Top Chef: Third time not yet a charm

Having just watched the latest (and I believe sixth) episode of Top Chef season 3, I’m starting to realize that I’ve felt fleeting pangs of disappointment at the end of every episode of this season.

I have a problem with the decisions the judges make regarding who to eliminate, at least for the past…4 or so episodes. So far, the winners have rightly earned their glory but I don’t think judgment has had much to do with that; it’s more so just the unarguably great food.

Let’s review who they have eliminated:
Episode 1: Clay, 28, sous chef from MS, but working in CA
Episode 2: Sandee, 39, executive chef from GA, but working in FL
Episode 3: Micah, 33, owner of a catering business from FL
Episode 4: Camille, 34, restaurant owner from NY
Episode 5: Lia, 28, executive sous chef from NY
And finally…. (so far)
Episode 6: Joey, 29, executive chef from NY

Clay and Sandee’s eliminations I saw coming, but from the very beginning, I thought Micah would go far in this challenge, until she was eliminated in the third episode! I was shocked. She won the first quickfire challenge and had a decent handle on the food industry. Another disappointment was Lia. Lia had one elimination challenge under her belt (from the episode before in fact) which is a lot more than most of the remaining contestants can say, and she was told to “pack her knives and go.” She was a great chef, with nonchalant and laidback confidence to boot. What gives? While I liked Camille, the judgment for her elimination was understandable, but I will contend that there were a lot of other viable options to choose from on that chopping block. And lastly, the reason Joey’s elimination pissed me off was because it came at the cost of keeping on one Sara M. that floats by with mediocre, if not bad dishes, and who I find very unrightly egotistical. She did NOTHING for this last challenge. Partnered with Howie, he did everything. Joey at least cooked something, but messed up by not listening to Hung’s suggestion.

All in all, it seems that wrong moves trump not doing anything at all, in the judge’s eyes. And I don’t always agree with that. I’ve also noticed in a general sense that they seem to kick off people that veer from the challenge a tiny bit but create amazingly delicious food, before kicking off those with crappy food.

So who’s left? What I would say seems like a few good apples amongst more than a few rotten or mediocre ones. The list: Casey, Dale, CJ, Brian, Hung, Sara, Sara M., Tre, and Howie.

Tre has always been a strong suit, so I’m glad they’ve kept him around. Same with Brian, Howie, and Casey (aside from her tuna incident in Episode 4). All four of these contenders have some wins under their belt, whether they be quickfire or elimination, so they’ve earned their status. While Howie has been in question a great deal of time, he has proven himself all too well the rest of the time. Knowing his ingredients, he came close to winning the last quickfire challenge, and has won two elimination challenges. He’s an executive chef which means he has a great background to show for it too. I was nervous he’d be kicked off early, but he’s another one I think deserves to be there.

But there are many others who have yet to win a single quick fire or elimination challenge, who have just floated by, held by great partners, or unnoticed in the scheme of costlier mistakes. To be specific, I’m referring to the likes of both Sara M. and Sara N., and Dale. I have less of a problem with Sara N., but Sara M. really bugs me. First of all, she is a cheese maker by trade, with a big ego into knowing the rest of the food industry…but she doesn’t. Sara N. is too slow sometimes, and while she can come up with some good recipes, hasn’t stretched her creative limbs too far, yet. And Dale…to me, he is a whole bunch of talk. Something about him just bugs me, and I have yet to see him make great food on his own. CJ is another one who hasn’t been too strong so far, yes he just won the latest elimination challenge, but with the help of Tre. They haven’t shown enough of him really for me to have good or bad feelings toward him.

Hung, is his own story. With many a good or bad opinion of him surfing the internet, I’ve seen those that think he’s on crack, and those that think he sucks at what he does. But when all is said and done, he knows the books of cooking pretty darn well. And his knife skills…while life-threatening, are pretty impressive. He’s there for a reason, too. I think his only problem is not always being able to relate to his co-chefs, or his audience/eaters.

We’ll see what the rest of the season has in store, but I have to say, if any of these “rotten apples” I just described stick around longer than the good ones, I will be one pissed Bravo fan.

-Hillary, excited for some tasty rugalach tonight!
Editor, Recipe4Living

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