Monday, September 21, 2009

A Top Chef Vegas Scandal?

Well, not exactly. Maybe just a mini-scandal. I'll let y'all decide.

Last week's Top Chef episode found our cheftestants out at Sandy Valley Ranch where they had to camp out overnight and then "plan a menu for some Las Vegas cowboys," to cite BravoTV.Com, cooking it on temperature-uncontrolled fire pits and the like. It was pretty inventive, as have been several episodes this year that have taken place in less expected Vegas locales including Nellis Air Force Base. Coming soon, I'm told, are episodes at the Las Vegas Springs Preserve and the World Market Center.

Except one itsy bitsy little thing. Those rough-and-tumble ranch hands the cheftestants were feeding? Good thing the blurb said "some," because "some" were also, in fact, rootin'-tootin' city slickers.

One is my (Facebook) friend, Martin Kreloff, who is a very successful pop artist. He's (real) friends with Sandy Valley Ranch owner Marilyn Gubler, who called him up and invited him on out to partake when the episode was shot in May. And she told him, and I quote Marty, "to dude it up" so off Marty and his partner, Tim, went to Shepler's Western Wear for costumes. See?


Awww. Don't they look cute and dapper! Almost like real ranchers! Kreloff joked that the other couple at his table were also gay and also non-rancher invitees, so they dubbed it the "Brokeback Table."

Kreloff, a devoted Top Chef fan, had a grand ol' time and was really impressed by the production. "I was eager to see how reality TV works and it was beautiful," he said. He explained that they were seated at tables and each contestant stopped by to serve a dish. At the end, the judges split up and sat with the tables to chat about the food. Padma Lakshmi visited Brokeback. "I enjoyed so much getting to chat with her," Kreloff said. She’s quite ethereal and very beautiful." Sounds like he wants to add her to his impressive celebrity paintings collection!

He also defended the idea that the seem-to-be cowboys weren't really cowboys by noting that at least half of the diners were, in fact, real-life ranchers. That's good to know. And Top Chef doesn't give the diners any say in who wins, so it's not like it impacted the outcome. But the conceit of the episode to some extent was that the chefs were supposed to cater under punishing conditions to the less-fancy palates of ranchers. A number of folks in their audience, then, were folks like Kreloff, a self-confessed TV food-show addict with a "pretty sophisticated palate."

In fact, he's done something I'm doubting the real cowboys have done: He's trying really hard to recreate a delightful cold radish salad that he and Tim "thought was incredible. ... It was a fresh way to look at radishes. That's the one we came away talking about." It got little love from the judges, but that was the memorable moment more than the pork loin, polenta, and glazed rutabaga that the winner made.

Does it matter? No, not really. I'm reminded by my own partner that it's reality TV which evidently is code for faking stuff. But it does open Top Chef up to questions, though. Like, for instance, in the challenge at Nellis, they made a big emotional thing out of cooking for the men and women of the Air Force, right?


But there! I see a guy in a hot pink T-shirt over there to the left! Is he really in the Air Force? Just saying...

5 comments:

Davis said...

i agree, steve. something skanky about this. also, that pink-shirt thing is FUNNEEEEE.

Anonymous said...

miles is right -- it's reality TV. if you believe that, then maybe you think the real housewives are really housewives. LOL

JeffW said...

As I recall, families of the airmen were invited. Thus the pink shirted civilian.

Anonymous said...

Stevo, that'll learn 'em not to invite the Friesster to supper.

briguyx said...

The key here is your friends were invited by the owner of the ranch, not the show. The ranch probably said they'd provide the cowboys and stacked the deck. So I wouldn't blame the show...