Bravo markets “Top Chef” with such fervor you can’t tell if they’re really really nervous or really really proud. After watching the first episode, I think they should be both. They should be proud for landing a genuine food personality as their judge (Tom Collichio, of Craft fame) and for assembling a “motley crew” (as one chef called it) of competitors. Here’s where they should be nervous: the show lacks both the authority and smooth mechanics of “Project Runway” which, despite its kitschy tones, is a real masterwork of the reality show format. “Project Runway” is fun because fashion is both exotic and familiar to us: we don’t necessarily know how to stitch a pair of pants, but we know what a decent pair of pants looks like. We are removed from the proceedings yet we are engaged. With “Top Chef,” we are completely engaged. We can look at that food and know immediately whether we’d eat it or not. And unlike “Project Runway” where a competitor’s personality has absolutely no bearing on whether their clothes are winning or not (even Santino redeemed himself at the end), “Top Chef” exposes the very personal relationship between the food we eat and who prepares it. On the very first episode the guy voted off is the guy everyone liked the least. Is this a coincidence? Of course not. So the show, then, becomes a popularity contest instead of a contest based on merit. Plus, the competitors are such a mixed bag–self-trained home cooks, personal chefs to the stars, Las Vegas sommeliers (I loved the quote: “Stephen is a sommelier which means he’s a bullshit artist”)–it’s difficult to gauge how seriously to take the show. “This isn’t about being a housewife, this is about being a chef,” said the snooty French judge-of-the-night. So why, then, not cast the show with 12 (or however many) equally equipped competitors? It’s no fun to watch a 4 year old get beat up by a 16 year old. But maybe I’m underestimating the untrained chefs the way many might have underestimated the unschooled designers on “Project Runway.” And maybe I’m taking this too seriously: after all, it’s just reality TV. The question remains: will I be hooked? I’ll add it to my Tivo but we’ll see if I keep watching it. I have more important things, like Martha Stewart reruns, to enjoy.
13 thoughts on “Top Chef”
I was getting pretty worried when that first group of “signature” dishes came out, didn’t any of those people consider they might have to make something like that beforehand? The jury is still out with me too.
I had a similar reaction about the contestents. One thing I like about Runway is that they’re all fresh out of design school. I feel like most of the chefs have too much experience, and don’t stand to gain as much. Maybe I’m wrong. Anyway, I wrote a recap/review too (http://aoife.typepad.com/ambrosia/2006/03/top_chef_watch_.html), so check it out if you’d like.
I think Bravo has finally reached (and is scraping) the bottom of the reality show barrel. I’ll watch it, of course, but when it gets tedious and predictable, I’ll find something else.
That said, who do you think will win? I like Tiffani. She’s the only one who lists her sexuality in her profile (and proudly) and she has worked for Boulud. She’s my kind of chef.
I was kinda traumatized by it.
I fell asleep during the first episode. I watched the encore the next day, but I didn’t feel like I had missed anything.
I liked Hell’s Kitchen last year more than I like this so far.
I *love* the video! Great addition to the site. Nice voice you have too.
I wasn’t too impressed with it either. There are definately a lot of personality aspects that are going to make it interesting, and I have my favorites. But when it comes down to talent its so hard to tell sometimes. Some of the plates looked nice, but since its TV its not like you know how it tastes. Whereas with fashion its all looks (with the addition of comfort). We’ll see if Bravo saves this one.
I too turned on the first airing.What stuck out in my mind was Hubert Keller. First he kicks out the gal because of her shoes, then a guy for using his finger to taste a sauce. Hey I’m with you my frog friend . Question, where’s you hair net? Greasy long locks like that on my turf and your out on your ass.
Let me know when that poseur Stephen gets his ass kicked. I’d watch that episode. What a jerk.
I have an idea for a new Top/Chef episode…it should be modeled after the 1980’s “who shot JR” Dallas episode. It should be called “who kicked the shit out of Stephen?” While I certainly don’t condone violence, I must agree with Candice’s conclusion the Stephen is a duche-bag.
There are definately a lot of personality aspects that are going to make it interesting, and I have my favorites. But when it comes down to talent its so hard to tell sometimes. Some of the plates looked nice, but since its TV its not like you know how it tastes.
There are definately a lot of personality aspects that are going to make it interesting, and I have my favorites. But when it comes down to talent its so hard to tell sometimes.
Some of the plates looked nice, but since its TV its not like you know how it tastes.
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