Blog Orloff

An Unconventional Web Journal


Due to the overwhelming interest in my 15 seconds of fame, and an overload of questions and comments directed to my electronic messaging server, to which, considering the vast number, I simply cannot reply, I have constructed a primer for my genteel audience, addressing your comments, questions, and concerns. Please read the following before viewing my legendary television debut. Moreover, please note, my dear public, I am still, of course, honoring your autograph requests.

  1. This is not a work of fiction. My resemblance to a giant, sweaty marshmallow, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
  2. Objects or people on camera are moving much, much faster than they appear.
  3. All requests for hair and makeup were adamantly refused.
  4. All requests for a wardrobe change were, also, adamantly refused. Please see, “giant, sweaty marshmallow” #1, above.
  5. I am a real person, not a paid actor. I adamantly accept monetary donations.
  6. Yes, what you see in this video recording is my actual and authentic testimony. My monologue was not scripted.
  7. No, I am not any more animated in real life.
  8. No, despite a rather keen, lifelong interest in Aluminum (Al), I was not involved in the now notorious Royal Oak Middle School Aluminum Bleachers Caper.
  9. Yes, Aluminum (Al) is my favorite element. See #8 above.
  10. I am also very fond of ALCOA.
  11. My concern over the theft is absolutely genuine. Never mind the schoolchildren, where would I run if the middle school running oval were closed?
  12. In order to punch up the news segment for finicky midday viewers, I offered, instead of running up and down the bleacher stairway, to do one of the following:
    1. Jump through blazing hoops of fire, made from Aluminum (Al), of course.
    2. Pilot a motorcycle around a spherical Aluminum (Al) cage of death, known on the Continent as le Globe de la Mort.
    3. Address the camera in my Aluminum (Al) foil suit.
    4. All offers were met negatively and adamantly refused, especially the last. See #4 above.
  13. Yes, in characteristic Orloff form, I did think about attempting a coup in order to seize control, so that I could, in fact, essentially, interview myself, but I did not want to risk coming to blows with the inimitable Al Allen.
  14. As I held forth on camera, several of my comments were, unfortunately, edited out of the finished video report. Most notably absent was my rather engaging elucidation on proper running track etiquette, which most visitors to the oval do not abide, as well as my even more compelling address on the foolishness of barefoot running, with particular emphasis on asphalt surfaces.
  15. One final note: yes, wearing a conical Aluminum (Al) hat will indeed stop outer space aliens from reading your mind. However, please keep in mind that even a conical Aluminum (Al) hat will not prevent an alien abduction.

I would like to thank the inimitable Al Allen and the wonderfully professional FOX 2 News crew for an unexpectedly splendid Friday morning. My comments concerning any interaction with the crew or Mr. Allen are entirely fictional.

Thieves Swipe Aluminum Bleachers at Royal Oak Middle School:


 Dear Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, Jim Sturgess, et al.,

I would like to issue you my formal apology. It will have to suffice, because I am assuming that Peter Weir, director and co-writer of The Way Back, has not stepped forward to apologize for including you in this inconsistent, poorly edited, and overwhelmingly melodramatic film.

While I enjoyed the individual performances very much, particularly from you, Mr. Farrell, who played a rather convincing Russian street thug, I question almost every choice Mr. Weir made in filming this so-called true story about a group of men who escape a Soviet Gulag in the 1940s. The story is epic. It is phenomenal, really. The film is a classic tale of war, oppression, comradery, a daring and reckless escape followed by an inconceivable journey, all framed by the cold, relentless, and cruel Siberian landscape, in itself a stand-in for the old Soviet regime. Obviously, playing a role in telling this tale seemed like a rare opportunity for all those involved, as well as the chance to work with the very talented, six-time Academy Award nominee Mr. Weir, which may be why all of you signed on. However, I am sure you did not expect it to go so very wrong. You should all know, dear Cast and Crew, that even Solzhenitsyn is turning in his grave.

Reviewers, completely ignoring the more obvious faults of Mr. Weir’s latest epic, have complained that The Way Back is a film completely out of date, that it recalls Lawrence of Arabia, Ben-Hur, and the time in which such historical epics were studio staples. They claim movie audiences only want to see comic book characters and computer-generated landscapes. Nonsense. There is still room for the dramatic epic, audiences will still watch hours of intense drama shot on location, without the aid of computer technology or the frivolity of 3D. However, we want to see it done well. If we are watching realism, we want it to be real, or, as is the case in Hollywood, at least feel somewhat real.

