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Top Chef Season 5


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I still watch it every week with my older daughter, and I scream at the set when outraged. ("Radhika! Get out front!!" and "That's not frozen yogurt! It's cold soup!!" and... you get the idea.) But the sheer absence of interesting cooking ideas is stunning this year. If I see another seared scallop or sliced steak dish, I'm going to pitch a fit to Bravo.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I can't decide whether this season is atypically dull or if it was that last season atypically rocked. I think part of the problem is, all of these contestants have seen the previous seasons. They know what is going to get them booted early, and unfortunately that's going out on a limb and failing. Because nothing is cumulative there is no reason at all, ever, to make something awesome. You just have to do better than one other person. So you make things that are safe, that are clearly defensible, that don't have any real chance of failing. Because when you win, you get a fucking cookbook (well, OK, I'd take the Superbowl tickets!), but when you lose, you go home. So you play to not lose.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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They know what is going to get them booted early, and unfortunately that's going out on a limb and failing. Because nothing is cumulative there is no reason at all, ever, to make something awesome. You just have to do better than one other person. So you make things that are safe, that are clearly defensible, that don't have any real chance of failing.

Of course, notwithstanding that, almost every week someone does fail pretty miserably. In addition to the points you made, the format itself doesn't lend itself to "making something awesome." The challenges are too contrived, the time limits too cramping.
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Jeff learned that if you're going to go out on a limb, you better have a solid tree. The problem with getting artsy and creative on a show like this is that a plain grilled pork chop done well is better than a cutting edge dish done half-assed. The creative dishes at top restaurants are great because of the chefs that create them and their commitment to making great food, not because they look cool and are super complicated to do. If you dumped an Alinea dish in a bowl, stirred it into a big mess and ate it, it would still be awesome. That said, it would be cool if they had a few risk takers with the skill level to hang in there for the duration. Something to balance the drama and product placement a bit so I could feel less wanker-ish about watching every week. :biggrin:

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I so agree about this season. I love Top Chef, but this year's cheftestants just are not doing anything exciting. Last season we had Richard and Stephanie. This year, Stefan seems to put out decent food as does Jamie but there is nothing where you think - that's a winner. Its usually just the best of the lot. Last week, Stefan almost went home after a cook off against Andrea, of all people!!! That all being said, I do love Fabio just to hear his comments (this is Top Chef, not Top Scallops!) and he is charming, but......... how about some food chops somewhere - someone!

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The creative dishes at top restaurants are great because of the chefs that create them and their commitment to making great food, not because they look cool and are super complicated to do.

And by the time you eat those great restaurant dishes, they've been tested and tweaked many times—an opportunity the show does not afford.
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Speaking of Richard, I just saw him teamed up with...heck, I don't know. It was a 2 on 2 of Season 4 contestants, in a Super Bowl pre-show event. It was way too rushed to really see what was happening.

All I caught was that Blais and Andrew(?) did something with Pittsburgh steak, and seared tuna, and korean bbq (because Hines Ward is half-Korean) and used some Heinz products. Tiki and Bettis weren't too interested in the details, as it looked like they were told to hurry.

Blais won, and won two tickets to the Super Bowl...

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Maybe it's just me, but this blog by Hosea doesn't seem to be the thoughts of someone who won anything (bold mine):

http://www.bravotv.com/top-chef/blogs/burn.../hosea-responds

Burning Questions

Top Chef

First things first: None of us signed any contracts forbidding contact with the other cheftestants. We did not break any rules.

Now that that's out of the way, I'd like to offer my apologies to anyone who was offended or upset by my actions. It is impossible to explain what life is like under these circumstances to anyone who has not experienced it. It may have been the pressure, the stress, or just the surreal-ness of living in a bubble for six weeks, but sometimes you don't act like yourself. I am an honest, caring, and good person. My dearest friends and family know me for who I am. The public knows me as someone who cheats on his girlfriend. I'll have to live with that. I just hope that anyone out there who is easy to point the finger looks deeply inside themselves and can honestly say they haven't ever wronged someone. Or done something that they're ashamed of. Cast the first stone. Do I regret it? You bet. Did it throw off my game? Of course. Have I thought about it every day since? Yes. What can I do? Nothing. When I returned home, I told my girlfriend - one of the sweetest women on earth - what happened. She was willing to forgive me. Our relationship was never the same. We are no longer together. So I have to live with my mistakes and try and grow as a person from it. I am still very happy that I participated in Top Chef. It was an amazing experience that taught me a lot. I hope that it is my food and not my actions that are remembered once the show is over. I came to New York to cook. I made some great dishes and made some wonderful friends. At the end of the day, it is still all about the food.

