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Top Chef Masters 2 Ep. #10 - FINALE - 06/09/10 (Spoilers)

OK, it's here - the final three are Rick Moonen, Marcus Samuelsson, and Susur Lee. The 3 of them are driven to Union Station in L.A. - they are to celebrate each of their journeys as a chef.

1st dish - 1st food memory
2nd dish - the experience that made them want to become a chef
3rd dish - describes them as a chef

Tom Colicchio, Michael Chiarello, Rick Bayless, and Hubert Keller are the guest judges along with the regular judges. (ETA: Just realized that Gael Greene hasn't been at JT in the last few weeks, nor is she here at the finale!)

I love hearing their stories of each of their life's journeys in loving food and becoming a chef!

And in Whole Foods, Rick predicts it'll come down to him and Susur. Hmmm, is that the editing kiss of death for him for saying that?

And at the beginning of prep on the 2nd day, Kelly has that "big surprise" for the finalists - their sous chefs from their restaurants to help them out.

Hmm....after how each course was enjoyed by the diners, it looks like perhaps each of them took a course? It does sound like they LOVED Rick's venison third course (and I have to admit, that looked absolutely heavenly!)

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  1. well, to me it seems Rick is given the most air time, most voice over time....I am rooting for Susur however, his food is the one I would most like to eat. However, I hope the show focuses on how tremendous all the chefs are.

    1. Based on the questions asked of the chefs, it seems pretty even across the board! Let's see how the judges discuss after they're back in the kitchen!

      OK, based on what the editing elves allowed us to hear:

      1st course - seems to go to Rick with his perfect oyster
      2nd course - This one went to Marcus with his flan
      3rd course - Rick? But they also liked Susur's dish as well.

      1. And the winner is:

        Susur - 17 stars
        Marcus - 17-1/2 stars! (And wow - Jay gave him 5 stars!)
        Rick - 17 stars (And Oseland gave him 5 stars - and wants to marry him! LOL)

        And Marcus wins!

        Didn't hear ANYTHING about Marcus's other dishes except the 2nd course - THIS is when I definitely wish we could see more of JT!

        6 Replies
        1. re: LindaWhit

          "Didn't hear ANYTHING about Marcus's other dishes except the 2nd course "
          when they were eating, Gail was oohing & aahing over the flavor of Marcus' first course, and a couple of them remarked that his fish was cooked perfectly.

          based on the comments at the meal & Critics' Table, i would have predicted Marcus & Rick being neck & neck for the win - Susur seemed to fall just a *teeny* bit short this tine. unfortunately i knew Marcus was going to win based on editing - they spliced him in with what was obviously a post-judging interview, making a comment about those last 2 seconds getting the foie "ganache" on the plates, and i can't remember his exact words, but it was something to the effect that he would have lost if he hadn't gotten them on there in time. slap on the wrist to the editing elves for that mid-show spoiler!

          i was *thrilled* with the outcome - Marcus was my top choice from day one, with Rick a verrry close second...i almost thought/hoped the diners had given Rick 4 1/2 stars so they'd end up with a tie...though something tells me Samsung wouldn't have been too jazzed about the idea of forking over an additional 100 grand :)

          random observations:
          - i would have been happy to eat all of those dishes!
          - as always, it's so nice to get a little more insight into what makes these guys tick - i saw a side of Susur tonight that i liked a lot more than the guy they've been portraying all season. the story about his first wife was heartbreaking.
          - James Oseland needs to stop trying so hard - no more sexual innuendo, no more marriage proposals - he's just so awkward & icky!
          - Colicchio was pretty subdued...he actually just looked beat.

          and finally...
          ONE WEEK until Top Chef DC! woo-hoo!

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            "unfortunately i knew Marcus was going to win based on editing - they spliced him in with what was obviously a post-judging interview, making a comment about those last 2 seconds getting the foie "ganache" on the plates, and i can't remember his exact words, but it was something to the effect that he would have lost if he hadn't gotten them on there in time. slap on the wrist to the editing elves for that mid-show spoiler!"
            Oh, you're GOOD, ghg! I do remember that as well, my brain just didn't absorb it.

            And your random observations were good - I was thinking they gave Colicchio the minor edit because he's the main judge on the regular TC, so perhaps they let others take the forefront in comments?

            Oseland's "marriage proposal" was Toby Young-ish in ickiness. Just. So. Unnecessary. Comments on his blog at Bravo are, for the most part, ALL negative about him...wonder if they do TCM3 if they'll not invite him back.

            I also enjoyed the back stories - and yes, Susur was more likeable.

            1. re: LindaWhit

              Linda, just like you I remember the mid-show Marcus interview, but my brain didn't process it properly. I can't believe none of the Magical Elves caught that, I wonder if they were working down to the wire on this episode.

              Ghg, it was very interesting to see another side of Susur. I also agree it was heartbreaking to hear the story about his first wife. Hearing the story coupled with the way he told the story and the emotion in his voice, it really made me think of Susur in a completely different light.

              I love hearing the back stories, and I love hearing the stories paired with a dish. This is easily my favorite episode of TCM.

              As for Oseland, I agree with you, ghg, he needs to "stop trying so hard." I also agree with you, Linda, his marriage proposal is very Toby Young-esque, and for me that means rehearsed. Although I did partly figure out why I haven't liked him as a judge, and truth be told despite the rehearsed comments I actually thought he was better than he usually is at JT. In this episode Oseland was excited about his role as a judge from beginning to end, he was excited to eat, judge and score the food. I cannot remember an episode this season where he seemed like he was happy to be there, and he usually took it out on the cheftestants. Speaking for myself, if JO could always seem like he wanted to be there, leave his personal feelings at the door and quit the awful comments, then I would be fine with his being there next season. I know that is a pretty tall order, so that said, I also wonder if they will replace him and with who.

              1. re: lizzy

                I thought he was better on this episode too, besides the marriage comment of course. He seemed more natural and yes, like he was happy to be there. Take Ted Allen off Chopped and bring him on this show where he has personality. Rotate a few others and it would be fine. I think Kelly is pretty much a blank slate, not sure why she elicits such hatred.

              2. re: LindaWhit

                somehow i think for many that mock proposal would have had less of an ick factor if it had come from kelly instead.

                1. re: thew

                  I don't care what his sexual preference is. It just was completely unnecessary, and therefore, the ick factor was there. And despite how he attempted to defend himself on this week's blog about how he treated Jonathan Waxman, he seemed (to *me*) to allow personal feelings enter his scoring and the manner in which he delivered those scores. I just don't like him in general...again, regardless of sexual preference.

            1. re: Shrinkrap

              Marcus! Boo!! I was rooting for Susur all the way and too lose by half a point that just out right wrong.

              1. re: elvisahmed

                I know editing can be misleading, but I still don't see how Marcus pulls out the win after the hot mess of his 3rd dish which everybody seemed to dislike.

                If Marcus didn't play the whole African culture card, then I don't think he wins it. He basically got a get out of free jail card with that dish because the judges couldn't judge it- they disliked it, but they didn't know if they disliked it because they didn't like the dish itself or Marcus' execution of that dish.

                In a PC world, no judge is going to torpedo an exotic dish because you'll come as ignorant and close minded.

                If that's what it took to win, Susur should have done the same thing with that tuna component from his second dish- claim it was an Asian cultural thing and that's how that dish is done in Asia.

