Tom Colicchio

Tom Colicchio offers solutions to the chefs' dish problems.

on Dec 5, 20120

Don’t get me started on this week’s challenge. OK, never mind -- I’m already started.

You know from watching the episode that I was sorely disappointed by the chefs’ offerings this week. It was totally appropriate under the circumstances to take the $10K win off the table. I think there were a few things going on with the chefs that all contributed to their poor performance in this week’s challenge.

For one thing, I think that because the chefs don’t know one another very well yet, and, apparently, because there has already been some animosity between them, the chefs bent over backwards to be deferential to their teammates, at the expense of the dishes they were creating. They couldn’t seem to find a way to disagree without being disagreeable, without it seeming like a confrontation, and without seeming to be saying, “You suck, and my food’s better.” Or they second-guessed themselves. Tyler, for example, seemed intimidated by CJ, so he deferred to him, even though Tyler knew CJ’s concept was a poor one. Josh didn’t want to spar with John and got talked into a bad idea in order to be polite and keep the peace. In pair after pair, the chefs' desire to seem cooperative and not to seem to disparage their teammates' concepts or know-how meant that no one took a stand or took the lead, and mediocrity was the result.

Another reason for the poor showing seems to be something that normally occurs further on in the competition. At a certain point in the middle of the season, many of the chefs are trying to hang on, to make dishes that are good enough to ensure that they won't be sent home, but they do not take risks, lest they crash and burn. Food that is merely competent, however, is not what the chefs are here to do. As Gail said, they’re here to be creative. 

40 comments
Colham
Colham

All I could think of when I heard they were using spicy pickles is Shrimp Taco with a cabbage, jicama, and spiced pickle slaw.  I'm not a Chef, not even a great home cook, but that sounds awesome to me.  So much so that I am going to try to make my own.  I would love any tips or suggestions!

Llasiter22
Llasiter22

I feel that the Last Chance Kitchen where Kuniko battled Tyler and CJ was totally unfair. The contestants had thirty minutes to create a desert and Kuniko was competing alone while the other two contestants were able to execute a much more advanced dish during the allotted time. If you are going to have a Last Chance Kitchen it should always be person against person and not a team of two against one. Saying this I feel that Kuniko was the much better chef throughout the show and should still be in the running.

NewFoodie
NewFoodie

Watching John and Josh was hysterical.  Is it me or was John 'over the top' smiley this episode?  It was like he was channeling Alfred E. Newman from MAD magazine!  

 

Some of these team challenges seem like each partner just smiles and watches the other make a mistake -without saying anything about it- hoping the partners mistake will be the one sent home.

 

It's unfortunate that Kuniko was sent home for her potato dish when she was also being a team player.  Why she got no credit for teamwork is beyond me.

better
better

Stable personal reviews onto talents & qualities in chefs abilities to criticize a cooks food well he did that along by being pleasant in critiques !

NJWorkingMom
NJWorkingMom

I am a big fan of the show and have watched since Season 1.  The artisan ingredients were silly, no one cooks that way.  I have the Top Chef cookbook but I only use the recipes if I am a lot of time to shop and cook since I don't have fresh ingredients at my fingertips.  You should have a challenge where the chefs have to cook with ingredients normally found in a working mom's fridge - everything is frozen and we don't have things like creme fraiche in our fridge.  I work all day, rush to pick up the kids and then try to make dinner w/ total mayhem.  You should give them an hour to make dinner and have children running under foot.  You can make the challenges hard by making them more realistic - by creating the conditions under which most of us cook.

monica.e.middleton
monica.e.middleton

Mr. Colicchio, SUCH A HUGE FAN!!! I am from Washington State and am so enjoying the Top Chef Seattle Season. I would love to buy a Top Chef, Chef Coat with the Seattle emblem. Will Bravo TV be selling those at all?? Love ya!!!!

wendy18
wendy18

Hi Tom, I have always respected your expert opinion. However this last challenge was poorly thought out, IMHO. They continue to work in teams, despite the manageble number of contestants left. They have also brought in other chefs from previous seasons who lost, leading to a advantage of sorts and trust in the veteran chefs. The timing given to the last challenge should have been doubled, as they were working with unusual ingredients. I am just tired of teams. It is Top Chef, not Top Team. And I have always been concerned about safety in these severely time limited challenges. Thanks

ethereal
ethereal

Sand in a seafood dish IS bad execution, as is gravel - and it should be rewarded with elimination.  If you can't keep the inedible things out of the food, I don't care what else you put in the dish.  I'd rather eat a bad burger than sand.....

singingscallops
singingscallops

Between concept and execution, I'd rather the cheftestants be given more time for the former.  It's much more exciting, for me, to see the chefs at their creative best.  If the execution flounders thereafter, it's usually because of something in the kitchen, ie, a mental lapse, a  breakdown due to an inability to cope with pressure, or, better yet, for drama purposes, a surprise or two during cooking.  I hope that henceforth, Elimination challenges follow a day after the Quickfire.

ikb555
ikb555

Two chefs against one? Give me a break.

