February 26, 2009

Who Will Be the Least Mediocre Chef?

Filed under: Top Chef — Chris @ 12:58 am

This was the weakest finale we’ve ever seen from Top Chef. As I predicted, Carla faltered and Hosea surged. As I did not predict, Stefan stayed in his slump. Both Carla and Stefan severely under-performed their potential (with Carla getting caught up in Casey’s all-powerful finale-hexing vortex), while Hosea was at the top of his game. Sadly, the top of Hosea’s game looked like a competent but pretty uninspiring meal, making him a contender for the all-time worst Top Chef (he and Ilan need to have a douche-off).

In the end, it really wasn’t even close. As much as the judges hemmed and hawed, and as much as Toby Young tried to make the presence or absence of dessert a deciding factor, you just have to look at the dish count (or at Fabio’s sad, resigned, European face) to see it couldn’t have turned out otherwise:

  • Carla: 2 good dishes, 2 bad dishes (the beef and the cheese course)
  • Hosea: 3 good dishes, 1 mediocre dish (the crudo)
  • Stefan: 2 good dishes, 1 mediocre dish (dessert), 1 bad dish (the carpaccio)

The only way you could make this come out another way is to double or triple count the best dish of the night (Stefan’s squab), or to weigh the full-season record of the contestants (Stefan’s 4 Elimination wins and 4 Quickfires vs. Hosea’s 2 and 1).

It is nevertheless gratifying to point out that Stefan went out on one of the original, bedrock rules: never make dessert. This goes double in the context of a three-course meal (“Did you really think that dessert was one of your three best dishes?”). It goes triple in the finale (“Is that the dish you wanted as your last impression on the judges this season?”). If Stefan had made just one more savory course—and it hadn’t sucked—the judges almost certainly would have given him the prize.

So, how did I do this season? Of 6 testable predictions over the course of the season, I got 2 right (ouch). They were Arriane’s elimination and Carla’s meltdown tonight. The successful Arriane prediction sent me off on a power trip: I repeatedly tried and failed to predict Leah’s demise.

Of 13 eliminations, 6 were clear-cut rule violations, 4 of them among the original Six Commandments. That’s not counting any Rule #0 violations or Radhika’s dismissal in Restaurant Wars (which was arguably but unprovably covered by Rule #10). That does count Eugene’s and Danny’s eliminations under Rule #8 (which, to be fair,  is kind of a catch-all for “don’t make an ass out of yourself at Judges’ Table”). That’s not bad, but I’d like to see some improvement next season. I will have to carefully study the outlier eliminations and come up with some more refined principle than “don’t make bad food.”

Favorite line of the night: Stefan on Marcel: “He’s a bit of a twat, but who’s not?”


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