                Otherwise, Susur has a harder job when he leaves the path of authenticity- he has to meld asian and western tastes to appeal to both groups. Whereas, Marcus just dumped that third dish on the judges with a take it or leave it attitude.

                1. re: hobbess

                  As you mentioned yourself, it's probable that editing had a lot to do with this.

                  I assume they were trying to be deliberately misleading for more of a surprise ending.

                  1. re: eviemichael

                    Editing can be misleading- it might not show positive or negative comments about a dish.

                    At the same time, it can't put words into a person's mouth either.

                    And, we clearly saw that most of the people there did not like Marcus' third dish. In fact, those same judges later expliciity said they were struggling with how to judge the third dish which they admitted they didn't like.

                    1. re: hobbess

                      Did they really not like his third dish as a whole, or did they not like elements of it, like the texture? I always tell my kids just because it's different doesn't mean you can't like it. I was impressed that they were able to accept his explanation about how they'd like it after 6 times, and this was his self-appointed mission, to share African cuisine with America. (He was more eloquent than I!) After sending Jonathan and Susan home for playing it safe, it was pretty darn consistent for them to reward him for taking that risk.

                      1. re: momjamin

                        I found his comment about liking it after six times interesting, and true of my experience with Ethiopian food. I didn't really care for it much the first four or five times I had it, but I was determined to develop a taste for it, and on the fifth or sixth time I tried it, it's like something was properly rewired in my brain: a veil was lifted from my eyes and I fell in love.

                        1. re: vorpal

                          But, the judges were judging the dish after the first tasting, not after they've eaten it five or six times already.

                          As a master chef, I would have expected Marcus to create a dish that was both true to what inspired it and yet appeal to those unfamiliar with the dish that inspired it. I'm all for innovation and pushing the envelope, but even the most innovative chefs like Feran Adrian still ground their innovative dishes to make it familiar to diners.

                          In the real world, who's going to keep eating the same dish 6 X when they hated it the first 5 times they tried it unless you're a kid where your mom makes you eat it or you're forcing yourself to like it.

                          Storytelling was an important aspect of the challenge, but I really didn't want to see the winner of the show determined by who had the best argument that Marcus pulled out. At the end of the day, food is still a visceral experience that has to taste good.

                            1. re: hobbess

                              Sorry, hobbess: I wasn't trying to imply that the judges should have judged on the assumption that they would have liked the dish had they tried it five or six times. Indeed, they should have judged according to their tastes at the time, and I felt that Marcus was probably the least deserving of the title based on the comments that were made.

                              All I wanted to do was point out that Marcus was probably right in what he was saying. He should, however, have taken that into consideration when feeding the judges and adjusted for a non-African palate. Indeed, I'm a huge worshipper of Thai food, but the first time I introduce someone to it, I tone the spiciness way down, as there is virtually no way that they would find it appealing in its authentic state.

                    2. re: hobbess

                      This was a very close decision. I was also cheering for Susur.
                      However, I don't buy into the African culture card and the judges being PC. Some could argue that Susur pulled the "tragedy card" for his sushi course.

                      I miss Gael Greene as a judge. She seemed to be pretty fair at giving stars.
                      Oseland and Rayner seem to have skewed likes.

                      1. re: dave_c

                        skewed? raynor gave between 4-5 stars, not much variation there
                        same with oseland

                        1. re: celfie

                          skewed... Oseland has been notorious for scorning people lower when compared to the other judges.

                          1. re: dave_c

                            "scorning people lower" - I know you probably meant to have the first "n" out of that word, but actually, the slip of the fingers actually WORKS in this case, dave_c! LOL

                            1. re: LindaWhit

                              oops... It does work! Must be my subconscious mind taking over, but am I ever conscious? :-)

                  2. re: Shrinkrap

                    I agree - Yay Marcus! I've eaten at Aquavit three times over the last few years and every time it has been exceptional.

                    1. re: redbecca

                      Wow - really? I ate there and it was awful.

                      1. re: wincountrygirl

                        Marcus isn't cooking at Aquavit any more, and hasn't for quite some time. He's getting ready to open a new place, Red Rooster, in Harlem in the fall.

                        1. re: ChefJune

                          Right, but it is his restaurant with his name associated with it so I would think he would be responsible for the quality of the food.

                          1. re: wincountrygirl

                            Not any longer. he is no longer "Chef/Owner," just a minority shareholder.

                              1. re: wincountrygirl

                                or maybe you just didn't like the food. Plenty of people still do. Red Rooster hasn't opened yet - ChefJune - where's your info on who's the chef at Aquavit now? I couldn't find it on the website.

                                1. re: redbecca

                                  according to the online chef database, it's Marcus Jernmark, the former Exec Sous Chef there under Marcus Samuelsson...

                                  1. re: redbecca

                                    Too much cream and very, very bland and under seasoned.

                    2. we should all tremble in fear of the force the judges have unleashed. this is just going to make susur open 10 more restaurants or something.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: celfie

                        that's hilarious! Yes, imagine being the censor guy if they televised his phone call home after losing! But did anyone else notice how his "narrative" for each course kept changing!? I like the guy, but I felt like he was pulling a lot of BS to just permit to cook what he wanted to cook!

                      2. I loved this episode. I loved their challenge, and I would have loved to eat all the food -- even the big red blob on Susur's 2nd plate. I loved that in the end, the scores were closerthanclose. And, as much as I love both Rick and his food, I was thrilled Marcus took the win. One reason was that I liked his charity best of the 3... clean water for 3rd world countries!

                        Next step for me is to try Susur's food. I've eaten both Marcus' and Rick's multiple times. Although must say I'm more anxious to go to Barbuto. ;)

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: ChefJune

                          Barbuto is at the top of my list, too. Something about Jonathan Waxman's personalty is very appealing to me. I haven't eaten at Susur's in years, though, and barely remember anything specific except that it was very good.

                          1. re: jeanmarieok

                            I ate at Barbuto last year because of the raves for Waxman. It can be good and the atmosphere of the restaurant is wonderful, but be prepared for a salt explosion. After my dining partner went back there with another friend recently they had to send their food back because it was so over-salted.

                            1. re: redbecca

                              Interesting...I had the same experience when I had lunch there once. Waitress asked me how my pasta was, and I said that it had been very salty. When I got the bill later, she'd removed not only the pasta, but the dessert I had afterward. I was fairly stunned by this generosity, and it left me with a good feeling about Barbuto.

                          2. re: ChefJune

                            I live in NYC, but have never tried out Barbuto or Shang. I just checked out Shang's menu and it's so weird that the creativity and complexity of dishes he created during the competition doesn't really reflect on Shang's menu. It looks very ordinary with none of the main dishes really interesting me at all. I would definitely eat any of the dishes he made during the show.

                              1. re: celfie

                                Susur is a Master when he is in the Kitchen. Having eaten at "Susur" at its peak I think it was up there among the best in Toronto. Sadly Toronto is not NYC! and the high end cuisine is lacking to say the least. If Michelin ever comes here I doubt any place will get 2 Stars let alone the coveted 3 stars. I think a lot of celebrity chefs leave the kitchen and promote "other" business and the kitchen suffers (Joel Robuchon is an exception) So if Susur is cooking in the kitchen by all means give it a try.

