Tom Colicchio

Tom Colicchio explains how the challenge could have gone very differently.

on Dec 22, 20100

The US Open. For New Yorkers, it is summer’s last hoorah, its endnote, our signal that summer will draw to a close with the close of the games. I learned a lot about the US Open from this week’s challenge. I learned, for example, that it is the current iteration of what is actually one of the very oldest tennis championships in the world. Now boasting mixed doubles, and matches for wheelchair-bound players, it’s come a long way since its days as a men’s singles championship in the 1880s.  
 
It was thrilling to be out on courts where the greats of my time have played. And it was great to have Taylor Dent with us. I was actually at the US Open in 2009 when he upset Feliciano Lopez and then Ivan Navarro before being beaten by Andy Murray in the third round. Taylor knows food, knew the language of it and how to talk about it, and was a good judge.
 
It was also nice to get to judge with Tony Montuano of Spiaggia in Chicago, whom we were fortunate to have with us because the Levy Group that runs the US Open is out of Chicago. In fact, he and some other Top Chef Masters did dishes at the Open’s food court, which was a lot of fun.
 
As for our “match”: Once again, I have to address Jamie and her lack of contribution to the challenge. Having seen the whole episode, I recognize that she agreed the night before to the team’s decision to put the weakest dish out first … and then balked and simply refused to put her food out. But the rest of the team should have said to her, “Jamie, that was the decision. You’re going out.” And when we called for them to say whose dish was up first, they should simply have called back, “Jamie’s.” End of story. She would have had to abide by the group’s decision … and perhaps the results would have been different. But the team didn’t do that, and they have to reconcile themselves to their role in that.

191 comments
ks in cleveland
ks in cleveland

you should have all non competitive dishes automatically tasted and up for elimination. how can you even think of a cooking competition when not all dishes would be in contention??? the strategy would probably be different if the chefs knew that all dishes would be tasted and if theirs were not in competition then would automatically be up for elimination.

Straight Down!!!
Straight Down!!!

NOPE! "Straight down"! This is not a Tennis Competition, this is a cooking competition! EVERYONE's food MUST be tasted and judged. Period.

Rock2casbah
Rock2casbah

I kind of understood the judges eliminating Casey. That dish was an insult to the diners.

Even if she had prepared her plates it was just disgusting. I don't think her helpers would be responsible for actually cooking the chicken feet,. Probably just plating etc. Anytime diners including the judges leave it on their plates even though they are starving, that speaks loud and clear.

Rock2casbah
Rock2casbah

Actually Carla was a model years ago. I don't think in the kitchen , she cares much about what she looks like. We caught a glimpse of her beauty when they were at the end of her season and she was in the finals with all guys. She had dinner or something with them and was dressed in street clothes, pretty makeup and her hair was done gorgeously. Carla, simply, is real and not vain at all.

PCL2121
PCL2121

I agree with you, that is alll Jaime knows how to do, scallops and soups. When she was on Top Chef Masters as a sous chef the Chef complained that Jaime was slow.

Viewer care from pgh.
Viewer care from pgh.

I agree with most of what was said about the US open elimination challenge, that the team should have made Jamie get up and take her dish up, but she also didn't have a finished dish at the bell and I'm sorry but that's BS. She should have been up for elimination because of that. But I think your right Tom, you should find a way to taste everyone's dish if this ever comes up again! I loved this challenge by the way, one of the best ever! And could Jamie please stop making scallops or soup, soup or scallops please?? Tiffany said "everyone is ultimately responsible for their own dish" and that like it or not is what it boils (no pun intended) down to!

