TCM vs. TC-you decide
Posted by Mark Caro
Though I have less of a rooting interest now that Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia is gone, I’m still watching “Top Chef Masters.” Nonetheless, I feel compelled to point out…
5 reasons “Top Chef Masters” is inferior to “Top Chef”:
1. Kelly Choi. Set aside Padma Lakshmi‘s va-va-voom factor, and the “Top Chef” host still comes across as fully engaged in the food as well as the competition. The blank-expressioned Choi could just as easily be reading cue cards on “Entertainment Tonight.”
2. The judges. True, Toby Young was a “Top Chef” annoyance last season (and will be replaced by New York’s Le Bernardin chef Eric Ripert in the upcoming season), but Tom Colicchio boasts more authority and insight than the combined “Top Chef Masters” judging crew. When the chefs disagree with the judges on “Top Chef,” you believe the judges. When they do so on “Masters,” you’re more likely to believe the chefs.
3. The stakes. “Top Chef” is a career-making contest among talented but relatively unknown chefs whose desire and occasional desperation are palpable. For the “Masters” chefs, the contest is icing on a cake that’s already being widely enjoyed. These folks have egos, sure, and want to win money for their charities, but they’re mostly having fun and gaining exposure for their well-established restaurants and careers.
4. The personal tension. The “Masters” chefs are a collegial bunch, as you’d expect from such recognized pros. The lack of snippiness is refreshing compared to some of the immature behavior on “Top Chef,” but television is about drama, and there’s only so much mutual backslapping and toast-giving one can take. Thank goodness arrogant Susur Lee and chicken-thigh-hoarding Marcus Samuelsson occasionally rub their colleagues the wrong way.
5. The star ratings. Unlike “Top Chef,” which determines its weekly winners and losers with no numerical justification, “Top Chef Masters” has its three judges plus collective guests rate the chefs’ dishes on a 1-to-5-star scale, and whoever accumulates the most and fewest stars wins and loses, respectively. Such transparency may seem welcome, but the culinary arts—and that’s what they are at this level—cannot be summed up in objective number rankings that don’t apparently allow the judges collectively to rescue a chef who stumbled interestingly. Also, there’s just something demeaning about these top chefs working their tails off only to face panelists’ declarations of “Two-and-a-half stars!”
Pictured: (from left) Rick Moonen, Kelly Choi, Susan Feniger -- Photo by Kelsey McNeal/Bravo
Get your own Poll!