Tom Colicchio

Tom Colicchio assesses the veterans' advantages and disadvantages.

on Nov 14, 2012

As you all know, I am seldom at the Quickfire Challenges, so I don’t see what goes on there until I watch the edited episodes. Watching this one, I was struck by how ticked off the chefs were when they were told that Stefan, CJ, and Josie were going to be competing alongside them. They immediately started bitching -- they were not shy about it. I get it -- the chefs were concerned that the new (i.e. old) three would have an advantage over them because the three had been through the process before.

 It might seem that CJ, Josie, and Stefan have an advantage… but do they? Let’s break this down, pluses first:

· These three know what to expect. Yes, they do. They’ve already had plenty of practice making dishes under severe time pressure, in teams, solo, with unexpected ingredients, in weird locations, for world class chefs. Yes, they’ve been through it before. For what that’s worth.

· They have experienced Judges' Table. Yes, they’ve all been there for both winning and losing dishes. They know what it feels like. For what that’s worth.

· They know the mechanics of the show. They’ve lived in a house with competitors, they’ve had to collaborate with their competitors, they’ve been through the rigors of this very intense competition. All true. Again, for what that’s worth.

They also face the following potential pitfalls not faced by the rest of the contestants:

· While we judges always strive for complete objectivity, it’s hard not to expect more from them because they’ve been here before (Quail is small, Stefan? Did you really use that as an excuse for overcooking it? Newsflash, buddy: It’s a quail. Deal with it.)

· They may not display the same edge as the new contestants, precisely because they have been here before, and they may be feeling a bit above it all (not naming names here… pretty self-evident…)

· They may think that they “know what I’m looking for.” If they’re saying that, then they don’t know what I’m looking for. Here’s what I’m “looking for”:  the same thing anyone dining in a restaurant is looking for, i.e., food that is cooked andseasoned correctly, and that has been made from an interesting, thoughtful and creative combination of ingredients. That’s it. There’s no angle, no hidden agenda, nothing to figure out that makes it an advantage to have competed before.  

I think the minuses cancel out the pluses.  I think it’s a pretty even playing field, and everyone is going to have to bring it.