My beef with ‘Top Chef’


Imagine being drafted into the NFL straight out of college. After 4 years of entertaining the crowd, making the big plays only to get to the big time to be ostracized because you   make your cuts too early and in doing so you merely stopped the ball instead of intercepting it…

            This concept works fine for the big NFL Franchises and the superstars they pay millions of dollars to make the big plays and ultimately get them the coveted Vince Lombardi trophy but not so well for Top Chef. This is a show where chefs are given challenges and expected to use their knowledge of the culinary world to make the dishes their own, to add flair and create something that is both original yet fundamentally sound in a very short time span. Essentially, they are expected to be clutch players at all time. And don’t get me wrong, I fully expect these contestants to have a more extensive knowledge of flavors and combinations than the average person (or chef for that matter) but give them a break. Here are just a few of my beefs wit the show:


  • The contest is set-up for entertainment first


The show is outright good but when the better chefs are booted instead of the asshole that effed up and blamed it on someone else because of the producers’ desire to boost ratings, then the whole concept of “Top Chef” goes right out the window. For instance, on “Top Chef Season 4”, Antonia (my personal favorite by the way) was eliminated for the finals in Puerto Rico because her gandules or ‘pigeon peas’ were “slightly” undercooked for the judges preferences while Lisa got away unscathed even after serving an overall poor menu. Immediately after Antonia leaves, Lisa proceeds to complain and stir up drama because she wasn’t congratulated on her win even though she admits she should’ve been the one eliminated. Lisa is the “bitch” of the show. We get it. Now give us a real chef.


  • The Judges aren’t perfect


We all get the fact that the judges are experienced in their field and that they are able to distinguish flaws and fundamental errors but they don’t know everything. I am hard-pressed to believe that they can taste something and tell you whether or not the masses would enjoy it beyond whether or not something is prepared “properly”. I like liver pudding. Yes, liver pudding. It’s a North Carolina delicacy.  I like it crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, serve with grits and egg, scrambled hard and I dare a judge to tell me that “this pate like dish should never be burned or prepared that way.” The way that I think it tastes good. And most of my family would agree, even some of my friends. And in real life, those are the people we cook for. So, until I see Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio whip up some soul food, put in front of some of the South’s finest and do everything “perfectly”, Ill take what they say with a grain of salt.


  • Every Chef has there own style and that gets lost.


Each of the chefs on the show has probably worked very hard to get were they are. They are respected in their circles, in their cities and in their restaurants and that is an accomplishment in it self.  90 % of all restaurants fail within the first year. And many of the contestants fall within that other 10%. They have done something right. People must enjoy their food or else this would not be the case. I ask myself would the judging be as it is if it took place randomly in one’s restaurant and the judges and chefs were to never meet. Would the comments be the same? I can bet money that Emeril could make a dish and the judges could find something wrong with it if they didn’t know who made it. But if they knew it was his dish, would they be more forgiving? I don’t know for sure but that is the perception I get.


I say leave well enough alone. Most of these chefs are not trying to earn a rating from “Le Guide Michelin”, they just want to make good food that people will enjoy. Food that is based on their culture, background, family and experiences and they don’t need a judge to tell them that Granny’s recipe could have used less salt and a fennel salad on the side. So if they can get an “interception” that’s great and if they only stop the play that’s great too but at the end of it all, it the dash in the “win” column that counts.


By: Alvin Roberts- Food Correspondent



2 Responses to “My beef with ‘Top Chef’”

  1. 1 Ryan Evans June 17, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    I like this article a lot Alvin. Thought in the beginning of reading it that it was just posted from like Esquire or something. Great job.

  2. 2 Beth-Ann June 17, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    I 100% agree with you!!! I bet none of those judges could make fry bake and salt fish like my granny!

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