Lia_topchefmiami_240Thus far, it’s been a topsy-turvy season on Top Chef: Miami.

[Spoilers coming, obviously.]

The Bravo cooking show got a big boost in its second season from the not-so-loveable-underdog rise of Marcel. Through Wednesday’s (July 18) episode, Top Chef: Miami hasn’t been quite as lucky, but a pair of underdog stories are still being crafted for our viewing pleasure.

Through the season’s opening weeks, Joey and Howie were clumsy lugs and blustery rivals. They botched their dishes, distributed blame liberally and they each seemed to be verging on elimination at all times. Meanwhile, Hung and Tre looked like cocky and unbeatable forces, ready to tear the competition apart.

Suddenly Howie can’t lose. On Wednesday, he picked up his second straight elimination challenge victory. No, he can’t seem to cook anything but pork. No, his combination of sweating-and-swearing under pressure isn’t very appealing. But the judges are enjoying the flavors he’s laying down.

Joey_topchefmiami_240And Joey, who nearly came to blows with Howie earlier in the season, won the Quickfire challenge and turned in a kicked up stew that had everybody raving. I’m not comfortable with his stealth pastry knowledge and the fact that he ducked under the radar last week and didn’t admit that gift (particularly since he was nearly eliminated anyway), but he’s on a roll.

Joey and Howie have formed the oddest of mutual admiration societies.

Meanwhile, Hung finished in the bottom group for both quickfire and elimination challenges. Everything he made for the first few weeks looked outstanding, but tonight his dishes couldn’t have been duller. You have a pie crust and you just make a runny chocolate mousse? You’re making a Latin dish and you just bring out arroz con pollo? I expect more, man.

Hung survived, though, because Lia served the cast and crew of the telenovela Dame Chocolate a rainbow trout and polenta dish that lacked flavor, texture and Latin flair. That’s another reversal of fortune, because Lia had to pack her knives only one week after winning an elimination challenge.

Other thoughts from this week:

  • I hate to turn on Hung, but his cocky attitude was only enjoyable when his food looked good. This is the third straight week where he’s rolled his eyes at a quickfire judge for failing to appreciate his genius and this week his pie looked awful. He also loses points for nearly stabbing Casey to death.
  • Poor Casey, she nearly got knifed by Hung, she finished in the bottom elimination group and she lost her BFF Lia.
  • My biggest reservation about Top Chef has always been its excessive product placement and this week’s plug for NBC Universal Cable corporate sibling Telemundo’s Dame Chocolate was especially bad, forcing the judges to repeatedly plug for the soap. It’s hard to make me feel bad for Padma, but I did tonight.

    What are you thinking about the season thus far? Are you rooting for anybody yet?

  • Posted by:Daniel Fienberg