Tom Colicchio

Tom Colicchio assesses the veterans' advantages and disadvantages.

on Nov 14, 20120

I think this assessment was born out by the Elimination Challenge, in which the Red Team wound up one of the two teams on the bottom. Too many components in their dish, overcooked quail, not enough cherries in a sauce they made a quart of (so the proportions were way off)… I’m not sure that changing their concept midstream was the great idea they thought it would be.

This week’s was a good Elimination Challenge. Seattle is known for its seafood, plus we shot this episode at the beginning of the summer, when we also had beautiful produce such as rhubarb and morels at our disposal. I was glad to have a challenge right at the get-go that could highlight Seattle in this way. The challenge gave us a chance, further, to see the chefs’ product… and we did have some great results.

The chefs did well overall. As for Blue Team, there were a few noteworthy reasons for their win. They had a great concept for the dish -- they didn’t overcomplicate it, as there is a tendency to do in such team challenges, when every chef on the team wants to display his or her culinary point of view. In contrast to such overwrought dishes, the Blue Team’s dish seemed as though it had been conceived and made by one person. Each person did one thing to contribute to the dish -- one made the fish, one the dashi and one the prawns, so they had not only a well-conceived dish but also a good gameplan for executing it. And they worked collaboratively. John looked out for the team, for example, noticing that Kuniko had burnt the chili oil and bringing it to her attention with enough time for her to make a new one.

Our favorite part of that dish, hands down, was the cod -- Kuniko was the clear winner for that. The technique of poaching fish in oil (or duck fat) reflects a relatively modern way of cooking -- it’s been around for the last ten years or so. So the idea of poaching the fish in chili oil was a very good one. To do it well, though, the chef must understand that the bottom of the pan is hotterthan the oil itself, so if the fish is sitting on the bottom of the pan, itcould become overdone. Making the fish well requires the discipline to let it cook slowly, and it’s not something every chef could pull off. In preparing the cod perfectly, as Kuniko did, she showed really nice technique. This is why she won.

The losing Gray Team had a basically good dish. The garnishes were nicely done and the dish was seasoned well. Unfortunately, though, the fish was completely overcooked. The terms “overcooked” or “overseasoned” are never the end of the story in and of themselves -- whether they are a deal-breaker that will get a person sent home is always a matter of degree: the dish could be slightly overcooked or overseasoned… or it could be hammered. Stefan’s quail was somewhat overcooked; Jeffrey’s halibut was hammered. Had Jeffrey’s fish not been so drastically overcooked, Stefan would most likely have been sent home. His neck was saved in this challenge by the presence of a worse offender. Furthermore, in stark contrast to the Blue Team, the Gray Team did not display good teamwork. Brooke saw that Jeffrey’s fish was overdone and didn’t say anything to him. She just let the fish go out to the judges that way. The teammates should have been looking out for one another’s food, particularly when one of the components was something as delicate as halibut. I understand that it was early in the season and the chefs are just getting to know one another, but this was a team challenge, and Brooke wound up at Judges' Table with one of the two worst dishes, which is not a place she wants to be.

23 comments
JBourne10
JBourne10

Next Iron Chef & Top Chef are two of the best competition reality programs on TV.  That said there is a sizeable gap between the hosts/judges ... edge to Iron Chef, by a fair margin. 

 

Tom Colicchio  - whether you admit it or not, it seems - season after season - you're trying to channel Simon Cowell with that mix of intimidation & arrogance.  But Simon manages these qualities effectively enough.  You come off poorly ... trying to thump your chest and proclaim "I'm the alpha male!  I'm the man!  Bow before me!"  You're obviously gifted and successful ... why behave like this?  The truly gifted and confident don't need to throw around their weight.  Annoying hosts/judges CAN affect ratings ... you and Hugh were big reasons I stopped watching.  The recent season with Curtis was a breath of fresh air ... fresh enough that I'm giving you guys another chance. 

