Top Chef, S11 finale.

My list of the ten prospects who just missed my top 100 was posted yesterday for Insiders. I also wanted to repost the link to my review of the cooperative game Forbidden Desert, which appeared on Paste magazine’s site a few weeks ago. I’ll be chatting today at 1 pm as well.

The Top Chef season 11 finale did not feature the two best chefs of the season, despite the judges’ claims to the contrary. Shirley had the better record coming into the penultimate episode, and from our distant vantage points (i.e., we can’t taste the food), she had the best combination of execution and creativity of anyone this season. Nick struggled through the last few episodes in New Orleans, and Nina never showed the kind of vision or inventiveness that I would expect from a Top Chef winner.

* The final elimination challenge: Take over a restaurant and make it your own for the night with a four-course menu.

* Padma is in spaghetti straps at the start. Oh, hello there.

* And then the bikini shot – Padma emerging from the waves, brushing her hair back from her face, wearing less than a fat quarter’s worth of fabric. The clip is completely gratuitous, of course.

* Nick says that he quit his job to come on Top Chef, and that winning the top prize of $125,000 would be “a kick-start to owning (his) own business,” which I can confirm that he does now, opening Laurel in Philadelphia in November. So that might have been a clue.

* Padma arrives with string bikini top on and a bunch of eliminated chefs behind her. Nick gets to pick his three sous first, and then Nina picks her three from the six who remain. He chooses Jason (they’re friends), Louis (the most technically sound chef, in Nick’s view), and Brian (saying he clicked with Brian in Restaurant Wars). Nina takes Shirley (duh), Stephanie (who says “I got those TC jitters again”), and Travis (whom she keeps calling one of the “gossip girls” … not entirely appropriate). I think she might have the stronger team, although Jason could be a lot better than we thought, and we didn’t see anything from Travis to make me think he’d be a real asset here. Janine, Carlos, and Sara were passed over. I’m not shocked – Janine wasn’t there long, the other two weren’t strong on fundamentals, and Sara didn’t come off as a team player.

* Nick wants to highlight classic and contemporary French technique. Meanwhile, Jason is already showing a better attitude – perhaps he’s aware he came off poorly the first time around.

* Nina seems to be planning with a broader palate, but still is going for Caribbean ingredients fused with Italian cuisine. She wants to do two extra “surprise” courses.

* The chefs chop at Kumu Farms, “Maui’s source for specialty farming,” as well as Whole Foods Maui, which must be the best Whole Foods on the planet. I wonder if the fish is still flopping around when it enters the store.

* Nick wants to do another panna cotta and do it well this time. Is it just me, or is panna cotta kind of overrated? It’s an eggless custard, thickened with gelatin rather than the proteins and emulsifiers found in egg yolks. That gives it a funkier texture – think strained yogurt versus those thickened with starch or pectin – and robs it of some flavor.

* There’s no ice cream machine in Nina’s kitchen, so she has to call an audible based on what she’s already purchased, making zeppole instead. That’s a big move from custard (semi-freddo) to fried dough.

* There’s a lot of protein on Nick’s menu – three savory/meat courses and then panna cotta. I understand this is a competition, not an actual restaurant, but we don’t need to eat anywhere near that much meat, nor would I want to. After two of these courses I’d be screaming for a vegetable dish. Meat is a luxury good, not an essential part of every meal.

* Tom asks Nick if his food is too subtle compared to Nina’s spicy food. Nick responds by dumping a bottle of hot sauce on Tom’s head and screaming “IS THAT TOO SUBTLE FOR YOU?”

* Nina says she prefers a cheese course to dessert. I knew I didn’t trust that woman.

* We get a little temporary drama as Nina has to continue braising her goat into day two to get it tender enough. Apparently braising goat is normally an “all-day affair.” I’ll take her word for it on that.

* In something of a surprise, Nick’s sous all seem to like working with him. Brian says he’s a “great leader.” The waitstaff won’t feel the same way by the end of the night, though.

