Top Chef Episode 10: The Reunion

Since this episode didn't have any actual cooking, there is no need for me to review it totally. So here are some short observations about the reunion show, plus my overall opinion of the show now that we are nearing the finale.

First, about the reunion episode itself:

  • I was surprised at the level of venom expressed towards Tiffani by almost everyone except for Andrea, and to some extent Lee Anne - and Ken, but he is quite irrelevant. I guess that she really did rub a lot of them the wrong way. Her habit of interrupting people before they finish is very annoying.
  • Related to that: I feel quite cynical about the final selection of Tiffani over Lee Anne: it's quite obvious that Tiffani vs. Dave will continue to provide more moments of conflict and soapy drama. If it was close between them chances are the producers of the show nudged the choice over to one direction.
  • The contestants generally seemed to agree that most of the challenges were quite fair and good to bring out different aspects of their talents. I agree with that, for the most part.
  • Harold expressed his opinion that the wedding banquet challenge was "bullshit", to which Chef Tom responded somewhat vociferously that "14 to 16 hours was plenty of time". But he did acknowledge that having to shop for the supplies at the supermarket was not quite fair.
  • Did I mention that Ken is irrelevant? When he called Stephen white trash or something, the obvious grab for attention was quite sad.
  • Tiffani having a hyperventilation attack? or something in the corner was quite funny. (If she was really suffering then I'm sorry for finding it funny, but oh, the Drama.)
  • Stephen apologizing to Candice was a nice moment.
  • And speaking of Candice, I wonder why she didn't kick Brian in the balls or something at that "fine ass" comment. I rather like Candice, even though she didn't really belong on the show at all, but that's just a lack of training. If she continues to really work at it, when she is 28 (the age of the Harold/Lee Anne/Tiffani group) she may become very good. And if she can manage to keep her er, fine ass, she could become the next Cat Cora (who also seems to have managed much of her TV-cooking prominence through the "fine ass" category of cooking.)
  • Lee Anne showed how a rather big girl can still look stunning. On the other pants..oy.
  • I think we know why Mrs. Billy Joel is the host (besides her being Mrs. Joel): she has great legs.

And now some thoughts about the show overall:

  • With the overall view of the contestants selected for the show, it's rather apparent that the producers purposefully went for a "variety" - not just working restaurant chefs. It's hard to imagine that they couldn't have found 10 ambitious and fairly young restaurant chefs such as Harold, Lee Anne and Tiffani, but perhaps they saw that as being too boring or something. So we had the "natural cook", the newbie cooking school student/model, and the sommelier, amongst others.
  • There are two big drawbacks of Top Chef compared to Project Runway. The first, and most important, is that while fashion is visual, so that the we can immediately judge what we, not the judges, think of the designers' work, we can't taste the food that the chefs produce.
  • I know that practically everyone who has commented on the show has been complaining about Katie Lee Joel, the host. But she's not really that important to the context of the show. However, and this brings me to the second thing that is lacking from Top Chef is that there is no Tim Gunn / mentor figure. I don't want to get too much into Project Runway here but anyone who has watched that show knows that Tim Gunn is a terrific mentor. Tom colicchio is of course a Food God, but he hasn't really shown himself to be a good mentor type. You never saw him trying to teach the chefs anything, beyond his comments. We can also try comparing Top Chef with another food contest show, Hell's Kitchen, where the Chef is Gordon Ramsay. While Gordon Ramsay has a really foul mouth (which I don't mind at all, but I know some people find offensive), in all the shows I've seen him in including the British version of Hell's Kitchen, and even more so in Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (a show where he goes to real restaurants in trouble and tries to rescue them) he's shown an ability to at the very least look like he is really trying to teach and help. When his caring shows through all his bluster, that's when he becomes human and interesting and elevates the show to something beyond just a reality show. So far at least, Tom colicchio hasn't shown this.

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