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Jan 28, 2009 06:21 AM

Top Chef - is humiliation really necessary?

I enjoy watching for the food, but all the glares, stares and personal intrusions are enough to cause one to lose one's appitite.

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    1. re: Phaedrus

      The interesting ideas about food get lost in the reality TV snarkiness.

      1. re: chowfamily

        Who is being humiliated? And in what way? It is a reality show after all, they know what they are getting into when they apply. Or am I misunderstanding your point?

        1. re: chowfamily

          These peopel are chefs, they should have pretty thick skin when dealing with customers who send their food back, chefs who criticize everything they do, and food critics who lambaste their food publicly on blogs and newspapers. They should be used to it or need to get used to it.

          What they do on a daily basis is an act of courage by putting their work out there for the public to judge, so getting beat on by mere judghes mean nothing.

          Now, snarkiness on this level is what is needed IF they are given specifics as to WHY they didn't like what the chefs did. BUT, if the snarkiness gets personal and serves no purpose, much like some of the commentary that Toby Young dishes out, THAST is detracting from the conversation. I learn something when the judges criticize AND give reasons for why they criticize.

          1. re: Phaedrus

            Agreed, and the insights on a culinary level are what make it worth watching. I's the personal intrusions and the running around the grocery store, and showing off both chefs and judges as less than they are that is disturbing.

            1. re: chowfamily

              I fail to see how running around a grocery store is disturbing. This is one example of product placement in TC that I really don't mind. Furthermore, I think it is integral to the show as a whole. Isn't picking out produce and meats/seafood part of the cooking process? How many times have we seen a cheftestant pick out an inferior product only to have it bite them in the ass later? OTOH, we have also seen people have a plan in mind only to see an ingredient that catches their eye and then they win the EC. For me it's an opportunity to be part of the cheftestant's cooking process, from store to table, and to understand them better as a chef.

              1. re: lizzy

                It is not the reality of running around the grocery store that bothers me. Shopping for food is one of the more realistic aspects of the program. but it is reduced to silliness.
                It would be far more interesting to see the ingredients, how they are prepared, with the other nonsense edited out.

                1. re: chowfamily

                  "It is not the reality of running around the grocery store that bothers me. Shopping for food is one of the more realistic aspects of the program. but it is reduced to silliness."
                  If it's not the reality of running around the grocery store and shopping for food is realistic, then I don't understand why you think this is reduced to silliness. I do not understand your reasoning of why you think this way.

                  Again, I enjoy seeing the shopping. It gives me insight into their creative process, and why they would choose some ingredients over others. Without seeing the shopping I don't think the EC would be that much different than the QF.

              2. re: chowfamily

                Running around the grocery store is how some of them come up with their ideas. Some of them don't have anything planned until they get to the store. How would they have explained that crazy woman cooking an ostrich egg quiche, if they hadn't shown her "discovering" them during the Whole Foods shopping trip. Or what about the time in Season One when Harold couldn't get the butcher at Safeway(?) to sell him a whole salmon. ("She won't give me the salmon, man!!") The grocery trips demonstrate some of the challenges the chefs are faced with and how they do or don't deal with them. Sorry, but I don't see how that is humiliating.

                1. re: pisang goreng

                  I find that bit to be part of the creative process!
                  I loved when Hosea and someone else I can't recall - went behind the counter to butcher their own fish!

                  I find TC to be the best reality show on tv. I think it has allot of integrity.

                  Okay, I know allot of folks could do without some of the "drama" such as filming Hosea and Leah smooching...
                  BUT for me, personally the drama lets me see a bit of the cheftestants characters.
                  Personally, I NEED to know about their characters - so I know who to root for!
                  If they didnt show all that stuff, I would have no basis (since we can't actually taste the food!) on who to root for !
                  Therefore, it would be a rather boring experience...In fact I most likely would not even watch! (certainly not for a whole season).

                  I may be assuming here, but I would think allot of folks, although they would like to think they are superior to that kind of thinking - feel the same way whether they admit it or not!

                  1. re: pisang goreng

                    That scene with Harold and the salmon was at Berkeley Bowl!

                    1. re: milklady

                      Was it? Thanks for reminding me never to ask for a whole salmon at Berkeley Bowl! =P Didn't he end up having to buy frozen?

                      1. re: milklady

                        No - I was referring to this season.
                        Hosea and I think Eugene went behind the counter to cut thier fish.
                        I thought it was pretty cool.

            2. I thought sadism was pretty much 80% of the reality TV formula.

              1. I DO not and have NEVER watched "reality" TV for that reason. I'm not holier-than-thou (well, maybe sometimes!) but, for me, that goes too far. And I don't care that they know what they're getting into. But obviously this is what the majority of TV watchers want to see or there wouln't be so many of these shows. Thank gawd for TiVo so I always of plenty of other choices.