KatrinainMI
KatrinainMI

I agree with many of you that the situation with Jamie is now out of hand. Given the judges' past actions of "calling out" issues with contestants, I am surprised that they have not acknowledged on the show that she continues not to cook. I was amazed when Jen when home (not necessarily a fan of hers), given that Jamie had left for stitches and didn't really contribute. When she refused to present her dish, as the team had previously decided would happen with the weakest dish, I was totally shocked. Granted, the team should have pushed her to go first, but I wonder if they realized that collectively they had that authority. Given that Tom (whom I love) has questioned Angelo's integrity, with respect to sabotage, I expect to see Jamie taken to task over her repeated refusal to cook in a cooking competition. Hopefully, she will be gone at the end of the next episode anyway. Unfortunately, that does not change the fact that Jen and Spike both went home when a lesser, non cooking CHEF remains.

PMA
PMA

I can't believe Jamie is still on and Casey is out tonight. Wow, this is crazy. She had the worst dish last week and should have been eliminated then!

Craig N
Craig N

Tom, you look like you have lost weight and you look great! LOL, you looked fabulous heavier too...but it is so much healthier to shed the pounds. So good for you!

gichie
gichie

i agree w/ mellisa ms' succinct observation . i am about to watch the most recent round , when spike is sent packing . i have only seen it on its' original air date , and though i was a bit warm that evening , i recall a similar , but fleeting thought ; ***what are they doing to spikes' food???*** even though she is kind of a downer, i like to look at jamie - she is fresh , and it looks really bad for her right now after chickening out on this last challenge ( i will not fault her about her stitches, but that decision is looking worse by the challenge ) . spike's a punk, but i like him and wish he was still on. i am really excited for the new round in the new year!!! gotta love chefin' in 2011!

MotherTheresa
MotherTheresa

Chef Tom, I'm sorry, but you're only half right. If Richard Blais was penalized for plating after time ran out, then Jamie should have been made, by the judges, to come up for judging, as she took more time to cook her food than the rest of the contestants had.

Mark Bryan
Mark Bryan

In my mind Angelo has what we call in my trade as " Chronic Foreman's Syndrome " . Lets call it " Chronic Executive Chef Syndrome " in Angelo's case . One only has to watch a couple of episodes to see that he carries himself in the Executive Chef role and interacts with the other contestants as though they are "his" line cooks . It's really apparent by the way he dicks around with other contestants dishes . Spike should have stood his ground ! It would have made great television , had Spike told him to keep his hands to himself and if he touch his dish again it would be on !

Anna Maria
Anna Maria

I must say that I completely agree with this note. I started watching Top Chef in Season 7 and after it ended I rented all the previous seasons and watched them over the holidays to catch up on all the current contestants. Watching Season 2 made me angry and disgusted. I could not believe that nothing was done about the fact that most of the contestants were bullying Marcel every minute of the show. Nothing, that is, until it became physical and a legal liability. If I were Marcel, by the way, I'd have had Cliff arrested for what he's done, not just kicked off the show. The fact that Marcel didn't do that just shows what person he is and it is nothing like what the other people from that season said. Arrogant? Please!!! Which one of them did not say at least once that they're better than everyone else? Ilan did not deserve to win even if just because his constant egging of the other contestants on against Marcel eventually sabotaged him in the finals. By the way, Betty from season 2 should really be ashamed of herself. At her age, behaving like a 6 year old in a full sandbox is just sad and pathetic. She should be, but most likely is not because if she learned nothing over 40-something years it's hard to hope for an enlightenment now. On a final note, I'm so very happy that Elia got kicked off Season 8 so quickly. Just seeing her there made me want to turn off the TV. Sorry for the ranting. I feel much better now ; )

MikeH11
MikeH11

Can't wait to see if Jamie actually cooks food for the judges on a cooking show. What a novel idea.

Antonina
Antonina

The show is wonderful. Jaime was not interested at all. It's nice to watch best chefs to cook. It would be interesting to watch people who cook at home but have no idea about technique at all. People who have no experience but love to try things. Smth fun and easy to watch.