Again, and it may be only me, but the tone of this seems more like someone who finished out of the top three and has only the 'experience' to show for it. Or am I reading too much between the lines?

I'm so awesome I don't even need a sig...Oh wait...SON OF A...

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The creative dishes at top restaurants are great because of the chefs that create them and their commitment to making great food, not because they look cool and are super complicated to do.

And by the time you eat those great restaurant dishes, they've been tested and tweaked many times—an opportunity the show does not afford.

Exactly. That's why playing it safe is the smart move even if it is boring for us to watch. You don't get to tweak and test so you better know it's going to work if you're going to hang your ass in the wind. I just wish they had more people confident enought to think they can pull it off.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Because nothing is cumulative there is no reason at all, ever, to make something awesome. You just have to do better than one other person. So you make things that are safe, that are clearly defensible, that don't have any real chance of failing. Because when you win, you get a fucking cookbook (well, OK, I'd take the Superbowl tickets!), but when you lose, you go home. So you play to not lose.

You know, I'm very curious to know why the Elimination Win prizes have diminished so markedly over the past season and a half. Seems like the last notable Elimination challenge win before the two Superbowl tix was Lisa's Italy trip last year. Oh, wait. The GE Monogram kitchen set Stefphan won last week.

Hard economic times maybe? Or did someone do the math after Tre, being eliminated a little over halfway into season 3, still went home with a hefty prize package nearly equal to the grand prize?

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You know, I'm very curious to know why the Elimination Win prizes have diminished so markedly over the past season and a half.  Seems like the last notable Elimination challenge win before the two Superbowl tix was Lisa's Italy trip last year. Oh, wait.  The GE Monogram kitchen set Stefphan won last week.

Hard economic times maybe?  Or did someone do the math after Tre, being eliminated a little over halfway into season 3, still went home with a hefty prize package nearly equal to the grand prize?

There's a randomness about these prizes. Some weeks, the prize is pretty good; the next week, it could be just a cookbook.
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B

You know, I'm very curious to know why the Elimination Win prizes have diminished so markedly over the past season and a half.  Seems like the last notable Elimination challenge win before the two Superbowl tix was Lisa's Italy trip last year. Oh, wait.  The GE Monogram kitchen set Stefphan won last week.

Hard economic times maybe?  Or did someone do the math after Tre, being eliminated a little over halfway into season 3, still went home with a hefty prize package nearly equal to the grand prize?

I wonder if Stefan's new refrigerators work as well as the ones for the show.

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Exactly. That's why playing it safe is the smart move even if it is boring for us to watch. You don't get to tweak and test so you better know it's going to work if you're going to hang your ass in the wind. I just wish they had more people confident enought to think they can pull it off.

I couldn't have said it better. Jeff's a good example of your point. His urge to be creative and trendy, to do way too much within the confines of the challenge-the limitations of time, the ingredients and the specified theme-proved to be his undoing. In fact, that was a recurring theme on Jeff's part throughout his time on Top Chef-he continually attempted to do dishes that "sounded" good, but with little consideration for the challenge.

No-he didn't have the luxury of having the time to craft an idea into a dish-like he would do at his restaurant. No-he didn't have the luxury of taking time, maybe days, to test the dish, taste it, modify it, change the garnishes or the presentation-like he would do at his restaurant.

But he knew that going into the challenge. He knew it throughout the competition. Yet he couldn't help himself could he? Push, push, push. He mucked up his plates with overwrought ideas and too many ingredients. He tried to be trendy and chi-chi and in his efforts to do so, he just simply fell short.

Here's a comparison that Jeff should think about. "Rockfish Ceviche with Sangria Ice." Sounds good doesn't it? Picture that menu description printed in italic script on sienna-colored parchment paper. Trendy and alluring. It must be delicious. And it set an expectation that Jeff better deliver on his promised dish.

Now on the other hand, Carla served the judges a very simple "Crayfish and Andouille Gumbo." A humble, simple dish. The sort of dish that would be written in chalk on a blackboard. Not fussy, not trendy. Not overworked. Maybe the expectation was lower than Jeff's dish, but according to the judges, Carla's gumbo had flavor and worked quite well within the context of the Elimination Challenge.

