Thursday, September 17, 2015

Oh, No, Another One About Chopped!

Sometimes I love the Food Network’s Chopped so much that I worry, as Soupy Sales used to say, that my brains might fall out. Other times, though, I think my poor heart might have been humpty-dumptified, broken so badly as to never be repaired. Such was the case this evening  when Kent Rollins, the chuck wagon cook from Oklahoma, competed in a "redemption" edition (that is, one featuring four second-bests from earlier competitions) and lost again.

 You can’t help but like Kent. He’s the sort of sort-of-Southerner who addresses every fellow male as sir, and every female as ma’am, with palpable sincerity. His trademark hat looks as though it’s been trampled many times by herds of cattle, and then used in lieu of a commode by a succession of homeless persors. It may be the grungiest hat in the world, and Kent, whose catering business is very successful, may be wearing it for the same reason Bruce Springsteen gets out of stretch limousines and then into profusely dented Econolines two blocks from his gigs so his audience won’t imagine he’s ceased to be the salt of the earth, but I still love him. I have just seen him lose to a little New York multiethnic smartypants, Zoe Feigenbaum, even though she cooked what the judges called the worst dessert they’d ever been served on Chopped, because he cut his finger and bled into his own dessert, rendering it not so yummy-looking to the judges.

I found even more heartbreaking the recent (as in: watched recently by me) defeat of little Vito Facciabene, the dese-and-dosiest contestant the show has ever featured, and the most endearing. Having recently lost his restaurant in the Bronx (one assumes he looked everywhere, but to no avail), and with his wife pregnant and the couple’s first daughter presumably looking up soulfully at Veet a lot and whispering, “Daddy, I’m hungry,” he didn’t just want the $10,000 prize, but needed it — desperately. You could tell from the heartstring-tugging music that accompanied his little interview segments. So who wound up winning? Little Miss Stuckup from Somewhere, Alabama, with her blonde hair, excessive mascara, and penchant for telling the judges what a fantastic chef she is, even after one of them observed quite pointedly that a little humility from her might really hit the spot .

A few nights earlier, on an all-teens edition, it was a 13-year=old home-schooled boy who told the camera that he didn’t want to be thought of as a great teen chef, but a great chef, period, who won. He was smug, precocious, and adorable in the way that makes even the kindest onlooker wonder if bullying is always a bad thing, the kind of boy whose trousers you want to yank down around his ankles in full view of the prettiest girl in school after listening to him speak for four seconds. Ted Allen remains the least charismatic host in the history of television.

Like the judges — who commonly include two of the most prolifically tattooed men in America (restaurant kitchens are apparently a popular refuge for fuckups and misfits), and, in Marc Murphy, the homeliest man in the Western Hemisphere — I’m in no hurry to eat food onto which someone’s bled. It’s impossible to imagine that a lot of the non-self-harmers don’t sweat into their food, though, and am I alone in being a little bit dissettled by how much they handle everything? Is it not easy to imagine a chef absentmindedly picking his or her nose during a brief lull, and then neglecting to wash his or her hands afterward?

Maybe it’s best not to think about this sort of thing.

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