BarbiQ
BarbiQ

Jamie used her cut as an excuse not to cook. Period. The whole who knows how a person reacts to pain is ridiculous when Jamie is sleeved! You mean to tell me a tiny finger cut hurts more than having a needle jabbed into your skin hundreds of time?

middlechef
middlechef

Still behind Marcel taking this competition 100%!!! What is up with Jaime being so uninterested in the competition??? Why is she even there if she doesn't care to compete to win? Next eliminations I am hoping for include Jaime, Casey, and Mike I. Angelo can follow. I enjoy seeing Blais and Tiffany F, as well as Fabio. My favorite of course is Marcel. And check out his new show this March on Sy-Fy - Marcel's Quantum Kitchen!!! Take that, Ilan, and sprinkle some saffron on top! Marcel is the true TOP CHEF!!!!!!!

Lorizh00
Lorizh00

Tom, I agree that the team should have just called out her name, it was their own fault for not making her step up to the agreement. If she had not agreed the night before that this is how it will go then I would have thought differently. I do admit that Richard calling her out on her "story" was what she needed. She can run, but she can't hide forever.

Now, I have to ask you and I hope you address this because there is a lot of buzz over it. Why do you insist on throwing Angelo under the bus and claiming he's sabotaging? Why? Why would you take a contestant that no one else thinks is sabotaging and put those thoughts in their heads? Tiffany said it correctly, ultimately you are responsible for your own dish. Besides, did you not see Tiffany F. telling Angelo Spike's dish needed something and Angelo keep asking Tiffany F. "yes or no?" ? I'm surprised that you keep trying to make Angelo out to be a bad guy. Sure he's an odd duck and maybe just maybe he just loves food and wanted his team to win. Don't you think?

Well, good season so far, I was sad to see Spike go, I look forward to seeing Jamie pack her knives this upcoming week, I hope! Happy New Year!

lawrence H
lawrence H

Sid, have to agree with you that no one has tasted the food so can hardly make a judgment about it. On the other hand, not checking one chef's food which, even the chef who cooked it admitted, was totally incomplete and an embarrassment is something we all saw and it didn't give the judges and opportunity to make a fair judgment.

alabamacook
alabamacook

Hi Tom, and happy new year! I have been a TC fan since the beginning, and I have to say that at first, I didn't really enjoy the challenges of All Stars. But I had to remind myself that in the beginning of a season, team challenges are almost required, since we're dealing with 16 or 17 chefs.

I was thrilled to see Carla win with a dish that was both sophisticated and homey. Carla has always had success when she stays true to herself and "cooks with love". She's a great personality to have in the house, and everyone really loves her. She's also a darn fine cook, which is easy to overlook, since she doesn't take herself seriously at all.

Speaking of personalities, with the exception of Angelo having his fingers in everyone's food, there don't seem to be the big personality clashes of past seasons. Perhaps that's because no one has to hide behind an aggressive personality; they all stand behind some real cooking chops. Or maybe it's because it's early in the season... But I like to think that these cooks have all been through it before, and so they have a respect for each other.

I am looking forward to the rest of the season!!

From the Ville
From the Ville

Tom, you are right about Jamie. I think the whole team should have called out Jamie and forced her to compete whether she liked it or not. I thought for sure Spike was going to force her to compete. I wish he did. He is clearly a better chef and leader than she is, as is Jenn. However, it is the team's own fault for letting her get away with hiding for two challenges. (Though I'm sure in the heat of competition, it is easy to get caught up in the moment and forget that letting her sneak by could cause themselves their own elimination). I can't imagine any of her colleagues will let her get away with hiding any more. She will be gone from the competition in no time. I liked that Blais called her out on it and said she "has an interesting story"...amazingly, Jamie had the gall to be offended!

On a side note, how about a Top Chef All Stars Cooking Tour.. have the chefs travel from City to City for a cooking exhibition. I'd go and I'm sure tons of fans of the show would go. All of us who watch would love to actually taste all of the chef's food!!!!

farmergal
farmergal

I think Carla would make an excellent Muppet.

