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 hand...Tiffani..pink 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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Top Chef Episode 10: The Reunion

I agree with your comments about Tim Gunn/Tom C. The other major difference there is that Tim wasn't involved in the judging of the Project Runway contestants at all. At one point, I think he even said that he specifically doesn't do that so that he can remain impartial in his workroom help.

It would really be interesting to hear more specific comments from Tom as to how the chefs could improve their dishes.

liz | 13 May, 2006 - 20:24

Top Chef Episode 10: The Reunion

I think that Tiffani is just awful. Think about how ambitious they all are and how slightly neurotic. And yet they all seem to respect both Harold's character and his food. Damn, that is impressive. He should win just for that.

I do have to admit that I like Dave. I thought it was funny when he went into the walk-in with his wine to cool off and Harold couldn't stop laughing at him.

Brian | 14 May, 2006 - 05:33

Top Chef Episode 10: The Reunion

Are you Hayamaya on TWoP? I dig your site, but the pimping's pretty transparent.

Jenny | 15 May, 2006 - 08:24

Top Chef Episode 10: The Reunion

No I'm not that person...I've never posted on TWoP. I only noticed people link from there to my site recently via my referral logs. Nice to know people enjoy reading my reviews. :)

maki | 15 May, 2006 - 12:13

Top Chef Episode 10: The Reunion

I LOVE your comments about the show. It sure beats me typing it all up for my own pleasure!

I think Dave went a little too far during the reunion show with Tiffani. He could risen abit above her. even thought her pink pants were awful.

about the wedding meal - I also think it is ridiculous bc even tho Leanne wrote up the recipe, it did not sound like she had cooked it all that often. Plus, if you are catering a party such as that, you have - and your staff- have typically done that dish many times over and learned what does and does not work. They went in cold.

Gabriella True | 16 May, 2006 - 06:43

Top Chef Episode 10: The Reunion

I think that I was forced to re-evaluate Stephen based on this episode--my husband and I actually cheered when he was booted off two weeks before.

Now I see a young man that has had the oppotunity to reflect on the fact that he may have faults, and that he is repentent about his earlier actions. (And I think that getting drunk during this episode was probably the smartest thing he could have done--it apparently kept him from reverting to type, and this was a good thing.) Hopefully he has had the chance to see how completely arrogant he comes off, and he has the chance to change all of that. How nice is that?

It also made me appreciate the fact that we can learn from our mistakes, be humbled by them, and make the course changes necessary to move on, so that was promising. Will Stephen? Hmmmmm.

Tiffany..........don't get me started. She's a hound. Dave had her number early on. Dave should have elbowed her in the chops a few times, I know I would have if she jumped on me as often as she did Dave. (Of course, Dave needs to get the saddle off of his back so that people will not be so inclined to get up on it and ride.)

Why should Andrea say anything bad about Tiffany, she's got her own show now, she's taking the high road...yeah, right, I'll bet.

Harold was right...the wedding show was insanity. The entire concept was ludicrious, and the fact the judges jumped him on his comments shows you just how much crack these guys are smoking! It was an impossible mission--imagine all those guests, 16 hours to prepare, and to have to navigate a kitchen with Stephen in it. What a nightmare.

Ms. Uptown girl has certainly got the gams, no doubt. Too bad they dont no how to speak, either.

Lou | 21 May, 2006 - 20:02

Top Chef Episode 10: The Reunion

Did Tiffany seem drunk to anyone else? She didn't seem to be able to pronouce her words or say anything other than a sentence at a time.

Courtney | 25 May, 2006 - 21:17

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