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Top Chef: Anthony Bourdain Weighs In on The Museum Challenge–and Joe Jonas

December 14, 2010 12:00 PM by Shayla Perry


No, Anthony Bourdain wasn’t a part of last week’s episode of Bravo’s Top Chef: All-Stars, but who doesn’t love hearing what he has to say about–well, just about anything–except for maybe the contestants themselves?! This week, Bourdain enlightens us all about pleasing “sugar-jacked children,” his thoughts on Joe Jonas being on the show, and the perfect way to go out after being eliminated.

From Anthony Bourdain’s Blog:

My heart went out to our gastro-gladiators this week. Highly trained, experienced professionals, all of them looking for an opportunity to cook their asses off, do their best, give us their best game, hoping, hoping for nothing less than a clean shot at redemption, perhaps a challenge in their comfort zone, a few good swings at the proverbial plate.

It was not to be.

Instead, they found themselves toiling in the 9th circle of Hell , surrounded by squealing, sugar-jacked children, struggling to comprehend (and feign enthusiasm for) the inexplicable appearance of Mr. Joe Jonas. Dale Talde said it best. “I thought he was a pastry chef.”

In trying to understand what the Deep Thinkers at Bravo Central were thinking, one can only imagine an urgent desire to appeal to that vital demographic of potential car buyers in the age 8-13 group. I would have thought it past their bedtime when Top Chef airs. In fact, I’d guess that about 99% of the people who even know or care who the Jonas Brothers are would be long asleep in their jammies by the time Top Chef comes on.   But what do I know?  At least many of these young people will be, in time, making heavy use of the Glad Family of Bags — as I did as a tween. Good to start early building that kind of brand loyalty. You could actually see the chef/contestants’ expressions cave, their spirits slump — as it became clear that whomever was going home today would be doing so covered in a sticky sheen of Twizzlers, Silly Bandz, and crushed Ritalin. It was apparent which among the chefs had any familiarity with children as some actually wondered out loud whether the kids would prefer salty or sweet.

While it may be morally dubious to feed kids raw sugar out of a bag — with a chaser of chocolate syrup? — that would have probably been a crowd pleaser.

After a weird, cruel, pointless, and degrading night of being pelted with juice boxes, our heroes no doubt looked forward to falling into the arms of Morpheus — or Oxycontin — to sleep deep, to forget — Lohan-like — the indignities of the night before. But this too, was not to be. In a monstrous turn of events, a final twist of the knife, they were informed instead that they would be spending a few fitful hours on army cots — among the dioramas and dinosaurs — only to rise at the crack of ass and make breakfast for the same adorable rug rats and their parents.

But not just any breakfast.

I’d describe in detail how each chef rose to the challenge (or fell). But I am myself a sufferer from Post-Traumatic Brunch Syndrome, having spent way too many dark years in  the culinary wilderness scraping batter from waffle irons, roasting home fries, flipping —-ing omelets, poaching eggs —-ing Bennies, plating French —-ing toast with requisite orange twist and strawberry fan.  So, no one empathizes more with the victims of this challenge more than me.

That said? I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Jamie — who deserted the front lines (all too happily, it seemed) in order to have TWO stitches put in. Just about any line cook I ever knew would have gone for the Vince Lombardi option of “spit on it and run a lap” — at least until the end of the shift. And when you’re competing for a quarter million dollars?  Most would  cauterize even a sucking chest wound with a hot spoon.

I had enormous sympathy for Jennifer [Carroll], who (as she knows all too well, apparently) was one of the strongest challengers in the field. In a perfect world, she deserved a lot better than to fall from this particular challenge. One would have hoped — again, in a perfect world – that a chef with as much talent and experience and pedigree as Jennifer would have had a cleaner shot at the gold to succeed or fail at.

But it is — as Omar reminds us — NOT a perfect world.

Her behavior at Judges’ Table and after Elimination was petulant, visibly contemptuous, unprofessional, and frankly — appalling. That’s no way to go out.

The only worse way to go out, as I see it, would be the Elia Option: Leave rude. Whine later. Blame your elimination in the press on a conspiracy theory involving Tom Colicchio’s possibly mind-addling use of Diet Coke…

When one embarks on an enterprise where one can reasonably anticipate coming face to face with Joe Jonas, Paula Deen, or Elmo at any moment, or be asked to grill satay in the back of a moving Toyota Highlander, it is useful to have a sense of humor about oneself. And when one is a professional, facing other professionals, and the chop comes down, it is always useful to comport oneself with dignity — and a measure of grace. Regardless of what one might think — or what pain and heartbreak may boil inside — one thanks one’s executioners. One stands tall and proud. One leaves this world — to whatever degree possible, looking GOOD.

The true business of television, as I have learned painfully over the years, is not to make you look good. The business of television is to create drama. That people want to watch.

Many have learned this lesson at great cost and over many years.

Apart from the judging, which has always, always been straight and uninfluenced by the production side from my experience, the editing will always come down on whatever bit of raw meat the participants care to throw them. Snarling, snapping and sneering at Judges’ Table is guaranteed to end up in final cut. One would have thought these veterans had learned this lesson already.

I draw your attention to the famous “Death of Snoop” scene from The Wire — a show which might well serve as a field manual for appropriate comportment. Young Michael, on his way to his execution with Snoop, figures it out, turns the tables, and gets the drop on her. (I quote from memory. Apologies to fellow Wire nerds.)

“You always was smart.” says Snoop, knowing it’s the end for her. She looks in the side view mirror, checking her hair.

“How do I look, Mike?”

“You look good, girl,” says Michael.


THAT’S the way to go out.

–Anthony Bourdain

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