And while he likely thought he was the next to go, I think Otto bowing out in the end was rather classy and saved a good deal of face.

I look forward to seeing who Marisa tosses under the bus next.

Favorite to win?
W: Did anybody look good? Well, maybe Betty. She was working that cucumber beverage. (If that’s possible. I mean, she wasn’t wearing it or anything.)

H: Betty looked like a champ. She gets the idea of presentation and taste. She is the only person who appears to get consistent high marks from the judges. I wrote her off for the slicker, younger male models like Ilan and Sam. I wouldn’t be shocked if she was around late into the show.

Next off?
W: I hope it’s Marisa. I now loathe her, thanks to the Top Chef producers. Her hockey-puck dessert evidently stunk, and that was half her team’s offerings. Isn’t she supposed to be a top pastry chef or something? Plus, she was way too keen to throw Otto to the wolves. Check her butt out of the game (that’s a hockey metaphor, courtesy of my husband).

H: Marisa gets no love from me. I think she might stick around a bit longer because if you look at her dish, it did have an attractive quality to it. I suspect she does have skills, though a terrible attitude. My choice to be booted next is still Michael. I think we saw hints of his limits this week and the teasers for next week seem to confirm it.

Your thoughts? Your thoughts on our thoughts?

Review Comments about Past Weeks:
Week 1


  1. Marisa is messed up, but I think Elia is the evil that is lurking. Maybe it’s the accent, but she just seems kind of mean. And haughty. Again possibly the foreign thing.

  2. I couldn’t agree more about Ella. I suspect the moment Marisa gets tossed, Ella will be there to step in her shoes. I think Ella also suffers from “bad face.” Its one of those reality show illneses where the contestant has an overly expressive face, tending towards scruntching or eye rolling. Ella can’t go through a scene with her making a face that doesn’t seem to show disdain for someone or something.

  3. awesome article

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