For instance, I am surprised, dear Cast, that Mr. Weir failed to make clear to you how the extreme Siberian cold takes hold of the human body. Had he explained it to you, had Mr. Weir directed you to act as if it were really minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit, we never would have seen shots of your characters out of doors, with exposed skin that did not later turn black with frostbite. We never would have seen an armed Russian guard illogically holding a metal pistol with his bare hands during a snowstorm, when that pistol surely would have instantly adhered itself to his skin. I am sorry, because on this point, Mr. Weir only needed to consult Bob Clark’s classic film, A Christmas Story and watch as Mr. Clark masterfully films young Flick bonding his tongue to a school flag pole during recess, all because of an unheard of triple dog dare. This is classic cold weather cinematography. On the same point, dear Cast, Mr. Weir could have also consulted White Out, which, although a terribly wretched film, does include exceptional cold weather chase scenes and also depicts Kate Beckinsale’s character losing two fingers to frostbite after she exposes her bare hands to the Antarctic cold. Truly, a terrible fate, especially for a lead character, but because Miss Beckinsale wore gloves in most of her scenes, the on-screen amputation did not really mar her starring beauty.

I apologize, because had you, dear Cast, been properly directed, you would have mimicked the effects severe cold has on the human body: clumsy and clenched up joints, lethargic movements, dulled speech, uncontrollable shivering, and the like. I understand that you, the film’s stars, would clearly have to remain intact and beautiful, but you, makeup artists, should have added the dead, black flesh to the faces and hands of the stars’ many on-screen comrades. The audience should also have seen, again, only in the extras, of course, cracked and bleeding lips, eyes whose eyelashes disappeared from constantly freezing shut, and at the very least, some missing limbs. Mr. Weir should have also reproduced the strange effects of the great Siberian cold on camera: the tears from your watery eyes freezing on your face, your spittle turning to ice before it hits the ground, the tinkling sound of your vaporous breath shattering as you exhale. You should have also been less healthy. I am very sorry to say it, dear Cast, but yes, you should have been quite ill, or again, at least, ill-looking. Let us not be ridiculous. For obvious reasons, one should not actually recreate the dramatic effects of starvation to appear emaciated onscreen, a la Christian Bale in The Machinist, but your makeup artists should have been instructed to make your cheeks look less full, your eyes less bright, and your skin more sallow. You should have walked as the starved do and hobbled like those who have been routinely beaten and forced into hard labor. Among the extras, where were all the fevered bodies, the hacking coughs, the hunched backs, and the toothless mouths? I apologize to all of you, but misery should have really run rampant through the extras.

Your Gulag was also a little too cozy. While there are a few images of despair in the bunker, they are overridden by what reads on film as a warm, snug, comfortable space. Here, Mr. Weir has you straying a little too far into Hogan’s Heroes territory. No, there is not exactly a Schultz figure standing at the ready, but there is no palpable hopelessness either. It is odd, especially because the stark desert scenes, which comprise the majority of the film, are so tangible. I cannot help but wonder, dear Cast and Crew, if Mr. Weir actually filmed the Gulag portions without consulting at least one of Solzhenitsyn’s legendary texts, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich or The Gulag Archipelago, both which could have accurately aided him in staging those Siberian camp scenes to look less like an Alpen resort.

Although I have spent a large portion of this apology writing about Mr. Weir’s Siberian mistakes, as Mr. Weir films you, dear Cast, walking south, the film begins to get better. The dialogue becomes a little more natural and Mr. Weir’s direction a bit more artful. However, and I really cannot overlook this, the end dissolves into absurdity. Again, my apologies, but your two minute trek through the Himalayas seemed ridiculous until I saw the film’s overly sentimental end: another egregious error from Mr. Weir. As I write this, I can hardly find the words for what Mr. Weir must have been thinking, and why he committed such a blunder, one which far surpasses ignoring the master, Solzhenitsyn.

