Thursday, February 19, 2009

Top Chef, finally a good episode

What a missed opportunity this season of Top Chef in NYC has been. Casting is the most glaring problem. They didn’t start with a full line up of contestants who could possibly win. Flat out they picked some people who wouldn’t deserve a job in my kitchen. With a line of qualified, proven, tested chefs the TC crew picks a kid just out of CIA for example. What a waste of a spot for someone who might have been a contender. We have had to wait until this week, with only 4 chefs left, for an episode lacking some obviously stupid or otherwise glaring shortcoming. Still nothing stunning, nothing unique, but this is part cast, part challenge. Some of the recent challenges have eliminated creativity (something this cast completely lacks) in favor of imitation. From the trip to Le Bernardin, to the last meal, to Creole cooking this week, no allowing for creativity. The cast as a whole is a boring lot that played into stereotypes and fallowed party lines, just like their food. The show would be much more entertaining if a group of qualified cooks competed against each other with a stricter more orderly system for judging was in place. Five seasons in and I can’t figure out what the judges are looking for. They seem to concentrate on a single event one week and eliminate a chef, then the next week glance over the same situation. It must be doubly aggravating for the chefs.

The wrong man was sent home! Fabio was robbed by his slacker euro trash buddy. Although Stephan has done a great job in the past, the attitude and food included in this week episode was rather disturbing. Prepared sausage, standard food, crappy arrogant attitude all are things we’ve seen other chefs get dismissed for. Fabio baked bread, and made pasta from scratch, in five hours! Assuming their food was equally tasty, the technique, and range Fabio showed far exceeded what was portrayed as a sloppy Stephan taking smoke breaks and patting himself on the back.

While I’m willing to stay a fan of TC, there are a good number of ways they can improve the show overall. The casting, judging and the challenges could all use an update. I’m hoping next season brings something new to the table because if I want to watch a bunch of un-inspired cooks wallow away at the ovens, I’ll just go to work.


Scott Sebastian said...

I'm new to the whole Top Chef thing. I started watching half way through last season. On a wim I auditioned for this season so I'm watching with interest. I'd be cooking against these guys.

I knew I wouldn't make the show. Too old and not pretty enough. I'm glad I didn't. I don't know what I was thinking. Mid-life crisis perhaps?

This has been an uninspired bunch all season. I could pick three people that I met in the casting room who would be better picks than the current yahoos.

Do I think I could beat these guys? Depends on the challenges. Everyone has their weeknesses. Sometimes it's just pure luck or like Slum Dog, "it is written."

Michael Walsh said...

I would love to hear about the audition. did you cook, talk into a camera, get stared down by tom while padma giggled in the corner?

I agree with you that i don't have the personality or the nerves to face the cameras, but I do think if I did, my cooking/creativity would trump what they have on the TV now. I'm sure you can agree.

I'm still miffed with the judging? I am determined they need a list of criteria and a numerical system to organize things. Like on Iron Chef for example. AHAHAHA, but who the hell listens to me, i have a hard enough time convincing a 19 year old dishwasher to fallow my directions.

Scott Sebastian said...

Just watched the show on DVR. I'm pulling for Carla.

Scott Sebastian said...

One more thing about last episode. Emeril came off as a real nice guy, down to earth and homey. He didn't have to impress anyone. He's been my favorite guest judge so far. That's easy to do because the only other one I've liked is Jacques.

Michael Walsh said...

I didn't like carla, but they have portrayed her in such a good light these past few episodes it's hard not to pull of her. There is still a lack of a 'wow' factor with her.

To me being the guest judge is as much like doing a commercial I have not put much thought into it. I like the one with the guys from Foo Fighters around Thanksgiving, they came off very honest.

Dine O Mite said...

As with a lot of other reality shows the format may be getting a little stale. I've watched it from the very beginning and still enjoy watching. I think part of it is the casting. I don't understand why you would put people fresh out of culinary school on a show like this. They aren't going to win, they haven't and won't.

But all is not lost. Top Chef Masters was announced last week. It's going to have the heavy hitters going mano a mano for charity. I think I recall the number being 24! At Gael Greene's blog (she's one of the judges), she says that they're taping it right now. This is going to be fun to watch!

My guess is that the new season of Project Runway will be followed by Top Chef Masters. I'm hoping it will air sometime in the summer.

Cory said...

what are your thoughts on tv and food.... i get so annoyed with the food network... i remember when it first came out and someone said james beard would of watched it 24 hours... i doubt it anymore its more like the mtv of food... never plays a music video... food network all gimics never real food... and if i see one more national chain restaurant commercial with one of those idiots im gonna throw my shoe at the tv... top chef this season is top crap....

Michael Walsh said...

Dine o mite, thanks for the update. It seems like any time old cast members come back they have alot more confidance and perform better.

Cory, you can't hate on the food network so much. They do a fairly good job educating/motivating the general public about food. Not many shows may interest us, but we are far and few between. I remember watching the Master Chef's series on Discovery channel before gowing to work everyday around 3pm, those where the line cook days. You can't find the same thing on foodtv. Foodtv now has to appeal to everyone, moms, dads, sister....ect.

Cory said...

definately agree it appeals to the general public... i loved watching the master chef series too... what can i say i like vh-1....

Dine O Mite said...

No those aren't the heavy hitters I'm talking about.

I'm talking about guys like Wylie Dufresne and Dan Barber. It may not be those exact guys, but it's going to be people of "The Next Iron Chef" caliber.

Rachel said...

For some festivity, I'd like to know what nicknames you've given the Top Chef contestants this time around, Mike. Here the nicknames I have had for them. Let's see if you can match the nickname to the person:

1. Top Scallop
2. Big Bird
3. Amish-named whiny guy
4. Whiny make-out girl
5. Silver Spoons
6. Peppy Guiseppe
7. Long-Island Ice Tea

Michael Walsh said...

Rachel, you've gone quize crazy lately! Ironicly i caught the quize show on NPR sunday morning, wierd.

Well, I know carla and big bird go together, and the one girl did scallops like 3 times but i don't remember her name, shoot... i can't even remember any of there names right