Monday, October 11, 2010

in the bottom two!

Ming Tsai barely squeaked by to survive another week on this episode of "The Next Iron Chef." On the first episode, two different chefs grumbled that his food seemed "overwrought," and while that tendency may have given him the first-round win, it was nearly his downfall in Round 2. Last week's theme was "Ingenuity," and this week's was "Innovation," with an emphasis on traditional American diner food. As happened last week, Chef Tsai didn't distinguish himself during the preliminary round; during the elimination challenge, he was assigned corned beef hash and eggs (corrected from when I'd said "steak and eggs" earlier), but the judges complained that he had put too much on the dish. "Was there an ingredient in the pantry that you didn't use?" quipped Judge Majumdar during the judges' initial critiques. When Chef Tsai found himself in the bottom two with affable Chef Pagán (who looks uncannily like Andrew Zimmern), Alton Brown summed up the judges' feelings by saying that Tsai had "delivered a Fabergé egg via the Hindenburg." This was a reference to Tsai's meat component, which saved him; Chef Pagán was praised for his college try, but in the end, his dish was less than the sum of its parts. In the private asides, an anxious, then relieved, Chef Tsai sounded not so much humble as humbled. As of today, he is now merely one contestant among eight.

I've seen this sort of up-then-down performance before. In fact, it occurred a few times on the most recent season of "The Next Food Network Star," where people like Herb and Aria and Brad bounced from top to bottom and back again. Unlike those harried contestants, however, I don't think Chef Tsai is going to be berated for lacking a clear culinary point of view; if anything, he's going to do what he can to figure out what the boundaries of taste are for the judges, and will modify his approach. As he learned today, overthinking doesn't score points. At the end of the episode, Tsai vowed that this would the closest he'd ever come to being eliminated. I'm sure the other contestants have something to say about that.


1 comment:

Charles said...

Close call for Ming, there. While I will continue to root for him, I would be surprised if he won. In some ways I think he's the obvious choice, being that he has so much experience, and these shows never pick the obvious choice. Well, OK, maybe not never, but they do like to mix things up a bit.