Explaining the Top Chef Elimination Decision

by Ben Miller

After reading some of the blogs on Bravo’s website this morning, I think the judges’ decision makes more sense. For those who haven’t watched the episode yet, I’ll put my thoughts after the jump.

One of the problems I sometimes have with Top Chef is that the editing can make it hard to tell exactly why the judges decided to eliminate one contestant over another. Take last night’s episode. I was pretty sure that Ariane was going home because her dish was so disgustingly sweet that Padma actually spit her bite out into her napkin. Instead, Jill got sent packing for her ostrich egg quiche–thus ending the quest for the first Baltimorean to win Top Chef.

At the time, I was perplexed. Sure Jill’s dish looked gross, but at least the judges had managed to eat hers. But then I went to check out the Bravo blogs, which I find often provide useful insight into what really happened. Based upon what I read there, it seems that Jill went home because her dish (a) was only a bit better than Ariane’s and (b) she didn’t fulfill the aim of the challenge.

As Tom Colicchio outlines in his post about last night’s episode: “a bunch of young chefs all currently working in America were told to “do New American” and turned to quiche, to meatloaf, to homey, regional ‘comfort food,’ when I think American food is so much more than that.” Admittedly, there does not seem to be a large distinction between New American cuisine, at least as defined by Wikipedia, and what was prepared. It seemed to me that some of those dishes had they just been plated better might have qualified.

But back to the losers. What Tom has to say about both Ariane and Jill is enlightening. First about Ariane:

Ariane tried to do a take on an American dish, a lemon meringue pie, and do something modern. At least she had the idea, but it was poorly executed. She knew in advance that the dessert was too sweet. She could have added more lemon juice, even reducing it down so it would not be too liquid. She could have used lemon zest. Dessert goes out last; Ariane had the time to do something to fix the problem … why didn’t she?

Then about Jill:

Jill’s dish failed in so many ways. The goal is always to celebrate and elevate the ingredients, but she took a potentially special item – an ostrich egg – and made it unspectacular. No one can tell which bird egg has been mixed into a quiche by tasting it. And why quiche? The task called for New American and she did Old French. I don’t understand how she thought she could win this competition with a quiche. Were this a one-shot deal – whoever wins this

There you have it from the head judge himself. Ariane made a “New American” dish but failed at it. Jill, meanwhile, failed to make either a New American dish or a delicious offering leading to her being ousted. Ariane, meanwhile, gets to stick around another week because she at least fulfilled the overall goal of the challenge. The real question I have is given her failure to make New American cuisine, how much better would Jill’s dish had to have been to avoid elimination?

3 responses to “Explaining the Top Chef Elimination Decision

  1. Baltimore stood no hope…down the bastard cousin of DC

  2. I agree, jill is a pastry chef and should have easily made a delicious and creative dish but ended up creating a sweet disaster. i think she may go home next week. she’s in for. nice post!

    http://www.charlietueats.com

  3. It seems to me that most people fail to put enough lemon in deserts where that is supposedly the central feature. I could hardly detect a trace of tang in the lemon chess pie at Vidalia. And as often as not, lemon bars turn out to be simply yellow bars.

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