It’s always great to bring back our finalists after a few months’ hiatus, and this season was no different in that regard. These are talented young chefs, and I was looking forward to having them in my kitchen and, believe it or not, to expediting for them, which I thought would be fun. I was keen to see what they’d been doing to hone their skills and further their creativity over their time away…
While I think there was much to commend, I will admit to being disappointed by various aspects of their performance, but most of all with Sheldon’s choices. He didn’t cook his own unique food, the very food that had brought him all the way to the finale.
Everyone who creates does so with in their own particular way, hence the term “signature style” -- each person’s work is as identifiable as had s/he actually signed it. You identify the musical sound of your favorite band within two measures of a song’s introduction, you recognize your favorite novelist’s writing style, you know a Rothko from a Rauschenberg.
It’s no different with food, which is why the suggestion that we judge the food “blind” in our competitions wouldn’t accomplish anything -- very early into a season, we judges come to know which chef cooked a dish just by seeing it and tasting it.
Sheldon’s bold flavor profiles and innovative takes on Filipino food are exciting. Just because he wanted to plate his food differently and do something visually new upon his arrival at the finale was no reason to abandon the style he’d developed over the arc of his career to date. He could have done his food and just plated it in the more modern way he was now going for -- he might easily have knocked it out of the park.
I just saw the finale for top chef seattle and I just think that Kristen (not taking anything away from her though) just had it easy on her road to the finals. She just cooked quickfire-like challenges and suddenly, she's a finalist. While the other chefs had to endure difficult quickfire challenges and very tough elimination challenges to get to the finals.
I think that maybe last chance kitchen should end with still around 4 or 5 chefs left on the main contest. It was just too easy to just get back to the finals.
Can we please change the structure of LCK so that there is a different judge every week -- one who has never judged these contestants before, so can't tell who cooked what, and have them take it blind, then decide on the winning dish? I would like LCK to be about the food and nothing else. I nominate Eric Ripert for several rounds. Pick 3-4 and have them rotate. Two men, two women, or even past winners. Just eliminate all of the bias.
I'm disappointed that you played the political game with your show and voted Kristen Top Chef. She was obviously very good but it was plain that Brooke was the better chef and easy to see how all of you struggled to name Kristen when Brooke's snapper was the better dish. Of course it makes better TV to have the underdog fight back and win.
Tom made it obvious over and over again he wanted Kristen to win. Sad to see other chefs go home when they obviously did better jobs on that particular challenge. I have been a Top Chef fanatic since season one, but I must say, I am disappointed this time around.
Clearly, you wanted Kristen to win and will make it so. As an avid viewer even withe the Texas and DC seasons (arguably the worst ones), I was incredibly disappointed that even with negative feedback for Kristen in round 3, you still picked your 'favorite'.
I can't watch the finale. Tom votes for Kristen even when his critique is not positive. He should just date her instead of showing his bias all the time. He has done this for weeks.
It's totally subjective Tom. You should recuse yourself and let someone else be head judge beginning next season (if there is one.) Also, please revert to old opening sequence where chefs are named and shown individually (I had a hard time remembering anyone this season.) It's been a good run. Adias
I believe most of us pick our horses on the first few episode and stick to them to the very end, often making up excuses as to how they’re better than anyone else; and since we can’t all be right, some of us must be wrong from time to time… The truth is that we don’t taste the food, and whatever we see on the show (that makes it SOOOOO OBVIOUS, if some comments on the thread are to be believed, that one or other should win or go home) is heavily edited. If you can take a perfectly innocent remark and turn it into a declaration of eternal hatred you can twist and turn whatever you want into whatever you want it to be. I trust that the judges – renown foodies that they are – will know the difference between something properly cooked or not and that is enough for me. Are they biased? I imagine they must be; taste, after all, is a very personal thing. In the little bit of Judge’s Table we get to see someone raves over a dish and the next person says they don’t care for it at all with equal validity of opinion. The judges are in a better position than any of us to say what they enjoyed or not and whatever snide remark we care to pen about them is absolutely inconsequential (cathartic as it may be) and quite frankly childish.
