Top Chef Season 10

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Independent George
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Finally back in town, and watched TC last night.

1. To echo everyone else, once Kristen re-appeared, I'd have been happy with any combination of challengers in the finale, but this was my preferred matchup.
2. Does anyone know of a season scorecard? I haven't been tracking it, but I want to say that Brooke, Kristen, and Sheldon have won or been at the top of every challenge this entire season.
3. I can do without "save-a-chef". LCK is enough of a safety valve for me.
4. I really enjoyed the "what they were up to" cuts at the open. It's nice to see the chefs in a "normal" environment, though it helped that it was Brooke and Sheldon we got to watch.
5. speaking of which, how great was it to watch three successful, well-adjusted human beings manage to be competitive but also friendly and respectful?
6. With all the time between the regular season and the playoffs, why oh why don't the chefs memorize and practice the hell out of a dessert (or three) heading into the finals?
7. why do I keep asking #6 every season?
CWeb wrote:On a side note, the penultimate challenge looks incredible. Tom's letting each of the chefs run his kitchen it seems. No complaints from me.
nom wrote:Nobody is rolling their eyes at the Iron Chef format for the last episode? It looks just horrid.
8. If I'm not mistaken, that semifinal challenge was the finale challenge during the last two seasons (All-Stars, and then Texas). Personally, I wish that gets fixed as the permanent format for the finale. I'll withhold judgement on the live cooking challenge for now, but yeah, I'm skeptical. I want to watch the chefs at their best at this point - no more BS. As long as they give them enough time to prep and cook and no surprises on ingredients, I'm ok with it even if it's cheesy. Anything else, though...

On the plus side, it looks like Mike Voltaggio and Paul are going to be in the audience (and maybe judges). It's (almost) always good to see past champions and contenders return.
CWeb
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Looks like all the past winners are going to be there. Stephanie and Blais have been good in roles as guest judges (Blais was on the Canada edition), and Paul and Mike seem like they'd have interesting opinions. Not as thrilled to see Hosea and Ilan.
nom
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CWeb wrote:nom, you didn't like All-Stars?

Admittedly, my food knowledge is pretty paltry, so some of the finer points of the food is certainly lost on me, but I thought that was a pretty good season.

Any particular reason why you didn't like it?

All-Stars to me was problematic for a few reasons. I'd say the top three were

-Blais rode that horse wire to wire. The contestants that were remaining in the final 8 were not even in the same league. He took his foot off the gas and just coasted. Really, the face-offs people wanted didn't happen.

-The challenges were boring, or just plain silly. The low-water mark to that point was the Target episode. The large number of team challenges resulted in some odd eliminations early as well. This was also a season where people really cooked to the middle whenever possible. The Mussels in a garlic white wine sauce is the dish I would point to this season as the one to remember for worse, not better. It defined the season for me.

-The no elimination on staten island was a silly, toothless cop-out. Then they were forced to cut down when in the following week there was a kitchen fire and Carla really got the worst of that.
nom
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CWeb wrote:Looks like all the past winners are going to be there. Stephanie and Blais have been good in roles as guest judges (Blais was on the Canada edition), and Paul and Mike seem like they'd have interesting opinions. Not as thrilled to see Hosea and Ilan.
The only season I can recall where the prior winners didn't all show up was Singapore, and even there they hauled %#@%# Hosea over.
PHXeater
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Did that feel anticlimactic to anyone else?
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Lunchbox
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PHXeater wrote:Did that feel anticlimactic to anyone else?
Right? It felt soooo slooooow!
-- LBX

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Skillet Doux
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Was that a two-parter? Did I miss the first part?

(Joking... I think.)

What an awkwardly soulless and antiseptic finish for a show that, especially in recent seasons, has done such a great job of capturing both the food and the people creating it. Did somebody tell the elves they weren't flashy enough? Punch it up? More dramatic orchestral stings? Bigger lights? It's like they went out of their way to stoop down to the competition. And then did a poor job of it.

Dumb format, too. So what happens if one judge flips on the second course? We only get to see three of five courses? Cook 3/5ths of the best meal of your life? No opportunity for the judges to sit back and reflect on the meal as a whole rather than scoring it like a boxing match?

Lame. I hope they never do this again.

