Before moving forward, let me first say that yes, Richard may have won last week’s challenge had he not gone over the allotted time. He and I exchanged e-mails after the show aired last week. It was the first time he’d seen the footage of himself in the kitchen, and he acknowledged that he’d clearly gone overtime and that the decision of the judges not to consider him for the win was completely fair.
And now let me say this: We have a really great season ahead of us, but it’s going to be as tough for many of our viewers as it was for us judges, for reasons similar to those I laid out in last week’s blog. Every chef this season has a big fan base right from the get-go based on his or her performance in a past season, and it’s going to be very hard to be objective about what one’s fave does in this season. I have braced myself to hear from the fans of the chef that was sent home each week that we judges got it wrong. I’m resigned this season to “being wrong” all 17 weeks this season.
I understand the impulse behind that. It’s why I wrote last week that the challenges were harder to judge this year than in years past, not only because we didn’t want to be judging people who, since their seasons ended, have become our colleagues, but also because we know the chefs going into the season in a way we never knew the contestants before. Jen is a terrific cook and she’s smart and knows how to play the game, so I would have imagined her going far … but I couldn’t let any of that color my judging. I had to judge the food in front of me, and that’s what I did. This is a game, and, just as in football, on any given Sunday one team can beat another. This wasn’t Jen’s week.