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Top Chef Duel 8/13 spoilers Chung vs. Williamson

I skipped much of the show since they keep showing Chung making all kinds of faces. Her food sounded great, certainly most circus-like, but her choice of contrived trash talking combined with her spastic facial expressions makes me hope she would lose and I wouldn't have to see her again.

I still think judging should be blind. Why let personal bias influence judging?

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  1. Shirley's food was definitely presented in the manner required by the challenge and looked amazing. But I agree - the trash talking seemed forced between Brooke and Shirley. When Brooke won Shirley's challenge, I was wondering if Shirley was going to win Brooke's challenge, just as what happened last week (each chef winning the other's challenge).

    The dessert thingie that had to be at least 6" tall (or whatever) in a very hot kitchen didn't make sense.

    I watched the Knockout online right after, and I think Wolfgang misspoke on that. Brooke went up against Marcel, and Wolfgang told the winner that they had an automatic entry into the finale. But then told that person "you will be back next week to battle in the Knockout round again!" So which is it?

    I'm still trying to figure out if I like this show.

    6 Replies
    1. re: LindaWhit

      Williamson's 2nd dish in the duel might have tasted good but that's one dish with 3 ingredients. Is that what a 3 ringed circus means? I really think Chung's dish with 3 different tastes is more fitting. Chung's dessert for the duel was truly brilliant. How does the duel work? Do all the winners compete in one finale or they simply move on to the next round?

      1. re: Worldwide Diner

        Do you mean the Knockout? If so, I'm honestly not sure. Wasn't really explained other than what Wolfgang said to Brooke and Marcel.

        Maybe there's a video on Bravo's website about the rules of the Knockout.

        1. re: LindaWhit

          Not the knock-out. I haven't watched the knock-out. I'm wondering what happens now that Chung and Blais have won. Is there another round where they go head to head or is there a finale of all the round winners?

          1. re: Worldwide Diner

            Ohhh, that. Yes, I think they have a finale round of (I guess) 6 first round winners, plus whoever wins the Knockout?

        2. re: Worldwide Diner

          yeah I was confused about that too; and silly me, I thought the one who won the third challenge won 100k. Guess I wasn't paying attention!

          I hate the slow mo stuff. I thought the trash talk was just silly stuff, not real, so it didn't really bother me.

        3. re: LindaWhit

          Linda - I wondered the same thing about winning each other's challenges. I don't like this way of judging. I think it should be blind or they all vote without hearing what the others say and present the results.

        4. I feel like something's kind of getting lost in the edit of this show - like, for a fairly straight forward competition, I'm having a surprisingly hard time following the narrative of the episode. I think part of the issue is that even though there's not very much personal drama, there's surprisingly little explanation of what the contestants are actually cooking and how they're cooking it. A more in-depth judges's table might help, but even beyond that, it seems like the producers are falling in love with slow-mo cooking shots but strangely wary of actually talking any nuts and bolts about the food. For example, Brooke's vegan chocolate dessert was proclaimed one of the best desserts ever served on top chef. But I have no idea what was in it really - the blog and the episode hinted that she did something a lot stranger than just making a vegan chocolate mousse. Why not tell us about it?

          Chung's faces didn't bother me. But the trash-talking did. Not because I'm opposed to trash-talking. Or even because I'm opposed to the producers egging contestants on to trash talk more than they normally would. But because they were obviously really bad at and uncomfortable with trash-talking. Why bother? If the contestants have a great banter, sure, include it in the edit. If the banter is awkward and stilted and sounds obviously contrived, then find something else to focus on.

          It looks like Bravo isn't putting up much in the way of recipes on their site, which is a shame for a format like this one. There have already been a few dishes I'd have liked to look up that weren't shown in much detail in the actual episodes.

          11 Replies
          1. re: cowboyardee

            It sounded to me like the "trash talking" was prompted by the producers and not what either chef was thinking or would have said spontaneously. Somehow the producers have decided that that's what viewers want to see/hear. Apparently it's not.

            1. re: chicgail

              I think both the trashtalk and the lack of clarity stem from the fact that there's no one else in the kitchen while they cook.