* On the start of day two (before service), Nina checks the goat and pronounces it “chewy as fuck.” All righty then.

* When trying to explain the menu to the servers and offer them tastes of the various courses, two servers are absent and Nick demotes them before wandering off swearing. This, kids, is known as “foreshadowing.”

* The judges arrive. Gail appears to have brought the amuse-boobs to dinner. I’m not actually complaining about this. She also looks like she might give birth before the dessert course.

* Nina starts with an amuse-bouche: Breadfruit with whipped foie gras butter and curry salt on top.

* Nina’s first course: tuna and escolar tartare with tomato water, basil, and jalapeño. Escolar shouldn’t be eaten raw – the fish contains wax esters that cause severe stomach upset in some diners because our bodies can’t break them down. There’s no surefire way of reducing or eliminating them in the fish, but they’re absolutely at their highest levels when the fish is still raw. The judges appeared to have rendered their decisions before running to the bathrooms, so Nina isn’t hurt by this and they all love the dush.

* Service at Nick’s place is struggling. His expediter is either absent or clueless, or maybe he just did a lousy job of training the staff.

* Nick’s first course: Hamachi and tuna crudo with green apple wasabi, celery, and Maui meyer lemon. Once again, his fish is a touch underseasoned and needs a few grains of sea salt. You’d think by now he’d be a madman about this stuff.

* After dinner, Janine will be trying out for a part in Love Shack: The Musical, Featuring the Songs of the B-52’s.

* Nick’s second course: Sweet shrimp bisque with scallop noodles (made by Jason), shaved abalone, and daikon noodles. Chef Paul Bartolotta, one of the diners at the judges’ table, says the dish is “not sweet.” I may have missed something here in the chatter, but that’s not what “sweet shrimp” means, is it?

* Nina’s second course: Roasted goat sugo with orecchiette, cherry tomato confit, whipped goat cheese, and arugula. The goat, after all the drama, ended up perfectly cooked and seasoned. Tom says he’d come back for this dish. I love the sound of this – she did something very Italian at heart, but replaced the typical game meats you’d find in this (rabbit, boar, duck) with a very Caribbean element in goat.

* Nina’s third course: Spice-rubbed swordfish with squash puree, braised kale, and smoked onion jus. It sounds like some overpowering flavors over the mild, delicately-flavored fish (which has a meaty texture but not flavor), and the judges all say the same thing. I’m a purist when I have swordfish, which is rarely anyway – brushed with olive oil, seasoned with salt and black pepper, served with a squeeze of lime juice. It doesn’t need much more than that.

* Nick’s third course: Seared kombu-cured duck, shaved compressed kabucha squash, hijiki, and ginger. The duck is inconsistent from plate to plate – Emeril says his is chewy – but is packed with flavor and Nick did a great job rendering out the fat, which is nearly always my complaint when I order duck and don’t love it. Hijiki is a sea vegetable that grows on coastlines of China, Japan, and Korea, but apparently is high in arsenic and several countries recommend against its consumption. Good times.

* Nick’s fourth course: Caramelized white chocolate panna cotta, almond cocoa crumble, shortbread, and passion fruit and papaya puree. Delicious but not quite jiggly enough. I’m just writing what they said, people.

* Nick’s servers didn’t put spoons out even though we saw him ask them to do so. Something very weird is going on over on his side of the house. Are the servers deliberately ignoring him, maybe because he’s being rude to them? Or are we missing something entirely?

* Nina’s intermezzo (a between-courses offering, a palate-cleanser in this case): Compressed dragon fruit with ginger simple syrup and frozen papaya.

* Nina’s dessert: Chocolate zeppole, passion fruit anglaise, macadamia nuts. I want this recipe; she does (or did) something very similar to it at her restaurant. Tom says it’s not a complete dessert and it seems like a weak ending to her meal. I’ve asked Nina about the zeppole on Twitter, as I’ve never seen chocolate zeppole but want to try them out. They’re the Italian version of fried dough or beignets, nearly always yeast-raised and very airy and doughy inside. When I was growing up on Long Island, we’d go to Italian festivals all summer and get zeppole, three or six to a bag, coated in powdered sugar.