I must, dear Cast and Crew, draw your attention to the spinning newspaper montage. This near-end portion of the film left me speechless. No, I was not awed by spectacular filmmaking, instead, I was in shock at the sheer stupidity of this montage, similar to the clock whose hands move in double time or the wall calendar, whose pages peel away one by one to indicate the passage of time. The stupidity of this effect can only be measured in one way, dear Cast and Crew, against another gaffe of similar absurdity: Jar Jar Binks. Yes. I truly apologize, because up until this point Jar Jar Binks, successor to the Ewok mistake, was the most idiotic thing I had ever seen on screen. Now, I can clearly point to Mr. Weir’s “spinning newspapers of time,” complete with ghostly walking feet, as the most laughable moment on-screen, particularly in a film that is not meant to be comedic.

Yet, unbelievably, in these last five minutes, Mr. Weir’s film only gets worse. I am so sorry, wonderful Cast and Crew, that you were involved in this abomination. Mr. Weir really should have known better; he is the man who gave us that treasure Gallipoli. Nonetheless, he uses an incredibly weak visual device, which only appeared twice at the beginning of the film, to bring this epic to its sentimentally climactic end. Yes, lovely Cast and Crew, this is where I took most offense, the portion of the film that has Jim Sturgess’ character, Janusz, as an old man, finally coming home, reaching the door of his old house, removing the key from its years-long hiding place, and finally entering, when he is suddenly, through Mr. Weir’s magic, transformed once again to his youth. Janusz then embraces his similarly youthful wife, who has been understandably sitting in their home and waiting some fifty years for him to return. With this, the film draws to a close.

You do not really need me rehashing this embarrassing finale for you, Cast and Crew, because you probably remember it well. It is a ghastly cloying end to a project which demanded much of your acting and technical expertise. For me, dear Cast and Crew, I felt as though Mr. Weir abandoned the film as soon as those newspapers started spinning. He should not have given up on all of you talented people. He should have honored your work and persevered, if only because your good names are also attached to this wreck.

Yet another apology, dear Cast and Crew, because I very much wanted this film to succeed in spectacular fashion. Although, its opening weekend, shared with the Super Bowl, should have tipped me off to its less than acceptable state. Someone, prudently, looked at the final cut and realized that this film would not hold up for Hollywood awards season, so its January release perhaps offered the audience some other fare in case they had already seen that long-running psychotic ballet film or the other about the Royal with a speech impediment. You all know the films of which I write. Perhaps, dear Cast and Crew, you wish you could have been in these Oscar darlings, instead of tramping around Bulgaria, Morocco, and India with Mr. Weir. Perhaps you wish, as I do, that the talented Mr. Weir had simply made a better film.

My most sincere apologies,
Petra Lina Orloff


Part III of the Chef John series, from an exclusive interview.

Chef John wants to see me fight. To be more exact, he wants to see me pummel annoying fans during Lions home games. We are now football chums at Ford Field. He cheers for the Lions. I jeer at the Lions. I find overzealous fans annoying, particularly drunk Detroit fans who act astounded after every play, as if the Lions never make stupid mistakes, turn the ball over incessantly, rack up ridiculous personal penalties, and fall apart during clinch moments. Chef John delights in my annoyance, urging me to tackle a loud, obnoxious young woman double fisting beers a few rows behind us. He throws trash in my lap when I’m not looking and insists it came from the rowdy bunch with whom she is associated. Despite my desire not to engage the drunken woman in fisticuffs, Chef John continues his operation, feeding me little obvious lies about the group’s antics, trying to fire me up. Clearly, he wants a fight of some kind.

This is the Chef John that was not featured on Bravo’s Top Chef. They booted him off before the cameras could really catch him in action. Perhaps his unreasonably early departure had more to do with his organic philosophizing or his journal writing, or perhaps, most superficial, his dreadlocked hair, rather than the dessert he concocted for the season opener (side note: I recently ate the very same dessert at The Lark and it was beyond fabulous). Maybe it was the combination of all three: despite John’s obvious talent, a literate, friendly, deep thinking chef isn’t quite as much fun as a fat loudmouth or an obsessive compulsive chef with no capacity for humor. But Bravo clearly guessed wrong on this point. Even with the outrageously contrived pea puree incident, Top Chef’s seventh season was insufferably boring. It wasn’t necessarily the locale, although Washington D.C. is a rather lackluster setting for a program built upon creativity and innovation, it was the lifeless cheftestants themselves, who likewise offered barely any entertainment value. While there isn’t any room on Top Chef for the kind of immature dramatics that defined season two, there is space for showcasing the unique, interesting, and rather curious aspects which define creative personalities. It seems as though the show’s judges only remember to discuss a dish’s soul during the finale, or at least in the few episodes leading up to it, but soul is what should be driving the series, and soul is precisely what has been lacking. Instead, we are given a rather unsavory substitution: a giant helping of acrid ego paired with sharp character. Not a good recipe for a great series.