                            1. re: ChefJune

                              June, you already know from our dinner date discussion that Marcus was my favorite, but i neglected to mention that his charity was also my top pick of the 3 finalists. (even though Wylie Dufresne has never been a favorite of mine, i was really disappointed he was eliminated so early, because his charity - Autism Speaks - is particularly dear to my heart.)

                              1. re: ChefJune

                                Chef June, I was so happy to read what you said about Marcus's charity. I thought the chefs were all brilliant, but I was especially thrilled at all that money going to such a wonderful cause.

                                1. According to his blog, Jay Rayner was furious at Rick Moonen and went on a tirade at JT that they didn't air. Basically, he calls Rick a fraud when it comes to sustainability...


                                  41 Replies
                                  1. re: bignickpsu

                                    i absolutely agree with raynor. the whole moonen shtick was very tiresome. i'm sure he's a nice guy and all but this whole fish guy business was over the top. raynor is absolutely right about the sustainability issues as well.

                                    1. re: celfie

                                      Sustainable does not necessarily mean local. In some cases, it is more environmentally friendly to buy meat from New Zealand than it is in America due to the environmental impact of raising the animal.

                                      1. re: bignickpsu

                                        air travel is one of the most damning factors in the calculation of the ecological footprint. I cannot imagine inter-continental trade in meat ever being more sustainable than local or national trade.

                                        1. re: celfie

                                          As was said by a couple of comments on Jay's blog - perhaps you're mixing up "sustainability" and "environmental impact." To wit, someone wrote:

                                          "As some commenters above pointed out, "sustainability" is not synonymous with "environmental." No doubt, they are are related and generally are correlated, but sustainability means you are not destroying a species by eating it (which is especially frequent with fish species), while environmental-type things mean you're not destroying the environment by excess emissions and chemicals and things like that.

                                          So, in some sense, he did not necessarily violate his main goal of "sustainability" by bringing in the venison from New Zealand."
                                          And on that, I have to agree. While it was odd to see Rick Moonen choose to cook venison, as what defines him as a chef IS fish, he wasn't out of line on the sustainability viewpoint - but from an environmental viewpoint, he was.

                                          But that wasn't the focus of the challenge (sustainability). The challenge for the third dish was "what defines you as a chef" - and on that note, venison doesn't define Rick Moonen

                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                            Agreed to a point.

                                            However, I feel like I remember a few times this year where he mentioned being typecast as "the fish guy". Maybe that is how others define him but he feels that is not what defines him as a chef.

                                            1. re: bignickpsu

                                              Good point, but even Moonen had commented in past challenges about his extreme disappointment in not getting the fish choice (I think Marcus chose it that time). He put himself OUT there as the fish guy by almost always cooking fish.


                                              A list of the recipes Rick made for TCM2:

                                              Mussel & Scallop Stew with Orange & Fennel
                                              Shrimp Moon Doggie with Herb Slaw and Mustard Caviar
                                              Opakapaka and Barramundi Ceviche
                                              Brandade of Shrimp and Scallop
                                              Preserved Lemon Custard with Macadamia, Coconut and Pineapple Emulsion
                                              Chicken Fried Sable, Lemon Confit Tartar Sauce, Twice Fried Potatoes & Fennel Slaw
                                              Cream Biscuit Berry Shortcake
                                              Seafood Mix Grill: Opah, Coho Salmon & Swordfish on Sweet & Sour Eggplant
                                              Shrimp and Scallop Thai Curry with Baby Bok Choy & Coconut Jasmine Rice
                                              “Homer”: Shrimp "Sloppy D'Oh!" with Truffle Chips and Beer
                                              Poached Black Chicken Mousse & Roulade, Monkfish Liver Torchon, Buttered Leeks
                                              Spice Crusted Swordfish, Crimson Potatoes, Daikon, Radishes, and Parsnips
                                              Pork Loin, Poached Oysters, Bacon & Spicy Cream
                                              Scallop, Mussel & Pancetta Asian-Style Cioppino
                                              Glazed Kishi Oyster with American Sturgeon Caviar & Hamachi & Live Sea Scallop Crudo
                                              "Bacon & Eggs": Braised Pork Belly with a Poached Egg, Truffles, Gnocchi & Turnip
                                              Venison with Matsutake Mushrooms, Pear Butter, Stuffed Cippolini Onions, Brussels Sprout Leaves & Natural Jus

                                              Out of 17 dishes attributed to Moonen, 6 are not fish-related...and two of those are desserts. So let's say out of 15 dishes, 4 aren't fish related. That makes approximately 75% of his dishes fish-related.

                                              Yup - he's the fish guy. :-)

                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                TOTALLY AGREE! He was the fish guy, because he pouted, ranted and raved based on whether he got to cook fish or not!

                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                  WIth regards to Moonen not always getting the fish he wants:

                                                  In episode 6, Rick Moonen got the first choice for the Surf and Turf elimination challenge because he won the quickfire.

                                                  And, he ended up bypassing one of the better sustainable options out there, giant squid, in favor of one of the worst ones, monkfish liver.

                                                  So, if Judge Jay wanted to call out Moonen, choosing to cook monkfish would have been more appropriate criticism than carbon footprint.

                                                  And, quite frankly, as much talk as Moonen talked about sustainability, he didn't really use this opportunity to do much with it. In a contest like this, you don't necessarily need to win the 100K to make a difference for your charity because you're given a national platform where you can promote your charity or issues.

                                                  Looking at his dishes, he probably could have done more for sustainability by cooking more sustainable but less popular fishes that would have inspired viewers to also cook those fishes. Some of his choices like oysters are pretty sustainable but already pretty popular and familiar with tv viewers. He could have done fish dishes like sardines and anchovies, fishes which people might not have thought about cooking before they saw him cook it on tv. There's a chef in Vancouver at Blue Water Cafe who does a special menu like that.

                                              2. re: LindaWhit

                                                listen, i just got a degree in environmental science and i am a biology graduate student. i know these terms inside and out - quite frankly sustainability is a word without a definition. the goals of sustainability are inextricably linked with environmental impact. you absolutely cannot separate them. in fact, they are quite commonly used interchangeably. because you purchase fish from stocks that are not overharvested does not mean you are acting in a sustainable way towards that species. You cannot claim to be sustainable if your practices degrade habitat and undoubtedly, carbon emission from airplanes and ships is responsible for enormous changes to marine habitat. No doubt Moonen is a fish guy, but as Raynor points out, zar of sustainability, not so much. Raynor simply pointed out the contradiction in Moonen's preperation of theme.

                                                1. re: celfie

                                                  I didn't *ask* you to separate them. The person I quoted also said they're linked. However, their meanings *are* different enough, and the manner in which Rayner was using it as it related to Moonen using venison was incorrect, IMO.

                                                  1. re: celfie

                                                    "quite frankly sustainability is a word without a definition"
                                                    really? not according to the EPA...

                                                    plus, you said yourself that "the goals of sustainability are inextricably linked with environmental impact." how can you assign goals to an undefined concept?

