Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Thursday, November 03, 2011

Top Chef takes on Texas,Work of Art gets childish and a first impression of Grimm

A brand new season of Top Chef started off last night,taking this year's pack of potential players to Texas. Everyone met at the Alamo,where Padma informed the 29 chefs gathered there that there were still some hoops to jump before any of them could claim the 16 spots open for competition.

The contenders were split into three groups with each one being given a challenge that they all must share in. The best of the bunch would get their official Top Chef jacket while others had to go home. For the rest,Padma announced that they would be "on the bubble" and have to compete in a special fourth round as their last chance to enter the game.

Two new judges,in addition to Tom and Gail,were also announced. One is Hugh Acheson,who competed in Top Chef Masters(we'll see him next week)and the other is Emeril Lagasse,who has been a previous guest judge. Glad to see some fresh faces at the regular TC panel and experienced chefs at that.

Group One had a whole pig to cook,with each person choosing the part of the animal to cook and some having to rely on others to butcher their meat for them. Unfortunately,that trust was abused for one particular chef. Grayson chose tenderloin as her main protein and Tyler,the guy who was supposed to carve that out of the pig for her, did a terrible job of it.

He chopped up that meat so poorly that she barely had anything to work with. Judge Tom noticed his shoddy skills and sent him out the door,before Tyler could even cook anything. Happy to see that,especially since he was an annoying braggart to begin with. Grayson did the best she could with what she had,yet still wound up in the bubble group. I hope she makes it in!

Other folks in that round did very well,such as Sarah who whipped up a pig skin ravioli and Chris Jones with his pork belly stuffed into a caramelized apple with applesauce. The triumphant chefs then headed off to check out the house they'll be staying in for the show.

Meanwhile,Group Two had a selection of products set up for them and everyone in that bunch had to agree on the one item they all would work with. Rabbit was the decided upon protein and deemed to be versatile enough to showcase everyone's skills.

Ty-Lor Boring(that appears to be his actual name)impressed the judges with his confit of rabbit legs with tomatoes and fish sauce,which earned him a TC jacket right on the spot.

Joining was Whitney,for her rabbit sugo that had shallots,bacon and tomatoes and Keith who did a triple play,as he had chicken fried rabbit,a braised confit and seared tenderloin along side Yukon potato hash. I've never eaten rabbit but that sounds good to me.

Next week,we'll see how Group Three does and find out if anyone trapped in the Bubble breaks out. Perhaps we might even get to an actual Quickfire challenge and really get this party started.

Work of Art had a visit from producer Sarah Jessica Parker,along with a group of kids who were integral to the next challenge.

Each adult artist had to make a piece that connected with the artwork their assigned young person had created. The winning piece would then be auctioned off and the proceeds given to the public school art program that the children were enrolled in.

First off,the Most Improved Since Last Week award goes to Dusty,whose experience as a fifth grade art teacher truly paid off here.

The kid that he had to work with made an abstract which had little doorways in it,so Dusty made a large "Portrait for Kei" with flaps that opened up and showed different aspects of his subject.

It was a good use of materials and imagery,plus it cleverly tied into the inspiration piece. Dusty was in the Top Two and should have won,in my opinion.

That dubious honor went to Kymia,who basically pumped the young lady she was assigned for more information about the simple carrot drawing that she had made.

The little girl gave her a story about a dead girl who ate everything in her path and died after eating the carrot,something that you couldn't visually connect to right away,which was a requirement of this challenge as stated by SJP(who was also the guest judge this round).

While Kymia's technique for "Alana's Story" was excellent,her creativity in making a direct connection to the original was seriously flawed. For some strange reason,the judges overlooked that element and gave her the win.

Rightfully in the Bottom Three was Sarah H.for her sad trio of pictures entitled "When I was 10". The inspiration piece that she was given was a brightly colored collage of words that made the girl who painted it happy. Sarah's choice was to paint her unhappy childhood instead,making it more about her than the painting she was assigned to connect with.

A personal depiction of your past woes is fine for your own show but the assignment here was to relate to another piece of art and she flat out failed to do that. Not to mention that it was hard to talk about the problems with Sarah's effort when all she did was cry(sorry,hon,but there's a time for tears and this wasn't it).

The Sucklord wasn't completely satisfied with his "Secret Tree" but felt that it was more important to please the little girl whose weeping willow painting was his starting point. Judge Jerry lead the complaints,threatening to get "medieval" with the Sucklord if he added any more Star Wars figures to his future pieces.

First of all,Jerry,spare us your lame threats-you're challenging a guy who knows the name of Gandalf's sword,okay? No contest on that front. Second,you kept griping about how the Sucklord didn't create his own world within that secret tree sculpture.

As Sucklord pointed out,that tree was supposed to be a secret world of imagination for kids and do you know what kids use to make their own special reality? That's right,toys! Whether it's Star Wars,Transformers or My Little Pony,children make up their own unique games and stories using those time honored trinkets. I think you're the one with the stinted imagination here,Jerry.

Tewz was sent packing,for his urban take on the still life of vegetables that was his inspiration piece. He decided to make a concrete sculpture that formed the word "Grow" ,with plant life shooting out of the cracks. The judges insisted that his piece didn't connect to the veggie picture at all and that Tewz wasn't knowable enough to do more with it.

I totally disagree,as did The Sucklord who went to Tewz's defense. To me,that piece was a perfect "city mouse" companion to what could be properly called a "country mouse" painting. As a city girl myself,it was a reminder of all the walks I've had where bits of greenery were sprouting from the cervices in the sidewalk and if those so-called judges are too short sighted to see that,the fault lies with them.

The big challenge for next week takes place at the New York Times,where past headlines are meant to be the focal point. The Sucklord may be struggling with this one but I'm going to be rooting for him until the bitter end.

The second of this season's fairy tale based series,Grimm,debuted last week and I have to say that it's pretty interesting so far. David Giuntoli stars as Nick,a homicide detective whose latent psychic senses are beginning to wake up due to the ailing health of his Aunt Marie(Kate Burton).

Nick is the latest in a long line of monster hunters and not only are many of these scary creatures hiding out in the open,they are well aware of the Grimms and their compilation of details about their magical prey.

The world building seems solid and with the addition of potential sidekick Monroe(Silas Weir Mitchell),a reformed Big Bad Wolf,as comic relief,this show does have promise. Nick being a cop will be handy for hunting down the monsters but hopefully,there's more on the horizon in terms of long term storytelling.

I'm going to give Grimm a few more episodes before deciding whether or not to stick with it,particularly since Once Upon a Time airs during my usual Sunday night fare and my Friday evening schedule is more flexible. With any luck,we may have a good reason to watch weekend TV again:


CHEF HUNTER: This new series starts on November 10 and is set up as an audition for those hoping to claim executive chef spots at major restaurants. For folks hungering for behind the scenes fine dining fare,this should hit the spot:

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