Kitchen Improv

Zoi who?

Zoi who?

Listen to Jennifer discussing last night’s episode in this interview from

There you are minding your own business out for an evening at some improv night club. Everyone’s having a good time. A couple of drinks. A couple of laughs. The actors are really killing. Now they’re soliciting ideas from the audience for their next skit. You smile as the audience yells out crazy suggestions to questions like, “Name a color,” or, “name an emotion”. You’re smile fades a little, though, as the suggestions suddenly get awfully close to your self-interests. At this point in the evening, if your a chef, the cry of “name a food” would chill your blood. After all, if you’re at an improv club there’s no worse feeling than that of going from being audience member to being full-fledged participant on stage.

Trust me.

Even for our hearty TC contestants, with their willingness to endure Tom’s critiques of their culinary exploits and Padma’s occasional withering stares just for a shot of fame and exposure, the kind of exposure an improv stage provides can prove to be too much for our band of ego-driven chefs. Mercifully, we were spared the sight of Jennifer and Dale acting out a version of the “Meeting your girlfriend’s parents for the first time!” skit. Instead the gang had to use the Mad Lib-like suggestions from a drunken improv audience to prepare food for the cast of Chicago’s Second City theatre group. Overall an interesting juxtaposition given the Quickfire challenge, overseen by Johnny Iuzzini, which required the chefs to exercise their baking and pastry skills. Whereas cooking in general is improvisational, baking is a science like chemistry, and some of it’s best know practitioners are about as exciting as chemists. Aside from Duff on Food Network’s Ace of Cakes, can you name a baker with a Mario Batali-like personality?

Back at ChefHaus contestants break into teams of two to plan their improv meals. And, as if “Depressed Bacon” and “Perplexed Tofu” wasn’t difficult enough, the contestants are forced into more improvisational moments when they discover many of their kitchen electrics have been removed, and, two-thirds of the way into their cooking time, they’re forced to pack up and leave the friendly confines of the GE Kitchen for the cramped galley of ChefHaus. Serving proceeds apace with not a little bit of sexual innuendo, and then on to the Judges Table where one of the show’s problems comes to light. All of the challenge winners are men (hooray, Spike finally got to make his soup!) but the bottom quartet are all women including, gasp! St. Stephanie. A female contestant has not yet won on Top Chef, and picking off another one right now doesn’t improve the odds one will win this season either.

Another problem facing the judges is just who to send home anyway. Does someone from the team whose plate was a riot of flavors and ideas pack their knives and leave? Or, do one of the chefs from the team which ignored the rules of the challenge take a hike? Apparently, breaking the rules isn’t always enough to get you sent home, so poor Jennifer and her asparagus ends her quixotic quest to avenge Zoi, and instead will get to comfort her in person. The judgment seemed a little unfair to me. After all Antonia and Lisa flouted the rules and didn’t even include an element in their dish they were required to use. Perhaps, if they had, the taste and execution would have been worse than Jen and Steph, and one of them would have had to pack their knives and go.

I guess the judges felt they should reward Team Polish Sausage for their ingredient improvisation.


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