                                                    for argument's sake, if we say that ecological sustainability involves maintaining the diversity and productivity of the Earth and its systems, then Rick didn't commit any horrendous crime here. venison farming practices in NZ are far less damaging to the environment than those commonly employed in the US, and they're not a threat to the survival of the species of animal...yes, the carbon footprint of shipping the meat to the US is pretty large, but the reality is that the venison was already *there* at Whole Foods - he simply chose to use what was available to him. if this had been a situation where the chefs had several days to prepare and Rick opted to order NZ venison and have it flown in for the competition, i'd see reason to criticize him...but that wasn't the case here. plus, why attack him for the venison, but not question the "sustainability" of every other ingredient he used throughout the competition? Whole Foods doesn't limit their stock of seafood, meat, or anything else to 100% environmentally-friendly, sustainably raised and packaged items. should Rick then be criticized for participating in the competition at all since he inevitably had to use *other* non-sustainable ingredients? was the pork belly from a heritage breed on a locally raised farm? was every morsel of seafood he prepared plucked from the waters of the Pacific just off the Southern California coast? was the cream that he used in some of his dishes organic cream from a dairy here in Southern California? if he had chosen to restrict himself to using nothing but "sustainable" ingredients throughout the competition, his options would have been severely limited, and considering that he was doing this *for charity,* he's hardly the only one who would have lost out.

                                                    i haven't read the blogs yet so i don't know what Rayner's explanation is for his anger, but i call BS. he's been testy all season, and i think he was looking for something to bitch about...and if his "issue" with Rick's choice to use the venison affected his scoring of the dish (which i suspect it probably did), then he pretty much screwed him out of the title.

                                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                      Nope, Rayner is bitching about Moonen's "posturing about sustainability" - and that by using venison that came from New Zealand, it didn't adhere to Moonen's "sustainable food" bent. Doesn't matter that all of WF's venison comes from NZ, as ChefJune says below.

                                                      And yes - other dishes weren't judged on their sustainable ingredients, so Rayner was definitely wrong in his rant about the finale ingredients used by Moonen.

                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                        "Doesn't matter that all of WF's venison comes from NZ, as ChefJune says below."
                                                        ok, i think you, June & i are in agreement here. he was working with what was available to him and shouldn't be criticized for that because he didn't have any other options for sourcing ingredients.

                                                2. re: celfie

                                                  I couldn't find anything regarding the US but I did find this...

                                                  "A study examining lamb-meat production in New Zealand and the United Kingdom* found that producing lamb in New Zealand and shipping to the UK produced one quarter of the carbon dioxide of producing lamb in normal intensive conditions in the UK. The shipping of New Zealand lamb to the UK contributed only 18% of the total CO2 emissions. The main contributing factors to New Zealand’s lower numbers are the fact that animals are not housed in New Zealand, they are fed a 100% grass diet and farmers use a smaller amount of fertilizer in New Zealand."

                                                3. re: bignickpsu

                                                  I wonder how stuff from NZ, AU or even Chile arrive in the US. Refrigerated cargo containers on a slow boat? Air Cargo?

                                                  1. re: dave_c

                                                    either way, the environmental impact of either modes is not sustainable

                                                    1. re: celfie

                                                      agreed, but you're dealing with a major supermarket chain that sources TONS of ingredients from around the world. it's likely that a lot of what Rick used throughout the competition wasn't obtained in an environmentally friendly manner because he had no choice but to use what was available to him at Whole Foods. i just don't see why the venison suddenly becomes an issue.

                                                  2. re: celfie

                                                    He is wrong. I've known Rick for a loooong time, and he is sincere about sustainability, particularly of the oceans. and he practices what he preaches. He is also a superior fish cook.

                                                    Rick was going for the win.... All the venison they carry at WFMis from New Zealand, so if he was going to cook venison, it was going to be New Zealand venison.

                                                    1. re: ChefJune

                                                      If New Zealand venison is all WF had, then he was stuck with it, wasn't he? And then gets raked over the coals by Raynor. Perhaps Jay should harp at WF corporate, not Rick.

                                                      1. re: ChefJune

                                                        I think people are taking this "sustainability" debate a little too long. Let's all harken back to a day, in the very recent past, where normal shoppers and even foodies had not the foggiest clue as to what fish were damaging our ecosystem. It wasn't discussed why we shouldn't eat farmed salmon or Chilean seabass.

                                                        It wasn't common knowledge, there were not the lovely charts we have in most of our supermarkets telling us what's on the seafood watch lists. I think if someone is saying their specialty is seafood, and they are known for sustainability...it's a little obvious what they are alluding to. Not every restaurant is buying/serving sustainable fish, and just because someone isn't a crusader for whole world sustainability...let's give them a little credit for doing what they actually do.

                                                          1. re: wincountrygirl

                                                            "and just because someone isn't a crusader for whole world sustainability...let's give them a little credit for doing what they actually do."
                                                            Ditto the thank you!

                                                              1. re: sommrluv

                                                                In the late lamented "Good Family" animated program, their version of Whole Foods had melon, organic melon, organic sustainable melon, and local organic sustainable melon all available, and of the price went up and up with each choice. I would bet that a majority of Americans, (not of chowhounds of course!) didn't get that joke, and most of them have no idea what "sustainable" means. I am glad that the topic was brought up in such a public forum, and hope is is being discussed across the country, and not just being debated by foodies who disagree on the semantics.

                                                    2. re: bignickpsu

                                                      I was disappointed with the finale blogs. I was hoping for more comments on their finale meal, what the judges liked and disliked. It seemed like the judges used the finale post as a way of defending themselves or taking one last parting shot.

                                                      1. re: bignickpsu

                                                        People might find this link interesting also...
                                                        All the comments (including the anonymous ones) are worth a read, too... :-


                                                        That site also has an interview w/ Samuelsson - go to the main "National" page.

                                                        1. re: huiray

                                                          Good interview - I laughed at the idea of his voice on a GPS system. :-)

                                                          And I like what he said about sustainability and carbon footprint and the Vegas/L.A. link and Long Island/NYC link. How very true!

                                                          "The message is the same, no matter where you are. Sustainability, carbon footprint; they're different, you know. And I'm an hour out of LA, where there are great restaurants and great seafood product. It takes you two hours to get a piece of tuna from Long Island to New York City, but no one ever questions that, just because there's no water in the desert. Fact number two: Las Vegas is closer to more organic farms than LA. True. It's proximity. It's perception."

                                                          And oh my - he *does* rip Jay Rayner a new one, doesn't he? LOL And responds to him on his FB page as well after the interview was done. And Jay responds to Moonen in one of the comments...Oh my, indeed.

                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                            that GPS comment was hilarious!

                                                            i don't know how Waxman would feel about this one:

                                                            "I was eating at Bud's and Jams. Those were Jonathan Waxman's restaurants. Then there's my generation, which is old. Then there's the younger generation. So it was just pretty cool."
                                                            - so if he was a kid at Waxman's place, and he calls his own generation "old," what does that make Jonathan...ancient?

                                                            the whole interview was brilliant, and makes me like Rick even more than i already did...his arguments are absolutely valid. unfortunately now i can't get a very disturbing image - Jay Rayner, carrying a ukulele, tiptoeing through a field of tulips - out of my head ;)

                                                            what did Rayner say on Rick's FB page? by the time i got to it the comment had apparently been removed...

                                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                              Oh, I meant Jay's response to Moonen on that interview linked above by huiray. And then Moonen responds to Jay.

                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                There have been more comments since then...

