By Sean Manning
I started watching Bravo’s Top Chef because it was a cooking show that threw creative challenges at its contestants and occasionally gave useful advice for the wannabe chef. That was Season 1. I got hooked on Season 2 because it acted like a classy cooking show when it was really a culinary “Lord of the Flies” (complete with their own Piggy—the endlessly obnoxious man-child Marcel Vigneron). Those antics were fun while they lasted—about to the point when chef Cliff Crooks tried to hold Vigneron down and shave his waifish Syndrome hair off in the middle of the night. And then the guilt set in. Like many of the show’s fans I had to ask—at the very least, aren’t I supposed to be able to pretend this is a food show?
Maybe that’s why the first installment of the show’s third season (originally aired last Wednesday, and sure to be shown in reruns many, many, many, many more times in the future) seemed so determined to utterly kick the shit out of its 15 brand new cheftestants. Not only were they subjected to two tough challenges (Surprise! Make an amuse bouche out of the buffet platter you just ate on, and a surf and turf combo of nasty meats), but the merciless Chef Anthony Bourdain was brought on to mock the unworthy. As for the chefs themselves, my money is on CPA (“Certified Professional Asshole”) Hung Huyhn, who is making an early bid for this season’s pretentious fine dining villain. If the past two seasons have been any indication, we’re in for some quality television in the coming weeks.