                31 Replies
                1. re: c oliver

                  I share your revulsion for reality TV. I am of the choundhound ethic and expected more from a food-based Bravo program. There is a level of exploitation that is totally inappropriate.

                  1. re: chowfamily

                    Uh, what "chowhound ethic" is it a law somewhere?
                    Here is the chowhound manifesto.
                    "Everyone has one in his life: the brother-in-law with a collection of 800 takeout menus, the co-worker who's late from lunch because she HAD to trek to one end of town for soup and to the other for a sandwich. Chowhounds know where the good stuff is, and they never settle for less than optimal deliciousness, whether dining in splendor or grabbing a quick slice.

                    We're not talking about foodies. Foodies eat where they're told. Chowhounds blaze trails. They comb through neighborhoods for culinary treasure. They despise hype. And while they appreciate ambiance and service, they can't be fooled by flash.

                    No media outlets serve Chowhounds. They've never had a place to gather and exchange information. This discerning, passionate crowd has long been completely invisible and utterly disenfranchised... until now.

                    If you, too, fret endlessly about making every bite count; if you'd grow weak from hunger rather than willingly eat something less than delicious, this place is for you! Welcome to our community. Let's talk. Let's swap tips.

                    You needn't be an expert to participate. If you're less food-obsessed than the rest of us, but have a yen for egg creams, gazpacho, or Quisp Cereal, let the resident hounds guide you to the best stuff. Follow (and chime in on) the rollicking discussion -- featuring thousands of messages from characters all over the world."

                    I see no mention of ethics so you must be talking about your own.

                    1. re: mmerino

                      Gosh Mmerino!
                      So well said!!

                      Here here!

                    2. re: chowfamily

                      Where is the exploitation? Adults audition for a TV show where their cooking abilities as well as other aspects of being a "top chef" are judged. They know exactly what they are signing up for and presumably they could leave anytime they chose to unless it is in their contract in which case they could just tank a challenge and get sent home.

                      1. re: chowfamily

                        Uh, you must remember that, as on all "reality" shows, these people know that they are going to be humiliated and, apparently, the financial rewards are enough to make them abandon whatever personal modesty they possess. Just because it has a food theme doesn't mean the program will be any more "moral" than the rest of the reality crap. It's a sign of the times that people seem to have no shame.

                        1. re: mnosyne

                          I agree with all of you, but because this is a food forum I put it out there.

                          My family could never understand why I tuned into the Top Chef program.

                          There is no law, but there an ethic, and we understand it differently. I've learned alot from posters on this board.

                          1. re: mnosyne

                            "Just because it has a food theme doesn't mean the program will be any more "moral" than the rest of the reality crap. It's a sign of the times that people seem to have no shame"

                            Well mnosyne - I guess you DON'T watch reality shows, because if you did you certainly would not be compating TP to some of the other reality shows!

                            To imply that these chef have "No Shame" - is incredible
                            You make it sound like the womon are forced to cook with thier tits out !

                            1. re: NellyNel

                              So I guess two people, who are "with" other people, and just happen to be sucking face on camera are showing a lot of class?

                              1. re: mnosyne

                                Hmm, 2 people in their 20's, not married but dating other people, trapped in a house for weeks with no way to pass the time end up "sucking face". The decline of western civilization, no doubt.

                                1. re: KTinNYC

                                  Well, it ultimately destroyed Hosea's relationship with his girlfriend and he is still beating himself up over it.


                                  1. re: pisang goreng

                                    I'm not suggesting that cheating on your SO on national television is a good idea but it's really not surprising.

                                    1. re: pisang goreng

                                      Well with all the controversy - I think Hosea was forced to "make a statement"
                                      Actually, Hosea and Leah are still together as a couple. I read it last week.

                                      You make it sound like they were both married!
                                      Two people meet, fall in love. No big deal. It happens all the time.

                                      This was not the focus of the enitre episode; it had a bearing on the result too, and that's why it was important.
                                      It showed that it definitely threw Leah off her game, and she nearly went home.

                                      If you think these people have no shame - you should watch "The Bachelor" or "Big Brother" or some of those really bad cable shows - you would quickly retract your statements!

                            2. re: chowfamily

                              It's not a food-based program, it's a competition reality show first and foremost. Obviously your revulsion isn't strong enough to make you stop watching it.

                              1. re: chowfamily

                                Wow. That seems rather holier-than-thou. A "Chowhound ethic"? Perhaps your own, but to revile those of us who do enjoy watching these shows seems rather condescending. Exploitation only happens when the person(s) "being exploited" aren't fully engaged and WILLING participants.

                                You're the one who started this thread, saying you enjoy TC (a reality show) for the food, but then later express your revulsion for it. So which is it?

                                If you don't like it - don't watch it.