                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                  I saw. And thanks for posting the link to Ms. Moffat's comments to Jay Rayner at the Eater blog comments section. :-)

                                                            2. re: LindaWhit

                                                              he's fooling himself. it's nice that he has carved himself a nice little niche but he's actually full of it. you cannot celebrate yourself as a champion of sustainability while ignoring your carbon footprint and ecological footprint. they are inextricably linked to sustainability. if you want to see a restaurant that can call itself sustainable, watch the Maine episode of No Reservations. The very fact that Moonen is in Vegas cancels any possibility of practicing sustainable business. The sustainable vegas restaurant is almost a tourist destination. Visitors can really feel like they've accomplished something by eating at the sustainable fish restaurant. Meanwhile, the hotel it is in probably has a massive buffet that goes through thousands of pounds of shrimp. The hypocrisy is everywhere.

                                                              1. re: celfie

                                                                ok, so unless you're going to do it absolutely, positively 100% right and to the utmost extreme, and you're in a location that allows for that, you shouldn't even bother? that's useful. i guess since the people of Vegas apparently have no hope of ever effecting any sort of positive change regarding the environmental impact of their consumption, they should just throw in the towel and subsist on a a diet of factory-farmed meat and plastic bottles of water, huh? or better yet, abandon the city, move to a place where they *can* live according to your extremist gospel and just let Vegas wither and die.

                                                                1. re: celfie

                                                                  So absolutely everyone in Vegas or ANY major city, for that matter, should just forget about food that might come from only an hour away in L.A. or the farmlands in southern New York State and just eat at fast food places like McDonald's because Vegas (or NYC) is completely incapable of growing enough food to sustain life in that immediate city? Yeah, I'll let you tell them that.

                                                                  Not everyone is in a position to be able to grow their food year-round (such as me in New England). So what? I should just eat hardtack, beef jerky, and carrots, potatoes and turnips in the winter?

                                                                  Come on. It's NOT 100% all-or-nothing. Doing something - ANYTHING - by buying as local as you can is sustainable, provided the item is grown or raised sustainably...meaning the fish aren't being overfished to the point of extinction, etc.

                                                                  If you want to follow the Alice Waters extremist methodology if you're able, fine. (I see you seem to live in Quebec, so I'm not sure how that is possible either!) But I agree with Moonen - sustainability and carbon footprint are different. And we'll just have to agree to disagree on that.

                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                    make no mistake, his restaurant is in a casino because it is easy money. if he was environmentally motivated, and cared about the city of las vegas, maybe his mind blowing sustainable restaurant would be off the strip. you cannot be environmentally motivated and support the casinos. they are an environmental catastrophe!!!!!

                                                                    1. re: celfie

                                                                      I'm fully aware of why his restaurant is in a hotel. They built it for him.

                                                                      But you seem to infer that the entire city of Las Vegas should be razed, as the entire city is a catastrophe based on your parameters. Well, OK then. I say small steps to correct what has taken generations to happen is a GOOD thing.

                                                                      But obviously, not everyone agrees. So as I said - we'll have to agree to disagree.

                                                                      1. re: celfie

                                                                        @celfie, i'm not sure why you're so intent on making Rick out to be a villain, but it's awfully tiresome. he didn't BUILD the restaurant there, he was *recruited* to cook there...and instead of pooh-poohing the possibilities since it was in [gasp!] Vegas, he opted to *make the best* of the situation. you may not approve of his methods, but at the very least the guy has good intentions. cut him some slack already!

                                                                        1. re: celfie

                                                                          What's wrong with casinos? Last time I checked they appear to hire a lot of people.

                                                                          1. re: steve h.

                                                                            i don't know steve h, why don't you think about it and then let me know

                                                                            1. re: celfie

                                                                              I have. They employ a lot of people. That's a good thing.

                                                              2. I really enjoyed this episode. I was rooting for Rick but I liked Susur a lot as well. I was surprised Marcus won, but of course...it's all editing.

                                                                I agree with a previous poster, with his excitement recapping putting the foie dish down, he said in those last two seconds he made it or "he would have lost it all" I believe. I thought then, hmmm, maybe it's not rick.

                                                                One thing I thought was odd...did he hold up a picture and say "this is my sister, and she must wake at 3am to get fresh water everyday." ?

                                                                I know he has quite a few half siblings still living in ethiopia, but it seemed odd to me that someone who has such success would leave siblings to live in poverty and such a struggle for basic needs.

                                                                That could just be my own ignorant "western" point of view as well...their life might seem cruel and hard, but it's not really better or worse than how we live, it's just different. It still just seemed odd to me...either he isn't interfering in their life for whatever reason, and it's a "good" life from a point of view, or it's a harsh life and she's the sad poster child of his chosen charity, and they need help.

                                                                14 Replies
                                                                1. re: sommrluv

                                                                  i think it is safe for you to assume that any existence where one must worry about clean water on a daily basis is difficult regardless of your culture. who knows marcus' family's circumstance - it could be that they are from a village without running water. I doubt he personally has the resources to improve the infrastructure in ethiopia.

                                                                  1. re: celfie

                                                                    Celfie, I just thought I'd give you a shout here because in the main, I've been agreeing with you all the way down. Sometimes, people get drowned out and I figured I'd voice my support (rather than add my own contentious WTF around the question of why people choose to stay in their homeland and help develop the infrastructure rather than leave).

                                                                    (And also, the point about sustainability stands-- and Moonen's sudden 'tree hugger' defence did little to demonstrate the flaws of WF. He was more than welcome to question their practices whilst pointing out his own wish to show off other skills. But when he said 'tree hugger', he suddenly became dismissive and derisive about the mission he claims to uphold. It was an unfortunate choice, and indeed off-putting to watch. A shame.)

                                                                    1. re: Lizard

                                                                      I agree - it was an unfortunate choice of words. But he was put on the spot by Rayner, and Moonen most certainly didn't have time to go research whether the venison was air-freighted or ship-freighted and that the deer were able to frolic across New Zealand's hills and dales. He went with what he was able to buy. And since WF's premise is that the food they sell is sustainably raised, who was he to question it? If Rayner has an issue with sustainability as he (and celfie) appear to interpret it, then he should bring it up with WF, shouldn't he?

                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                        I appreciate your question, but no. What Rayner was addressing was a dish assigned to define the chefs. As it happens, Moonen has frequently called attention to his interest in sustainability (a term that is quite wide, in fact, and deals with the question of sustainable practice in a wide array of arenas-- not simply replenishing animal supplies) and in that regard, left himself open to just that question. In such a context, it was fair does. It was also quite welcome to see someone engage the question of sustainability rather than simply use it as a brand or selling point.

                                                                        It's also worth pointing out that very little of Rayner's questioning (and none of the apoplexy) made it into the final cut. It was Rayner who copped to this after the airing.. As to allowing this to influence his scoring, my guess it is like all the other criteria: how well did this define the chef, and how might the chef have better accounted for the decisions?

                                                                        It seems to me that this line of questioning is now creating a strange amount of anger in this thread. I don't get it at all.

                                                                        1. re: Lizard

                                                                          I don't disagree with you on the 3rd dish being about what defines you as a chef...I even noted it above as the OP. I myself viewed Moonen as a "fish guy", based on what I know of him and what he said on the show.

                                                                          But it (the thread) has denigrated into what is or isn't "sustainability". And there are those that disagree with what celfie's claim as to what sustainability is. That is where the anger/disagreement comes from.

                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                            i already stated there is no one definition of sustainability but the essence of sustainability includes a low ecological footprint. that's it, the end.

                                                                            1. re: celfie

                                                                              The end, according to you. Got it. You have one opinion on the definition of sustainability, I have another. That's why they're called "opinions" - everyone's got 'em. So "the end" for me as well.

