Hyphen magazine - Asian American arts, culture, and politics


Hyphen TV: Cauliflower Foam

Judge Frances Lam knows all the words (and dance moves) to "There's a Party in My Tummy"

Top Chef Masters had two truly amazing guests this week: quickfire judge (and Hyphen TV favorite) Mindy Kaling and the colorful cast of Yo Gabba Gabba. For Mindy, the chefs had half an hour to interpret one of the actress's favorite romantic comedies as a dish; Sang got When Harry Met Sally and decided to focus on Sally's particularities when it came to ordering food (something that wouldn't fly in Sang's restaurants, which are known for not allowing substitutions). He made a sort of deconstructed apple pie a la mode in an apple pie compote served with dates, Chinese cookie crumble, and vanilla bourbon ice cream. Everyone rolled their eyes a bit at the cutesy cuteness of including dates in a date meal (get it?), and Sang unfortunately landed in the bottom because Mindy found that the dish didn't live up to what she was hoping for. I'm sorry to say that we also got another bit of bad sportsmanship from Sang, who seemed a little bitter over his pal Doug winning with a scrambled eggs and caviar dish for Midnight in Paris: "I'm wondering what Doug did with the other 27 minutes of the challenge." Yeesh, Sang. save it for regular Top Chef; this is Masters.

I like imaginging that Curtis and Mindy are BFFs in real life

The Yo Gabba Gabba elimination challenge had the chefs creating meals that would appeal to kids and incorporate healthy ingredients. Sang chose to use cauliflower because it has no color and he could easily hide it. He revealed that he hated many foods until he was 14 years old and his mom made him try sushi, which wasn't the gross experience he expected it to be. That opened the door to other foods, and now here he is, a master top chef. Take heart, picky eaters and parents of picky eaters!

Sang's teriyaki chicken meatballs with cauliflower foam and sweet pickles seemed to go over well with the kids at the event despite Sang's admitted inexperience with children. He had a constant line at his table, and we got a cute commentary from a boy who liked the "tare-ah-aki." The judges did question how much actual cauliflower is in the dish, but I think Francis in particular was mainly focused on the Yo Gabba Gabba characters that were there for the event. Aww.

Sang and his sous chef Ted just hangin' with Toodee

Sang ended up landing in the top three, with the judges calling his dish "really smart because [it] had things that kids clearly gravitate to." They saw kids going back just for the cauliflower, which was a nice change of pace, and Sang mentioned that a lot of parents were asking where they can get a "whipped cream gun" like the one he used. He didn't take the win this time, but he's safe for another week.

On Mistresses, we got to see the deposition between Karen and Elizabeth. As a refresher: on the widow Elizabeth's side is her lawyer Dominic, who also happens to be Karen's best friend Savi's coworker/lover. Representing Karen is Natalie, the lawyer hired by Elizabeth's son and, as of recently, Karen's lover, Sam. Totally business as usual, right? Karen told Natalie, who coached Karen about pleading the fifth a lot, that Sam is her alibi for the night of Thomas's death. Yup, that's what she's actually going with. When first witness Anthony Newsome (the investigator for the insurance company who kinda sort had a moment with Karen, if you'll recall) appeared and explained the discrepancy between Karen's initial statement about Thomas and the notes she turned in later, good ol' Natalie fired back with accusations of Anthony holding a grudge against Karen for rejecting his advances. Karen actually told her "Please stop" in front of everyone. So if there was any doubt about how Natalie plays this game or how bad of an idea it was for Karen to accept this terrible "gift" from Sam, it's all but disappeared.

Next up was Sam himself, who -- whaddaya know -- stated that he took his mom out the night of his father's death. It was Thomas's idea, in fact. Hmm, that's a funny way to be Karen's alibi. It's also surprising to exactly no one that a kid would have more loyalty to his mother than the lady who his dad cheated with, but that's beside the point, I suppose. Natalie and Karen had to quickly rework their angle; Natalie reminded Karen that "claiming to be home alone is technically the worst alibi of all time," then suggested that Karen ask her business partner Jason, who Natalie says is in love with Karen. Wait, what? We've spent a lot more time with Karen than Natalie has, and I wouldn't be able to make such a bold statement with that level of confidence. That Natalie, such a great lawyer.