That said, congrats to a well-deserving winner. Wish the format for her win had been more compelling.
Dominic Armato
jerseygirlangie
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Very, very bizarre format for this final. The lights and sound effects made me think I had tuned into "Who Wants To Be Top Chef ?" , and the seemingly haphazard voting process deprived us of one of the highlights of the whole Top Chef concept - the unscripted, "private", and frequently heated, discussion of the dishes by the judges, after the chefs have presented their full meal .

That said, I'm very impressed with the quality of food both finalists were able to put out in what can only be described as "difficult" circumstances.

I will say, however, that after seeing the three chefs that Brooke and Kristen chose as assistants, my first thought was that Kristen had the win all sewn up. What was up with CJ anyway ?
irrischano
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So so awful

When the time was down to the last 2-3 minutes and Kristen was up 2-1 I was in complete disbelief. Not that she won (she deserved it), but that they would use a finale format that would be less suspenseful than the preliminary rounds this season.

How did the teams get selected? Why was Kuniko, who was cut very early in the competition on the same level as those who made it almost the whole way through? How about the menus? Was there any debate within each respective team about certain dishes? DId CJ voice any concern about the pig ears?

Compared to seasons 7 and 9 (For some reason I barely remember All-Stars) this was a much more mature and likable cast but I think we're still entitled to some (hopefully non-manufactured) drama and conflict. I don't want screaming matches, but a part of the show is casting people who have dynamic personalities in addition to cooking talent. If you watched, say the season 5 finale without having watched the show prior, you could get a very solid grasp on who Hosea, Stefan and Carla were, as well as Casey, Marcel, and Richard. Here, even with those time filler montages, neither Kristen nor Brooke registered as much of anything. It's like any personality they had was vacuumed out by the editing.Not to mention their sous chefs, who just sort of moved around with not so much as a word.

Again, this format does not work for this show. Top Chef is not Iron Chef and should not be changing identities for no reason. Yes, I wanted Kristen to win but I felt more satisfied watching chefs I didn't want to win (Ilan and Hosea) succeed, because I at least got a solid grasp as to how they got there. Let's just make it simple, producers. Give us a finale where they cook the best meal of their life (throw them a curveball if you want, but nothing gimmicky or unfair), have the meal take place in a restaurant setting, then have the judges seriously deliberate (30 seconds of "hmmmm...Kristen's dish is better" does not cut it), and then reveal the winner in the most drawn out way for all I care. This was the best season since 6 but yecch let's pretend this finale didn't happen.
anonman
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Good to see the reaction is kind of *meh* from everyone else too. I felt I might be somewhat alone on this because unlike many of you, I never really got into the various iterations of Iron Chef. Sure, I'll watch it from time to time, but it seems to cult of the Iron Chef to me.

So, yeah on Kristen. Solid performance, food looked good. That said, I never got into it.

I'm going to go back to a critique I made earlier in the season about the way the show was edited this year. At heart, it is a story of "be careful what you ask for, you might get it." I've always said "more food, less chefs back stabbing." And, that's what we got. Lots of professionals, more timing watching them cook and less JT b.s. and it was... kind of dull. In theory, skipping the "pick these chefs for your team" schoolyard exercise was fine, but it seemed so abrupt. Did they draw knives? Did they have other chefs to choose from? What were the parameters or limitations on the cooking? Why did the both do Top Scallop? Did they have to? Plus, doing it dish to dish seemed like a bad way to do it. What if the overall experience was better one way, but the other hand three winning dishes and two giant clunkers. Admittedly, it wasn't going that way, but it seemed like a giant switch from the normal approach.

One other thing that drove me nuts was craptastic editing. Kristen is seen yelling instructions to Sheldon in the middle of service, and Sheldon is shown moving something around with his unopened knife kit on it. Um, ok. Or, Brooke is supposedly talking about the chicken dish, and Kuniko is shown in the background opening scallops. If you're going to make it totally about the food and the cooking, the editors have to catch stuff like that because it ruins to the experience. I know they patch stuff together, we all know that. But it can't look like they are patching stuff together.

I probably need to watch the episode again, because I have only this vague recollection of most of the dishes, other than burned pig ear and competing scallops. My sense is that Kristen crushed it, but I can't exactly put my finger on why.
CWeb
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Gotta agree with the prevailing 'WTF' sentiment.