AZROCKS
AZROCKS

Huge fan of this show!!! Don't you think it was a mild form of cheating for Jaime to know that her dish was the worst and not done, in fact, and for her to be "hiding" for some of the attempts to put her up. I would think that integrity of someone attempting to call themselves "Top Chef" would mean that they would be honest enough to say... I totally blew it on this challenge and let the chips fall where they should, instead of being a coward and letting someone else take the fall. This show isn't like Big Brother where there should be a "strategy" to "play the game" as it should be based on "was your food good or not", so Jaime just seems shady! As for Spike.... I know you indicated that you watched the show, so how could Spike have been more stringent about not letting anyone add anything to his dish, when his back was turned when they were adding to it, so that when he turned around he found his dish already tampered with? I am not a huge fan of Spike's after his behavior during his season, but I think what they did to get him kicked off was totally uncool!

Elaine Marie
Elaine Marie

Dear Tom, Big fan. Love the show; every season, except season 2. If I remember correctly the only reason that Illan beat out Sam for a shot at the finals was because you were mad that his dish was not cooked. While you and the other judges loved the taste you said "he didn"t cook anything, this is a cooking competition". Padma tried to convince you that his development of flavors was, with or without cooking, valid and the guest judge had already stated that Sam's dish was his favorite you stuck to your guns and cried foul to the lack of cooking. While not every season has it been my favorites who make it to the end, I have always respected your choices with the exception of Illan, who was just a weasel. Well, letting Jamie get much further would be as big a mistake. We don"t need to see the sequal Weasel Part Two.

Avid_Fan
Avid_Fan

I totally agree with Foodwatcher. I love the show and have never commented before. However, like Foodwatcher, I was actually angered over this episode. I agree Jamie's team could have and should have handled the situation differently. However, it is still a travesty that challenge was designed so that Jamie was allowed to get away with her refusal to put her dish up for tasting.

I find her behaviour childish and simply shameful; not what one expects from a professional and a Top Chef who wants to compete based on their abilities and not one who hopes hide and win by default.

What's done is done and the results may have even been the same; but it's still annoying and infuriates me enough to drive me to submit my 1st comment.

Hopefully, a lesson learned for all..and an opportunity for the program to revamp that challenge.. and perhaps, based on all the comments, an awakening for Jamie about her very poor sportsmanship and how disgraceful it is.

sld1986
sld1986

Everyone here sure does offer a lot of opinions on who should and should not go home considering none of you have even tasted the food. Ridiculous. Maybe you should let the judges do what they are paid to do....actually TASTE the food and judge.

Viewer918
Viewer918

Four elimination challenges and Jamie has cooked twice. I could win Top Chef! End of story.

Melissa M
Melissa M

I have been on Top Chief for years and seen all of these talented people in their original season. That being said, what is going on? Tampering is allowed as it was with Angelo before, and Jamie was allowed to get away with murder. Jen & Spike never should have been sent home the way they were. Are they on par with others, perhaps not, but Jen was sent home when Jamie cooked nothing, and Spike without Jamie's food ever being tasted. The season was taped, so these chiefs fate can not be changed, but what was done was wrong. I do hope that the show says something.

Jbea3
Jbea3

Are you really complaining about a judging decision from five years ago? It might be new to you but you really should move on. Also, are you related to Stephen or something? Because that guy is the worst.

Rocket
Rocket

i have a comment about the judges. Who is this Kathie Lee and when did she graduate from Culinary school? Just being a pal of Paul Deen or a former host is no qualification for judging. You need some of the judges from Chopped now they are hard asses and real judges. Change the lineup its getting boring.