Meanwhile, Karen confronted Sam when she ran into him before returning to the deposition. "Was this your plan all along? To sleep with me, then turn on me?" she asked the son of her dead lover (that will never stop being very, very disturbing to me). Sam denied that he had any preconceived notion about what would happen, but he wasn't able to say no to his begging mother. He added, "We slept together once and you couldn't even bother to return my calls," so the guy who has proven himself both a stalker and a wealthy legal meddler is also sensitive and petty about dating etiquette -- you choose great ones, Karen!

Back with the lawyers, Natalie called Jacob in as a witness, then got to the question of whether he was working late with Karen on the night of Thomas's death. For the second time, Karen interrupted with a "Please stop," then went on to finally tell the truth ("It's my turn to speak"). She was home alone that night, she prescribed the lethal dosage of morphine, and she was willing to help administer it, but the call never came. "And now my conscience is clear. I doubt you could say the same." With these words to Elizabeth, Karen walked out. I think it was supposed to be a drop the mic kind of moment, but everything that happened before it as a result of Karen's insane, illogical decisions sort of took away from the gravitas...for me, anyway. Congrats for finally coming clean after spinning a pretty knotty web of lies and craziness? I guess?

Jacob and Natalie are both "WTF?" as Karen spills it

And we finally got a little more all-star Alex Wong action in the semi-finals of So You Think You Can Dance when he performed a Bollywood number with Amy. Their performance got a standing ovation from all three judges, and Nigel reminded Alex, "The last time you did Bollywood, that's when you snapped the Achilles heel" (referring to the injury that took Alex out in season 7). "I've been wanting to do it so badly," Alex said in response, and he finally got to fulfill his wish three seasons later. Congrats, Alex! Always awesome to see you again, uninjured.

Alex is undeniably having an absolute blast

And on a personal note, as the summer television season comes to a close, so too does my time as your Hyphen TV blogger. I've really enjoyed watching TV with you guys for over two and a half years; in that brief time, we've seen a rise in the number of APA faces on both scripted and reality shows, and while there's still a long way to go in terms of dealing with race and racial issues in some places (I'm looking at you, Manila Luzon and Sullivan and Son), it's been heartening to see a truly democratic and nuanced representation of talented APA designers, chefs, dancers, and other creative talents on competition series. The Asian American media presence I've always wanted doesn't just show the positives, however -- just like any other group, we are a varied, fascinating, capable, and imperfect collection of Americans who deserve to let those facets be presented just as normal and valid as anyone else's. Color me optimistic, but I do believe we're seeing that portrayal happening more and more.

Critical as I am of her, I don't recall a Korean American character quite like Karen Kim on Mistresses, nor have I seen an adopted Asian American child on a show as mainstream as Modern Family. So many shows have arisen in the past few years featuring prominent South Asian American characters, many of who I was never able to get to here: besides The Mindy Project and Community, there's also The Big Bang Theory, New Girl, and even kids' shows like Phineas and Ferb have gotten in on the action. That latter point is particularly important to me -- as I'm sure many of my fellow twenty and thirty-somethings feel, there were few if any Asian American characters on television when we were children. Now, in a TV landscape that includes P&F's Baljeet, Nickelodeon's Ni Hao, Kai-Lan, and countless Asian American kids included on shows like the aforementioned Yo Gabba Gabba (seriously, there were hardly ever any Asian faces even in the crowds on Sesame Street or Reading Rainbow in the 80s), I can't wait to see what will happen in the coming years as those viewers grow up and perhaps become involved in front of or behind the TV camera. There are more and more Asian names listed in writing, producing, and other credits on shows across the board, which can only be a good thing for everyone going forward. Thanks for coming with me as I looked at just a few of these changes going on right before our eyes, and I know you'll be with me in continuing to keep tabs going forward. Happy TV watching!

About The Author

Dianne Choie

Dianne Choie's TV is in Brooklyn, NY. She has a cat, several reusable shopping bags, and other mildly annoying stereotypes of youngish people who live in Brooklyn.

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