Jeff reminds me of a guy I cooked against once in a cooking competition on PBS, "MasterChef USA." I can't remember the guy's name so we'll call him "Jeff."

When it came to the main dish for our competition, I did a Pork Tenderloin (rubbed with a spice blend heavy on Szechuan peppercorns), with a Litchee-Plum Conserve, Baby Bok Choy and a Green Onion Noodle Cake. Simple but unique dishes bursting with flavor. Dishes I knew I could complete within the time limits.

My fellow competitor, "Jeff," did a Risotto with "Deveined Grapefruits." Trendy sounding isn't it? Imagine the allure if he'd called it "Risotto with Supremes of Grapefruit."

Well the poor little fellow spent nearly all his time trying to separate the segments out of a disagreeable grapefruit. He ran out of time. He ended up chucking pieces of grapefruit, some with peel and seeds, into a cold, gummy risotto.

Imagine the looks on the faces of the judges when they tasted what they thought would be the traditional flavor and texture of risotto-only to find it gunked-up with acrid grapefruit.

"Jeff" didn't win.

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Hee! Yeah I read that on another TC writeup. "Stefan, for performing so admirably in the face of equipment failure we award you . . . the same equpiment that failed."

As someone pointed out somewhere, the equipment that failed was at the catering location, not the Top Chef kitchen, so no idea if it was the same make that he won.

....of course the Top Chef refrigerators did fail earlier in the season and they tried to blame it on a contestant leaving the door open.

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Haven't really got a feeling for this season yet, but I'm sure it will materialize as the masses get pared down. But I wish to repeat my annual Top Chef rant: After once again watching repeats of Season 2, I am as repulsed by Ilan Hall as ever. What a repugnant little fraud he was -- and yes, I've uttered this countless times, so I'm sorry.

As for the grill idea in last week's episode, I would've made even more of them. I wonder if it was possible, using lids (ideally, brick if there was any to be found ...) to construct a makeshift oven over coals. Would there have been anything similar to brick they could've found nearby to do it?

I missed how Ariane's turkey was "confit." How did she do it?

Finally, Jeff's nickname should be "Silver Spoons" or "The Ricker." He looks exactly like a young Rick Schroeder playing Rick Stratton.

Jeff is Dr. Chase from House :laugh:

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....of course the Top Chef refrigerators did fail earlier in the season and they tried to blame it on a contestant leaving the door open.

Could the whole malfunction/less-than-superior equipment issue be one of those show "elements"?

If I wanted to put the screws to a group of chefs trying to play king-of-the-hill, surely a simple tweak of the fridge and freezer temp controls seems like a very low-tech and effective (albeit cruel) way to go.

Edited by C_Ruark (log)
"There's something very Khmer Rouge about Alice Waters that has become unrealistic." - Bourdain; interviewed on dcist.com
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Could the whole malfunction/less-than-superior equipment issue being one of those "elements"?

If I wanted to put the screws to a group of chefs trying to play king-of-hill, surely a simple tweak of the fridge and freezer temp controls seems like a very low-tech and effective (albeit cruel) way to go.

Could be, but I thought one of the blogs on the Bravo site fessed up that the compressors broke down after the fridge was loaded with too hot food - this was one of those catering challenges where they were making the food the night before. The editing led one to believe that one of the contestants accidentally left the door open.

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I think Scott Conant was incredibly rude. I wouldn't let my *child* mock anyone's accent, much less someone who is a supposed professional and meant to be acting in that capacity. No more Scarpetta's for me.

Really repugnant behaviour.

“Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!”
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I think Scott Conant was incredibly rude. I wouldn't let my *child* mock anyone's accent, much less someone who is a supposed professional and meant to be acting in that capacity.  No more Scarpetta's for me.

Really repugnant behaviour.

Yep. I said this earlier but I will reiterate after watching a rerun. Maybe Scott was the one that needed to relax, not Fabio.

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I was looking for this mocking and I just didn't see/hear it.  Conant was intense, but I just didn't see mocking.

I heard no accent mocking either. He was posturing, scolding, coping attitude, but he wasn't spoofing his accent.

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"You unna stand? Do you?"

I interpreted it that way. I guess if you guys didn't, you didn't. I still think he was an unprofessional jerk.

“Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!”
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