Pouring one for my menehune. Good try, bruddah. Glad to Top Chef has really expanded their culinary profile tastes (crispy pork skin that eliminated Stefan notwithstanding...). Each chef has a signature style and Sheldon's style took him all the way to the penultimate challenge. Too bad he strayed from his path. Brooke and Kristen stayed true to themselves and deserve to be in the finals. Although, I agree that LCK is a way for Tom to railroad his personal choice to final. Rotating judges is a great idea for LCK. Hope Sheldon becomes a sous chef for one of the finalists and his super classified, secret dessert helps put her over the top. Mahalo, TC.
Hey where is Sheldon's last chance? all the other eliminated chefs got their last chance..NOT FAIR! If this show is popular in the Philippines you'll get flooded with REACTIONS, you know how passionate Filipino audience are... fortunately, its still season 9 being aired in local cables in the PH...yey for Paul Qui!
I really enjoyed this season and so glad they went back to having the chefs cook instead of the crazy things they had them do last season. I was glad they had LCK, it was a good way to get the chefs back, that maybe should not have left yet and look where Kristen is, she could end up wining. I thought the judging was fair, after all we are not tasting the food. I felt so bad for Sheldon, but he should have just kept cooking the way he did all season, that was crazy trying to cook something different. Cant wait to see who wins, I like both Kristen and Brooke, good luck ladies.
macliz Now just imagine if the judges were capable of making the right decisions the FIRST time. *Cough* Kristin should have never gone home over Josie *cough*
My favorite chef got eliminated so I'm going to make up a lot of reasons why Tom is wrong!
It's not fair Kristen got a second chance when she was wrongly eliminated in the first place?
Well, at least everyone that is complaining got to actually taste the food and so their points are objective and valid.
Enjoyed the season, except for Padma...a little to snarky. Also I thought there were times that she may have had too much wine...
I can honestly say that I'm enjoying this season so much better than last season. I was beginning to think that all chefs were self-absorbed jerks. It was nice to see chefs compete with each other but still respect each others talents. Last season it was interesting to see Sarah be nice when she was winning and an utter witch when she was losing. She really did a disservice to the profession.
I love LCK because sometimes a chef is eliminated that shouldn't be - like Kristen. She clearly is talented and fell on her sword. I still don't understand how Josie made it as far as she did. Oh well I wasn't tasteing the food.
I love this show and I love the way it is being reinvented to keep it fresh. Can't wait for the finale!
I am really pleased with the final two contestants. I watched all season and was most impressed by both of these ladies. Good luck Kristen and Brooke:)
You seem defensive regarding sending Sheldon home. He seemed to beat out Kristen on a few points and show he is more than his standbys. But the program has been tilting Kristen's way for a while. We'll see but I'd be surprised if Brooke wins. It seems a shame for contestants to make it all the way and have to be ousted by a favorite of yours. A final three might be another option...
ginmartini I truly hope that Brooke wins - I believe she is the better chef and love that she was not formally trained at a culinary school but learned all her cooking talents by on-the-job training!
Tom, if the show continues with LCK, then your challenge to viewers regarding blind tasting doesn't hold merit. LCK is a fancy quickfire. If this is the last "make it or break it " elimination, then it should be blind tasted by you or by rotating judges. You are human and are bound to be affected by personalities, interpersonal dynamics, the feedback from the other judges, personal preference, appearance, etc. That's what humans do, subliminal or not. Either rid the show of LCK, do blind tasting or rotate judges with blind tasting. Your argument against it is weak.
Mona_Munaki I watch Rachel v Guy Celebrity Challenge and their LCK (even though it is called something else) is blind tasting and yet, both Rachel and Guy have stated that even though it is blind tasting, they know which chef cooked what based on their past experience with that chef's cooking techniques, etc.
I do agree with you, however, that the tasting should be rotated by the judges, not by Tom all the time.
Blind tasting would be fun to see if the judges really can do it.
frankly, I am also disappointed in Top Chef this season. In my opinion, if two people get to the end, they should compete for the title Not bring back a previously failed chef to take it away. Not fair.
kay.forshag did you forget that last chance kitchen was on last season too? the last chance kitchen winner simply didn't beat out the other ones. this season, they at least had a heads-up that last chance kitchen existed. they probably added last chance kitchen for the fans and all their complaints about chefs they liked getting kicked off "unfairly" or "too soon"
if it was so obvious and his food was so bland, why did you tell him at judges' table that his food was "well-seasoned?" why did hugh praise his spot prawns as a dish that "sung?" weird of you now to say it was so obvious... or maybe that's the production team trying to assuage the upset.