* Watch What Happens Live preview: Nick looks like he’s going to work out, Nina looks like she’s going clubbing, I look like I’m changing the channel.

* Tom says Nick’s sweet shrimp bisque with scallop noodles was the “best dish I’ve had all year.” The judges do seem more enthusiastic about Nina’s food overall.

* How do the judges eat this much? I’d be asking for a bucket by this point.

* And here we have Nick’s meltdown. Yes, someone out front screwed up – the prompt appears to be a table that never got its first course – but screaming “God damn it!” and slamming the counter in the kitchen ain’t solving a thing, buddy. First off, it’s not even clear whose fault this is; did Nick fail to train the staff properly, or does he just have a couple of screw-ups? Second, and more importantly at this point, blame is totally irrelevant when you are faced with a problem that requires a solution. Find the problem, figure out how to fix it, and drop everything to make it happen. (Jason appears to get this better than Nick in the heat of the moment.) If your staff in this challenge is a car of idiots, so what – you’ll never have to see them again. Solve the problem and move on.

We’ve seen this from Nick way too often during the season. He’s great until something goes wrong, but after that he loses his mind. I’ll confess I see a lot of myself, at least my old self, in this. Whatever the cause – anxiety, anger, control issues – you can’t go through life with a permanently elevated heart rate. Meditate, get therapy, try medication, whatever, don’t do this to yourself or to the people around you.

* Padma’s fabric accessory looks like a stack of Kayan neck-rings from Burma. Weird fashion choices across the board here – I haven’t even gotten to Tom’s super-casual shirt under the blazer.

* Judges’ table: Nick glosses over the service issues; it’s great that he didn’t just blame the staff, but maybe admitting he overreacted just a touch would have been smart. His first dish was a touch underseasoned. His second dish had no scallop flavor for Padma, but Tom adored it and Padma does this eye-roll that would make my daughter envious. Emeril’s duck was undercooked, but it sounds like no one else’s was. Nick doesn’t like panna cotta to be jiggly, but all the judges say it should be jiggly, so he needs to get … never mind. He should just make it more jiggly next time.

* Nina’s meal started stronger, but ended weakly. Tom asks if they should judge her on the two mini-courses too, and she says yes (why not?). Her crudo had really broad flavors and beautiful colors; other than the escolar, I’d eat this in a heartbeat. Her orecchiette with goat was “awesome,” “killer,” and Gail said it was one of her best dishes all season. Nina knows already that her swordfish dish didn’t really gel, and concedes that dessert isn’t her strong point, calling what she served “a bite,” not a full dessert. After that much food, though, isn’t a “bite” a good thing? Do you want a thick slice of a flourless chocolate torte or a heavy bread pudding after all that fish and meat and rich sauces? I wouldn’t.

* Back in the kitchen, the world’s smallest violin plays for Nick as he tells Nina that he didn’t win because he wasn’t perfect.

* Course by course: First to Nina. Second to Nina overall, but Tom disagrees. Third to Nick. Fourth to Nick by a huge margin. Hugh asks which chef delivered a better overall experience; Padma says they should consider service. Hugh is evidently pissed off about Nick lashing out the way he did (and rightly so). Tom says Nick was more consistent start to finish. Padma says Nina’s two extras were “amazing,” but Gail wishes she’d put that energy into the main four.

* Tom asks everyone for the worst dish of the night: Emeril says the duck, but the others all say the swordfish or the panna cotta.

* And the winner is … Nick! I’m surprised, based on judges’ table, but Tom tweeted more details this morning:

So the inference that Nick opening a new restaurant in November was a clue he’d won the show turned out to be accurate. I hope he set aside a little of that money to take up yoga, though.

