This season takes place in Washington, DC. In many ways, the location doesn’t really matter since a lot of the cooking takes place in a restaurant kitchen or a “challenging” outdoor environment. The attempts to make the show more “DC” have played more as bad puns than a real tribute to how the city is attracting better chefs. (See “Bi-partisan” quickfire, “Cold War” Challenge and that weird trip on the Presidential boat).
This season’s chefs appear far less experienced and acclaimed than last season. I think last season set a bar that will be hard to ever match. Catering chefs make a strong appearance this season. I don’t like how Bravo is editing the season to focus on the “budding” relationships between 2 sets of the contestants. It feels forced and awkward. Maybe they are editing up to a big hot tub scene a la the Bachelor, but I doubt it. Or maybe the chefs are just really really boring and the producers had to invent a story line to make it interesting. If the boring theory is correct, then I wished the producers would include more footage of the judges’ deliberations because those folks are funny. Gail and Tom both come up with great one-lines and I just love hearing Eric Ripert talk. Ripert is a good addition to the judges’ table. He is a genius in the kitchen, but his personality appears to be as delightful as his food.
While the attempts to DC-up the show and invent romance have missed the mark, the challenges have not. I have really like both the quickfires and the elimination challenges this season. The choice to let the chefs pick their own teams in the beginning is great because it really speeds up the show and lets us see how the chefs are evaluating each other. I loved the bracket face off where the chefs had to make breakfast, lunch and dinner with 2 sets of chef winning each round and leaving those cooking dinner to go home. I thought it made it exciting because it put some of the “better” chefs on the chopping block. To me, this is a perfect challenge for a top chef because consistency is key. Who cares if you can make the most amazing meal in the world once. Diners expect to have the same quality, the same innovation and the same “knock your socks off” experience every time we show up at your restaurant. In the same way on Top Chef, having one off day can send you and your knives packing.
So who do I think is going to win? I think Kelly and Tiffany are going to come on strong in the second half of the season. They appear to be very comfortable with their culinary viewpoint and can pull together great flavor combinations. I know Angelo and Kenny will be the favorites because of their alpha-male personalities and their early challenge wins, but I would watch out for the ladies if I were you.
What do you think of the season so far?