Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ming Tsai: surviving Round 3

I finally watched the DVR'ed third episode of "The Next Iron Chef." Ming Tsai survived the third round in the middle of the pack, but the judges continue to wonder aloud about his consistency. They praised the dish he cooked during the elimination round, along with the work of most of the other chefs, but the stand-out chef this time proved to be Chef Canora (visit the Food Network site to see who these folks are). Meanwhile, the hapless Chef Dumont, who looked doomed from the start, got the boot.

While I've been fascinated by the presence of Ming Tsai in this competition, I'm not sure I'm rooting for him. He often comes off as aloof and a bit arrogant in his on-camera asides, frequently speaking in comparatives that imply he's part of an elite group (e.g., "Breakfast isn't something that everyone does well"-- possibly implying that he does it well). In the previous episode, where he found himself at the bottom, he assured the viewers that he's at least as good as, if not better than, everyone else in the competition. That comment, in itself, isn't surprising, since just about everyone in the competition holds similar sentiments. But because he's made several such comparative comments now, in only three episodes, I'm beginning to wonder whether he might not be trapped in a bit of an ego-bubble.

Chef Canora, the winner of the third-round elimination, is just the opposite: his comments normally evince a great deal of humility, as well as respect for his competitors. Not to say that Tsai has been openly disrespectful, of course: he hasn't. But he also hasn't betrayed much warmth or humanity.

This episode featured a bit more camaraderie than the two previous episodes did; I finally saw some hints of what made Season One so likable. Even Chef Tsai no longer has to worry about being thought of as the super-smart kid who sits alone in the corner of the classroom; having been taken down several notches in the second episode, he is now truly just a fellow competitor.

I'll be curious to see how things go from here. Right now, the chefs to watch appear to be Chefs Canora, Forgione, and Estes. Oh, and the big Texan, Chef Caswell.


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