Thursday, December 10, 2009


Power is a wonderful thing. As expected, Tom Colicchio's blog 'plains it all for you. Before we dig into the nuts and bolts rattling around inside Tom's head, I just have to point out what incredible freedom Tom has in his little Top Chef world. Not only is he the Head Judge, host and co-Producer, he is the lead historian of what was and is Top Chef. "But Shamu, you had a whole lot of chefs who were the stars of the show, who drove the story line, what about their view of what was?" Tis true, they were there but our little chefs wear a mighty big muzzle. Do you think Kevin believes Tom is the best judge of how pork belly should be cooked? He may believe it but he won't come right out and say Tom is full of Diet Coke. No, the chefs must swallow what ever Tom is serving and what Tom is serving is this.
First Course - Kevin takes a point with his chicken skin dish. Fairly easy judgment.Second Course or the clich├ęd Mystery Box dish (Don't we watch Top Chef to see something new, not something they've done forever everywhere else?) goes to Michael with his Dashi Glazed Rockfish. Have to take this one on taste faith that it was better. At least to Tom, not necessarily to Gail. Score is one point to Kevin and one point to Michael. Third Course was the Make whatever you want Course. Here's where it gets tricky. Bryan made venison that seemed to get raves, Kevin made pork belly that while his sauce is praised his cut of meat is considered undercooked. Michael gave us squab with mushrooms but both Gail and Donatello did not enjoy the mushroom concoction. What does Tom think? "The faux mushrooms were playful, a bit silly. They didn’t need to be there – why bother, when everything was so fine? That said, though, they didn’t hurt the dish a jot – it was absolutely delicious."  O....K. So a dish that is delicious but has a silly extraneous component is a hallmark of a Top Chef? Score - Michael 2, Kevin 1, Bryan is screwed.Fourth Course - Mandatory Dessert. While the previous judging may have been tricky, the dessert course show Tom's true colors. He claims Bryan won the round, making the score Michael 2, Kevin and Bryan 1 but what he conveniently glosses over is Michael's failure. "Michael’s dessert was really very delicious, even though he overcooked the ganache a bit. He knew he had done so, and that was unfortunate, but it didn’t overly harm the dessert, because the cake was still tasty and the other elements of the dessert worked really well. There were lots of little techniques in there that were used to great effect, and, overall, the dessert still worked." That's all well and good but Michael still failed to watch his sous chef over fill the molds and he didn't set a timer and ended up overcooking the dessert. Wow, seems a bit....(oh what's the word Tom used just last week), scattered to me. So scattered that I bet Jen was shaking her head that her well received, delicious duck dish was eliminated because she cooked it correctly but differently than what she told Tom. Understand that again, Michael made a dish, a dish he admitted he had made often at his restaurant, a dish he committed to memory but failed to EXECUTE! Tom says it was tasty but four people at that table remarked on the dryness. Now if I were judging, I don't think I'd want a Top Chef who failed to execute one of the dishes. As a matter of fact, I'd deduct a point for the failure. Hasn't that been the mantra this season and every season? One mistake and you're gone? Tell that to Tre back in Season 3. But I'm not Tom, who spent all night telling us, yet again, what he would do. Pork belly with roast pork, dessert bananas two ways, it really gets old. Last time I checked, Tom's not competing. I thought he was supposed to be judging the food in front of him. If he really wants to put his money where his big mouth is, I'm sure the producers of Top Chef Masters would welcome Tom as a competitor with open arms. I seriously doubt that will happen because handing over control of your culinary fate to judges not of your own making is not something Mr. Colicchio seems prepared for. Until then, we'll just have to suffer along with Tom Chef.


Making Space said...

OK so again with the disclaimer that I don't actually watch the sounds like Tom picked a "mini-me" (Mini-Tom) guy to win. Just sayin.

Big Shamu said...

All I know is that I don't think of Michael as a Top Chef.

Buzz Kill said...

Good post. In my mind, 3 really big tings happened that skewed the results of the finale and punch holes in Tom's logic.

1. You didn't touch on this but the sous chef draw. With the chefs as close in skill as they are, throwing chance into the mix is totally unfair. Both Tom and Lee Ann said that part of being TC is managing your people. As far as I know they weren't given the option to fire their employees. If they had allowed the chefs to choose, no way Preeti, Ash or Jesse get picked. And look who got stuck with 2 of them. They might as well had Kevin tie a hand behind his back.

2. The 3rd course. Everyone judging thought the Bryan's venison was the best dish of the night. How did he lose that one?

3. The dessert course. Again, everyone felt Bryan's dessert was good and Kevin and Michaels had problems. How did Bryan lose that one too?

As much as I felt Kevin should be TC, he just couldn't overcome the sous chef obstacle. And Bryan won 2 of the 4 course, so on the challenge, he should have won. So what the hell happened? Oh, and Jen's biggest mistake in her elimination was that she wasn't a Voltagio.

Big Shamu said...

I didn't really touch on the sous chef thing because I'm not sure how it contributed to Kevin's downfall. They claimed his pork belly wasn't cooked long enough but Kevin in other interviews thinks it was cooked exactly the way he wanted it and how he serves it at his restaurant. Preeti and Ash, as far as I could see, did not contribute to that criticism. The second big issue for Kevin was the mushroom in the mystery box. He was absolutely clueless what to do with it. Michael had obviously worked with it before and I don't remember what Bryan did with it but it wasn't called out in his dish. More than the pork belly, I think that mushroom lost it for Kevin. Could Ash or Preeti suggested a better method of cooking it? Don't know but I do know after Carla's reliance on Casey's advice last season, I doubt any of these chefs would placed their fate in their sous chefs hands. Yes I agree that Kevin drew the short knife by way of his sous chefs but I thought Michael didn't exactly have the cream of the crop either. As a matter of fact, I believe Eli hurt Michael with his handling of dessert (by either failing directions and having the inexperience to set a timer and pull them out at the correct time). I thought Bryan had the best draw and still he lost. Well...lost in Tom's eyes.

I have no idea how the venison lost against Michael's squab.

Bryan's dessert did win but interestingly enough Lee-Ann called it overly sweet.

What was also interesting in reading Gail's blog was how much time they spend judging and deciding these dishes which I don't really get. It seems to me, you're sitting there, you taste 3 dishes, one tastes the best, pick that dish. For all this talk about taste and the ultimate end product gets totally thrown out the window when Tom goes into his theseus explanations on how he makes a particular dish or how he thinks the dish should have been done. They argue for 6 hours and end up using mere minutes of that. So what's the point.