Top Chef Jumps the Shark

by Ben Miller

Anyone else think last night’s episode of Top Chef jumped the shark? Not only was the product placement in the Quaker Oats Quickfire Oat Challenge brought to you by Quaker Oats probably the most egregious yet, but it was also wholly unappetizing. Sure oats may fry well, but the texture of the non-finely ground ones looked pretty gross.

And don’t even get me started on that elimination challenge. First of all, were any of those other chefs legitimately all stars? Andrew is probably the closest and he didn’t even make a finale. And then on top of it all, 20 minutes to cook a dish in front of screaming people with giant foam fingers? Overblown is pushing it.

It turns out Tom Colicchio agrees (h/t Amuse Beotch):

The only thing I didn’t like about this challenge was the voting power invested in the young culinary students, who, I’m afraid, tended to vote personality over palate. On the other hand, there had to be a way to break the ties that occurred between the four judges more than once. Also — Top Chef All-Stars? It might be a stretch to say so: Some didn’t make it more than half-way through their season’s competition. Andrea was eliminated not once but twice, and not one of the members of the “All-Star” team made it to their season’s finale.

I just hope next week’s eel challenge (likely brought to you by some electricity company) is better.

12 responses to “Top Chef Jumps the Shark

  1. This has been a bad season. The cooking has been mediocre, the replacement of Gail with pretend-witty judge (who knew Gail was so important?), and a couple of poorly conceived challenge ideas have been a bad combination. The basic premise of the show hasn’t been changed, though, and still seems sound to me. I can deal with a few egregious product placements.

  2. Agreed. This season has sucked. The product placements have been totally egregious this season (remember the Dr. Pepper challenege?); the Quaker oats one from yesterday took what could have been an interesting quickfire and made it dull and boring. The scoring of the elimination challenge was stupid. And of course, most of the contestants continue to make boring, uninspired junk. I thought last season was pretty strong. How could they have fallen so far so quickly?

  3. I can’t wait for next season’s version of the Top Chef “All-Stars” when they introduce Patrick from Top Chef Nondescript City (some of the scenic shots in last nights episode may as well have been Newark, you would never know the difference anyways).

    Carla should be able to sleep soundly knowing that if this cooking thing doesn’t work out she has a bring future in sales. Woman will shill for ANYTHING!

  4. It has been a bad season, but as for product placement, it’s a cooking show. What do you expect? And I’d really like to agree with APV–who knew Gail was so important? She annoyed the crap out of me, not because she made good points but because she was obnoxious. But at least she MADE points. This new guy just wants to be the next Simon of American Idol.

    As for jumping the shark, I don’t think so. I think it was erroneous and could have been done better, but jumping the shark is really turning a show into something that it can’t repair itself from. It’s very hard for a reality show to jump the shark, unless it’s a modeling show that pulls in a transexual (ANTM). I think it’s repairable, but I don’t think this season can be fixed. The contestants are all just very weak and unimaginative, and unfortunately, we just sent home the only one willing to take risks.

  5. Oh one other thing I left out from my rant. Those Dr. Pepper commercials with last season’s winner Stephanie. I die a little every time I see one of those.

  6. Last night’s challenge had its flaws, but I think the only reason the product placement bugged you so much is because it’s been so much less heavy handed this season than it has in the past. The Glad Family of Products and the Kenmore Kitchen and the owner of the condo they’re staying in’s daughter’s dance team are barely namedropped. They’ve hardly made them use any specific weird pre-cooked crap to potentially be mass-produced by Bertolli or somebody else. Yes, this season is weaker in talent (and charm, without Gail or Ted or Anthony Bourdain), but product placement has been the elephant in the room since the show started. I remember watching an episode during season 2 or 3 with Spencer and joking that we were suprised they didn’t make the chefs wear jackets made out of Glad trash bags.

  7. re:millerben

    Stephanie : not a natural on-air personality

  8. I agree that last nights show was bad. The rules of the elimination challenge gave too little discretion to the judges. And, they should never have designed a voting system that was so important but also needed a tie breaker. They should have had either 3 judges voting or 5, not 4.

    All that said, I don’t think Jeff ultimately deserved to win the show. Sure, Leah is uninspired and mediocre, at best, and should have been voted off weeks ago. But Jeff, while creative and ambitious, has consistently shown an inability to edit his ideas and make coherent dishes. So while it gauls to see Leah skate by one more week when Jeff was obviously better, I haven’t lost all hope for this season, yet.

  9. db, you reminded me. If Tom is the head judge, why didn’t his vote carry more weight? He should have been the tie breaker. That’s the point of having someone delegated as more senior, right?

  10. i had a weird relationship with last night’s show. to start with, i thought the fact that every chef just used the oats as breading proved how mediocre they all are (and the idea of coating eggplant with oats is an atrocity, fabio). but then i thought to myself, for a long time, what else can one do with oats? and i realized, one cannot, in fact, actually do anything else with oats. indeed, a foodtv.com search confirms (unless you count the hot artichoke-crab dip that showed up on the second page of the search, and also doesn’t have oats in it.) This whole oat thought experiment led me to give the chefs a pass, and get angry at the show.

    on to the elimination challenge. my first thought was literally “this show has jumped the shark.” but in the end, i thought it was a terrible challenge but mostly because they only had 20 minutes to cook, and also because the judges were boxed in to MAKING SOME CHEFS LOSE EVEN IF THEY DIDN’T DESERVE TO. that’s too close to fixing the outcome for my liking. in short, top chef maybe jumped the shark last night, but i think it can redeem itself!

    (lastly: props to carla(!) for making a gumbo(!) in 20 minutes(!) that actually looked flavorful and good.)

  11. My major complaint with last night’s show was that the format didn’t allow us to see the process of imagining and creating the dishes like we usually do. We usually get to know the food a little better, but not this time.

    Also, if memory serves, it doesn’t get much more authentic when it comes to upper Midwest cooking than Fabio’s slap-some-cheese-on-that-and-call-it-a-salad concoction. That is not a compliment. And, based on looks alone, I certainly thought that would be enough to punch his ticket home.

  12. The episode was not a winner, but the show has more to offer. Too early to call the shark jumped. I do wish Gail would rush back and punch the new guy in the face, though.

    @Graham: I’m afraid your memory has failed you in relation to Midwest cooking.

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