                                                                            2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                              Thanks for clarifying, Linda. Sadly, I'm still not clear on the anger raging around the definition. It seems to me that Celfie is correct in noting that sustainability embraces a wide range of matters in sustainable development, and that these are not limited to ensuring the continued availability of a food product. Indeed, according to DEFRA (Department of Environmental, Farming and Rural Affairs-- a UK org) these include the promotion of environmental aspects in supply and preparation. This is a huge field as the proliferation of Sustainable Development departments across universities suggests. It is one that reaches across borders of disciplines, nations, ecosystems, and practices-- not to mention definitions! The rubric is broad and lacking in precision-- leading to the creation of definition in discourse or in policy.

                                                                              And as far as Top Chef goes, Chef Moonen could have chosen to handle the question a bit better. The dismissal-- one that avoided calling attention to the frustrations of how to achieve sustainable practice-- was unfortunate.

                                                                              It seems to me that many are seeing the questions of sustainability as somehow impugning Chef Moonen's ability, sincerity, or decency. Perhaps that's why people are getting angry?

                                                                              As for a thread 'denigrating'-- fascinating. I think that is exactly what's happened to it! :)

                                                                          2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                            And really, the "wild" meat was farmed. Would it have been OK if it had been culled locally? Instread of farmed abroad? Or is that worse? And does anyone watch "the Last Restaurant Standing?" One of the contestants was ridiculed for wanting to open a restaurant that served only local food. For much of the world only local only is simply not possible. This discussion could go on and on. Rick doesn't cook fish at risk of extinction. Cudos to him for that!

                                                                      2. re: sommrluv

                                                                        My husband said the same thing: "WTF? Why is she still in Africa in a place with no water?" And I suggested that perhaps not everyone WANTS to immigrate to the United States. I am personally trying to get out! ;) kidding. My point is that people don't necessarily want to leave their homes, but just had to laugh that someone had the same reaction as my husband.

                                                                        1. re: toutefrite

                                                                          I'm glad SOMEONE was thinking what I was, toute! I'm obviously not implying that he could create water out of sand in a day, but goodness, I've moved my sister from across town because of a bad relationship. I certainly would not let her have to carry water for three hours daily (or whatever the quote was).

                                                                          That being said...I didn't want to be the ignorant american who things that EVERYONE should come here because we're so great. I've had friends study here while their countries were experiencing horrendous genocide, and chose to go back.

                                                                          It's a completely different way of life than I've exposed to, but the statement still is...either she's there and she's happy, and doesn't want to leave, or she's suffering and hates it, and he's using her as a poster child for ....whatever.

                                                                          1. re: sommrluv

                                                                            I had that thought too, both in the finale, and way back in the beginning when he gave the reason he chose his charity; he said something along the lines of "my sister" or "my sisters and brothers" -- don't have access to clean water. I first thought like above "HUH"? then I thought, maybe he means "sisters and brothers" in a human sense, since he did say that he and his sister were adopted to Sweden.... It would be interesting to know a bit more of the back story there. But clearly from what was said in the finale, it really was his sister (or half sister-- not clear what happened to his father-- did he just up and leave?)

                                                                            1. re: DGresh

                                                                              he said he father was believed killed in war, and then a few years later found alive

                                                                          2. re: toutefrite

                                                                            I can totally see Marcus going up to his sister or half-sister in Africa, and whispering to her ear, "You know what the lesson is... Its best to take care of yourself."

                                                                        2. > Rick predicts it'll come down to him and Susur.

                                                                          When he said this, I realized Marcus had a darn good chance of taking it all!

                                                                          1. gah I didn't really like what I saw with Marcus' cooking overall during the entire season.

                                                                            I'm disappointed Susur didn't win and its kind of strange that Marcus would suddenly become more top chef master material after an entire season of being in the bottom.

                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Johnny L

                                                                              This was an extraordinarily close contest, based on a single star. Marcus won by a half star, with 17.5 to Rick and Susur's 17 each. I think that says that any of the three could have taken it; there are so many little variables that can make or break a single meal. What would have happened if Rayner hadn't gotten so het up about the sustainability issue and scored Rick based on that? Might have been a tie (would they allow a tie, I wonder?), or Rick could have taken it.

                                                                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                "(would they allow a tie, I wonder?)"
                                                                                i think the sponsors are the ones who would have to "allow" a tie - they'd be forking over an additional $100 grand.

                                                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                  Yes, I imagine that because thw winner is promised a $100K donation to his or her chosen charity, they would not split the money between two. Therefore, this may be one of those rare instances when the "with input from producers" cause holds sway, i.e., the producers say, there must be a single winner, so perhaps if initial scores produce a tie some rejiggering would happen. That is, I doubt Sprint is saying, sure, we'll throw down another $100K.

                                                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                    ahh, it was Sprint - i think i said Samsung in my comments last night - [checks last night's post] - yep, i did. oops!

                                                                                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                      i don't think $100,000 or $200,000 makes any difference to sprint. That money is just part of their promotional budget, which i assume is a great deal larger than that.

                                                                                2. re: Johnny L

                                                                                  I did not think Marcus would even make it to the finals let alone win. The judges hated his Ethiopian dish but then they decided since he didn't compromise his integrity it was wonderful. Well, Jonathan Waxman stuck to his guns too when he had to cook depression and made his comfort food. They somehow overlooked that. When those judges like someone,they like him. Having eaten at Aquavit recently, I am seriously underwhelmed my Marcus's food. He should not have won.

                                                                                  1. re: wincountrygirl

                                                                                    waxman's was a lazy dish. marcus' at least took some work.

                                                                                3. James Oseland is annoying rather than insightful. I can't think of a single reason why he should be back next season as a judge. Gael Greene? Being very old should not justify a seat at the front of the Top Chef judges' table.

                                                                                  Come on Bravo, you can, and should, do better when choosing judges. The chefs this season were articulate and talented: lots of left brain, right brain stuff going on. The judges? Not so much. Pity, the series, from a viewer standpoint, could have been better.

                                                                                  Just my $0.02.

                                                                                  58 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: steve h.

                                                                                    i think we're all in agreement on this one, and they need a new *host* as well. they should just clean house and start with a completely new panel for TCM3...assuming there is a 3rd season.

                                                                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                      Ugh, the hosts & the judges! They lost my respect when they gave Mike Chiarello (sp) a win for packaged pasta in the vegan challange last year.

                                                                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                        Yes, new host - PLEASE. And get rid of that guy from Saveur.

                                                                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                          Except for Rayner and Gail Simmons - I liked having her on the judges panel this season. But Oseland, Choi, and Greene can all go, IMO - in that order if they need to choose. :-)

                                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                            Rayner can go too, he really pissed me off this season - he was so cranky! if i want to watch a curmudgeonly food judge i'll turn on ICA for a dose of Steingarten. you know i love Gail, but i don't think of her as a Masters judge - in my mind, she's part of the Top Chef 1.0 crew. when i said they should clean house, i meant Kelly, Gael Greene, Rayner & Oseland.

