Belated Top Chef Post

By Ezra Klein

IFA has sort of been falling down on the Top Chef blogging this season (and by falling down, I mean the sort of falling down where you don’t get up, and then kids poke you with sticks), but give Padma and the gang some love: this season is great. In fact, it’s primarily a reminder of how bad last season was. The people who have gone home in the first weeks of this year would’ve been dominant presences last year. Put aside Fabio’s fun, and only Stephan and his technical excellence would have had a shot amongst this crowd. Hosea would’ve been a joke.

And to make a DC-oriented point, give it up for hometown boy Jose Andres, who knows talent when he sees it. Mike and the Voltaggio brothers all spent some time in the Andres empire, and though Mike comes off as something of a douchebag misogynist, they’re all extraordinary chefs.


15 responses to “Belated Top Chef Post

  1. I’d just like to point out (1) Seattle is in the house also! and (2) there seems to be a bumper crop of misogynist douchebags this season. (Yes, Eli, she won because she had cancer. JESUS.)

  2. Well I agree that Mike comes across as a giant d-bag, I’m not convinced he’s a great chef. The volt brothers..yes. Jen..yes. Be that as it may, I’m routing for Kevin, the dude with the red beard, who has had a solid showing.

  3. agreed. a few episodes ago, mike said something about how he and the voltaggios were the three best chefs there. give him credit for recognizing talent, but he completely overlooked jen, who is probably the most technically skilled chef on the show, and has boatloads of creativity, too. not to mention, we haven’t seen any real solid performance out of mike yet, either. what has he won, like one quickfire? and he’s been on the bottom, a place i don’t anticipate seeing michael, brian or jen for a very long time.

    i’m a philadelphian, so jen is my girl, but i also really like kevin (aka zach galifianakis). the voltaggios are both good, obviously, and i get a kick out of the younger one’s incredible inferiority complex (and the older one’s almost comical stoicism. does this guy have joints?). i just hope that mike makes some big mistake soon and gets kicked out soon, even though some others probably deserve to go first (ash, laureen, robin, imo).

  4. The Voltaggios, Jen and Kevin are definitely the top four… which is kind of frustrating? Earlier seasons inevitably featured some sort of dark horse, so I’ll be disappointed if these four own all the way to the finals because of the lack of suspense involved.

  5. “only Stephan and his technical excellence would have had a shot amongst this crowd”

    Surely you can’t be serious? While the top half of the contestants is fantastic, half the field hasn’t made/didn’t make a single dish that that worked conceptually, and they couldn’t even execute their flawed concepts. I honestly wonder how the casting process worked.

    Mike I. is nowhere near as good as he thinks he is (he especially seems to lack judgment), and is probably only around because half the field is so unbelievably weak. But when Robin, Ash, Laurine, and maybe Ashley are gone, he’s in for a quick reckoning.

    Baring a frak-up of unimaginable proportions by one of them, Ursala is right — I don’t see how the Voltaggios, Jenn, and Kevin aren’t the final four.

  6. Oh, and re: Eli’s comments, yeah, it was rude, but come on: Telling the judges that you had cancer is a clear play to influence the judge.

    There’s an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” to be made somewhere in that exchange….

  7. i can’t remember a time when there was this stark a contrast between the best and worst chefs, at least from a technical level, on any season of top chef. last season, for all the weak dishes late in the season, at least featured a little more parity.

    this season has the chef de cuisine at an eric ripert restaurant, a chef with a michelin star, and a handful of chefs who were named rising stars or something by food and wine magazine. i thought it was weird when richard was on the show, since he already has his own molecular gastronomy restaurant in atlanta (i remember one challenge, where an atlanta-food-critic couple was getting married. i imagined them wondering why the executive chef of one of their favorite restaurants was on this reality show.).

    I know 125 grand is a lot of money, and this show’s popularity is probably a great jumping off point to get your name into the larger culinary world, but i like the romance of only have sous chefs, catering pros, and small-market restauranteurs competing for glory.

    i definitely can’t complain about the talent, though.

  8. i stand corrected. apparently the investors shut blais down in 2004 ( I did not know that, and they never let on in the show (did they?). still, he was pretty accomplished.

  9. Ursula, I kinda see dark horse possibilities with Ashley. She seemed to start strong for one or two challenges, then fell flat on her face time and again, but now has her feet under her. This week and last, she did top-notch stuff.

    But really, it’s gonna come down to Kevin or the Voltaggios.

  10. And Ezra, it’s not really a good argumentative point to say that Hosea would have been a joke in this season, because don’t forget — he was a joke last season. And he didn’t win — he didn’t! I refuse to believe it! In fact, I’m pretty sure Fabio won. And now I’m putting my fingers in my ears! La-la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you! Fabio won!

  11. Go Beardy!!!

  12. Hmm. Not sure I would put Mike I. in the same category as the brothers V. Good chef? Sure. Extraordinary? I wouldn’t say so based on his performance on the show. What does it say about him that he’s often turned out as many (if not more) uninspiring dishes as good ones? Yeah, he’s won one quickfire and been in the top 3 for a couple elimination challenges, but I’m not impressed by the stuff he’s done that seems half-assed (the bean salad or the gyros, for example). And WTF? Not to know what eggs florentine is?

    Anyways, I agree that this season’s top chefs (IMO, the bros V, Jen, Kevin) would have cleaned the clock of most of season 5 (though I still have a soft spot in my heart for Jamie, who’s a great Twitter follow BTW). That said, this season’s bottom chefs seem pretty sad. Then again, last season had that weirdness with the culinary school grad with no experience.

    Anyways, season 6 does rock.

  13. Mike I. could last a few more weeks by exclusively making Mediterranean food of one sort or another. It seems the key ingredient in him turning out something acceptably mediocre.

    It’s one thing not to know exactly what eggs florentine are… not know what the right sauce is maybe… it’s another thing to think it’s a spinach omelette. I get the disdain some of the contestants have for dessert on the show, but breakfast?

  14. C.S.- I desperately hope for dark horse possibility with Ashley, just because she’s so likeable and seems to really put a lot of thought into dishes. (This, in my mind, puts her in the same approximate class as the other four; she’s just a few years behind them in terms of getting her dishes to turn out the way they work in her head.)

  15. For those of you who aren’t on Twitter, I think that the Top Chef livetweeting by @WaPoFoodLive and @lillyj are reason enough to start using Twitter.

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