Who Won TOP CHEF?
February 26, 2009 by SB
WARNING! I am totally going to discuss the winners so if you haven’t watched it yet, DO NOT READ ONE MORE WORD!
Y’all, all I can do when I think back (way back, all the way to last night) on this episode is sigh. And then I shake my head and I sigh again. I barely know where to begin.
Alright, let me start with this. Top Chef seems to go in cycles, for me at least. Season One was my favorite because everyone was a little crazy, but they also seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves (junk food blind taste-test, anyone?). Season Two was boring, with the exception of Betty and Marcel, and even Sam’s hotness couldn’t spice it up enough for me to think fondly of that season. I didn’t watch much of Season Three, but Season Four was awesome and had lots of great personalities and a lot of food that I thought I might actually want to eat.
Which brings us to Season Five, this season. I think it’s more on the side of suck. I feel like the chefs weren’t as good, overall, as ones we’ve seen in previous seasons. I think they started with too many people, and I think they sort of shot themselves in the foot with little rules they made for challenges. Could be this has happened in the past and I’ve just forgotten about it by now, but I felt like a real turning point happened when they did the Super Bowl challenge and Jeff, Stefan, and Fabio were in the bottom three, and at that point, they were probably the three best OVERALL chefs (even if not really in that challenge). And I know, I KNOW, they don’t necessarily judge on overall (except you know they kind of do). And then they didn’t let Jeff stay in the finale, even though he did a better job than either Stefan or Fabio. And I feel like had they not made the “you have to win the elimination challenge” rule, Jeff might have actually taken it.
Plus, I just feel like the formula has gotten a little tired, and I mean that as something entirely different than the format. I LIKE the format. I especially like the Quickfire Challenges followed by Elimination Challenges, but I feel like there used to be more variety in the tasks, more curveballs thrown—vending machine challenges, gas station challenges, etc., and I really liked watching the creativity required (and the attitude when contestants thought they were too cool for those challenges). I mean, this year, I just feel like I’ve seen it all, like restaurant wars and “make Padma breakfast” and blah blah. I’m POSITIVE that it’s hard to come up with new stuff, but I feel like they should rely on more than product placement (oats, Dr. Pepper) to come up with challenges for them. I guess the Super Bowl challenge was a new one, but I almost feel like they did that because this cast is so seriously forgettable that they wanted to add some personality to it by bringing back former contestants. I mean, honestly, one of the challenges this season was “you all suck, so please just cook us your best dish and make it good”. I mean, seriously, when you have to beg for good food, ANY good food, from your contestants, I feel like you should maybe stop and evaluate the people you chose. Just saying.
Anyway, I think a lot of things led up to last night’s episode being a buzzkill, not the least of which was the fact that the first part of the finale was so much more exciting. I mean, seriously. Emeril! Pretty colors! Costumes! Hot Padma! Someone wins a car! A chef reentering the competition! This episode? Previous runners-up show up and everyone cooks some food. And then a bunch of people eat it and talk about it. Yay.
Also, there was one possible outcome that could have been as absolutely meh as possible, and that is Hosea winning. And what do we have here? Hosea winning. Awesome.
Honestly, with the finale going as it did, I don’t know what could possibly be done differently. I think Hosea was one of those rare people who wasn’t really an awesome chef but did manage to fly under the radar all the way to the finale, which is a testament to the mediocrity of everyone else, I guess. Plus, I maintain that he and Leah probably both lasted a little longer than either of them should have for the “romance” “drama” (and I use both so loosely that they each get their own set of quotation marks) that the producers no doubt valued. I don’t want to say that Hosea succeeded on reality TV simply by being a slut (although we all know that IS how you do it), but I’m just saying I don’t think it hurt him.
HOWEVER. And this is a big however. Based on this last challenge, I don’t think Carla deserved to win. And I think we all know that, and the judges certainly knew it and so did Carla. And it broke my heart to see her cry and I wanted it so badly for her, but it was wrong of her to roll over for Casey and to cook food she wasn’t prepared for and didn’t plan on. I mean, like I said, I didn’t watch much of Season Three, but there is a reason that Casey lost so maybe she’s not the best person to take advice, nay, ORDERS from? I love Carla and I think if she hadn’t made the meat the way Casey wanted and had stuck with her original cheese plan, she could’ve taken it. But she didn’t, and there are consequences, you know?