                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                  I expected better and held it to a higher standard . INMO it is appropriate to call it out for being cruel and poorly edited, when it could focus more interestingly on food and preparation.

                                  No holier than thow here, but an otherwide interesting food program should not leave such a bad taste.

                                    1. re: chowfamily

                                      But, chowfamily, it's reality tv and people wouldn't watch it otherwise. Honestly? If you're watching a food program and know the names of face suckers ! and their personal lives, then you're probably not really watching it for the cooking, are you? It's what the majority want so I think it's what they should have. And that meanness is ubiquitous, isn't it? It's why I don't watch any of it and I don't care that contestants know what they're getting into. It's partly why I don't listen to Dr. Laura on the radio --- only a masochist would call in there. But that's me and I SO don't represent the viewing/listening public.

                                      1. re: chowfamily

                                        It's a reality show. Not sure of the "higher standard" to which you refer. Yes it's better than *most* reality shows. But push come to shove, it's a reality show. "Chowhound ethic" doesn't come into play, as much as you might think it should.

                                        Still doesn't address your revulsion of reality television as you expressed above, and the fact that you still watch the show. "Revulsion" usually means loathing, which is on the very far end of intensity. Which is why I cannot understand if you don't like the show, you still watch it.

                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                          I tuned into it from an interest in food, not reality TV. Viewers are not the target of the sentiments in the OP.

                                          1. re: chowfamily

                                            That was your first mistake. It's a reality TV show that happens to be about food, not the other way around. It's not like there was a Top Chef competition going on and Bravo decided to come and record it for television.

                                            1. re: KTinNYC

                                              Good point, KT. Buyer beware, huh?

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                Exactly. And again - the fact that the reality show aspect revolts the OP, despite the fact that it's about food, AND that s/he thinks it's exploitative - s/he still watches, which remains puzzling. If so much about the show bothers the OP, don't watch.

                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                  I think reality tv is revolting so I don't watch any of it. There are some things in my life that I can't always control (dang that husband of mine!) but TV isn't one of them.

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    But see - that's fair - you don't *like* reality TV, so you don't watch it. The OP says one thing in their initial post and later contradicts the fact that they're watching reality TV by saying it revulsive to them. I was responding to your caveat emptor/buyer beware comment. The OP seems to want it both ways.

                                                  2. re: LindaWhit

                                                    In the OP's defense s/he responded to Buckethead's post of "It's not a food-based program, it's a competition reality show first and foremost. Obviously your revulsion isn't strong enough to make you stop watching it" by stating, "Wrong on that assumption." So I'm guessing chowfamily has indeed stopped watching TC.

                                      2. re: chowfamily

                                        "expected more from a food-based Bravo program. There is a level of exploitation that is totally inappropriate."
                                        just to be clear, you ARE talking about the network that also offers "Real Housewives" and "Make me a Supermodel." it's a reality show, plain & simple. as unpalatable as some of the snarkiness & romantic drama may be, it's all part of the genre. a show like this is never going to be about *just* the food, and viewers shouldn't expect it to be. if the "glares, stares and personal intrusions" aren't your cup of tea, that's totally understandable, but then it's certainly your prerogative to change the channel and watch a straight cooking show on PBS.

                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                          The worst thing about Top Chef (and I love it) is having to sit through those ads for "Real Housewives". Now *that's* obnoxious. The "stuff" on Top Chef is really pretty harmless, all things considered.

                                            1. re: NellyNel

                                              Get a Tivo. My husband bought his when they first came out, with a lifetime subscription.

                                              It's the adblocker for television and cable.

                                            2. re: DGresh

                                              DGresh, when I first read your post, I thought, why is the Food Network showing Real Housewives. And then realized, oh, that's because it's not on FN in the US. Here in Canada we get TC on FN.

                                      3. I haven't found it as humiliating as Kenny vs Spenny, which we have not been able to stomach this past year or so:

                                        1. If you are referring to how the cheftestants treat each other, how the judges sometimes speak to the chefs, and how silly some of the challenges are (i.e. make a meal out of vending machine snacks), then I see your point. You might enjoy BBC America's Last Restaurant Standing more -- a competition with real working restaurants and challenges that are based in the real world with more realistic time limits. It's not quite as much of a pressure-cooker environment as TC. Also, the BBC/Last Restaurant Standing producers don't seem to have the Bravo/TC producers' penchant for editing for maximum drama.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: pisang goreng

                                            Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that the Last Restaurant people are couples competing together but at least one of them if not both are amateurs. Am I correct?

                                            1. re: Phaedrus

                                              Yes, that is true. They are couples (married couples, siblings, parent/child) who have "dreams" of owning a restaurant. This season's contestants have more restaurant/catering experience than last season's. Seven individuals out of the eight couples this season are trained chefs and/or have worked in restaurants as chefs/cooks, albeit not the level of professional experience and expertise as the TC chefs.