Who Won TOP CHEF?

February 26, 2009 by  

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.

Comments

13 Responses to “Who Won TOP CHEF?”

  1. Patty on February 26th, 2009 1:45 pm

    I agree that Hosea didn’t actually win, Carla and Stefan lost. I cried inside when Carla started listening to Casey. Carla has such a great vision for her food and the fact that she let the hag Casey lose it for her just kills me.

    They need to not start with 17 freaking chefs (come on, the first people kicked off sicked anyway, why waste our time with crappy cooking?) and they def need to come up with some new, interesting challenge ideas. I love the quickfire challenges but I think they should tie more into the elimnation challenge. And I am totally over restaurant wars.

  2. Nicole on February 26th, 2009 1:58 pm

    SB, I saw your spoiler warning and dutifully clicked away from GMMR (I haven’t watched yet), and then I was scanning the EW Popwatch blog and suddenly I see “Top Chef Winner Hosea Speaks” – dammit people!!! Why can’t everyone be as spoiler-cautious as you were??? Is it so hard to put huge spoilers after a jump? Okay, rant over. Sorry.

    I just had to comment because:
    a) HOSEA WON??? Seriously? I mean, I’ve never thought he was bad – in fact I’ve been pretty impressed with most of his cooking, but next to Carla and Stefan I didn’t think he stood a chance.
    b) I TOTALLY had a dream last night that he won (wow – pretty nerdy) and when I woke up I thought, how funny if my dream spoiled the ending for me. But I was so convinced it wouldn’t be Hosea that I didn’t give it another thought. Ha!

    I’m a lot less excited to watch tonight now that I know the outcome, but very curious to see what happened (I haven’t read your recap so as to keep some things a surprise) leading up to it.

  3. amealea on February 26th, 2009 3:20 pm

    What to say?! I’ve been pulling for Carla since the beginning, although we all know she didn’t have the best start on this show. Her personality and good spirit really pulled me in and honestly I hope she gets her own show out of this ha, I’d never miss an episode! Once I realized that Carla wasn’t going to win this one, and it broke my little tv-viewer heart, I just tuned out the rest of the ep. Not that I dislike Hosea, but I just don’t feel much for him. I think his ‘Leah’ rendezvous really ruined it for me. Anyway, now that I’ve rambled on long enough, I’ll just say this one last thing…I’m just glad Stefan wasn’t the winner!

  4. CFO (not myinitials) on February 26th, 2009 6:28 pm

    Okay, I didn’t even watch this season, but your recaps were hilarious!! :D
    Please promise to recap season six & I will watch right along with you!

  5. P D Yerf on February 26th, 2009 7:20 pm

    I adored Casey in season three–my favorite season of the show–but I could not believe that Carla just let her dictate everything. I was dying inside. I thought Carla had gained so much confidence!!!!! Her crying was so heartbreaking, and it was so true what Toby Young said: “If we’re going to award this title to the chef with the most heart, then we need to give it to Carla.” I do not think she should have won, but knowing she lost so terribly just kills me.
    I think that Stefan deserved to win. For an explanation why please read Toby Young’s Blog: In Defense of Stefan. It spells it all out perfectly for me.
    And I COMPLETELY agree with you, SB, that they kept Hosea and Leah around until they were certain that there would be no more “drama”. Why else would Leah have been allowed to stay so long? The woman is not a chef. She’s a cook. I’m sure she’s good compared to some people, but not in this group.
    I just have to hope that the quality of season 6’s chefs will be way better. Because I’m too addicted to this show to stop watching!!!

  6. Liz on February 27th, 2009 6:39 am

    Thank you so much for recapping Top Chef! It’s one of the best reality shows out there, and I hope you’ll write about season six as well.
    Having said that, I cannot believe that Hosea won. Seriously?! He should have been kicked off weeks ago. He was boring, his food was dull, and he never really stepped up to the plate and took risks like Carla, Stefan or Fabio. I wasn’t a fan of Stefan by any means, but he deserved to win, simply because he was the strongest chef, and not even a mediocre dessert should have made him lose the competition.
    However, I don’t think Hosea will be a big success after the show. If anyone will be remembered after this season, it will be Carla and Fabio. Nobody will remember the bland Hosea.

  7. Lisa (aka lmr) on February 27th, 2009 8:14 am

    My heart is still broken…I loved Casey but she had a similar crisis in her finale whereby we knew she was out early so why did our beloved Carla listen to her? Maybe Carla never had a chance but I’d like to hope she did had she stayed true to herself. I kept thinking, Carla, they LOVE your pastry, your pastry rocks, make pastry! After her meltdown to be honest I didn’t care who won. In the end, I don’t dislike Stefan nearly as much as I originally did (I think his bravado persona was over edited) and frankly he should have taken the crown. One thing that bugs, they know that usually the finale calls for your best three course meal, now why wouldn’t they be already onto their plan?

