Tom Colicchio

Tom Colicchio explains how Jamie could've gotten her first Elimination win.

on Dec 10, 2008

This is a good argument for why Eugene should have been thrown off, so why Daniel? When you point out what's bad about a dish, most chefs say, "OK, I see that." Here, not only did every person at the table share the same opinion about the dish, but as we're explaining it, it becomes clear that Daniel doesn't even have the baseline knowledge to understand what we're telling him. He made every bad mistake you can make with every element he brought to the dish, and yet he stood there and defended himself instead of listening and learning. Quite honestly, all three of the chefs had a hand in this mess and all three of them should have gone home, but here's the inherent problem of a team challenge: Once you've figured out that a certain dish is the worst one, we're left with figuring out who caused the least and the most detriment to the dish. While Carla should have spoken up and fought to fix the problems with the dish, we let her off the hook, because her contributions were the least problematic. But Daniel was oblivious to the problems and not only didn't try to fix them, he kept compounding them. He was clearly lost. He had the least amount of skill and know-how, and when certain things were pointed out to him, he just point-blank said, "You're wrong." Part of my role, aside from judging, is to help the cheftestants become better chefs. I'm not allowed to advise them outright while they're cooking, but time and again chefs from past seasons have told me afterwards that they've really learned from my comments and our conversations about the food. But you can't even begin to have a conversation with Daniel, because he's not listening. There's no common ground. It's like having a relationship and wanting to talk about the problems in order to improve the relationship and having the other person say, "There are no problems." There's nowhere to go with that. You get a sense that Carla and Eugene were willing to listen and grow, but Daniel wasn't. He really believed that they'd created a great dish and wasn't open to learning anything.

A note about the winning dish: Viewers typically think that we judges are privy to all the info the viewers have by the time everyone's at the Judges' Table, but we're not. The cameras were rolling when the cheftestants conceived of their dishes, the viewers heard the chefs at the supermarket, in their loft, during prep in the Top Chef kitchen, but the judges don't see any of that footage in advance. While I pay a visit to the kitchen and ask some questions while the chefs are cooking, we basically just sample the food at the challenge and judge it from there. We give the chefs a chance to explain, clarify, and illuminate us when we're questioning them at the Judges' Table, and I, for one, wish they would use that opportunity more than they do. Jamie's carrot puree was terrific; Ariane's lamb was perfect. That's what the judges knew, and what they based their decision on. Jamie could have spoken up and taken deserved credit for having conceptualized the dish and been the team leader on it, but she didn't. That information would have been salient to the judges, who loved the whole dish, and it might have tipped the scales in her favor and earned her the win.