a year in food and life

Tom Colicchio, you mystify me January 25, 2007

Filed under: food,Musings,television — superspark @ 9:51 am

I am most definitely a cook, not a chef. I like the security of a recipe, I like flipping through cookbooks, and I am not particularly good at whipping the odds and ends left in the fridge into a gourmet meal. Nevertheless, I can’t help but like Bravo’s Top Chef , even if, as a semi-vegetarian, I wouldn’t eat half of what they cook. I certainly watch my fair share of television (including, guiltily, reality television) and there is something remarkably compelling about watching people compete at a task they love and consider their calling. The fabulous Project Runway started this trend and though it is still foremost in my heart, Top Chef is pretty great, too.

Last night, the final four chefs in the competition (Sam, Elia, Ilan, and Marcel) headed to Hawaii, where they were told that two of them would be eliminated and two would go on to the finals. They were instructed to make a traditional Hawaiian meal, but to put their own personal twist on it and modernize it. The four judges agreed that each of the finalists stepped up to the challenge and made a great meal, but they were left to decide which two contestants made the best meals. There were reasons to choose, or not choose, each of the contestants- Elia, for instance, put so much of her own Mediterranean flair into the meal that its Hawaiian roots were virtually unrecognizable.

From practically the first episode of the season, Dylan and I agreed that Sam was the one to beat, and watching him cook each week only strengthened our convictions. His dishes were always creative, visually appealing, and apparently, delicious. But beyond that, he seemed to have an intuitive grasp on food and rarely made a misstep. Beyond that, with the exception of his outburst at Marcel, he showed a maturity and responsibility that made the others look like a bunch of sophomoric hotheads. So when Marcel and Ilan were chosen to continue to the finals, while Sam and Elia were told to pack their knives, I was astounded. And from the sequences and conversations that were included in the final cut, I got the sense that judge Tom Colicchio had strong-armed the decision. Padma Lakshmi (the host and Salman Rushdie’s wife -wha?!?!) looked like she was about to cry when she sent Sam packing.

I will agree that based on the dishes they cooked last night, Sam’s were no better (though maybe no worse) than Ilan’s or Marcel’s. (Elia seemed the clear loser in this bunch, based on that meal.) And presumably the judges are supposed to based their decisions on that round of cooking alone, not their prior accomplishments. But I would be shocked if Sam wouldn’t have easily beaten either Marcel or Ilan in the finale. So why send the best chef of the group home? Is anyone with me on this? Did they forget that Sam has been the strongest competitor throughout the many weeks of competition? That said, Sam’s career will probably flourish regardless of the fact that he didn’t win the competition; he seems like a chef you would want in your kitchen, not one who is going to lose it under pressure or rub people the wrong way.

So while I’m still looking forward to the finale, I’m a little disappointed that the top chef has already packed his knives.


3 Responses to “Tom Colicchio, you mystify me”

  1. No – you are not alone. I hate to say it but I think it was picked by the people who “make” televsion. If you look at the end of reality shows it says that the judges decisions were made after talking with the producers (I mean it doesn’t say it in that clear language but that’s what it means). Otherwise why would Marcell still be there? He was in many loosing teams and obviously doesn’t have what it takes to run a kitchen – which is what part of being a Top Chef is all about. He doesn’t engender his self to anyone. Elia was only being nice to him this whole time because he had no one else and in the end even she as mild mannered as she was couldn’t take it. Sam was the best and I think that it was an cheap shot to say that he didn’t cook anything. Cooking does not have to involve the introduction of heat to still have the verb be accurate. It should have been Sam and Ilan and everyone knows it.

    I love to watch food shows and I have watched all the episodes of both Top Chefs even though they are not that overwhelmingly good – but if Marcell wins next week that I will never watch it again. And many of my friends feel the same way. Marcell just hasn’t matured as a person enough to even understanding what serving food to people is all about.

    Someday we will hear more great things about Sam – and at least he won the overall $10,000 as the fan favorite.

  2. erin Says:

    I agree–Sam was my favorite (and not just because he’s cute too :).

  3. cassandra Says:

    Marcell was simply the best. I dont care if he was “innoying” , it was wrong to gang up on him!! they bullied him, because they felt threatned by him.! I hope Marcel achieves the succes he deserves!!!!! To beacome something greater than the title “Top chef”. Ps: he was so cute:)

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