I just think, from jump, the Iron Chef lookalike was a bad idea. We saw with the S6 finale where they went 'Chopped' on the contestants that TC is at its best when it's itself. And not only was this an Iron Chef ripoff, it wasn't even a good one. In Iron Chef, at least they plate and serve all 5 dishes, and it seems incomplete to say 1 meal was better than another when you didn't have a full meal! Stefan lost his finale in part due to his dessert, and Stephanie won in part because of hers. Cooking isn't like boxing where you can score a knockout before the final round.

We had 2 great chefs (whoever lost was a mortal lock for the next All-Stars), and as long as we saw them in a situation where they were allowed to make their best meal without any contrived rules or limitations, I think we all would've walked away happy. It's a bad end to what I think was a good season overall.

On a side note, has anyone noticed the best seasons tend to be even numbered (aside from S2)?
gastro gnome
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I would contend that this finale was not about the food at all.

Frankly, I don't have an inherent problem with the format. Sure, the head-to-head competition is not typical of the finales, but it does echo back to elimination challenges they've done in the regular competition. The format itself didn't inherently upset me, though I agree it would have been a shame if it was 3 straight rounds and done.

But the presentation. Oh, the presentation. Getting back to my point about how this wasn't about the food. What quantifiable facts did we learn about the dishes they served: 1) CJ burned some pig ears. There is no #2. It seemed like that was the only concrete detail that we got. Other than that, we got some vague notions like Kirsten's took a cleaner simpler approach to her dishes. We even could surmise that Brooke was oven-fried her chicken wings for dish #3 and pressure cooked her pork cheeks for dish #4. But seriously, that's about it!

We got no information about the chefs conceptualizing their dishes. Fine, make it all about the action and cut that exposition like you do in Iron Chef. But IC works because they have a Kitchen Stadium reporter (Alton Brown in the American version) peering over the shoulder of chefs, commenting on the process and the decisions that the cooks are making. By the time they serve the dish, you have some idea of how and why they cooked what they did. Here, you got none of that. You had Kristen and Brooke yelling some instructions to their sous chefs, some jumpy editing (as noted above), and some occasional voice-overs. In fact, rather than focus on the process of cooking, they cut to interviews with Stephanie Izard asking about how she feels about another female Top Chef.

Seriously?

At the time of service, we got a split-second close-up of each dish, a brief introduction by the chef, and then pan out for Judges on-the-spot reactions. They presented the competition like it didn't matter at all what was served. That didn't work - but not only that, it isn't in keeping with the ethos of the show. In the second half of the season, the show clearly does care about what is plated and how it was prepared.

And the on-the-spot reactions? What is the benefit to the viewing audience to provide less discussion and evaluation of the food for the finale? Sure, you in theory could ramp up the suspense by going judge-to-judge and draw out the tension in a closely-fought battle. But it was basically a rout. So this innovation failed to deliver what little benefit it could have provided.

So, to judge the finale like a dish on Top Chef: I don't fault the strategy, but the execution was poor. It was sloppily presented, incoherent, and did not make the most of the ingredients and resources available.
MattP
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anonman wrote: What were the parameters or limitations on the cooking? Why did the both do Top Scallop? Did they have to?
Hi. Long time fan of the power rankings -- first post.

IIRC, near the beginning of the show, one of Brooke's voiceovers (easily missed) mentioned that the second course HAD to be scallops, and the fourth course HAD to be snapper.

I assume the fifth course HAD to be a dessert, because they were both doing it.

And later in the show, someone (can't remember who) said the third course was supposed to be the dish that they could showcase themselves the most in....or something along those lines.
pepperjack
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haha

Tom Colicchio ‏@tomcolicchio
I hear you out there you didn't like the format well neither did I and I doubt we will do that again.
txgriff
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MattP- Interesting, I didn't catch that voice over. I think Tom mentioned in his blog that dessert wasn't a requirement for the 5th course- in fact, he expressed surprise that they both were going to do a dessert. So I'm not really sure how the parameters were set up...it seems like some courses had restrictions while others did not? Very strange.

Anyways, not much to add that hasn't already been said. I don't necessarily have a problem with an "Iron Chef" finale format, but this was not well executed. A shame, because these were two strong competitors.
Independent George
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Ugh. Just... ugh.

