Honor Thy Protein…Or Else!


Goodbye Sweet Cougar: Ariane

He’d mentioned it a time or two before, but last night it became abundantly clear: For Tom Colicchio, it’s all about honoring the protein. The Top Chef-testants were divided into three groups–lamb, chicken, and pork–and then whisked away to Blue Hill at Stone Barns for their “shopping”. No trip to Whole Foods this week. Conveniently, potential couple Hosea and Leah end up together, as do potential non-couple Jamie and Stefan. Nice work producers!

There are a series of shots of the chef-testants playing with hens and blabbering about how important it is to know where your food comes from. Maybe we were still sleepy from Chopped, maybe it was a minor carb coma from a pizza dinner, but it was a bit of a snooze. And then, we were brutally awakened when we lost that very person we valued most.

Yes, last night claimed our dear, dear Ariane. Sure, we never thought she’s make top three. We weren’t even sure she still deserved to be around, but we liked her sassy Jersey-ness, her comeback-cougar storyline, and her simple, non-surprising dishes that surprisingly won challenges. Things weren’t looking good from the get-go for her messily butchered lamb roulade, but we held out hope that she’d pull it off. Time and again this season, starting with that tasty turkey she served the Foo Fighters (wow, rock stars!), Ariane has shown that she knows how to cook a piece of meat. It’s always touch and go, but in the end Ms. New Jersey and her meat thermometer come out on top.

Last night, she didn’t. Tom said “it was no way to honor the lamb” and called it “an amateurish attempt at butchering.” Guest judge Dan Barber of Blue Hill criticized the decision to  tenderize the little lamb when it’s naturally such a tender meat. The messy tie-job was an issue, and whiny Leah had helped tie but she sold Ariane out in front of the judges.

Around the judge’s table, Toby first wanted to eliminate someone from team pork who had also done some protein dishonoring. Apparently, Toby likes to “have full blown unprotected sex” with his porcine dishes, and he didn’t even get to first base with what was served. Au contraire said Dan Barber, team lamb has done far worse. Still, there was talk of sending Radhika from team pork home, since all she had really done was grill a few cobs of corn. We even hoped, for a moment, that whiny Leah might get the boot. After all, she had been involved with the poor tying of the lamb and crafted a dessert that Barber said was “really unappealing” and “reminded me of tray tables down.”

But Young insisted Ariane had to go, clashing a bit with Padma. We found ourselves missing Gail, and her cool rationality, in the face of this constantly-trying-to-be-witty Brit. Backstage, Ariane and Jamie, an inspiring, supportive female duo, talked about being team players, while Leah looked on, just as she had while watching Ariane struggle with the lamb. The judges called them back in and informed Ariane of her tragic fate. She took it like it a woman, calling Hosea and Leah out in the loser confessional and proclaiming Hosea a wimp. A wimp indeed! Where was baldy when the lamb was getting butchered? Oh Ariane, you will be missed. And Gail, oh Gail, you are missed.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 15, 2009

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