Saturday, June 16, 2007

But Padma's Still There, Right?

The third season of Top Chef is underway, as of last Wednesday. This cable-poor, Bravo-less yet iTunes-savvy viewer will presumably be playing catch-up as quickly as Apple can post the new episodes online. But already I can tell that Bravo has fiddled little with the show's format. For this, I'm thankful. Padma still glows beautifully, Gail is still being edited to seem meaner than everybody else and Tom is still bald. A plus: Queer Eye refugee Ted Allen has joined the regular judging panel and using his honed skills to mock people's haircuts. In his defense, the season three sneak preview — The Four-Star All-Star Challenge, which pits the top four contenders from Season One against those from Season Two — proves that in the wake of the competition many former contenders celebrated by butchering their hair.

For your consideration: exhibits one and two.

Ilan has molded his head into a relief map leading to Pseudo Cornrow City and Elia is biting the style of freak hybrid Cyndi Lauper and your grandma's friend Rita.

Other familiar faces haven't changed at all. Marcel, for example, still brags like he wants someone to assault him — again. He even showcases his rapping abilities once more. I'm only mentioning this because his rhymes namecheck my online alias's namesake, Kid Icarus. To quote the Marcel:
I'm gonna bust at the shit in the kitchen
Because I have a serious itchin'
To lay it down like the serious dishin'
Rappin' about what's gonna happen'
I'm like Kid Icarus
My shit is gonna be delicious
Seriously, this is noteworthy, not only because it's lame but also the notion of this particular video game being mentioned on a reality show about cooking is unheard of. Kid Icarus is not a well-known game. It's no Legend of Zelda or Mega Man. It's a series that consisting of only two titles — one for the original Nintendo in 1986 and another for the Game Boy six years later — and with a handful of cameos besides. This makes the Venn Diagram of personality for me and Marcel overlap just a tad more, and that makes me a little sad. (Another lingering question: When he says his shit will be delicious like Kid Icarus, does he mean the game, the character, or the literal shit of the character?)

Arcane video game references aside, more pressing matters are at hand.

The other Top Chef-related item worth mentioning regards Clay, the third-season contestant who hails from Santa Barbara's own University Club. The Food Critics Legiono of Doom asked Clay to pack his knives at the end of the first episode — even in light of a touching backstory involving his chef father having committing suicide. That's the lesson, I guess: Don't appear vulnerable right from the get-go. (Though if this rule truly does apply, then Clay could have learned from Season Two's Suyai, who was also the first to get kicked off even though she had one of the best reasons for being there: Cooking helped her overcome her eating disorder.) For what it's worth, I interviewed Clay for the Independent. The story, which ran online Tuesday, made him sound like I nice enough guy — and that wasn't my doing, since so much of it was just framed around his quotes. Total bummer, though. I don't know if I can spare the mental energies to pick a new favorite.

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