Thursday, November 20, 2008

Top chef (Season 5; Episode 2): No dessert for me, thanks.

Something that continues to puzzle me through 4 entire seasons of Top Chef is the contestants' aversion towards making desserts.  If you're applying to be on this show, either you've watched it diligently yourself, or you should do your research--either way, you'll discover that dessert is always each chef's achilles heel (note: with the exception of Marisa, the pastry chef from Season 4, who failed to win any popularity points).  You know there's going to be an episode where there's high likelihood that you'll end up on the 'dessert team' or that a quickfire will ask you to pair a dessert with some sort of liquor that is sponsoring Bravo. Why, then, do these contestants not prepare a few signature desserts--each!--before appearing on the show?

The politics between pastry chefs and what are called 'regular' chefs--assigning a normative bias to the latter at the outset--are pretty well-documented.  While baking is almost a science, non-baking cooking is seen as a more creative endeavor, allowing chefs to showcase their inspiration and talent.  The fact that dessert is often so much more than 'baking' gets ignored in these internal industry wars, and as pastry chefs are disparagingly called 'bakers' who simply know how to follow recipes to a tee, their salaries go down and it becomes very difficult to move beyond the pastry partition in most professional kitchens.  

This tension between creativity and precision resembles the ongoing feud between the
 humanities (and social sciences) and the hard sciences in academia.  I'll admit it, while I probably wouldn't want anyone from the engineering quad waxing politics in policy meetings, I also wouldn't want a political scientist within 76 feet of something that could potentially explode.   Both are important departments; education in the liberal arts bridges this divide for an important reason.  I'm just saying that I wouldn't apply to a contest that I know has asked contestants to build reactors in the past, expecting to win by simply crossing my fingers and hoping that my feminist interpretation of immigration politics would be enough.  

I think that the person who should have gone home yesterday was inexplicably given a second chance because we never expect these chefs to be able to do desserts well. Well, there's a decent dessert and then there's this: 

On a completely different note, Fabio (our Italian) repeated the following "Italian saying" twice yesterday: "In Italian they say, it doesn't matter how many dragon you kill, it's who take home the princess.  So I go for the princess." [translation: his]  I can't stand that the judges find this sexist jerk to be charming.  Thank god I had two European (men, I should add) sitting next to me on the couch watching this episode; after Fabio had treated us to more words, one of my friends couldn't help himself: "Oh, shut the hell up." 


1 comment:

Phil said...

thanks for the shout out ;) Fabio is a nicht, nicht.