* Nina leaves with a great quote: “I’m a role model for people in St. Lucia now.” She handled finishing second better than Nick handled winning. And she didn’t tell anyone to “suck a dick” in this episode.

* Overall, I wasn’t thrilled with the season as a viewer. We didn’t get the kind of wildly inventive dishes that have characterized great seasons or great individual chefs – there was no Blais, Voltaggio, Qui, or Kish anywhere here, not even an Izard. Louis may have been able to bring that, but his exile to Last Chance Kitchen seemed justified, and only there did we see evidence of a chef who’d worked under Thomas Keller and had both the technical chops and the respect for ingredients that characterizes the best Top Chef winners. Shirley topped my rankings for much of the season and it sounds like she was eliminated in a fairly close call one step from the finals. It just wasn’t an ideal set of contestants this time around, and the chefs most likely to blow us away didn’t get to the final matchup.


  1. This sucked. Nick sucks. For whatever reason, Tom seemed in the bag for him, blatantly campaigning for him at Judge’s Table. Probably the worst season to date with an unsatisfying ending.

  2. Really love these recaps. Thanks for all the hard work. My wife and I noticed Gail’s boobs as well, glad we weren’t the only ones. So-so season, agree that Shirley was the best chef this season and was disappointed she did not make the final. There is a great article on Grantland about the future of Top Chef. Interesting read.

  3. Agree with Keith on the mediocrity of the season (though I’ll miss even a mediocre Top Chef), and with Kazzy on Tom’s total Nick homerism, which was super annoying.

  4. Agreed with everything you say here, particularly your overall observations about the season. We’ve found that it’s fairly easy to predict the winner from judge’s table, because Tom usually seems to be pushing one of the chefs and his view always prevails. While that method again worked last night — he was clearly in Nick’s camp (although so was Gail) — the tweet indicates they actually went by a scoring system where everyone’s vote counted equally. So Gail’s support of Nick was key, at least in this episode.
    I still think that generally his view rules. In fact, I still wonder if the extended negotiations weren’t Tom bullying Hugh or Emerill into changing their vote on the 3rd (or what Tom calls “4th”) course in order to break the tie.

  5. Keith, nice write-up as always. Not sure if you have seen this article from Grantland, about what Top Chef is and it’s future may become, but I thought it was worth a read.

    • I did read the Grantland piece, and thought it was a great example of why “longform” is so overblown. It’s long, but has no justification for its length because the author appears to have spoken to nobody involved with the show in any capacity – not at Bravo, not on the show itself, not even a former contestant. So why do we need a zillion words to tells that the author thinks the show isn’t as good as it used to be – even though he has no hard evidence to back it up (like ratings, for one thing), and even though the most recent season before this one produced one of the show’s biggest breakout stars in Kristen.

      The author’s thesis seems to be that the show ain’t what it used to be – but no show is after 11 seasons. The question then becomes whether the show needs to change, and if so, how, questions he doesn’t answer and can’t because he has no specific knowledge to bring to the subject (beyond his opinions as a viewer) and hasn’t spoken to anyone involved with the show’s production.

      Could Top Chef improve? Sure. But I don’t see evidence that they’re not getting good chefs – Barbara Lynch has sent two of her top proteges on to the show in the last two seasons, and we’ve had several contestants recently who worked under Keller, Puck, or other leading lights of the culinary world. I don’t know how ratings are faring, but I know I’d be less interested if the show became more campy, or more focused on the emotional/soft aspects of the competition. I want more focus on the food, actually.

  6. I found it odd that Tom stated on twitter last night that for the record they don’t judge on loss of temper. I would think that a noticeable outburst coming from the kitchen that created an awkwardness at the table would be worthy of being judged, it would certainly keep me from going back to a restaurant. In a really close competition I could easily see them justifying using the outburst as a tie breaker of sorts.