Vic2012
Vic2012

I'm still wondering how a team that serves sand doesn't finish on the bottom.

arowe
arowe

The joke is how serious Tom takes himself.  "Celebrity" chef title is a joke.  He makes a living off being clever judging others and hasn't earned the right to be called Chef in over a decade.

courtney.bombeck
courtney.bombeck

I agree with Laura. The producers have gone off of the rails. This is no longer about fine innovative cooking. It has become a half-assed game show.

Shelly_ll
Shelly_ll

I immediately thought of Germanic or Polish flavors, since pickled items are often part of the flavor profile. Korean food too.

 

I'd like to see them have to redo this challenge after thinking about it.

laura.chesleycarpenter
laura.chesleycarpenter

I am a long time Top Chef viewer.  I have noticed that over the years the challenges have become harder - less time, harder ingrediants, harder situations.  It's like each year you are trying to top the year before - at some point you hit the end.  The challenges get less entertaining as it seems like the chefs are set up to fail and then get yelled at for doing so.  In this episode, the chefs were up at an exceptionally early hour and did a pretty decent Quick Fire.  Then you gave them 2 hours for the main challenge, with an ingrediant that they had to taste before they could even start to plan, in a team so they had to coordinate with another person and having to get their ingrediants from a market they are not familiar with - and you were surprised you had wide spread failure???  I work in a school district - if a teacher gives a test and everyone fails - it's the teacher who is looked at for the problem.  Maybe you - the judges, the producers, the writers/planners - need to look at your game plan.  I think it's time for a change.

JantinaH
JantinaH

Artisanal ingredients:  Whatever.  I felt sorry for the chefs having to use those in an elimination challenge.  It was as bad as having chefs use canned food but that at least that was in a quickfire.  Really?  You expected gourmet dishes w/ those ingredients?  Did you ever hear the saying, "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear."?  Yeesh.

barossa
barossa

How about eliminating all those redundant, repeative commercials and concentrate on the execution of the dishes instead of only showing the end result.  At least this year they are not engaging in any silly competitions that have nothing to do with creating food dishes...at least not yet!

taffi
taffi

Hi Tom, I can't believe that you got so angry over a pickle.  I would have soaked them in a beer batter then fried with a horseradish-chive sauce.

elleg929
elleg929

I would have given anything to see John and Josh go home.  After all of last season's backstabbing and petty arguments, I just want to see good cooking and no drama. 

Lynda58
Lynda58

Tom:  thanks for your comments.  This week's fiasco highlights the issue that team challenges are bad ideas!  The players don't know each other very well or don't get along at first blush.  However, season after season, Top Chef accepts more and more cooks and then immediately thins the herd to make it manageable.  How about just accepting a smaller group and let them cook on their own for the first few challenges so they each win or lose on their own talent or lack thereof???  That said, I am glad CJ and his big mouth got eliminated.  In the QF, he pandered to Padma ("I really want to win this!" he said with a desperate smile).  In the final challenge he actually threw a safe team under the bus.  He was a dick wad for that.  He behaved like a sniveling coward.  Frankly, he should have been sent off last week.  

honeybooboo74
honeybooboo74

So disappointing to watch this episode. For the sake of the specialty purveyors, the contestants should have been given more time to prep and cook. All these wonderful ingredients didn't get a chance to shine in this challenge. When the dishes came out and the judges saw how bad everything was they should have scrapped the footage and started over again the next day fresh. What a bummer.

real_atl_housewife
real_atl_housewife

Chef,

Good points all, but do you think perhaps if the cheftestant teams had been allotted more prep/plot time for the elimination challenge the results would have been more up to par?

Coming immediately off a difficult quick Quickfire, and then heading into another with a relative

short time to plan, scavenge, prep & execute with a teammate spelled disaster for all. 

 

Even though CJ was obnoxiously adamant and clueless about his dish fail, they were all stymied by team concept. Granted, you made an excellent point re. a top chef has to lead and work well with others, but maybe on team challenges allow an extra half hour so they may effectively plan and challenge one another's vision if need be...but, I suppose scratch all that because yall need to heighten drama for TV sake. However, what was really shortchanged were the artisans' product and Top Chef experience.

singingscallops
singingscallops

Sauce gribiche!  I was wondering if it would be unpalatable to make a sauce of the pickles.  It would not!  Paired with something carrying the flavors of corned beef or pastrami on rye?  Or, if the pickles are to be used as they are, how's about, rather than in a burger, in a version of Banh Mi?

 

Rose petals.  Flowers ... I think honey ... I think maple syrup.  Chicken and waffles?  A kind of rose-petal syrup for the waffles, along with something tangy like a mustard-based sauce for the chicken, to balance the sweetness from the syrup?