While Bravo continues to serve up a buffet of pomposity, they are losing out on those with more substantial flavor, like Chef John. His charisma is undeniable. People approach him on the street, in restaurants, at Ford Field, just to say hello and tell him how much they enjoyed his all-to-brief appearance on Top Chef. He is recognized, partially due to his height (well over six feet tall) and his hair (about six feet in length), but also because he has a star personality. I have seen him greet perfect strangers, Facebook fans, and his colleagues, other Chefs, with the same kind of delight and interest he affords his personal friends and his family. I have also seen him steal the show from other personalities in his very low key, humorous, and energetic manner, a forceful combination that automatically propels him into the limelight, even when others are working very hard to do the same. Chef John is effortless and natural, which, of course, is also mirrored in his dishes. He also possesses that uncanny ability to create chemistry with whomever he keeps company, whether it’s the host of a television segment or just the giant Brett Favre fan with whom he attends Lions games. It’s this ability, one that cannot be learned or created, that truly sets Chef John apart from any competition and one that may have earned him a quick exit from the show. He is flirtatious without flirting, awkwardly suave, and nerdishly cool.

Above all though, he is gracious, a key element most of the cheftestants are missing on camera. A few months ago, The Lark offered a special multi-course theme dinner based upon winning selections from Chef John’s season on Top Chef, a tribute to his Bravo mates. If you visit his Facebook page, you will find that he routinely congratulates and extols the cheftestants. In fact, after his first “Quickfire” challenge on Top Chef, the camera captures Chef John offering his congratulations along with a handshake to the winning chef. The menu from The Lark’s theme dinner paid esteemed homage to the creator of each dish and during the course of the meal, Chef John addressed the diners from the middle of the room, remarking that although the night belonged to other cheftestants, the talent of his peers had indeed inspired his own recent creations.

Although Chef John’s generally respectful demeanor is belied by his bloodlust for violent fan antics in the Ford Field stands, I think he might appreciate that I would obviously rather take on the producers of Top Chefthan football fans gone wild. If Bravo executive Andy Cohen were standing before me right now I would slap him across the chest twice with a small leather glove, throw the gauntlet down in front of him and issue this challenge: bring on palatable chefs with verve, no matter how unorthodox, and leave the distasteful dullards to their own kitchens or face the continued blogging of one very fervent Chef John fan.

Chef John Somerville is Chef de Cuisine at the Lark in West Bloomfield, Michigan. He appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef.


Picture: Bravo


Part II of the Chef John Series, from an exclusive interview.

Chef John Somerville is all about the organic. Frankly, I don’t care so much about organic food. If I did, Twizzlers would certainly be out of my repertoire, and I can’t have that. Organic, schmorganic. That’s been my philosophy.

Not so with the Chef. He claims that he lives organically. Actually, I thought we all did, just by virtue of being alive, regardless of whether five to ten percent of our body structure is composed of licorice-like candy and Hostess treats. As it turns out, Chef John lives über-organically. His spiel on Top Chef about eating unprocessed, natural food and watching one’s finger and toenails grow at rates that rival anything Sally Hansen could manufacture, is a manifesto all should behold. He’s right, actually. There isn’t anything goofy about it. Organic is really the way to go, just don’t go for it at America’s first certified organic restaurant in D.C., an idiotically-pretentious locale which refuses to accommodate customers with food allergies. (As usual, this last bit has nothing to do with Chef John, but everything to do with me and my own lingering resentment. It is, after all, my blog isn’t it?)

