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Top Cheftestants

OK, we have had three episodes, I think its time to make some determinations on this season's Cheftestants. So how does this season stack up in talent, and talent only against the previous seasons? A couple of criteria comes to mind when speaking of the comparison: how good is this class on average as compared to the other seasons and how wide spread are the talents of this season's candidates as compared to previous season's sacrificial lambs?

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  1. I am not enjoying as much this year...and I am not quite sure why. I don't like the quickfires as much, I know that.

    1. I think the show, gulp, might be running it's course. It's tough to stimulate an audience when you've basically seen everything. I think if they wnat to have a season 5, they might very well have to change the format, or tweak it at least.

      I think the quickfires are actually a little more exciting than the main competition, and possibly they should spend a little more time on that. I also think that expanding the show to 90 minutes and showing a little more background on the contestant, and definitely more of the decision making process would be great.

      1. I think next season or the one after we will see an 'all star' version. Past contestants coming back to try their luck again.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Withnail42

          I'd like to see an all-star version too, but not a watered-down one like the "holiday" one they had last year.

          1. re: xo_kizzy_xo

            I was thinking of a regular full season, like they have done with Survivor and the Amazing Race.

          2. re: Withnail42

            LeeAnn waz robbed! Bring back LeeAnn!

          3. I think they ought to go back to a smaller number of contestants, and maybe do a 90-minute opener where they mostly just introduce the folks and do a quickfire or something.

            Last season I remember a lot of the same kinds of comments the first few weeks: it's just not as interesting, we don't care as much about the people, and so on; but I really think that's in large part because (a) there are too many of them and thus not enough time to get to know each one; and (b) it's early yet.

            But I wasn't as inspired by the dishes that were cooked last season; it seemed like everything was well above my skill level and featured ingredients I can't get, much less use.

            I vote that if there's a season 5, they go back to fewer contestants.

            7 Replies
            1. re: revsharkie

              I agree, fewer contestants. Season 1 started with 12, and we knew them all after only one episode.

              1. re: judybird

                I would also like to see fewer contestants and then we could get to know them better. I also thought it was strange to have so many chefs from Chicago where the show is. I think part of the challenge in the past was adjusting to being away from home and out of their element.

              2. re: revsharkie

                ???? why would you expect to cook at their level. Are you a chef?

                I also agree that fewer contestants would yield a more interesting contest. How many more are there this year than last? I think maybe only one, but it does make a difference.

                1. re: ChefJune

                  Season 1: 12
                  Season 2: 15
                  Season 3: 15
                  Season 4: 16

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    That's kind of what I thought, but somehow, 15 seemed okay, but 16 is too many. Does that make any sense?

                    1. re: ChefJune

                      Yes. Straw + camel's back kind of thing. But I liked 12 better. It may even have forced the producers to focus more on the food and what they were doing with it.

                      1. re: ChefJune

                        It does. I think 12 was *almost* too few - but I'd probably be OK with 14. Still allows focus on food, as Caroline says, but also allows development of the cheftestants so we can get to know them and their cooking styles a bit more.

                2. I find Season 4 lacking in a lot of ways. First and foremost, I don't think any of this year's "cheftestants" has reached to level of cooking expertise of previous seasons. For me, and I have watched all episodes to date, maybe one is beginning to "bloom" as an imaginative cook.

                  Then I think Padma and Collichio are "phoning in" their roles. Well, that, and the writers seem to be out to lunch. The thing on this last show (#3?) of having the chefs go door to door to gather food for a block party was not only lame, it was stupid. When does such a situation ever occur in real life? Just tooo "cutsely."

                  This season they are using a LOT of air time showing stuff that doesn't need to be shown. Try timing the opening sequence before they get around to the first round of cooking. Way too long. I don't think I'm alone, but I would like to see more of the cooking of each cheftestant, with maybe a bit of conversation with them about why they've chosen to cook what they are cooking. I'd certainly have been curious about why, under the sun, Erik chose corn dogs! Or why what's-her-name chose blinis, freely admitting she'd never even made them before. I just see lot of common sense mixed with imagination completely missing in this year's participants. There *is* no Hung this year! I'm often left with the feeling the show would be more interesting if they had a bunch of short order cooks from random restaurants competing.

                  Things have GOT to get better!!!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Caroline1

                    I agree that the timing seems off--I'm more interesting in the decision-making and preparation than the serving and reactions of the judges as they try everyting. Most of the finished dishes seem to appear out of thin air--how did that quinoa cake come together?
                    And can we ban the term "cheftestants"? It's awkward, gimmicky and should be wrapped up in a Glad bag and dumped in the trash.

                    1. re: newhavener07

                      I agree that this crew is not very impressive so far, but a big part is that the editors seem to be focusing more on the failures, the bad dishes, and the lapses in judgment. I guess there is a segment of the audience that loves watching "hot messes" as much as being inspired by great food.

                      This last episode almost no time was given to the successful dishes...they never even said what fruits were in Stephanie's winning fruit salad or how they were prepared or seasoned. Dale's pork skewers were never described in detail, and they were the best thing that team served.

                      It seems to me that Andrew, Stephanie and Mark have made some creative and outstanding food and they are my picks for the best so far. Let's hope the editors start being positive and stop trying to wring drama from the chefs making mistakes.

                  2. In terms of talent, the skill level seems to be the lowest of any of the other seasons. From what I remember of the previous season, there was at least two chefs with solid quickfire and solid challenge dishes. They may not be the winning dish, but they were always up there in the final tier. Also, they made dishes that were appealing.