                                                                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                              Ahhh, but Rayner's explained his crankiness - supposed to have a day off after days of filming, and then Gael couldn't make it and he had to sub-judge with an hour's notice. I'm willing to forgive him that. :-)

                                                                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                I see it a little differently, insofar as both Oseland and Rayner are completely joyless - about the best they can muster (when not proposing marriage to cheftestants) is that something was "perfectly cooked". Whoopdy doo! The reason this season was so difficult to parse (and judge from in front of the TV) is that these two and Ms. Choi were all so non-descriptive in their criticism (Plus the fact that the edits didn't help. Plus the fact that we viewers can't taste the food). At least Gael Greene seems to find some pleasure or displeasure in what she's eating and is articulate about it. And, I totally agree that Gail Simmons is the only one I trust of them all to give me the lowdown on what's good and what is not. Frankly, whoever she judged on top at the end of this show probably made the best food that night and deserved to win, but it wasn't a party of one, unfortunately.

                                                                                            2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                              oh really?. i think the host and judges are just fine. the show isn't about them, anyway.

                                                                                              1. re: linus

                                                                                                a number of us have been griping about them pretty much since the beginning of the *first* season. though the show may not be "about" them, they certainly get sufficient camera time to influence a viewer's enjoyment.

                                                                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                  " a number of us" certainly carries a different meaning than "we all." and "a viewer" certainly carries a different meaning than "all viewers" or even "most viewers."
                                                                                                  and bravo is much more interested in whether or not you're tuning in (well, not you, but neilson households, i suppose) than enjoying the program.
                                                                                                  i mean, you dislike the judges and hosts and you watched anyway, right?

                                                                                                  1. re: linus

                                                                                                    I think TCM3 would be a better show if Bravo shuffled the judges. James is pedantic and adds nothing positive to the drama. Ms. Greene does not have the personality to be a regular judge: a few guest appearances? maybe. Jay? I don't know what to say. Sometimes it seems like he flat forgot to take his meds.

                                                                                                    My point is simple: the chefs are pretty good and the current crop of judges are not up to the task. In a perfect world, I would like to see two regular judges plus a weekly guest judge who is a practicing chef. Imagine for a moment Michael Ruhlman and Frank Bruni as the two regular judges. They would be balanced by a rotating chair of active chefs (let your imagination go wild).

                                                                                                    Top Chef Masters deserve top judges. We haven't seen this over the past two seasons.

                                                                                                    Just my $0.02.

                                                                                                    1. re: steve h.

                                                                                                      Imagine for a moment Michael Ruhlman and Frank Bruni as the two regular judges.
                                                                                                      I *LOVE* the idea of Ruhlman as a judge!

                                                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                        i guess i don't understand this notion of "deserving" anything when it comes to a television show.
                                                                                                        i think everyone who watches television thinks of ways whatever show they're watching could be better. this does not necessarily have anything to do with whether or not they watch the show.

                                                                                                        1. re: linus

                                                                                                          Where did I say anything about "deserving" something? I just would like Michael Ruhlman as a judge on TCM3.

                                                                                                          Oh - you were replying to steve h. instead of me. Gotta click that reply button next time. :-)

                                                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                            um...i did click the reply button. i guess i have as much control over where chowhound places my comments as chowhounders have over top chef judge selection.

                                                                                                            1. re: linus

                                                                                                              But you probably clicked the reply button to my post immediately below steve h's vs. the one on his post to which you were replying.

                                                                                                              I just couldn't understand why you were talking about deserving something when I hadn't posted that.

                                                                                                                1. re: linus

                                                                                                                  linus was replying to me. I thought my comments were clear. I stand by them.
                                                                                                                  One more modest point: The judges are an integral part of the show. They easily account for 35-40 per cent of camera time, maybe more. The current crop of judges, in my opinion, are the weakest link in the show. It would make good business sense, good entertainment sense, to dismiss the current crop of judges and amp the judging to the quality of the cooking. I offered a judging formula that I thought was sustainable and would cut down on the Bozo factor.

                                                                                                                  1. re: steve h.

                                                                                                                    and i stand by mine. i don't think the judges are an integral part of the show, i don't think they're the weakest link in the show, and it makes no sense to replace them unless the powers that be find a massive amount of viewers tuning out because they don't like them.
                                                                                                                    which, i don't think will happen, because people who don't like them -- some posters here, for example -- still. watch. the. show.

                                                                                                                    1. re: linus

                                                                                                                      The judges are an integral part of the show. They consume 35-40 per-cent of camera time and ultimately decide the outcome of the contest: usually twice per episode. That's a simple fact.

                                                                                                                      I'll continue watching up to a point. I see room for improvement. Others may agree/disagree. So be it.

                                                                                                                      1. re: steve h.

                                                                                                                        My husband won't watch any more because of the judges - mainly Oseland. I can't stomach him myself, but I will continue to watch.

                                                                                                                        1. re: steve h.

                                                                                                                          i guess your definition of simple fact and integral are different than mine. that there are judges on the show i won't deny; who they are is not necessarily relevant.

                                                                                                                          1. re: linus

                                                                                                                            It's quite relevant and pertinent to the fact that they shape the outcome in the "quickfires", determine who moves on episode-to-episode and ultimately decide winners and losers.
                                                                                                                            I would venture to say the judges' role is significant.

                                                                                                                            1. re: steve h.

                                                                                                                              Especially judges that obviously have prejudices for or against certain chefs. Oseland seemed to really dislike Michael C last year. Each has the ability to make or break a chef - by 1/2 star!

                                                                                                                              1. re: steve h.

                                                                                                                                does the outcome REALLY matter? regardless of the outcome, people who want to watch this t.v. show will watch it, won't they?
                                                                                                                                as long as someone is judging, maintaining the basic format of the program, WHO those judges are isn't really that relevant.

                                                                                                                                1. re: linus

                                                                                                                                  The show is a competition. That's how the producers and the network pitched it. Competition, as you know, has winners and losers.
                                                                                                                                  Judging is important.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: steve h.

                                                                                                                                    it's not a competition. it's a television show. created, designed and produced for the sole purpose of getting high ratings in order to sell advertising.
                                                                                                                                    the world cup is a competition.
                                                                                                                                    without television, top chef and top chef masters does not exist, and would not exist.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: linus

                                                                                                                                      "it's not a competition"
                                                                                                                                      competition: the act or process of competing - to strive consciously or unconsciously for an objective, as position, profit, or a prize.

                                                                                                                                      Top Chef IS a competition by definition. *so what* if it came to be thanks to the wonders of television? it's not scripted, the contestants are not actors reading from scripts, and the outcome is not predetermined.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                        of course it's scripted. people are told where to stand and what they are going to do in what order. what you see is determined by people who are not "competing". the show is cast, not determined by competition.
                                                                                                                                        the story told (o.k., not the outcome or the dialogue, but everything else) is one pre or post determined off camera (so and so is the villian, so and so is the hero, so and so is passive aggressive).
                                                                                                                                        you don't see and hear anything close to everything that is going on. you see and hear a tiny portion that is not necessarily focused on the outcome as the main source of entertainment.
                                                                                                                                        when you watch the olympic 100 meter dash, sure there's a lot of b.s. on the screen before the gun goes off, and the athletes run a predetermined course.
                                                                                                                                        but the purpose of the olympic 100 meter dash is to determine a winner, not garner television ratings.once the race begins, though camera angles are chosen in the editing room, there's no story to be told other than who the winner is. the entire point is to determine a winner.
                                                                                                                                        in my opinion, this is not the case nor the main attraction of top chef.
                                                                                                                                        o.k., some people posting here really pay attention to the judging and the judges of top chef masters.
                                                                                                                                        i don't. i watch it to see the chefs, their personalities and their cooking skills. i don't take more than a passing interest in who wins. do i like watching the judges? sometimes i do, sometimes i don't, but it's not anything close to the main reason i watch the show. regardless of who the judges are, regardless of who the chefs are, even, i watch the show.
                                                                                                                                        do i think some of the casting choices are wanting? sure. do i watch anyway? sure.
                                                                                                                                        do i think there are other people who tune in to see the chef personalities and cooking? sure.