    As much as I adore your recaps, SB, I am going to disagree about the talent…I think there were some pretty darned good chefs. Anyone know where Carla’s restaurant is?

  8. SB on February 27th, 2009 11:05 am

    You guys are awesome. If GMMR will have me back, I’m totally down for doing the recaps next year. As long as Padma is the host, I know Billy will be making me watch. :)

    Awww, Nicole, super drag about the spoiler. I hope it wasn’t TOO ruined for you, and I went back and read my recap and realized I didn’t really give too many details other than Carla losing by listening to Casey. Hopefully you still got some surprises. :)

    (Man, you guys, I usually try to respond to everyone but I’m so far behind right now I don’t think I can, but just know that if I didn’t specifically mention it, I’m totally with you!)

    Thanks, CFO! You should totally watch next season, and you will not be sorry. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll have great fun yelling at your TV. Seriously, most of the TV I watch is soley for the purpose of yelling at it. I’m going to be an outstanding crazy old lady.

    P D Yerf, I actually read Toby’s blog and I see what he was saying, and I think that further supports that Tom just REALLY did not want Stefan to win (although he didn’t say that explicitly). And I thought he said a lot of really great things about the subjectivity of judging food and how cultural differences can play into it (i.e., he hasn’t been to a ton of American weddings like everyone else has, venison is really popular in the UK right now and he’s sick of it, etc.), and I actually totally recommend it to anyone who’s interested because it was a pretty insightful read.

    Lisa, you said a lot of interesting things, not the least of which was offering some insight on Casey, who I hadn’t watched. And I don’t know that I hated Stefan, but I did think his ego got WAY out of hand there for awhile, and I don’t think he was trying hard enough. But as for his personality (and the editing, I suppose), it was brought back for me with his sweetness to Carla. I stand by the statement that he has an abundance of ego and a lack of social skills, but I don’t think that deep down he’s a bad guy at all.

    Also, the finale DOES always include a three course meal. Is everyone happy with that format, or would you like to see it switched up a little bit? I think I like it better when they’ve spent an entire season doing weird stuff, and so it’s nice to see them just cook some food, but I feel like this season was a lot of just trying to coax decent food out of them, and I feel like THAT was at least partially because no one wanted to make just oen freaking food, they were constantly making BS duos and trios, and hoping something was decent. I would like to see them occasionally instate a “no duo/trio” rule because I was SO over it. But anyway, yeah, by the time we got to this “make a good three-course meal”, I felt like I’d seen it all before and it was anti-climactic.

    And Lisa, you are so cute! You don’t have to butter me up to disagree with me, you know I’ll love you no matter what. :) You’re one of my most faithful commenters and I heart you. But we are still totally not on the same page about the talent. I mean, hell yeah I want to eat at Carla’s restaurant! Find out where it is and call me up and we’ll go together, and I will order one of everything.

    BUT I find that things I want to eat don’t always translate to who’s the best chef, although so far Stephanie and Carla have had the food I’d be most inclined to eat, so I was glad that Stephanie won and Carla got so far. But I just try to picture ANY of these chefs, besides Stefan, going up against Harold and Tiffany, or Stephanie and Richard, and I don’t think that anyone, besides Stefan (to reiterate the point) could hang. I DO think that some of the chefs, like Carla, Fabio, Jeff, maybe even Jamie, could’ve made a top five in either of those seasons, but it wouldn’t have been a sure thing, and notice the absence of Hosea. Hosea would’ve been eaten alive in Season Four.

    But the point is, when I compare them to previous seasons, I don’t think this was their strongest batch, even though compared to average Joe Schmoe I’m sure they’re all good cooks and some of them are even good chefs. Maybe I just didn’t feel like there was anyone super creative this time.

    I think Top Chef has a hard time finding a balance in its contestants between skills and personality. I would think that ideally, you’d want someone with Fabio personality and Stefan skills, but someone seems to always have a little more of one or the other. Although, you do need the assholes to spice things up a bit. But please, god, if they cast another Melissa next year, so help me …

  9. SB on February 27th, 2009 11:06 am

    OMG that post was as long as the recap. You guys are too thought-provoking!

  10. Lisa (aka lmr) on February 27th, 2009 12:13 pm

    One more thing…did you guys see this outburst from Casey on the finale, I used to like her http://sidedish.dmagazine.com/2009/02/26/casey-thompson-speaks-out-about-top-chef/

  11. SB on February 27th, 2009 12:44 pm

    I saw that! She and Leah should go out for cosmos. Eye roll.

  12. Forts on March 1st, 2009 5:22 pm

    I too, LOVED the return of Marcel!!! I still think he was cheating out of the win. ;)

    I love his hair, I love his personality, I love his “vampireness”, and I love his FOAM!

    XD Foam… lawl… anyways he’s amazing.

  13. Forts on March 1st, 2009 5:25 pm

    *cheated

    I usually wouldn’t post again just to correct my spelling but I think that was an important thing to mention…

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