Thursday, March 3, 2011

GLASSWORTS: There is an obvious question about last night's Top Chef All Stars, which for spoiler reasons I'll ask below the fold.

So, when everyone's this (apparently) exceptional, are you fine with everyone making it to the final trip, or (as with every other season) do you expect well-qualified judges to make difficult, painful choices because it's a competition and that's what has to happen. I'm partial to the latter -- yes, it's tough, and yes, it's going to be sad to watch, but that's part of why we watch these shows. Even if no one made a notable mistake, some things just taste better than others, right?

Gail Simmons: "[W]hen we got to Judges’ Table, we realized there was no way to penalize any of them for what they had made. We, for the first time, were at a stalemate. We just couldn’t think of a legitimate reason to get rid of anyone. But I don’t want anyone to think that this is setting a precedent. This is not the point of the show. It took probably an hour of begging our producers to let us do it. They kept us there for a while, saying 'Guys, deal with it. Make a decision.' Then finally, after a long time of hashing it out and none of us feeling comfortable, we decided to bring everyone to the finale."

Colicchio said the same thing, more or less.


  1. Anonymous8:41 AM

    I was fine with it. There have been a lot of Top Chef episodes, and this is the first time that this has ever happeend, so I don't think they were looking at this as an easy way out.  Also, in some sense it is the flip side of the long discussed TC policy of kicking off whoever had the worse dish 'on that night'.  TC has been extremely consistent in not taking past performance into account as a factor, so what do you do on a night where all the dishes taste great, hit the theme, and even on the nit-oicky details the judges don't agree on who did worst?  Generally Tom is the tie breaker, and in this case he clearly felt that the flaws were so small that his choice would be effectively arbitrary, which given the context would have been an awful decision to have to make.

    That being said, obviously they were also affected by the families eating with them.  They were charmed by the parent/spouse stories and that created such an aura of goodwill that they were probablly more willing to think this far out of the box.  So no, I was not bothered, in fact I found this to be my favroite episode of Top Chef in a long time.

  2. Lou W8:45 AM

    That was me.  Also was about to say that Matthew, Carla's husband, is a frequent commenter at SkilletDoux. He couldn't say too much about the episode other than that; the food really was all excellent with Antonia's a worthly winner, that the judges and crew ar all really nice, and that he had dinner with Carla and Tiffany last night and still hasn't the slightest idea on anything that happens in the Bahamas.  Carla's poker face, and adherance to her NDA, is apparenly quite impressive.

  3. What was most annoying was the repeated fakeouts--Richard....pack your knives...because you're going to the Bahamas! And are they going to double eliminate next week, or have a four-way finale?

  4. The fakeout was a little lame, but mostly because I was terrified that Richard was going to go home. The Carla/Tiffany fakeout was less egregious.

  5. gtv20009:35 AM

    Sometimes I think the challenges are a little contrived and don't allow the chefs to really use their skills, but here we see what happens when you don't put them in a difficult situation - they had pretty much total freedom to do what they felt they could do best and everybody made a great dish.

  6. (xposted to Sepinwall, since he and I were discussing this last night)

    The only other case I can recall of no one being sent home due to general awesomeness was in Project Runway 4 -- when Jeffrey, Uli, Laura and Michael/Mychael were all deemed so fantastic as to deserve a shot at Fashion Week.

    That, too, was a Magical Elves production.

  7. Dave S10:07 AM

    In Season 2  Cliff got disqualified for violence and then nobody got actually eliminated at Judge's Table for food quality.

    Next Iron Chef had an episode last season where they were supposed to do a double elimination and then ended up only cutting one because they couldn't agree on who should go.

  8. Sure, and there have been several Survivors in which a contestant departed for medical/personal reasons and no one was booted.  So it's really the Iron Chef example that's more pertinent.

  9. shawnaATL10:17 AM

    There was one season where no one got sent home from restaurant wars because of general awfulness, and they made them re-do it....

  10. Wasn't there an episode where they didn't send anyone home because there were accusations that teams broke the rules about only using a certain number of calories and no one knew which food complied with the limits?