Brandon Sites
Brandon Sites

Dear Tom,

I started watching season 1 over the Christmas break via VOD since I discovered the show during the beginning of season 3. Surprisingly, I have understood the thought process going into elimnations over the course the years. HOWEVER, after seeing the Wedding episode I was appalled. You always say it is about the food. From what I gathered, Stephen presented a well made, if unmemorable, dish. So I don't understand his elimnation?!? Harold had the worst dish of the night and had a hand in the Betty Crocker wedding cake. If Harold had the worst dish of the night and contributed to the thought process behind another unsuccessful dish, why wasn't he elimnated? I just don't understand? As for the other contestants, the entire menu was someone else's vision so shouldn't that person be elimnated for not executing it? Or does it really take 16 hours to bake a three tier wedding cake made out of Betty Crocker mix? His team stated he went and talked to the wait staff, but the fact remains the same, it seems, that his dish was better done then Harold's. Some of the other chefs said it should be him that goes home, but Stephen had been in the top, between quickfire and elimination challenges, more times then the other contestants, so don't you think its fair to say that they were trying to get rid of him?

This is just one time where I think you guys completely missed the boat. And it clearly is one time where it all wasn't about the food.

Thanks.

Carla Rocks!!!!
Carla Rocks!!!!

Like almost everyone else, I don't think this challenge was fair. I understand the challenge and the challenge was a good idea for the most part. But, the producers should have told the judges to still taste the last two dishes so it be a fair game for elimination.

As for Carla getting hurt, good for her for staying in the competition and winning it. BUT, just b/c Carla stayed and Jamie didn't, that shouldn't give anyone the right to say Jamie was wrong for going to the hospital when she cut herself. Everyone deals with pain differently. She was TOLD to go to the hospital and I feel that she did what she thought she had to do. I don't think it's fair to hold that against her. Granted most people would have kept going, but she needed to do what's comfortable for her to do so. I'M NOT A JAMIE FAN!!! I wanted to state that b/c I'm defending her.

As for this competition, I think she was wrong to do what she did. I think she knew her dish was probably the worse dish. Therefore, she made a plan and it worked. The plan was to go last and hopefully she wouldn't have to present.

I was looking forward to this season b/c of all the returning chefs. But, as the season goes on, I'm becoming less and less enthuse about the show. Mainly b/c of the poor design of the challenges and rules. I love watching b/c of Tom, Padma and some of the chefs, but that's not enough to make me still watch the show if the challenges are poorly written.

Devoted
Devoted

This is a difficult time in the competition. Inevitably better chefs are eliminated while others slip by. And that in itself is a gross approximation. As a viewer, I never get to taste the food presented by these chefs. I rely upon the descriptions, imagery, and critical commentary to craft an idea of the connoisseurship required to eliminate a contestant. So this challenge actually put the judges in my shoes for once. I never tasted Jaime's under-cooked chickpeas, and neither did the judges. And Tom watched just as I did, while the contestants on Jaime's team played as a team, she resisted. Brilliant on her part. She knew she would lose a point with her dish. The problem with the challenge was that, because this was a team challenge, the entire team should have been up for elimination. This is usually how the team challenges are handled. And quite often, a team member who does not work with their team is eliminated for that poor judgment. Strategy is important, but Jaime's strategy should have been equally considered. Spike should have been more careful when it came to the final prep on his dish. And it didn't help that he knew his shrimp could have been better. However, it is disappointing to have seen Jen go home when Jaime missed most of the actual cooking. Then to watch Dale go home when Jaime cooked a mediocre soup. And then Spike. I agree with the judges that the best dish should win and the worst should pack their knives, but from what I can see, that's not happening.

yummm
yummm

A show where Fabio and Jamie are still competing but Jen and Spike have been kicked off? Is this the Twilight Zone or Top Chef?

general
general

I am very impressed with your show, however, I would like to offer what I think is a constructive suggestion. Most of us (viewers) that have criticism of your show do so because we develop likes or dislikes for the contestants which I think makes us biased against the decisions of the judges. May I suggest that this bias could be eliminated if the judging were made anonymous. Instead of the food initially being linked to a particular candidate allow it to remain unidentified until after the best dish is chosen after the judges decision is made, then the chef could be indentified and the usual dialogue could be had.