  7. I have limited experience with them, but is there a reason when chefs are braising meat, such as Nina’s goat in the finale, they don’t opt for pressure cookers more often? I’ve only seen them used a handful of times in the few seasons of the show I’ve watched, but they would seem to sidestep the time challenge of the competition.

  8. Hey Keith, I’m new to Top Chef this season, and understand you think it was a little underwhelming of a season..Do you have any recommendations for a few of the better seasons? Interested in watching a previous season or two to see the show at its best. Appreciate the write-ups.

  9. I don’t really have anything to add to the comments, other than I personally didn’t understand the complaint around Nina’s swordfish dish, which was mostly around the garnishes rather than the seasoning, I think. The garnishes sounded delicious, and I’m not sure how squash puree and braised kale could be that overpowering, though I suppose I’d see them more with a meat (pork?) than fish…

    Ryan, just to offer my thoughts as someone who’s seen every season: 6 is universally considered the best, and had a final four who each could have easily won in most other seasons. I thought the competition and personalities in season 4 were fantastic. All-Stars (8) is well-loved, but having watched it before knowing most of the participants, I wish I’d waited until after. Season 9 was on the whole a miserable mess, but worth watching at least some of just for the sheer brilliance of Paul Qui.

  10. 100% agree on the grantland turd. it was just a guy making a ton of unsupported accusations about the show’s quality. especially when he’d say they’ve run out of good chefs to highlight. really?

  11. Thanks for these recaps, Keith. I really have enjoyed them as they highlight things I might have missed or wouldn’t have known. I hadn’t see Tom’s tweet, but as I was scoring them head-to-head based on the judges’ comments last night, I had it 2-2 (Hugh), 1-3 (Emeril), 2-2 (Padma), 3-1 (Tom), and 3-1 (Gail). While Nina’s service might have been more consistent than Nick’s, his second go-around on the scallop noodles won it.

    I was surprised that they had 3 judges from one group and only 2 from the other. I think that might have been why they took so long deciding. Hugh/Emeril/Padma had Nina by a close margin or tie whereas Tom/Gail had Nick as the clear winner.

  12. The most pressing question to me – who kisses their mother on the lips, like Nick did twice last night? Totally creeped me out.

    The one point Greenwald made in his piece that I agreed with is that I enjoy LCK far more than the main show now. It’s more tightly focused on the food and the premises of the challenges are lot less contrived and convoluted. “Here’s a piece of fish – cook it really well” makes for more entertaining TV (to me, at least) than the silly quickfires involving cream cheese and tin foil.

    • @Daniel: I kind of thought that was odd. My wife would definitely give me grief if I kissed my mother on the lips at my age.

      Agreed on those of you commenting on LCK. It’s been a huge boon for the show – and for Tom, who seems to genuinely enjoy the calmer environment of judging two dishes directly against each other, by himself.

      @Cody: Yeah, it’s the mark of a bad leader, and most successful chefs seem to be good leaders in the kitchen (not all, but most or at least many).

      @Ryan: Season 6, as Daphne said, was a high-water mark. I liked season 9 more than Daphne did, mostly because I think Paul and Sarah did some amazing dishes down the stretch.

  13. @Daniel

    Different cultures — be they macro or micro — have different customs when it comes to displays of affection. On the list of sins he’s committed, kissing his mom doesn’t even rank.

    To your other point, I agree. I also think the time constraints are an oft-over looked factor that often prevents us from really identifying the “Top Chef”. I get that you can’t just give the competitors forever, but as the competition moves ahead, I’d like to see more and more emphasis on what they are capable of when performing at their best. For the finale, I’d love them to just say, “We’ll be back in a week. Do the best you can.” That way if someone wants to menu plan for 6 days, they can do that. If someone else wants to smoke something over 20 hours, they can do that, too. If they want to experiment with a new dish and run through it a few times, power to them. Earlier rounds can focus on different skills, as you’ll want to make sure a chef has both depth and breadth. But by the finale, it should be all about the food and nothing else. I hate that Nina had to grocery shop and plan her meal without knowing what equipment she would have to work with. The lack of an ice cream maker could be the very reason she lost, given the lukewarm response to her dessert. She absolutely should have known ahead of time what would be there and the producers should be criticized for not providing them this crucial information. If I was her, I would have had one of my sous chefs make a call and find someone who could bring a machine in.