Before Chef John, my experience with the organic was limited to the fruitcake couple I lived with during my collegiate days in Indianapolis. They claimed to be organics, but they routinely devoured my not-so-secret stash of Coca-Cola and Hostess treats. Think Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson on The Closer. Frightening. These nutcases subscribed to that very chic version of the organic lifestyle, flaunting it at dinner parties and during the cocktail hour. They often regaled their friends with stories of rain barrels, re-purposing, composting, and henna hair dye. They lectured others about the benefits of eating wild meats, like venison, but deplored the NRA and believed that field dressing is barbaric. Fashionably Green, they embraced the more mainstream view of an organic lifestyle: all talk and even more yoga. What’s even worse is that all the while, they dreamt of stuffing their faces full of my King Dons.

Chef John, however, remains true to himself. He has created his own version of an organic lifestyle. He doesn’t practice Pilates, wear bamboo socks, or visit fake sweat lodges. He does not subscribe to the healing powers of crystals and pyramids made from semi-precious stone. And although he does spend time talking to animals and feeding legions of possums, raccoons, and squirrels from his condo in the woods, he is not a freaky-organic-hippie-shaman. He goes on fishing trips upon which the fish are killed and eaten, not thrown back in a state of supreme shock after an exhausting and horrific fight-for-life, returning to the water forever traumatized by flashbacks of hooks, nets, big human hands, camera lenses, and that final, long toss back. No, Chef John really, really enjoys his carnivorous position at the top of the food chain. From this position, he is whole-heartedly committed to the local natural food movement, often peppering our discussion with references to locally-made foods and regional purveyors of real food, as well as his support of local causes which bolster organic lifestyles. Chef John’s commitment doesn’t end there. His notion of organic foods is also tied into his hopes that this Water Winter Wonderland becomes not just a Green industrial leader, but a Green role model for other states. Clearly, Chef John has high hopes for Detroit and for the state, but he also delivers, donating time and expense for charities and organizations who also share his view of a new and improved Michigan.

However, despite his comtemplation over Michigan’s rather precarious future, his daily doses of free trade-sustainably harvested-Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee from Caribou, his frequent visits to farmer’s markets, and his love of organic Heinz ketchup, the most visible cue to his philosophy is truly, his dreadlocks.

Yes, the dreads. Hard to miss. Easy to misinterpret. They appeared many years ago, when he first subscribed to a life full of organic foodstuffs and clean, healthy living. For Chef John, his freeform, holistic dreadlocks are a literal extension of his organic axiom, one that extends from his kitchen (he believes his simple, farm-fresh ingredients should all “sing their own song”) to his own person: he lives a wholly natural life. His hair communicates. And, it is worth noting that none of the dreadlock-hippie-Rastafarian stereotypes can be applied to him. Far from it. I have heard this man talk in great detail about his very-pricey designer jeans (probably handmade in some far away place by small children) and comment on stylish clothing in terms of cut, drape, and fit. He likes to spend time in wine and martini bars, mingling with other tastemakers. In fact, Chef John possesses a certain stylish sensibility that is belied by the dreads. He’s not a Greenie-weenie either. He doesn’t drive a Smart car or even a hybrid (gasp!). Instead, in good Detroit form, he drives not one, but two gas-guzzling Mustangs (go John, let California save the ozone layer!). He uses plastic (OMG!). He likes Edgar Allan Poe (an early environmentalist undeniably known for his healthy lifestyle) and he supports the Lions (this has nothing to do with being organic, but it does demonstrate his unusual optimism).

Chef John thinks he is a controversial and divisive figure. Perhaps. He refuses to give fish PTSD. His Mustang-love single-handedly supports the oil industry. He loves animals and he also eats them. He makes a habit of cooking outdoors on park grills and his hair is longer than I am tall. Clearly, Chef John defies all stereotypes and exceeds all expectations, but America’s Organic Chef does it all his way: thoughtfully, inquisitively, and above all, friendly. One couldn’t ask to be more organic than that.

Chef John Somerville is Chef de Cuisine at the Lark in West Bloomfield, Michigan. He appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef.


Photo: Bravo TV


Part I of the Chef John Series, from an exclusive interview.

