How Top Chef Masters Hit A Low Point

May 22, 2011 at 4:24 pm Leave a comment

I must give credit where credit is due.   It is very difficult to keep a reality show “fresh” going into its 3rd season.    I was expecting more this season from Top Chef Masters simply because of its pedigree and previous seasons.   Here I am going to go through some of the things I like about this season and some of the things I do not want to subject my eyeballs too.

Like #1:   Hugh! 
Hugh reminds me of myself in many ways.   Cocky, funny, and very self aware.   It takes a man to rock a unibrow and still makes jokes about it himself.

Like #2:  Curtis Stone
I have liked Curtis since his days on TLC’s Take Home Chef.   He is attractive, charming, and has a great accent for the ladies.   His hosting style is laid back but to the point.   Sometimes I feel like Padma, as a host, can put in a little too much of herself into it when all I want is an explanation of the challenge and to move on.   We do not get any of that with Curtis.   Just the facts, plain and simple, and not too bad to look at either.

Like #3:  Maroon 5
One of the more recent challenges was to cook for the band Maroon 5.  Who knew these guys would be so loveable and funny and sill pull of the “rockstar” vibe.   I am a huge fan personally in my real life and thought it was a huge score to get them to be on the show.   The challenge itself for their episode was a bit sub par but Maroon 5 really hit it out of the park.   I only wish we could have seen them rocking out a bit for the cheftestants.

Coming up with my “like” list was much more difficult than coming up with my “dislike” list.   What follows is only my opinion.   If you don’t agree, please feel free to leave a comment below telling me off.

Dislike #1:  Judges
This season of Top Chef Masters has seen a random revolving door of judges.   There is James Oseland (who I actually quite enjoy as a judge) as well as Curtis Stone (I guess you can consider him a judge, he is there at the table and has some input it seems….so should we consider him a judge?) and that is pretty much our only constant.   That guy from eater.com is there sometimes but I find him as enjoyable as a wet towel at the beach.  All the judging seems so subjective and no one can really seem to agree and most of the judge’s table discusses are just plain awkward.   It has also become very apparent that they are keeping certain chefs due to their entertainment value.   I like Hugh but he probably should have been sent home last week.   Everything the judges were saying led me to believe that he was going home but yet he will live to cook another day.   As a fan of Hugh’s I cannot say that I am disappointed because it gives me another week of his witty one liners but as a reviewer and lover of reality television, I wish it wasn’t made as obvious.

Dislike #2:  The Chefs
The last 2 season I have recognized most of the chefs that have been on Top Chef Masters.  I have either seen their books on shelves in stores, read about them, or have seen them in other cooking shows.  This season, I only know Mary Sue.  It makes me wonder why they didn’t have her involved during Susan Finiger’s season.  Now that would have been entertaining!  Don’t take what I am typing the wrong way.  I am sure all of these chefs are very well-known for what they do and well-respected in their community but…..who are they?   What is their background?  I don’t know where any of them work (because the show hasn’t really shown me) or what their culinary point of view is (because the show hasn’t really shown me) and I don’t understand why they were picked for the show.  If you want me to invest an hour a week for several weeks of my life to these chefs the show should at least paint them in an interesting way and allow me to get to know them a little better so that I can take myself on their journey.   I think the show has become more disjointed with the implementation of the new format.   That is a perfect segway into…….

Dislike #3:  The New Format
Last season, it was a bracket style format with each weeks winner going into the semi finals and competing against another weeks winner until only one chef was last standing.  This season, it mimics the typical Top Chef format.   Since I don’t know who most of these chefs are, I really don’t see any need to see them over and over again.   It appears that the chef themselves are getting bored with the show and are not putting out food that is consistent with their “talent level”.   All the food this season seems to be pedestrian and middle of the road.  It isn’t bad but it isn’t necessarily ground breaking either.  Since they have several weeks to cook as opposed to one episodes, the stakes are lowered for food intensity and viewer drama.  The chefs know that they don’t need to break out everything they can as long as they aren’t the worst chef there.  They seem down right bored or like their minds aren’t really on the prize.  Let’s face it.  If I was a successful chef, I wouldn’t give to care about how Top Chef Master’s played out for me after probably 2-3 weeks of shooting.  That is time I could be devoting to my restaurant. In past seasons, the quickfire and elimination challenge would be a top chef favorite from seasons past.  The chefs would need to cook with only gas station ingredients or even participate in wedding wars or restaurant wars.  It seems like the challenges this season are just plain stupid.  We still haven’t seen a prep station relay race or anything that resembles what we all love about Top Chef.  This really is scraping the bottom of the barrel.   I never thought I would say this, but I miss the old format as long as it means the chefs are competing with all their worth to stay alive.

My Final Dislike:  Misuse of LA
I think this is all being shot in Los Angeles as far as I can tell.  Why not highlight the city.  There are tons of past Top Chef Masters who are right here in Los Angeles.   There is so much culture and all we have seen of LA is the whole foods.  They haven’t even had the obligatory Universal City Walk scene.   Maybe it is because I live in Los Angeles and know how many cool places there are but if you are going to spend the money to have the people here in LA, why not showcase the town a little.   I hate when I cannot tell where a show is shot because we never see outside of the production bubble.  That may just be a pet peeve of mine but it warrants being said here on my site.

If I was Bravo, I would take a long hard look at what the fans are saying about this show.   We just got done with a season of Top Chef All-Stars and days later Top Chef Masters starts.  If you are going to be putting it down our throats back to back to back so that there isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t notice the Top Chef franchise then you better may it worth my time.

It feels good to get that off my chest!   Do you agree?  Disagree?  Leave your comments below!

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