I guess I was fortunate to watch this a day later on my TiVo, because I lost interest in the episode about 15 minutes in, and decided to just skip to the end to find out who won. I'm not even going to waste my time explaining why this was such a horror show. The worst part is the wasted potential of having two top notch chefs in such a joke of finale. I never thought I'd say this, but I've actually lost respect for Colicchio for signing off on such an abomination.
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Skillet Doux
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anonman wrote:At heart, it is a story of "be careful what you ask for, you might get it." I've always said "more food, less chefs back stabbing." And, that's what we got.
I disagree. This wasn't about the food. This was about the spectacle.

When I've lamented that there wasn't enough focus on the food, it definitely wasn't in reference to recent finale formats, which for the most part have been excellent. It wasn't broken and didn't need fixing.
Dominic Armato
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BarbaraToombs
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Okay, so finally watched the finale on my DVR, and, like so many of you, was really disappointed, and for basically the same reasons. I SO wanted to see all the dishes. And, when I was fast-forwarding through the ads after the 4th dish, saw there was hardly any time left, so the outcome was a given. Sheesh. Talk about anti-climatic.

Since this is the first season I've watched, and from some of your previous comments, have to hope this is the first time they've done it like this...and sounds like the last, judging from Tom's tweet. Thank God...otherwise would seriously put me off ever watching again!

Has it ever worked better in the past? If so, how?
nom
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This finale thing was all so we could get this save a chef shoehorned in and still give the editors enough time to get the two episodes cut. Horrible episode. One of the worst, but highlighted again by the lack of preparedness on Brooke's part. She was a longshot going in vs. Kristen, but it looks like she prepped 1 or 2 dishes to run with that were really refined.

The chicken wing thing seemed like a quickfire dish and it was over when that came out. Lol at her trying to play it off like she had no choice. They gave the prep list in 6 weeks ago and could have had anything.

Too many plates 65!!!!x4 or 5. Way too many plates. That shoud have played to Brooke's strength and Kristen's weakness, but it didn't and that says something.

Forgettable except that they found a way to bring back the right chef from a horrible decision earlier in the year. So there's that.
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Skillet Doux
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BarbaraToombs wrote:Since this is the first season I've watched, and from some of your previous comments, have to hope this is the first time they've done it like this...and sounds like the last, judging from Tom's tweet. Thank God...otherwise would seriously put me off ever watching again!

Has it ever worked better in the past? If so, how?
The first couple of seasons were very simple... get in the kitchen and cook your ass off. Then for the middle seasons there were a lot of dumb "twists" that, for a lot of people, undermined the integrity of the finale. A few chefs really got lopped off at the knees by completely stupid surprises. But the past three seasons -- seven, eight and nine -- have actually had great finales. It was like the elves had finally figured out that the best thing to do was set the chefs up for success, and let them do their thing. They'd take over a restaurant, devise a short menu and do a night's service. It played more like a final exam of sorts. And it mostly followed the usual episode format, minus a quickfire -- a little personal time showing the nerves, some manner of team selection, planning and hanging out the night before, getting in the kitchen and cooking, and the judges walking into two restaurants back-to-back to see what the chefs had done, followed by JT and a decision. It was almost like a normal episode, just with few if any restrictions and a heightened sense of importance. They'd really hit a nice groove with the finales the past three seasons, and it's too bad somebody felt the need to "fix" it, because absolutely nothing was broken.

Don't know who, but somebody high up the chain really wants to make Top Chef like every other cooking reality show and needs to be kept in check. They ruined Masters by doing the same thing. I think I enjoyed the first two seasons of Masters even more than Top Chef -- no artificial drama, no excessive flash -- just fabulous chefs with a great sense of camaraderie cooking together and engaged in a friendly competition with judges who were wonderful to listen to and an editor who took a very restrained approach. Then in season three they completely changed the tone, with edgy music and editing, playing up the drama, trying to frame it as an epic battle, and suddenly it was every other cooking battle show and I tuned out after two episodes. The elves definitely seem to follow a pattern where they'll get into a nice groove, and then it's almost like there's somebody who jumps in every now and again and says, "We need to amp this up, guys, make it more edgy, more exciting, moire dramatic, more in-your-face," and they try to go all FoodTV Iron Chef with it and do a total faceplant and then pick themselves up and get back to making good television again.

Whoever you are, mysterious Bravo / Magical Elves producer... STOP IT. You're not helping.
Dominic Armato