    • @Kazzy – what “other” culture is Nick? He’s a white kid from Philly!

  14. You’re right, Keith, I failed to give Sarah credit there. I thought she actually outcooked Paul in that finale. Season 9 wasn’t terrible cooking-wise, but between the cheesy Texas-related stuff and the unusually high amount of personal tension/drama for this show, it wore on me.

  15. Just a note about Gail’s judging– I’m assuming she wasn’t able to eat the offensive swordfish, since it is on the list of fish for pregnant women to avoid. I read an article that said that when they were filming Top Chef and she couldn’t eat something, she just ate the garnishes and went with what Tom said at judge’s table. I can’t help but wonder if that skewed the results, a little.

  16. Let’s see the winner under-cooked his duck and didn’t properly salt fish? The winner? Yes indeed, because Tom says he should win (presumably because he thinks he’s the best cook. although he didn’t cook the best). Tom was seething when the vote was close.
    The contest part of this show is about Tom’s opinion and ego and little else.
    The other judges are there for show.
    It’s the Tom show.

  17. Daniel,

    There are family cultures which are informed by a host of other factors (e.g., faith, ethnicity) and just the idiosyncrasies of a given relationship.

  18. It’s always, always, always, been about the food on this show. Tom has stated it MULTIPLE times. Think about all the “assholes” throughout all the seasons that have made it far into the season, many of them all the way up to the finale. Kitchen drama has never affected an outcome in the past, why should it suddenly now? You say Nina was a better loser than Nick was a winner? What did Nick do after winning that wasnt good? Crying, hugging his family? Looking shocked and excited? The judges have been saying all year that the quality of food has been the best ever….doesnt this fly in the face of your thoughts about the contestants? What, they arent Fabio, or eccentric Stephan, or angry Marcel so they’re somehow LESS talented? Don’t get me wrong, there have been times where I too thought someone won who didnt deserve it, but to so blatantly call out the whole season as being a wash because bubbly little Shirley didnt win (or help Nina to win either!) just sounds childish to me. Its good that Nina showed more class in defeat than you did in this review Keith. (Also, the ripping of the Grantland piece was wonderful, you stay classy Keith.)

  19. So, is John Walker an acquaintance of Nick’s? A Klaw hater? Sheesh.

    Kazzy – I definitely agree with you that the lack of an ice cream maker (or at least liquid nitro) is egregious, and the producers should obviously give the cheftestants an equipment list beforehand. I dunno about the long timeline you suggest, though. I think it’s impractical on a production level, because budget for all those hotel rooms, etc. for a week will probably be prohibitive. More than that, however, I do think there’s value in a time limit. The time they had was even long enough to braise goat, a notoriously difficult protein, to such a degree that it tasted great (according to the judging). I don’t see too much more, other than perhaps smoked meats, that would take more time. And, while I would love to see true BBQ or smoked fish in the TC finale, I think that desire doesn’t outweigh the production concerns enough to warrant the change.

    But if the budget were there, sure, it might be an interesting thing to try. Can’t be worse than last season’s dumb finale.

    As to Greenwald, I think he had good points about Emeril. Emeril has been truly tremendous on the show, at least from an entertainment standpoint (more Hugh would also be appreciated).