                    This season seems more about personality, whining and smack talking. For all their talk, they don't seem to be bringing the goods. Maybe too much free booze at the house? Hard to work under a time constraint when you're hungover.

                    I hope they do the blind-folded tasting challenge this season. I think it's a hoot when the chefs brag about their palates, but get stumped on very common items.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: dave_c

                      Are we watching the same season? Remember Season 1 with Lisa, the home cook and Candace, the culinary student/model? I disagree with those who say that Season 4 contestants are unimpressive. I don't think there are enough episodes shown to draw conclusions like that at this point. Right now, I'm watching Stephanie, Mark, Dale, Antonia and Richard. And I agree with kenito who says that editors like to showcase the failures more because it makes for better TV.

                      I think the reason there are so many contestants is because Bravo is trying to milk more episodes out of each season. It all comes down to money.

                      Just wanted to add (if Bravo's reading) that I absolutely hate the whole lesbian couple who have their own blog thing element on the show. I actually have a high threshold for stupid things like product placement. I understand that Top Chef is on Bravo, not PBS. But I feel that Bravo's really crossed the line with the couple thing. Leaves a really bad taste in my mouth.

                      1. re: Miss Needle

                        Agree with the fact that Season 1 had the worst of the worst and so far for me, Season 3 has been the best of the best. Still debating the TC4 cheftestants, but the standouts so far seem to be: Stephanie, Richard (although I dislike him - don't know if it's his hair or the molecular gastronomy thing), the Kiwi, Mark. Dale only had a bit of focus on him, even with the kebabs in the most recent episode supposedly being one of the best tasting items the judges ate.

                        The continual focus on Andrew I'm still trying to figure out - is it because he's going to implode, or because he's going to finally get it under control and start wiping up the floor with everyone else? Don't know. After the outburst last week, I'm leaning towards the implosion.

                        1. re: LindaWhit

                          I hope he implodes. The guy gets on my last nerve. "This is my house" - oh, please. Personally, I'm liking Antonia, Stephanie, and Dale so far.

                        2. re: Miss Needle

                          Exactly... Season 1 you had the home cook and the culinary student.

                          This season you have working chefs where a majority of them also have a culinary degree. I believe Erik, Zoi and Mark are the only self-taught chefs. Maybe my expectations are higher with working professionals and cheftestants that know what the show's about with three seasons worth of video to review.

                        3. re: dave_c

                          "I hope they do the blind-folded tasting challenge this season. I think it's a hoot when the chefs brag about their palates, but get stumped on very common items."
                          Looks like that's coming up on April 9th: "The budding chefs' taste buds are scrutinized in a taste test. Guest judge and chef Ming Tsai helps administer the exam. Later, the elimination challenge finds the contestants catering a high-class charity event using elements from the earth."

                          1. re: LindaWhit

                            More catering? Sigh. Maybe they at least get to cook on-site.

                        4. I'm feeling like they may have "jumped the shark" this season. The lesbian couple? Yawn. This season's contestants all seem to have an edge to them like they were chosen because they were "characters" rather than talented chefs. I know, I know, that has to be part of the equation, but with few exceptions, they're lacking anyone that I truly want to see win. I'll keep watching but I'm bored.

                          1. Having just watched the program the second time -- which is undoubtedly more of a comment on the state of TV programming than an interest in watching TC as many times as possible -- it occurs to me that there are certain things these puppies just don't seem to understand about food...

                            When you pack hot corn dogs (or any other breaded/batter encrusted food) in a closed metal container for transport without anything (paper towels?) inside the container to help reduce/absorb the condensation, they are going to sweat and turn soggy! When you reach your destination, unpack them, when your destination is well equipped with multiple charcoal barbecues, crisp them up!

                            When you make mac and cheese using melted Velveeta as a major component of the sauce, the nature of Velveeta is to reharden when cold. Use a not-too-thick bechamel sauce with grated cheese for flavor as your sauce so it won't turn into a "brick" when cold.

                            Don't set up false expectations for your dish by calling it a classic name when it isn't anything close to the classic dish. Waldorf salad does not contain chicken OR blue cheese. I have to wonder how that salad, that sounds quite interesting, would have been recieved if they had called it "Bleu Apple Salad," or something else instead of Waldorf? I don't recall any criticisms of the salad -- "sogginess" included -- that weren't tied to them calling it "Waldorf." You set up expectations for something with a classic name, you'd better meet those expectations or you will end up paying a price for misleading people. They paid the price.

                            All three of these criticisms fall within basic "Cooking 101" in my book. So why don't these people, who have chosen above-and-beyond-short-order-cooking as their life pursuit know these things? I'm having difficulty coming up with a reasonable answer to that one.

                            1. From what I've seen, this group is neither as talented or interesting as previous contestants (I didn't watch season two..but watched season 1 and 3 faithfully). Okay, you're competing in Chicago...I would expect the Chicago pizza challenge, Mexican and Rick Bayliss as a judge, a hot dog challenge at some point, a steakhouse challenge, possible tailgaiting depending on when filming was, and something to do with a Chicago celebrity such as Oprah or Michael Jordan. I would come armed with a cake recipe, cookie and pie crust since I am a non-baker. I would LISTEN to the challenges and judges. You know there are going to be teams challenges (I hope that isn't the case this week) involving off site prep for large numbers. This season there are too many contestants and it seems as if none of them have ever watched the program.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                They did film a tailgating challenge. No idea when (if) it will air.

                              2. A lot of this thread has migrated to complaints about the show not focusing enough on food but I'll keep on task here and name who I think are the strongest contenders:

                                Richard (even though something about him bothers me)

                                I also really like Spike and Andrew despite their sometimes annoying personalities.