Thursday, January 15, 2009

My Beef with Top Chef

I consider myself a practical foodie. I like accessible, affordable, and healthy food. I enjoy eating out and learning more about the palate. I'm an amateur home cook and a semi-professional local restaurant critic (professional only when The Onion decides to print my reviews, which isn't all that often).

So with this healthy obsession with good food, it's no surprise that I'm addicted to Bravo's Top Chef. The contestants on the show are high caliber, and the judges are the best of the best of the culinary world. I can only be in awe of the people on this show.

However, I have some issues with the show:
  • The Judges: Sometimes, I think the judges are too critical. I guess if my palate was as refined and I was being paid oodles of money to criticize food on television, I'd probably be a downright bitch, too. But they don't seem to enjoy the food at all. It can't be that bad. Sometimes it looks disgusting, but really, it can't be as terrible as they say it is. I think they exaggerate for the camera.

  • Padma: She does have some expertise, but for someone who has a BA in theater and no culinary training, I have a hard time trusting her as much as the other judges. She's my least favorite aspect of the show, but she's a supermodel, so she's not going anywhere. (Side note, Top Chef needs a Tim Gunn, a mentor who helps the contestants along but doesn't judge them.)

  • The Challenges: They are put under immense pressure during these ridiculous challenges. That's why it's good television. But sometimes, I wish the judges would take the challenges into account. I mean, it's got to be nearly impossible to create Thanksgiving dinner using toaster ovens, microwaves, and one burner. Ridiculous. I don't think they should make the challenges easier, but the judges should keep the challenge and conditions in mind when they judge the food.

  • This Week's Elimination: I'm most disappointed with the outcome as last night's show. Arianne was sent home because she made a poor lamb dish. But she was on a team that let her down. For those not watching the show, Arianne was on a team with two contestants who seem to have a romantic/sexual chemistry. I have a conspiracy theory that the producers encouraged the judges to oust Arianne because they want to develop the Hosea-Leah storyline. If so, it's bull shit and I thought Top Chef was a more highbrow competition reality show.
Needless to say, I'm bummed that Arianne is gone. But I'll keep watching for now.


A Bookish Woman said...

The last time I watched that show, I decided it was like grad school on T.V. with a culinary spin. The judges are entirely too harsh, especially considering the stress the poor chefs are under. To produce even anything edible is sometimes a miracle. They should be challenged, yes, but they should also be judged liberally, not snobbishly. :)

Autumn said...

I don't watch Top Chef, but maybe I should. I loooove Iron Chef on the Food Network, but that's a bit easier on the contestants, I think, and it's more for fun than anything else. And the judges aren't always proper food critics.

It's a shame that most shows like that are more interested in frustrating and humiliating their contestants for the pleasure of their audiences than actually helping develop raw talent. Alas!

The Lazy Editor said...

As intense as Iron Chef is, it's seems a lot more fun than Top Chef. The Iron Chefs seem to enjoy what they're doing, even when they're sweating.

Top Chef, on the other hand, gives me anxiety (yet I still watch!) Autumn, if you love Iron Chef, I'm sure you'll enjoy Top Chef. But be warned: it's frustrating!