I think the judges dropped the ball this season and why there is so much buzz about schemes and how unfair this and that is. There is nothing you can say that will make me believe that Kristen beat CJ after your comments in last chance kitchen. Clearly a makeup call. You would have been better off coming back and saying "we made a mistake" than trying to make things right. Because sheldon didn't do the same thing you are use to do you punished him. Perfectly cooked food to let the meat shine and because he doesnt pull out his "standard flair" you say its no good. I look at what brooke has offerend and she offers perfectly cooked meat with little flair and a pickled beat and you love it because thats what you came to expect. You gave Kristen a pass and she also clearly played it safe. Brooke won the main dish and desert. Sheldon won the app. In my math, Kristen goes home. Again.. another makeup call
AugustaGa You seem to know so much, were you there to taste ALL the food you are referencing in your post.
I'll take the word from a renowned Chef that was THERE, tasting the food. Remember CeeJ had like 5 wins in LCK before Kristin came along, and everyone accused Tom of favoring CeeJ.
Very disappointed in Top Chef this season. I've watched from the beginning of Season 1 and have always thought the judging panel fair an unbiased even though I have disagreed with their choices from time to time. Having a notable chef who knew Brooke and her history of cooking and call her a phenom was unfair to Sheldon and Josh. It was obvious the way the judges and especially you Tom gushed over Kristen that she would be in the final along with Brooke. I do know they are extremely talented chefs and I am not doubting that I just think the judging this season was biased from beginning to end. Not so sure I will watch again.
Tom, just want to say THANK YOU for this blog! I really appreciate your behind the scenes insight. You're the only blogger that really explains what happened, and it enhances my enjoyment of the show. I don't know why everyone is upset about Sheldon. I think he's great, but the second he said he was doing something different, the writing was on the wall. I turned to my husband and said it was Carla Hall all over again. Top Chef Finale 101-- do the food that got you there! Of course, title or not, we know that all 3 of these chefs are fabulous, and I look forward to following their amazing careers!
I was disappointed to see Sheldon sent home. The judges did not like anything Kristen prepared and called her dishes "safe" and so -so. The dessert was a disaster but they sent Sheldon home because of the quail? The only thing I can interpret from this is that the public anger over her early dismissal from the show has impacted the judging of her. I like Kristen and think she's a very talented chef but clearly she was the loser last night. And Tom, your expediting was obnoxious and annoying...between stuffing your face with the food you then critiqued and shouting out orders, your personality took on another level of condescension and blow baggery.
hannahsmith this is a dumb comment. expediters HAVE to shout out orders to EXPEDITE. and he NEEDS to eat his food (probably quickly, which accounts for the stuffing) in order to JUDGE. he had 2 jobs that night and all he did was do them.
they sent sheldon home because of the quail, the underseasoned shrimp, and the raw/large fennel in the dessert.
I've watched TC for nearly all seasons...nothing makes me cringe more than a cheftestant wanting to win for their gender, or ethinicity for that matter. Neither Brooke nor Kristen have spoken this way because their focus is on being great chefs...it simply annoyed me that Tom ended his blog by pointing out that the 2 finalists had vaginas.
@Ookala , Really?? We are all familiar with the female anatomy, but you had to go there??? Fantastic two Woman made it to the finale, and one Woman is going to be a Winner!
Good blog, Tom. Thanks for providing an understanding of how you evaluated each contestant's meal.
Having been to your restaurant, it was great to see the contestants working there with you expediting. I am so excited that Kristen, who should have never left, is back in the competition! I was disappointed that Sheldon left, but believe the two left are the right ones that should be there. Happy that it turns out that this season will see Top Chef finally crown its second female winner. I really hope it's Kristen! She is truly talented and everything she makes looks and sounds thoughtful and creative. Lastly, I'm really surprised we haven't seen Martin Yan on the show prior to this week. I watched Martin on his "Yan Can Cook" series growing up and it was a delight to see him again. Martin brought class, constructive criticism, and was entertaining & insightful to watch!