                                                                                                                                        as i posted a while ago, everyone who watches television thinks there are ways the shows they watch can be improved. it doesn't mean they will tune out if they're not.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                          Linus is correct. All reality shows like TC are scripted. The scripting is designed to ensure conflict and suspense that keeps the reader watching. The camera operator and the editor are looking for certain things to happen and that's what they focus on.

                                                                                                                                          The casting alone is part of the scripting process. That's why there is always someone who is annoying -- someone who's a little off balance -- someone with a short fuse -- someone very competitive -- someone attractive to male and female viewers. Heroes and villians.are what make TV worth watching.

                                                                                                                                          So are the story lines. Participants are ongoingly coached behind the scenes by producers.

                                                                                                                                          This is TV. The purpose is to sell advertising and make money. You can only make money with a big enough audience. Audiences tune in when there is conflict and suspense.

                                                                                                                                          Do some people watch because they're interested in watching people cook? Sure. And they're gravy for the producers. But notice how many complaints those people have that the actually cooking techniques take a back seat to the "drama" of the show.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: chicgail

                                                                                                                                            "scripted" implies that they're reading lines off a teleprompter and that the outcome is predetermined...none of which applies here. are the dynamics *manipulated* to make for the best TV? absolutely. but that's not at all the same thing.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                              there are many more parts to a script than dialogue and the end.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                A reality TV producer will tell you that their shows are, in fact, scripted. That doesn't mean it's written line-by-line before shooting, but they pretty much know whats going to happen and then they prepare the script for editing.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: linus

                                                                                                                                        "does the outcome REALLY matter?"
                                                                                                                                        it sure does to the charities that get the proceeds!

                                                                                                                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                          true enough. but posters here seem to watch the show regardless of the outcome.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: linus

                                                                                                                                            true enough. but posters here seem to watch the show regardless of the outcome.
                                                                                                                                            this argument doesn't make much sense - we don't know the outcome until AFTER we watch it. if we already knew how it was going to play out, there wouldn't be nearly as much point in watching, now would there? hence the *spoiler alert* in the title of all these threads.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                              my point being the outcome is not the reason posters here watch the show.
                                                                                                                                              the outcome is, from what i read here, incidental to the drama, the cooking, etc. that goes on beforehand.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: linus

                                                                                                                                                "the outcome is not the reason posters here watch the show."
                                                                                                                                                for *some* of us, it IS part of the reason. yes, i enjoy watching them cook, but i also enjoy the experience of choosing one or two chefs i'd want to see win, and rooting for them. so please don't make blanket statements or assumptions about "all" the posters here.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                  ghg, I think it's time to let that Sisyphean rock roll back down the hill and leave it there. It just isn't worth it at times. :-)

                                                                                                                                                  And now - on to Top Chef Season 7 with Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, Eric Ripert - w00t!

                                                                                                                                                  (And I just read that they finish the show in Montreal - nice that they're going to a different place for the finale!)

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                    i make statements based on what i read here. and, from what i've read here, regardless of what happens to your favourites, or how much you like or dislike the judges, you watch.
                                                                                                                                                    and i didn't intend to imply it wasn't part of the reason. i just think, from what i've read here, it's a very small one.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                      i have only made statements based on what's posted here. and, i did not intend to imply the outcome played zero part in why people watch this show. i meant it plays a small one, at best.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: linus

                                                                                                                                                        I totally agree, linus. Anyway this is about the drama (no, not even ultimately about the cooking for the producers and most viewers). The destination may be interesting, but how you get there is what is compelling.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: linus

                                                                                                                                                          "i did not intend to imply the outcome played zero part in why people watch this show. i meant it plays a small one, at best."
                                                                                                                                                          see, that's all i was asking for ;) i just think it's best if we avoid talking in absolutes - there's always room for interpretation or departure from the "norm."

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: linus

                                                                                                                                                    people watch the world series regardless of the outcome too

                                                                                                                                        2. re: linus

                                                                                                                                          Yes. I still. watch. the. show. And I expressed my dismay and disappointment at Toby Young being a judge on the regular TC for two seasons. And lookie here! He's out, and Ripert is in this upcoming season.

                                                                                                                                          So I do think it happens.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                            Now can we wish Bourdain back in once in a while? I really liked his sense of humor.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                              who knows why toby young isn't on the show?

                                                                                                                                      3. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                        Linda, the reply function has been acting up lately - dumping responses in arbitrary locations. the first few times it happened i thought maybe i had somehow clicked on the wrong spot, but it's happening pretty often, even after i've double-checked to be sure i'm replying in the right place...so now when i'm addressing someone in particular, i've been *trying* to remember to include their name to avoid confusion.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                          Odd - I've not seen it except early on when the site switched to this software (nor has it happened to me that I can recall). Thanks, ghg, for the detailed explanation.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                    Linda, you know that Eric Ripert is replacing Toby Young as a *full-time* judge for the DC season, right?

                                                                                                                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                        Oh yes, I saw that Phaedrus posted that awhile back for your and my benefit. Next Wednesday, 9pm EDT, can't come soon enough. :-)

                                                                                                                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                          Good change. Very good change. If nothing else, Eric Ripert is so much better to look at than Toby Young.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: chicgail

                                                                                                                                            i don't watch often, but i enjoyed this finale. I couldn't imagine the difficulty of choosing: it seemed to me that each of the three produced glorious, personal and engaging food. I loved the back stories, and I didn't feel they were forced. My food tastes resonated toward what Rick prepared, but I felt that I was looking at three great sensibilities at work so I didn't feel "cheated" when my particular favorite didn't win. And I love Eric Ripert so I'm looking forward to that change. I always feel he criticizes from the perspective of respectful affection and never for malice or "show."

                                                                                                                                            1. re: teezeetoo

                                                                                                                                              Agree on Ripert's way of critiquing when he's been a guest judge on TC.

                                                                                                                                              While Bourdain's manner of critiquing is one thing, Ripert's is the polar opposite. But I do enjoy both types. And both aren't too shabby to look at either. ;-)

                                                                                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                Ripert is a teacher. He wants to see people succeed. He's an admirable guy in my book.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                          Ruhlman was a horrible judge on Next Iron Chef , where they crowned his friend, Michael Symon, as the winner.

                                                                                                                                          First of all, he was misogynistic towards his fellow judge, Donatella.

                                                                                                                                          Then, he admits, all things being equal, the tie would go towards his friend.

                                                                                                                                          And, there was that controversy about the way the winner was decided. (To accept the final, you kind of had to believe that Ruhlman messed up and wrote poorly on his blog about what happened).

                                                                                                                            2. Forgive me for being late and for not reading all 180 posts here but does anyone know why Gael Greene didn't judge the finale?! Just curious.

                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                  That's what she said in her newsletter.

                                                                                                                                2. re: HabaneroJane

                                                                                                                                  I believe on her Bravo blog, she mentioned she was hosting a fund raiser... so it was a scheduling conflict.