 

While the show has been successful, you could be [like many stars in TV: from ESPN to network] easily replaced with nary a dip in the ratings.  And that's OK ... same goes for most of us in the TV business.  If you think the show's success is due to "you being you" ... that would be a gross overstatement of your TV skills.  PLEASE Top Chef producers ... take notice.  Thanks kindly taking the time to read and/or consider.  Good luck and Happy Holidays.

waytogo
waytogo

Really Tom you think those are not unfair advantage.  How about experiencing opening 8 restaurants over the past 6 years or maybe traveling the world and taking advantage that TC gives you by cooking with REAL top chefs around the world and experiencing the knowledge they are willing to share with you.  They have had years of getting better and learning.  I think that is a little different than cooking with a chef no one has heard of or being a dishwasher 5 years ago and now I'm a Executive Chef!!  He just passed up the Soux part.  lol.   Anyway remember we don't get to taste the food on this side so the entertainment is like reruns with the old chefs.  Innuendos from CJ about Padma and Stefans remarks about the little people.  I just hope we don't have to listen about what it was like back in the day from Josie much longer.  Stefon was showed favoritism already with his under cooked quail, he clearly should have been sent home instead of a new chef that over cooked fish, after all he was the seasoned chef and still tried to make all kinds of excuses.  CJ felt so good about the decision they had made about the challenge, they all did.  Anyway I think this season is Jump the Shark season for TC.  I hope it gets better, so far it has been a very disappointing season. Still love you, Gail, Padma and the sarcastic guy.  

rubberseed
rubberseed

I am all for last chance kitchen.... as we did see some good cooks that may have left early in the show, and they earn their right to be back in ......

 

however, i really feel veteran's should just NOT return as competitors... they already had their chances.... i don't see why they should be given another chance to compete for the title... and why just them ...

PaulainVA
PaulainVA

I completely disagree with the naysayers re Last Chance Kitchen.  As a TC fan from the beginning, I have seen fabulous chefs get sent home too early for making a one-time mistake.  I love giving them a chance at a "do over".  In the Texas series, different chefs responded differently to LCK.  Some were even more energized and competitive, really battling to get back in the mix.  Others were stunned and couldn't quite get it together.  I never saw it as a gimmick, but a way to get deeper insight into what makes a good chef.  I had hoped Nyesha would win, but her professionalism and natural leadership skills never flagged.  Even at the end she was giving Beverly advice about how to win.  I also love bringing back the concept of having the chefs cook to even get into the competition.  Breaking them into smaller groups in different kitchens gave me a chance to start to get to know them a little better, which can often take 3-4 episodes when they're all just thrown in together.  Great start to the season!

debsj
debsj

From the two episodes I have seen, this looks like a good season.  I am hoping you will not not have anybody skiing and shooting and the bizarre stuff that happened last season, but looks good so far!

singingscallops
singingscallops

Makes you wonder if Carla is this way in her own kitchen.  If so, her staff must have the patience of a saint ... and great ear plugs ...

Lynda58
Lynda58

Tom,

Thanks for your comments.  I like when you parse it out regarding the components of winning and losing dishes.  My major problem is the lack of explanation as to why those particular 3 alums were allowed to compete in this season.  Why are THEY there?  Both Josie and CJ were middling performers in their own seasons.   They aren't even "All Stars" material.  Stefan was a favorite of mine based on his food at that time.  I actually believe he should have won over "what'shisname?"  Stefan's big flaw was that he was too cocky.  If he had been as humble as the other one, he would have been given the title.  The other guy gave you meat for dessert, for goodness sake.  As for this season so far, I hope Carla settles down or I'll hit mute until she's gone.  I hope Kinuko isn't this year's "Bev".  Stefan got bitch-slapped and certainly needed it.  I'd like to see his original food.  But, he belongs  on the "All-Stars" edition, not this one.  AND as I stated in last season, I really hate, hate, hate the gimmicks you people use to cover up banality.  Let the food speak for itself.

renfield1969
renfield1969

I'm really excited to see the three returning contestants. It does seem a little imbalanced, though. CJ and Josie were eliminated halfway through their seasons, but Stefan was a contender for the title. It was not shocking that they wound up on the bottom. All the chefs there are very talented, and the contestants are only judged on the current plate in front of the judges at that moment. Still, it was insane of CJ to suggest changing their game plan right before they walked in.