  11. Marsha10:46 AM

    I have no problem with an over-length episode when it's to show details like them hanging out with their families (that become very relevant to the challenge) or to show more of judges table. I DO have issues when them supersizing the episode to show us fakeouts and false drama. Just tell them they're all going and be done with it.

  12. Dave S10:47 AM

    Forgot about that.  Also a Season 2 episode.

  13. Marsha10:53 AM

    I'm totally fine with it.

    I've often wondered what would happen if everyone brought their A game on the same night, and now we know. The fact that it took 8 seasons to get to such an event happening, AND it happened during a late episode in an all-star season where the quality has been kicked up a notch anyway, tells me that the judges don't do this lightly, and this was a truly extraordinary bit of cooking.

    gtv2000, in the finals they generally get to do whatever they want as well (I don't consider "cook 4 courses" to be much of a restraint) and the judges usually still have complaints even about the winner's dishes.

    I did find it interesting that they picked a winner but no loser, which lends credence to the "some things taste better than others" theory, but there's a difference between that and "each dish was perfect for what it was" that leads to no one *losing*.

    Loved this episode. Want to eat every single dish, even the ones I can't....

  14. KCosmo's neighbor1:02 PM

    I thought it was all great. I was actually sitting on my couch smiling. I love watching Tom devour a dish that he loves. I also thought it was nice that the family members were so supportive of all of the contestants. It was a refreshing break from trash-talking reality tv. To go all Carla on y' brough the love.

  15. Hated the Blais fakeout.  Poor guy.  Nearly threw up on his shoes.

  16. Gods.  Season 2.  I'd forgotten what a nightmare it was.  On purpose.

  17. Marsha1:38 PM

    Tom liked the Okra!!! I want to take a screen shot of Tiffany's face when Tom said she made him an okra believer - what a fantastic moment.

    I loved that THREE contestants made things that have been the downfall of many chefs over the years - okra, risotto, and gnocchi - and they all knocked them out of the park. You want proof that this really is an All-Star season? That's it right there.

  18. Paul Tabachneck2:26 PM

    She did it in season two as well, when she was telling the last four contestants that they were all going.  I guess they figured twice in eight years wasn't pushing it. 

  19. Paul Tabachneck2:27 PM

    Cheftestants!  Sorry. Sorry.

  20. Paul Tabachneck2:30 PM

    I just watched season 2 all the way through recently (I could tell you how, but I'd have to kill you), and man.  Crazy.  So many nit-picking controversies, that now I understand the hands-up-stand-clear thing at the end of each challenge.  And Marcel is such a dick!

  21. But again, that was a case in which the fifth person was disqualified (Cliff) over the Marcel incident.  Not based on merit.

  22. Paul Tabachneck2:37 PM

    There was also an episode where Preeti stepped down because she missed her family.

  23. Jenn.3:37 PM

    I was torn.  The boyfriend predicted, based on the relative lack of negative comments, that no one was going to go home.  And I'll admit that I was thinking, "Man, wouldn't it stink to have to go home for one of these dishes, when people have gotten to stay an extra week with obviously flawed food, because only one person was scheduled to go home that week."  But I kind of think that they should have done the hard thing, and limited themselves to four finalists.  Even though I suspect that means that Carla would have gone home.

    I was surprised, based on the comments, that Antonia's dish won.  I rather thought that it was between Richard and Mike.  And I did not like that little fake-out with Richard.  They know that he's a stressy type, and it really seemed mean.

    Finally:  Everything did look good, and well done.  That said, just because Tiffany managed to be the first to serve Tom okra that wasn't slimy doesn't mean that it's hard to make okra that isn't slimy.  If you cook okra for long enough with tomatoes, boom, no sliminess---the substance in the okra breaks down and actually acts as a thickener for the sauce.  Put it this way: I make an okra dish that looks a helluva lot like Tiffany's (just served on rice), but no one has ever suggested that I belong on Top Chef.

  24. Dave S4:23 PM

    Jenn - I think you belong on Top Chef.

  25. I was okay with it, but haven't the judges, in the past, looked at overall performance during the season when they need to eliminate someone and yet in the challenge, everyone did equally well?  I thought they might do that this time.

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