As for Stefan … well, he and Hosea’s sniping was just on my nerves. But that whole thing with the alligator was just too much. I mean, of COURSE Hosea would give it to Stefan, but also of course, Stefan is probably the person in the entire competition that could best handle it. But seriously, did you see when he cut that tail off, and later they looked at it and the … meat? guts? I don’t even know … were like, bulging out of it? It was so gross I almost puked. I actually did cover my eyes and yell, “NONONONONO!”
But then when Hosea was taking food out of the walk-in and Stefan was all complaining at him for taking all the foie gras and caviar, I’m like, dude, if you want the food, spend less time standing around talking or smoking or whatever it is you’re doing with Marcel and GET THE FOOD. It’s a competition, as they remind us over and over. Someone I was watching with was like, “Well, it was a little crappy of Hosea to take ALL of it …” and I was all, “NO. It’s a COMPETITION. If it were me, I would’ve taken all the food I thought Stefan MIGHT want for myself.” [And then it escalates, as my little rants often do.] “I wouldn’t even use it, I’d just let it sit on the counter. NO! I would wipe my ass with it, in front of Stefan, and THEN not use it!” (I hope my mother isn’t reading this. But then, she wouldn’t be surprised.)
I think in the end, Hosea didn’t win so much as Stefan and Carla both lost. Toward the end of the season, Stefan really let his ego even further away from him. He was cocky the whole season, but he got lazy toward the end. To me, you can be an arrogant egomaniac, as long as you have the goods to back it up. He began to fail to bring the goods, and that made his personality and attitude unforgivable. It was really obvious to me that Tom Colicchio absolutely did not want Stefan to win. And seeing as how the fans were basically in agreement, I don’t think we can really hold that against him. He handicapped himself in that he needed a decisive victory to overcome his personality, and he just did not bring it.
I do think it’s interesting, though, that while Tom’s opinions are usually pretty clear, there’s something about Toby Young that seems to really bring it out of him. Even though everyone was in agreement that Stefan’s dessert plate was kind of a mess (although that wouldn’t have stopped me from eating it, obviously), Toby was arguing that his meal was cohesive because it had a beginning, middle, and end. I thought Tom was correct in pointing out that you can’t tell the contestants that they don’t have to make a dessert and then ding them for it when they don’t, but their back and forth is usually pretty revealing. I love Gail, but Toby really brought something different and I think that, even though I don’t really like him, he was at least an interesting addition to the judges’ table this season.
Anyway, back to the subject of the final three, I think there’s probably little doubt that Stefan was the best chef this season, and I think that while no one necessarily WANTED him to win, the audience could probably have begrudgingly been like, yeah, he’s a jerk but he’s a great chef. Carla would’ve been a tougher sell because of her major meltdown in the final episode, but I think MAYBE they could have presented it as “overall performance” and everyone would be in love with her enough to forgive it. But then there’s Hosea, and it’s like … I heard a sudden disturbance in the Force, like millions of voices crying out, and then they were silenced … from boredom and indifference toward Hosea. Sigh.
And there at the end, when Carla was crying, I did think it was sweet of Stefan to try to comfort her. I really don’t think he knows how much of a jerk he’s being, and I don’t think he necessarily means to be malicious. He just has an abundance of ego and a lack of social skills. Meanwhile, when Hosea was sitting on the couch saying, “I’m proud of myself, I cooked MY food,” right in front of Carla, I yelled at the TV, “Congratulations, Hosea, you finally beat Stefan at something. You are a MUCH bigger a-hole.” I mean, who SAYS that?
And I know you were all totally annoyed with me at the end when the last thing Hosea talks about is beating Stefan. OMG, Hosea, we get it! Yes, you beat Stefan. You also beat about five hundred dead horses along the way, so I wouldn’t go getting too full of myself, if I were you. Geez.
You know what? I really don’t want to end this post by talking about stupid Hosea, so can I just say how excited I was to see Richard? I really liked him, and it was nice to see him again. And I still have a soft spot for Marcel—I sort of love those contestants you love to hate (like him, Steven from Season One, Dale from Season Four), and Marcel is just so damn weird I can’t handle it. He popped up on the screen, and the following things were said simultaneously among the people I was watching with:
“Still looking like a vampire!”
“Man, he looks more like a vampire every time we see him.”
“Wasn’t he in Twilight?”
Hilarious! Aren’t we about due for a Top Chef All-Stars? Maybe after Season Six? Hear me, Bravo gods!
What did you guys think? I can’t wait to read all the comments. I think this one is going to be a discussion for the ages.