It's the little things that get you booted from 'Top Chef.'
8:04 AM, Jan 13, 2012 • By VICTORINO MATUS
With much fanfare, this past episode of Top Chef: Texas featured Restaurant Wars, which seems to excite the chefs but strikes me as the most perilous of challenges—a competent chef who volunteers to be team leader can go down with the ship, taking responsibility for others' mistakes. The chefs were divided into two groups—the men versus the women. The men wasted no time in getting organized, agreeing on all the dishes, and working fairly well with each other. The women, meanwhile, turned on each other, talking behind each other's backs and sometimes to their faces. The censor at the Bravo control room must have a blistered finger from all the times he had to press the bleep button—the women sounded as if they were auditioning for Goodfellas.
And yet the women apparently served the better food. The men were called up to judges' table and New York's Ty-Lör Boring was sent packing for a Thai crab appetizer that judge Hugh Acheson called "boring, absolutely no pun intended. It failed to evoke really anything Thai. It could have been a Minnesota crab cup for all intents and purposes." Really? That's how it ends?
When I spoke to Ty-Lör yesterday, I asked if he was surprised to get the axe. (Actually, I first asked him what's with his name, which he said is Scandinavian but, more to the point, was a nickname given to him when he apprenticed in Denmark. "It sort of stuck.") In any event, Ty had studied the previous Restaurant Wars and pointed out at this level of competition, contestants are being eliminated for technical failures. "We tried to do things too technical," he explained. If the guys could do it all over again, "we would make a simpler menu" with dishes "correctly seasoned and easier to execute."
Ty doesn't necessarily consider the ladies' menu to be better, but concedes it was better seasoned, better executed. On the phone, just as on the show, Ty is no nonsense, no drama. He doesn't name names or blames others. "I don't do that s—t," he said, although he is rooting for Ed Lee, who I still maintain is the most ruthless of contestants, the kind of guy who would manage to survive in Oz.
And what of those ridiculous scenarios thrust upon the chefs each episode—the stringent time constraints and, as two readers pointed out to me, the sleep deprivation? All Ty would say is "it makes for good television." (For those of you in New York, be on the lookout for Ty's pop-up restaurant TBD, which will be up and running at City Grit during Fashion Week, February 6 to February 11.)