              1. re: WNYamateur

                During the standard TC, not only will they have contestants talk about their own process (this is going well, this is going poorly, etc.) - there's also often the chance for the contestants to talk about one another (x is doing something I wouldn't do, y is being bossy, z is using packaged food, etc). As these challenges don't really allow for any genuine commentary other than speculation (i.e. Shirley doesn't usually make dessert) - they're forced to push them to talk to one another during the challenge. Shows like Chopped or Knife Fight have the judges serve as a 'peanut gallery' so if the contestants aren't very chatty during the challenge - there's something else to add that dynamic.

            2. re: cowboyardee

              Cowboy -
              Your first sentence nails it!

              It seems like there's a lot more cooking and a lot less cooking at the same time. There were 5 dishes from each chef prepared for a total of 10 dishes but it seemed like very little of the show was focused on the cooking. How (and why) did they do that?!?!

              On both shows I found myself easily distracted and ended up surfing the web more than watching the show.

              1. re: Bart Hound

                The format of the contest seems to be allowing for and encouraging good cooking (which has not been the case in some seasons of regular Top Chef). And the contestants seem to be rising to the challenge. So it's kind of a bummer to get so little feel for what's being made.

                In other recent seasons of Top Chef (season 9 stands out), it's seemed like the producers were favoring interpersonal drama and highly restrictive time/ingredient/etc limits over food, and structuring the contest to emphasize that. But in this season, it seems like the producers might actually be confused about what exactly makes the contest appealing - they've set up contest rules that limit interpersonal drama and favor good dishes, and then emphasize contrived trash-talking and de-emphasize the cooking and judging in the edit. Why not either play to the strengths of the contest format, or else re-arrange the contest format to get the drama you want? It doesn't make any sense to me.

                So far, this season has been like going to a great steakhouse and being served grilled chicken breast. I want the goddamn steak.

                1. re: cowboyardee

                  "I want the goddamn steak."
                  ~~~~~

                  Properly seasoned and not overcooked, of course. :-)

              2. re: cowboyardee

                Totally on target. This is really unfortunate as that episode (as well as the prior one) could have been really good and they were both rendered mediocre by overproduction, bad editing, and extremely shallow coverage of the kitchen action.

                1. re: davis_sq_pro

                  But at least they made sure to include Wolfgang complementing Gail's rack! ;-/

                  1. re: Bart Hound

                    Hah, I thought that was one of the best lines in the episode :-)

                    1. re: Bart Hound

                      And last week he was telling Gail he wouldn't touch her because her husband would kill him. Someone needs to tell him you can only be a successfully non-creepy dirty old man when you're too old to make good on your perving.

                      Which, in this day and age, may never come. I'm remembering Isaac Asimov's book on the subject but that was written a long long time ago.

                  2. re: cowboyardee

                    In an odd way, there was a moment when I was watching and thinking "FN would have produced this show better". Which was a really sad thought.

                    I do also agree that in these shows, not having a blind tasting really seems bizarre. Esp in the first two challenges. If I know that someone picked "vegan dessert" and then the other person turns out a decent dish on the fly, I'm going to expect far less from them than the person who picked the challenge and I assume has been practicing.

                  3. "I still think judging should be blind. Why let personal bias influence judging?"

                    This at the end of your comment is golden irony...I hope you did it on purpose.

                    1. Got bored really fast. The only interesting thing about it was the challenge of figuring out what knives Brooke and Shirley were using.

                      Brooke was using that hand-hammered damascus orange-handled style that's branded by numerous makers such as Togiharu, Takayuki and Yoshihiro. She also had several Suisin Inox Westerns.

                      Shirls' knives I couldn't identify (top image).

                      Japanese knives certainly have a big presence in pro kitchens these days.

                       
                       
                       
                      2 Replies
                      1. re: jimonyc

                        Shirley was using a Zanmai Pro
                        http://www.jbprince.com/cutlery/zanma...

                        I almost never see any contestants anymore using old Western standbys like Wusthof, Henckels, etc. And surprisingly few of the more mainstream Japanese knives either - Shun, Global.

                        I guess one of the upsides of those slo-mo shots is they can help me identify the knives everyone is using.