But hopefully this protocol would remove any focus on the chefs and put all of the emphasis on the food until after the winner has been chosen.

Reply

Bruin
Bruin

I completely agree...it was a bummer that Spike went home. My husband doesn't even want to watch the rest of the season b/c it was so ridiculous. What should they have done dragged her by the hair and forced her out? Casey relented to be the "better" person, but in the end, the wrong person went home.

dogabone
dogabone

That was Tiffany, not TIffani, who went up against Antonia and barely lost. Tiffani was up against Dale and won her round.

Foodwatcher
Foodwatcher

As someone who watches a lot of food television, and has produced food challenge shows in the past, I have to say that this challenge was one of the most poorly conceived I have ever come across. This challenge could have been just as interesting if it was simply everyone had to go, and whomever lost each round was up for elimination. I seem to remember a challenge similar to that in a previous season. As other commenters have stated, you are always saying that this show is about the food, not if one chef's personality is stronger than another person's. The fact that Jaimie was aloud to stay because she was more immature than everyone else on her team angered me to the point that I felt the need to comment for the first time, on a show I have always loved.

Viewer.
Viewer.

I'm sorry if anybody here likes her, but Jamie has really been bothering me this season of Top Chef! She is a downer all the time and never seems to stop complaining about things. I also don't like how on the first episode she said she was a stronger chef then Fabio and Carla. Did you make it to the final four, Jamie? No.

And has anyone noticed she only makes soup and scallops? Haha!

Scott M
Scott M

It's a game. These are chefs Chef is responsible for the dish. Chef is as good as last service. Game on.

lemon 11
lemon 11

I work a lemonade stand at the Golden Stater Warrior games. On Christmas night, while cutting lemons to squeeze, I cut the tip of my finger. Blood flowing quite freely. What shall I do? Am I a Jaime or a Carla? I'm a Carla. Ran some water over it, wrapped it ina paper towel, put masking tape around it, and got back to work. C'mon, Jaime, we're tougher than that out here in the Bay Area. Do us proud. Cook your best and present it. Who knows, you might be a good chef!

Feednotfatten
Feednotfatten

So Tom is the Anti-Craft? Just have some Pimm's No. 1 Cup.

Accept and Move On
Accept and Move On

Much like you tell your contestants when they make a bad dish - no amount of justification will save something bad, so accept it and move on. There's just no way around the fact that this challenge was poorly conceived. Viewers are mostly smart enough to know that people go home on this show who are more talented than others. We know that it's not 100% true that the worst dish always gets sent home, especially in team challenges. If you make a bad dish one week but it doesn't contribute to a loss by your team, you are generally protected. The problem here is that Jamie's (presumably) poor dish directly contributed to her team's loss, and as such, her immunity by default is a flaw. Everyone knew the rules beforehand, so it wasn't an unfair outcome, just one that goes against the idea the show is supposedly getting at. Your justification is that her teammates should have volunteered her when she was obstinate that she not present her food, but that simply promotes gamesmanship over cooking. I don't care if that's where the show goes, but you've usually stated that it's supposed to be about the food at the end of the day. It's got to be one or the other. Full disclosure: I've hated Jamie since her original season, so I do want to see her out. But I was anxious to see Spike go too, so I'm not particularly upset about the outcome of this episode.

KMB55
KMB55

Blais went over time in the QUICKFIRE challenge, not the ELIMINATION challenge. No one has ever been eliminated from the competition for losing or not completing the Quickfire, as it's not the rules of the challenge. Howie in Season 3 didn't even present a dish in one Quickfire. The downside to not completing the Quickfire is not being able to claim the prize, but also you lose the chance at immunity in the Elimination challenge. Pretty significant.

S.Council
S.Council

Jaime sucks for not cooking her best food.REAL top chefs always give it their all...she should be eliminated for not giving it her all