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'Top Chef': The wrong chef sent packing

Pretty much everyone -- and we'll include the president of the United States -- knows all too well that Washington, D.C., isn't always very fair.

Yet rarely is the capitol as unjust as it was in Wednesday night’s “Top Chef” restaurant wars, when Kenny Gilbert was dispatched home while Alex Reznik survived to make a mess of one more dish down the line.

If elections can have a recount, why can’t we petition for a new vote on who gets booted off?

When even the members of the winning red team were openly critical of Alex, you realize that it’s not just you and your culinary contacts who believe he’s a black hole, a gastronomical vortex that sucks everything in his vicinity into inescapable doom.

And yet there Alex remained at the end of Episode Nine, smirking in his usual unsettling way, as creepily content as Hannibal Lecter after a side dish of fava beans.

“Alex needs to go home. Bottom line,” Kevin Sbraga, a member of the losing blue team, told the judges just before the mandoline fell on Kenny. For a fleeting moment, it looked as if they considered breaking protocol and exiling someone from the winning team, but sadly there would be no constitutional crisis in “Top Chef” this evening.

Typically the best episode in the “Top Chef” lectionary, restaurant wars didn’t disappoint this year, starting with the interesting politics of which chefs picked which teammates.

Choosing first for the blue team, Kevin picked Kenny, and Ed Cotton selected gal pal Tiffany Derry for his red squad. Kevin had a chance to grab Angelo Sosa with his third pick, but instead chose Kelly Liken, a decision that may have doomed the blue team’s fate.

Ed quickly grabbed Angelo, and when Kevin selected Amanda Baumgarten to complete his blue team, Ed was forced to invite Alex -- the same chef who purportedly stole Ed’s pea puree two weeks ago.

In the Quickfire relay challenge, Alex immediately made a critical mistake for his squad, salting a piece of fish so early and aggressively in the process that it was nearly brined within a few grains of a sodium overdose. “Alex completely ruined it,” Tiffany said.

No sooner were menus sketched out for the elimination test than the red team tried to minimize Alex’s role as much as possible. “We all question Alex’s ability, basically, to cook,” Ed said.

Like the aspiring football player told to fetch water bottles, Alex was sent to work the front of the house, but not before he hacked up his proteins like a Weedeater tearing into some crabgrass. “He’s … destroying it,” Angelo said of Alex’s lamb carving, just before Tiffany found scales and bones in what was supposed to be Alex’s striped bass fillets.

But Alex couldn’t even fetch water. He treated his serving staff rudely, failed to greet the judges when they entered the restaurant, and described one dish to them as “braised” or “broiled” pork chops before deciding it was in fact pan-seared lamb.

1 Kenny, who has been inconsistent throughout the season but has shown distinct talent, stumbled badly. He may have deserved to be on the losing team, but teammate Amanda's food (an overdone steak) wasn't demonstrably better.

Former New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni, the evening’s guest judge, icily described Kenny’s fried cheese course as “a horror show” and labeled his beet salad as if “done through the guise of Hamburger Helper.”

What frustrated Kenny so much -- and who can blame him? -- was that Alex was riding the coattails of his more accomplished teammates, collecting marks for a test he didn’t even take. “There was a representative on the team that didn’t cook their dish,” he complained, but the sentiment (though totally accurate) fell on deaf ears.

Kevin was even more blunt in his assessment of Alex’s cooking away from the judges, but by then it was too late. The wrong cook was heading home.

-- John Horn

Photos: (top) Alex Reznik, Tiffany Derry, Angelo Sosa and Ed Cotton in "Top Chef." Credit: David Giesbrecht / Bravo

(bottom) Tom Colicchio and Kenny Gilbert in "Top Chef." Credit: David Giesbrecht / Bravo


Comments () | Archives (16)

Completely agreed! Kenny pack your knives! What? I think the judges must have gone back stage and smoked crack rock during the commercial break. Kenny going home was a HUGE miss! Amanda should have been sent home, Alex next week. Kenny was set to be top 3 easily. The show will no longer be as interesting. It's off of my "must see" list and has moved down to "ah, if I have time I'll watch."

This episode points up, yet again, the glaring flaw in the judging on "Top Chef": that luck plays a very significant role in who wins. Get on the right team, or get the right partner, and the biggest screw-up is protected, and a times, can win the week's challenge. If the Ashley/Eli travesty of last season didn't point that up effectively enough, tonight's episode did.

I don't believe there is sufficient evidence to say, with certainty, that Alex swiped the pea puree, no matter what the individual competitors may believe. But that aside, he was clearly, and inarguably, the weakest contestant, and should not have been sheltered by an otherwise winning team.

But Amanda was little better. Kenny should have been given the benefit of his role in running what was clearly a far smoother service than the red team's, as well consideration of the strength of his history with the show versus Amanda's, and allowed to remain. Even Amanda thought her days were numbered as the elimination decision came down -- it was all over her face.

Tomorrow, we can expect yet another Colocchio blog rationalizing the judges' decision, no doubt written for him by someone able to craft his feeble arguments into golden, if hollow words designed to defend yet another lousy decision at Judges' Table. And yet again, the integrity of the show, and its judging, takes another knock. This one might just be a TKO.

I really lost total faith in this show. It was one show i was looking forward to watch every week. Kenny was suppose to be amoung the final last "warrior" of this competion. The jugdes say that they don't care what goes on in the kitchen ,but they should for it can show true passion or a total "Cheat". Alex should had been gone last week and Amanda this week. Top Chef count me out, for this is the last time i watch your show.

