Tom Colicchio

The judges switch it up with a blind tasting. And Tom sheds light on what to expect from new judge Toby Young.

on Jan 7, 2009

Which leads me to the notion of judging blind. Since Season One, I've frequently been exhorted to judge blind, as though we may be influenced in our decisions about the food by our knowledge of who created it. As I've said before, we don't know what's going on behind the scenes all season (until we watch it much later, when it airs!), nor do we make decisions based on personalities. We just judge the food. But as this challenge proves, it makes no difference whether we are judging blind or not - though we were not told in advance of eating the food, it was pretty obvious pretty quickly, at least to me, who had cooked what. Even without even tasting the food, you at home would have known right away that the Indian food was Radhika's and the Italian food was Fabio's. (As with Jamie's scallops, there was no reason Radhika couldn't continue to infuse her food with an Indian sensibility despite her protestations in Episode One that she would not be doing so, or that Fabio couldn't continue to draw his selections from Italian cuisine.) And beyond that, having actually eaten everyone's food through six prior challenges, it was readily apparent to me right away who had made what. So much for "blind."

Toby and Jean-Christophe were the only ones at the table truly judging blind. As an aside, I think this was a good introduction to Toby. He's exceptionally witty and thought at first that he was being called on as a judge to use that wit and take potshots at the chefs, but he quickly realized that they were all very serious-minded about their food and about this competition, and he switched gears and began assessing the food in earnest. He's fun to work with and I know you'll enjoy him as the season progresses.