OK, “Top Chef” is arguably the best reality show on TV. But “All-Stars,” while packed with dramatic challenges, has been disappointing in several major ways.
At the time this article was written, two episodes remain: “Last Supper” and the Finale. Here’s hoping the show ends with a bang and not a whimper (and with Richard winning!)
For a show that was about showcasing the best of the rest, there have been some unfortunate choices made along the way.
1. Missing Faces
What makes an “All-Star”? For the purposes of this season, it seems that the answer is either someone who made it to the finals but didn’t win, or someone who won the “Fan Favorite” award. (There are a couple of exceptions: Tre comes to mind.) But are those criteria the most valid, or the most interesting?
Yeah, we want to see chefs with an axe to grind, with something to prove … but surely there are plenty of chefs who deserve “All-Star” status, who have outstanding culinary notches carved in their belt, but who didn’t make it to the finale or who weren’t entertaining enough on TV to get named fan favorite.
Where is Kevin Gillespie? C.J. Jacobsen? God knows Eli Kirshstein’s gotta have time, he’s constantly shilling for Top Chef University and other related arms of the Top Chef media empire.
I’m sure that the producers ultimately had to cast people who weren’t their first choices as the most successful chefs are probably busy managing their growing culinary empires. Still, it seemed like the “All-Stars” were missing a couple of important former chef’testants.
2. The Order of the Challenges
The challenges lack progression. They should be getting progressively more challenging, while also requiring more advanced techniques and skills. With $200,000 and SERIOUS bragging rights on the line, it was disappointing to see challenges like the “Boat Trip to Ellis Island,” “Raiding the Target” and “Sesame Street Cookiefest” come so late in the game when they clearly would have been great ways to separate the wheat from the chaff MUCH earlier in the season.
We already know what these chefs are made of. Let’s give them an even playing field at the tail end of eliminations. Who does it serve when the contestants of a cooking show aren’t allowed to cook to the best of their abilities? There’s a difference between a challenge and a handicap.
3. The Protracted Labor of the Finale
Really, judges? Really, producers? You “couldn’t decide” between Tiffany and Carla? You let the mother of one of the contestants plant the idea of a “final five” instead of a “final four” in your heads and absolved yourself of all culpability. Not a single fan of the show that I’ve talked to was happy with that decision.
Honestly, a final five would have been fine if the next episode involved a double elimination. That would have made for much more exciting TV. The “finalists and finale” portion of the show is now slated to span FOUR episodes, a pacing challenge that isn’t extending the suspense for the viewer, it’s just frustrating them.
Personally, I’m a fan of this season overall. But the issues listed above still grind my gears. Personally, I’m holding out for the inevitable “Top Chef 900: Redemption Edition” where they bring back every single person who got eliminated in the first episode of their respective seasons. THAT would be good television.
What irks you most about this season? Tell us in the comments below!