 

I was sad to see that one kid go so soon, but we are really glad to see Last Chance Kitchen is back! Is he going to battle next week's loser or one of the folks from the tryouts in episode 1?

lovethefood
lovethefood

Your explaination doesn't fly with me Tom.  Why aren't they on "All-Stars"? 

Henri_Poincare
Henri_Poincare

I still love this show, and am looking forward to another season.  The level of this competition is so much higher than it was nine years ago.  Wolfgang Puck joins Emeril Lagasse and Tom Colicchio as judges?!  I think that will add some more punch for sure into this season, and I can't wait to watch.

singingscallops
singingscallops

As soon as team vet talked about doing something different, AT THE LAST MINUTE, I thought they'd be going home (one of them, at least) for sure.  The history of Top Chef demonstrates that you don't experiment!  I understand that you want to impress the judges.  But the time to do THAT is at the finale!  First you have to get there!  So be bland and boring during the run.  So long as your food is good, it really matters none during the run.  Let the judges quibble about your sense of originality at this time.  Just cook good food.  Then blow them away with your creativity and daring in the finale!  The vets, if anyone, should understand THIS by now.  I thought that the producers had included the clip of their decision-making for this reason, to show they've learned nothing, that one of them was adios.  Lucky Stefan!  Pure luck.  Pure luck, baby, that someone decided, for some incomprehensible reason, to begin pan-searing a portion of fish around 30 minutes before presentation-time.  

 

Guess you've lost your edge, Stefan.  Good Luck, going forward, big guy!  (The villain is back!)

tellisalantro
tellisalantro

when Padma wacked the fish with the fork it bounced. that fish wasnt just a little over done that fish was gone. thats why Stephan didnt go home.

Paigeb
Paigeb

So  if the quail was so bad, and I agree why didn't Stephan get sent home. I just feel like you and the rest of the judges were trying not to hurt Stephan's pride. But he was given another chance and immediately messed up. I mean some people never get a second chance. Jeffrey sure deserved one. What happened to top chef redemption, we need it back. 

vicarmac
vicarmac

If last season didn't tell you guys the audience doesn't want these gimmicks, like cooking back into the competition what will? I have no desire to see returning cooks, so after watching all the other seasons I will now stop. 

JimP
JimP

 @rubberseed Agreed! TC All-Stars was fine: EVERYONE was a veteran. But Joshua couldn't have said it better: they already had their shot.

JimP
JimP

 @singingscallops She was in an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay. In her own kitchen, when she's in charge, she's even MORE animated. (I think her wild energy is great, though.)

rnkat
rnkat

 @Lynda58 Completely agree.  With EVERYTHING you said.

Lynda58
Lynda58

 @vicarmac I won't be watching "Last Chance" at all.  I learned that the only important round is the one just before the return happens.  The rest is a waste of time.  However, the entire process of redemption is a waste of my thin patience.  I don't enjoy watching the discards eat humble pie.

singingscallops
singingscallops

 @JimP  @rubberseed I like LCK.  I give the producers credit for trying something new.

Regarding the return of vets like CJ, I kinda like it since we get a chance to see whether or not they've improved.  CJ is a tantalizing example: doing a stage at Noma is a pretty big deal.  He should be a much more refined chef by now, much more able to cook broccolini.

singingscallops
singingscallops

 @JimP I really like her.  But it looks to me as if the other chefs working next to her get a little stressed over her hyper-ness.

debsj
debsj

 @Lynda58  @vicarmac 

I agree Lynda, it should have turned out differently in the last season.  I don't believe the outcome of LCK was fair, Nyesha should have won, but that is just MHO.