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'Top Chef': So many on the bottom, but Ariane takes the fall

January 14, 2009 | 11:00 pm

ArianeWhat is the bigger crime when competing on a team in "Top Chef" -- fumbling the centerpiece dish or contributing little to nothing at all?

The judges found bunking the main dish to be the bigger offense tonight, but I 100% disagree. The decision to send Ariane home was the wrong one.

Did she really have a shot at winning "Top Chef"? Probably not, as I've pointed out more than once. And while her dishes often lacked some of the finesse of her competitors, this New Jersey mom certainly deserved to hang around longer than the two whiners who were spared.

Leah bothers me. But excusing that, she made a tomato salad, which if you'll remember was composed of sliced tomatoes, shaved cheese, lemon and salt. Was there something green too? I'm not sure, not that it matters. That was her entire contribution to Team Lamb. Her TV boyfriend Hosea, who I like, roasted potatoes. That's it.

What did Ariane do? She freaking broke down a baby lamb! Even though she doesn't know how to butcher meat! This is not the same as attempting to make creme brulee if you don't know how. Butchering can be done, if very poorly. Ariane also made a marinade. She decided to try and do a fancy roulade with the meat -- maybe not the best idea but at least she was pushing herself, while her teammates no doubt used most of their three hours to grope each other in a corner somewhere.

(Hilariously, in their weekly viewer poll, "Top Chef" asked viewers which team "honored their protein" best? The results: 63% of viewers said Team Lamb. Just goes to show how much of a fan favorite the underdog Ariane became.)

Then there's Radhika...

Fabio put it best: She used the first hour to peel and grill 10 ears of corn. What??? Seriously, what would Hung say? It's not even that she's slow, she just isn't willing to throw out that big idea. Originally, she had a bread pudding in mind. The kitchen didn't have figs? So she throws her hands up and settles for just doing corn with bacon salad then. (And Jeff cured the bacon!)

Leah and Radhika can't win this show. Both have won individual challenges, it's true. But I look at someone like Jeff, who is always trying to do too much for better or worse, and I think someone like him needs to win. Someone who's pushing and trying new things. He's not the most consistent player, but given the choice whose food I'd want to eat, he'd be up there with Stefan and, ordinarily, Hosea.

In fact, those three -- Jeff, Stefan and Hosea -- and Jamie are my current picks for the Final Four. If there's any justice, that is.

-- Denise Martin


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Photo: Ariane Duarte / Credit: NBC Universal