But the episode I watched last night made me think I was watching Hell’s Kitchen instead (a show that I dropped from my roster after the second season for its tacky drama and lack of focus on the culinary arts).
The Quick Fire Challenge:I was elated to see Tom Colicchio take the floor and show off his supreme cooking skills. He was absolutely remarkable. But there are a few questions that keep running through my mind:
- How much notice did Colicchio have about this specific task before he stepped up? Minutes? Hours? Days? Weeks? If you look at this from the legal perspective, chances are that Bravo had to put a special agreement in place with Colicchio weeks or months before this episode was filmed. After all, he joined Top Chef to judge the competition – not to compete in it.
- But let’s say Tom had just an hour’s notice before heading into the kitchen and whipping up his dish. Did he already know what ingredients to use? How did he know those ingredients would be there?
- How can the chef’s dishes be compared fairly to Colicchio’s, when they had to fight with each other over ingredients and only had a couple of minutes planning time?
Regardless, much of the media has really slammed all of the chefs for their performance, but some have been asking the same questions I have:
- Is it fair to expect any chef to cook an amazing dish in less than ten minutes with only a couple of minutes to prepare?
- How does a challenge like this prove that someone is a top chef?
The Elimination Challenge:I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: There was nothing fair about expecting a bunch of Americanized chefs to take over a Dim Sum restaurant in Chinatown during the lunch rush and cook Chinese Dim Sum. Thai, Vietnamese, even Japanese food would have been more reasonable. At least the preparations of those cuisines have a little in common with American, Italian, etc. Chinese Dim Sum is one of the few cuisines that I honestly think stands alone - it requires a completely different skill set and very different kitchen tools.
Forget the Jamie Lauren drama (even though we’re all tired of seeing her just slip under the radar), but just looking at the quick fire and elimination challenges as a alone, I’m struggling to see how any chef could shine under those conditions unless they had previous experience in a Dim Sum kitchen (which is why Dale T. won – the only chef with Dim Sum kitchen experience).
And if the Top Chef producers are hiking up the drama, I hope they also make time to research their actions. There’s a reason FOX’s Hell’s Kitchen ratings have dropped so significantly over the past few seasons. Copying a dying show just seems a waste when you have such talented judges and chefs to play with.
But if they do continue moving the focus from cooking to drama, I guess we can always replace Top Chef with “The Next Iron Chef”…
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