John Somerville, lover of science-fiction literature and personal ally of Captain Crunch, is Chef de Cuisine at the Lark in West Bloomfield, Mich., an award-winning establishment whose excellent food and exquisite service is celebrated throughout the Midwest. Currently, Chef John appears on Bravo’s Top Chef, competing against 16 other chefs for, among other honors, a cash prize. While I know first-hand that he can create fabulously using any ingredient, I am most impressed by what he doesn’t have to use: garlic.

Garlic is my nemesis. I’m sure it’s from the Devil (which is why that age-old myth that garlic repels vampires is absolutely untrue). Garlic could kill me (I am not a vampire). At the very least, it renders me shockingly ill. But most terrible, is that garlic, the Devil’s herb, has found a way to creep into almost every dish at every single restaurant in all fifty states. Chef John, even in the midst of the busy dinner hours, or outside the fixed menu during a themed dinner, prepares me garlic-free plates, a genuine courtesy other restaurants refuse to afford me (you know who you are, you organic nincompoops in D.C.).

Why does Chef John care about one diner’s war against garlic? Because he likes happy diners and because he is the consummate happy chef (yet, he is entirely unlike the Muppet’s manically-happy Swedish Chef).

Happy. Just plain happy. Not content, not satisfied, not pleased. No superficial smiling, no ridiculous macho ego (ala Michael Voltaggio), or dumb, forced style (I’m calling you out, Spike Mendelsohn). None of this. Instead, Chef John is truly happy.

Because many of us are unsatisfied and lead lives of quiet desperation, meeting someone who is really happy can be a little disconcerting. Happy people are a little too at ease. Chef John laughs and smiles with abandon, and doesn’t mind admitting to a collection of toy sharks. He delights easily. He finds wonder in simple things, like the smell of fresh cut flowers, the sunny flavor of a summer tomato, a field of foraging groundhogs, and the enduring rapture of an excellent book. Okay, so maybe he likes to spend his Sunday mornings juiced up on coffee, sitting in one of his Mustang 5.0s, honking at a field of foraging groundhogs, scaring the bejesus out of them until they scatter about. But, really, who doesn’t do this kind of thing on occasion? My preference for animal out of which to scare the shit: elk. (Please note, dear reader, don’t call the police if you see me at the side of the road, flapping my arms about and lowing at the fenced-in Elk herd in northern Michigan, just let me be me.)

Really though, one can’t help but fall for Chef John. He likes his Mom’s cooking best — stuffed cabbage and peppers, pancakes, French toast — and has wonderful, giggly memories about making Toadstool Bisque with his father when he was young (just an elaborately titled cream of mushroom soup, he tells me). He also listens patiently as I continually interrupt the interview to explain my rather limited palate (I own and often use The Twinkies Cookbook) and my highly opinionated cooking philosophy, which I’ve crafted without any real knowledge about cooking whatsoever. Frightened groundhogs aside, he is a very sweet and gentle man. There is an aura of play about him. He has a child-like sense of the absurd which shifts effortlessly into sophisticated philosophizing about literature, the term “organic,” and his work as a purveyor of excellent tastes. He is resolute about his favorite drink, cosmopolitans (Grey Goose L’Orange, Cointreau, with just a slight touch of cranberry) and also about his list of “Things President Obama Should Read,” which includes Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. He keeps a detailed journal and refers to it casually, as if it were commonplace, in 2010, to use a pen and paper and write down one’s thoughts without the intent of Tweeting, blogging, or publishing them in a sentimental memoir at some later date. Most striking, is that he does all of this without affect, without pretense, without the haughty attitude you get from the terribly unhappy, who are just showing off or using their knowledge and skill to conceal a frail ego (as well as other things Freudian).

Although he describes himself as competitive, Chef John is not appearing on Top Chef for fame, for fortune, or for any other reason than to test himself, to hone his own skills. Every day he earns the respect of his patrons, his co-workers, of anybody who meets him, because he is remarkably genuine. He immediately recognized my order upon my second visit to the Lark and came out to the table to ensure my strip loin was cooked as little as possible: I like it extra-rare. I have also seen him enthusiastically greet first-time patrons like old friends, genuinely interested in the quality of their experience. He is what we once called “salt of the earth,” truly taking his own organic philosophy to heart. A man of exceedingly good taste, Chef John Somerville indelibly leaves his mark, on the plate and on the soul.