 

Maybe the cheftestants were exhausted, at least mentally, from the Quickfire.  Can't remember if, before, an Elimination challenge followed literally on the heels of a Quickfire.

Ktop55
Ktop55

Well put, but I think CJ was onto something when he said he could hear you say "what goes best w pickles better than a burger". Of all the seasons of watching, I could imagine you saying that! If the burger would of been really great, I think you would of said it was a great choice to compliment their ingredient. Too bad, because we all love CJ. This is going to be one of my favorite seasons.

Zoche
Zoche

Why did you choose such weird items to centerpiece for the elimination? I can see using them for a quick fire but not to create a dish that sent chefs home. Even before they began, you could tell the results would be questionable. I want to see inspired food that I would want to try for the first time. The artisans ingredients seems to be a bad joke that you would force someone to eat. I don't want to eat something that smells like my grandmother.

robyncz
robyncz

Could the problem be that the challenges have gotten more and more impossible? An hour to plan and shop and an hour to cook? That's nuts!

Colham
Colham

 @Colham I made them and they were delicious!  I only used cabbage and jicama with cilantro in the slaw, topped with fried shrimp, mayo, greek yogurt and white pepper sauce, and finished with homemade chopped spicy pickles.  Ooolala.

Mielegirl
Mielegirl

 @NJWorkingMom Well, since this isn't a show for how working mom's cook, maybe that is a good idea for another one!  I, for myself, know how working mom's cook and probably wouldn't watch a show about it.  This one is supposed to be about chefs.  We can agree to disagree about the artisan ing.  I thought they sounded interesting.  jmo

singingscallops
singingscallops

 @arowe First, let me say that I like Tom.  But, I do agree with your point about the whole 'phenomenon' of the Celebrity Chef.  I wonder if 10, 20 yrs, from now, we'll look back and wonder just what the hell were we thinking in raising chefs to the level of near God-like status.  Guys like Bourdain have been trying for some time to debunk the myth of the Chef (though he does respect those he's known in person).

 

I respect a successful chef because, having cooked in a kitchen before, I know how hard it is to survive in this kind of environment, much less rise to the level of executive chef.  And to create a restaurant empire, as Tom as, means also being an astute businessman.  But just as we don't necessarily excessively celebrate every CEO who's around, I wonder why we do so for successful chefs.

PaulainVA
PaulainVA

 @Lynda58

 I think team challenges are entirely legitimate.  Running a kitchen is all about teamwork and managing personalities.  It is hard to believe that each of these chefs runs a successful restaurant, given how poorly some of them work with a peer.  I remember some really talented chefs in prior seasons doing it so well:  Richard Blaise/Dale Talde, Mike Isabella/Brian Voltaggio, and this season John/Kuniko/Chrissy (?, not sure about the name of the 3rd woman). I do agree about some of the overblown egos.  I enjoyed watching each of the chefs returning from prior seasons - in their prior seasons.  They all appear to be a little too full of themselves now.  There is a big difference between self confidence and egotism. 

borbor
borbor

 @Lynda58

 Lynda58 - Tom was not addressing you personally. Talk about egos!  I think you've said before you weren't gong to watch anymore. Now you want to be a producer. Your personal insults and hate-filled rants are entertaining, however so please keep it up! Thanks for your comments.

ValentinaBallerina
ValentinaBallerina

@Lynda58 Second that. I don't mind semi-ridiculous Quickfires, but I'd prefer to see fewer team Elimination challenges. Glad, too, that CJ is gone. No one likes a braggart, especially when they can't deliver whatever it is they're bragging about. I barely cook, but I can think of at least a few cool pickle "dishes" I'd want to try and experiment with if i were in that situation and knew what I was doing--pickle slaw, fish and pickles-three-ways, pickle bruschetta, pickle poppers, pickle ice cream... NOT some regular old pork burger served on a store bought crumpet which is spongy by nature and absolutely doomed to sogginess in any "bun" scenario.

Lynda58
Lynda58

 @singingscallops It seemed that none of the cooks transformed the particular ingredients creatively.  Topping a burger with a pickle slice is laughable.  

Lynda58
Lynda58

 @Ktop55 "We all love CJ."  Speak for yourself.  He has always ducked to let a partner take it in the face.  In his first season, he abandoned Trey and so on.  He behaves like a weasel when he's under pressure.  And he can't cook.

Comfortizkey
Comfortizkey

 @robyncz Totally agree! We have watched every season of Top Chef.  Now it's a ridiculous version of Restaurant Impossible.  Would LOVE to see

Tom, Padma, Gail and the ever arrogant unibrow Hugh do that challenge with

the same ingredients and the same amount of sleep!  C'mon Tom you are killing the show taking it down this path! 

Lynda58
Lynda58

 @borbor I said I wasn't going to watch Last Chance Kitchen and I still am not interested.  

singingscallops
singingscallops

 @Lynda58 It was disappointing to see the cheftestants at their not-so-best.  I'm glad Brooke and Lizzie survived.