Tom - to comment on what you define as signature and what I feel the chefs miss time after time. For me, its not about signature, its about trinity.
I'm sure you know this, but to explain for others... Each cuisine has a core trinity of several spices & herbs and roots. Filipino, for the most, part uses garlic, onion, ginger, lemongrass, bayleaf and pandan. A good chef will know this. A better chef will know the difference between a Filipino garlic, onion and ginger and other garlic, onion and ginger which can totally change the outcome of a meal. If the cuisines' specific trinity (or the one a chef typically used) is not available, the chef should be able to at least find similar garlic and onion to match (strong and pungent, not weak or sweet), and ginger (sweet vs hot), or at least compensate.
As in Sheldon's case (I can only assume here) but if he followed his specific trinity through out his preparations and kept that in his last meal, he would have been closer to the taste you were expecting. Then you would really only be judging if his presentation is better or not than previous meals.
This also could explain why blind tasting is not necessary.
You spend all season telling the chefs to push themselves, giving credit when someone goes out of their comfort zone. Then in the final, you do not give credit when someone does. I do think that having two females in the final was the goal for the show.
I love Brooke and think she is a great chef, but a Top Chef who can not be organized enough to get food out on time?? Anyone who has worked in a kitchen can tell you if you can not get food out on time, good or not, you will not be a success.
I'm soooooo disappointed that Sheldon is not in the finale. I'm not in favor of the LCK at all and feel that once you're eliminated, that should be it. I loved Kristin in the beginning but when she didn't stand up for herself to Josie, I totally lost respect for her; I don't think she deserves to be in the finale. I think the goal this year was to have a female winner (which is fine) but how better to ensure that outcome that to have two women in the finale. You can't convince me that there isn't an influence outside of the food.
Very good comments, Tom. Sometimes you can be harsh w/the critiques, like w/Stefan's Cordon Bleu, but you are always right after I think about it!
You are quite handsome, by the way :-) Love those blue eyes!
Top Chef is reality TV at its finest and worst at the same time. While TC is one of my top 10 shows on tv, this year felt like a "fait accompli" from the first episodes. In my mind it was painfully obvious that they wanted a female chef to win this season, and now they are going to get what they've wanted. Having a woman win this season will be great for promotions, as either of the finalists are far more easy on the eyes than the guys that were recently sent home (or the other recent male winners as well). While i have no doubts that Brooke and Kristen are fantastic chefs with immense talent, I will continue to stand by the feeling that I and my fiancee (who happens to be a pastry chef ) had from the beginning of the season: they wanted a woman winner and now they will have it.
chris.miccio Assuming that the show wanted "a woman chef winner" and thus set it up accordingly is incredibly insulting and degrading to the accomplishments of Kristen and Brooke (and women in general).Because, you know, it's unlikely that two women (*gasp*!) are simply the two most qualified chefs in the competition. The fact that you believe these incredibly talented female chefs only got to the finale because the producers "wanted a female chef to win" and not because of their actual talent (which they have a lot of) shows that you do not think very highly of women.
After being out of the competition for 6 months, why wouldn't you have a quickfire to help the chefs get back into the game? Sorry to see Sheldon go, but it was obvious as a viewer that moving away from the food that got you to the final was a bad idea.
It's an interesting final 2. Kristen will bring refinement, Brooke will bring the balance of flavors, both have good technique, so whomever can bring a little more imagination should win.
Sad to see Sheldon leave, would've liked them just to do a 3-person finale. Based on his attempt at quail and his comments about saving a better dessert for later, I think Sheldon spent a lot of time refining his Filipino menu but wanted to keep his best dishes reserved for the "real finale. " Of course, we know that often leads to getting bounced early and unrealized potential.
Top Chef could probably do a season with just the cheftestants that pulled the same mistake as Sheldon. It seems every season a chef that is nearing the end will do something wildly uncharacteristic to "show how much they've evolved," and it always bites them in the behind.
bradjkovacs Great idea for an additional season with people who decided to "show their range."
Tom, your comments here are, as always, insightful and enlightening. I appreciate your sharing your experience during the competition with the viewers. Thank you, especially, for addressing the blind tasting. I had hoped your explanation would result in fewer comments harping on blind tasting. Unfortunately, it seems that will not be the case...