My jaw DROPPED when the judges announced Kenny was to leave! As Tilan said, Kenny was meant for the top 3. After this huge mistake I have lost interest in watching the rest of the season.

Although many people are going to complain about this decision, and perhaps they're somewhat right (Alex is the weaker chef), but the fact is that Kenny made two big mistakes last episode, he's been hit or miss since the first day, and whether we like it or not, the chefs are judged on what they do each day, not on their history. Given all that, and the fact that Alex was on the winning team, meaning he could not be sent home, it came down to Kenny and Amanda. From everything the judges said, Kenny did a far worse job cooking, and so, like it or not, he was the one to send home. Face it - his luck finally ran out.

I disagree with all of you,Kevin is or was a whiner,and no one likes a snitch! He made not 1 but 2 bad dishes,complained about the fairness of the judging and has spent every week concentrating on Angelo and not his own food.How Amanda and Alex ever made it to this competion is a wonder to me.Not one of this years chefs can hold a candle to the brothers of last season....

Anybody who thinks "Top Chef" is not "scripted" has had the wool pulled over their eyes. They set that entire show up to make you think that the Blue Team would win: service was better; food was roughly the same as the Red Team. Then, they drop the "surprise" that the Red Team wins. This season has been leading to an Angelo-Kenny showdown, which is exactly how the producers wanted the audience to think. Now, everyone thinks Angelo is the clear frontrunner to win the competition, like Marcel and Hung were in seasons past. Look to Ed and Tiffany to start being much more heavily showcased as potential challengers in the weeks to come.

once again the wrong man was sent home on top chef

Um, wrong. As bad as Alex has been, Kenny really did deserve to be sent off this week.

To begin with, this is Restaurant Wars, and how many times have we seen the executive chef from the losing restaurant sent off just for being responsible for the shortcomings of his/her colleagues. Alex lucked out by ending up on the willing team, and if the winning team protected itself by preventing Alex from doing anything to foul their chances, that's life.

Second, when was the last time Kenny won anything? When was the time before that? Yes, the "off" list this time consisted of Kenny and Amanda, but Amanda only screwed up one dish, while Kenny screwed up two. Again, Restaurant Wars. If Kenny had delivered anything that approached the quality of Kevin's dish, he would still be on the show.

Third, pride goeth before a fall.

Don't worry. Alex will be gone next week, and Amanda the following week, and then it will get interesting again. I'm thinking Tiffany, Kevin and Angelo for the final.

I know Kenny kept saying that he and Angelo were the best cooks, but was there ever any evidence of that. I don't remember him winning very much or even being in the top very much. I think he said he was good so many times that people start to believe it.

He was a nice guy, but that doesn't make him a top chef. The whole blue team kept complaining about how they got along and treated their staff better. As Gail said, the customer only cares about the food they get. I don't care if the chef is mean, I just want good food and the other teams food was better.

The Judge (forgot her name) did make a valid point about how the round was scored. The contestants know this beforehand, correct? So it really does not matter what goes on in prep; it is taste!

Amanda was kept after she braised chicken in wine (or some other alcohol) for a school lunch ?? COME ON! What public school offers that? I went residential summer school in Paris as a teen that served something similar for Sunday dinner: not a public school lunch (where i returned to) -- There was no logic there. That was purly where the cooking was not equal to the agegroup/demographics served. They should have served something healthy on a thin crust pizza dough. Smarter!

Kenny has been a disappointment all season. He talks a great game, but he rarely performs up to his self-described talent level. All season, he has most often been in the middle of the pack and has been at the bottom as often as at the top. He cooked two terrible dishes and captained his team to a last place finish. And, on top of it all, he has now shown himself to be a sore loser. Good riddance.

Please note - this is not a defense of Alex, who is clearly out of his depth. But it is just about assured that he will not make the top 3, and if you are not in the final showdown, then who cares whether you come in 5th or 12th?

Top chef got it completely WRONG!! I think Kenny should be able to come back on the show and compete. He's clearly one of the best chefs on this show!

Kenny's a big baby and deserved to go home. His team lost. He handled them smoothly but he let sub par dishes go out and created two of the worst dishes himself. He has been real sometimey throughout the competition. It seems like he dazzeled everyone with his estimable prep skills and everyone transmuted that to his actual cooking skills which again, were hit and miss. Never mind that he kept ignoring the judges who were constantly telling him his dishes were way too guilded.

Don't get me wrong, I was a total fan of Kenny's (and Kevin's)...up until that childish display at judges table last night. Yeah, Alex is a creepy, untalented poseur but what did any of that have to do with the fact that the blue team served crappy food?

I'm done with Top Chef. yea, we know the producers pull strings. Yea, we know the judges play along.

But this is ridiculous.

Rules should be rules.

The idea that if your team wins, you're exempt should not apply if you break the basic rule: You DID NOT make your own dish!

Clearly, the rest of the team salvaged everything on Alex' dish.

Unreal. And then we have Angelo telling Alex that it's OK afterwards when kevin tore into Alex.

If I were there, I would have exited and given up the chance to win cause this thing is FIXED.

And nobody cares.

DONE DONE DONE with top chef. NO POINT to watch anymore.

I don't see any reason to watch the rest of this season. This show (all the "reality" shows) is not real!! Clipped and edited to death to make them watchable. Kenny had problems, no question, but to be sent home this early on and before ALEX??!! It shows clearly the flaws in the challenges and the unfairness of the outcomes. Hope it's Kevin. I'll be going for a walk on Wednesday nights.


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