Monday, March 2, 2009

Top Chef Season 5 Review

I chose to write my RBA on three food-based reality shows: Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, and The Next Food Network Star. In reality (no pun intended), I just needed an excuse to keep watching (“researching”) the current season of Top Chef. The season ended this week with Hosea, a chef from Colorado, winning it all. I think the judges made the right call—Carla clearly didn’t deserve to win despite being a definite fan favorite, and while Stefan proved his mettle in the kitchen, I don’t think Bravo would have let the egotistical European triumph. I really enjoyed the twist in the final competition, where Hosea was allowed to pick the ingredients that the chefs had to use in their hor d’oeurvres. Stefan getting stuck having to cook alligator, which he had done before, was probably one of the best moments of schadenfreude in the show’s history (though it was tempered by the fact that Stefan actually managed to put out a solid alligator soup offering).

Overall, I found this season of Top Chef to be one of the better ones for the show. I liked the contestants, especially the scrappy mom from New Jersey, Ariane, and the funny Italian, Fabio. The contests were clever for the most part. I think having the finale in New Orleans was a great idea, not only because Emeril Lagasse, one of my favorite chefs, took part, but also because it is just such an incredible culinary hotspot. The season did have some low points, though. The overplayed “drama” elements, especially the romantic tension between Hosea and Leah, weren’t particularly interesting nor entertaining. Also, Toby Young, even if he is such an expert on food, turned out to be a rather annoying judge. His jokes and critiques were unnecessarily harsh and usually did not have the redeeming humor factor seen, say, with Gordon Ramsay of Hell’s Kitchen. Despite these minor complaints, I was quite pleased with the fifth season of Top Chef and eagerly look forward to the next one.

-James Gische

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