  20. I really didn’t mind Nick’s outburst on the wait staff, and do not think he should have been penalized for it as Hugh suggested because:
    – It is Top Chef, not Top Restaurant. So even if one isn’t judging specifically on service, if there is poor, slow service at a restaurant, it will subtly factor into your decision for the food.
    – It’s not like Nick selected his own staff. If he was given a clown car of idiots, and these clowns messed up his meal, when should this be addressed? A good leader doesn’t place blame, but then how would the judges/patrons know that the issues aren’t stemming from the kitchen, rather than the incompetence of the staff? Seems like a situation where you really can’t win, as there is no “next time,” and there is so much on the line. This isn’t just a Tuesday night in a restaurant, where hearing yelling from the kitchen would be a turn off.
    – One could argue that hearing the outburst helped Tom and Gail see how “driven” Nick really was: he was so “driven” and “passionate” that he would freak out on the wait staff (justly). Also, seeing Tom’s reaction when the yelling occurred, it seemed like Tom really didn’t mind.

    Also, Keith, I was in Reading Terminal Market yesterday, and saw purple potatoes at Iovine’s.

  21. So I do agree that the judging should be based on the food, so clearly Nick’s temper and service issues were highlighted with the intent of creating drama.

    But my question then is this: they ask Nina if they should judge her on the mini-courses, she says “why not?” and then… they don’t factor that in? They don’t give credit for DoD in creating 2 extra dishes? Doesn’t the presence of the intermezzo infer a smaller, lighter dessert course?

    Love the Top Chef blogs, and your podcasts as well. IMO, the most informative baseball podcast out there.

  22. Grant,

    That’s a fair point. A week might be too long. I just think that, as the competition moves along, the goal should be to replicate the real experience of being a chef. And that typically doesn’t have time constraints, at least not in the way the show does. They could probably get away saying, “Today’s Friday. We’ll see you Sunday for dinner.”

  23. Was it just me or did the Watch What Happens Live preview give away the ending? Nick looked relaxed, happy at first and then trying desperately to hide it. Nina looked pained and like a deer in headlights. Wasn’t hard to divine who had won.

  24. On Watch What Happens Live, Kevin, Tom C. called in and said that when Pepin asked Nick if he should resign, they were simply doing that: asking him. They weren’t actually expecting him to resign.

    Perhaps this is similar to the intermezzo courses: they were just asking Nina’s opinion to find out what she thinks, and had already made up their mind not to judge her on them. Just a thought.

  25. Kyle,

    If they indeed opted not to judge her on her intermezzos, it makes it hard to take serious their claim that it is solely and wholly about the food. Last I checked, intermezzos were a form of food.

  26. Yeah, but the challenge was a four course meal, Kazzy. Had the judges allowed/informed Nick of intermezzos being included in the challenge, then I would agree with you.

  27. SrirachaDemon

    There’s some precedent to not judging the intermezzos. In the S8 finale, Richard Blais made an amuse of raw oysters with horseradish ‘spheres’. It was universally praised by the judges, but Tom explicitly said that they didn’t factor the amuse into the decision, except as part of the ‘restaurant atmosphere and motif’ (paraphrasing).

  28. @Kyle,

    I understand that, but I think that turns the competition into “Top Chef When Working Within Fairly Narrow Constraints”. I realize there have to be some limits but it’s just hard to take them seriously when they say it is all about the food and then they ignore additional efforts made by chefs or force them to use Cheese Whiz or whatever other crap they do.

  29. So Nick, who should have probably been sent home two or three times and seemed to have been out cooked by Nina according to everyone but Tom won? Huh?

    Bummed out that Nick won, thought he might have cracked the top five best chefs this season. It didn’t help that he was humorless, a jerk, a bully, false modesty and played the ‘woe-is-me’ card every single episode. Toss up between Nick and Kevin (s7) as who was the weakest winner.

    • At the end of the day, it really is about the food on this show, and Tom wasn’t the only one who thought Nick outcooked Nina in the finals. Shirley also pointed out to Eater that Nick had a more modern kitchen in the finale, part of the spoils of winning the previous challenge.

  30. Travis (SirNope)

    I just want to run up to Hugh with a sideburn trimmer and give him two eyebrows. That Bert look he’s got going on just kills me.

  31. “So why do we need a zillion words to tells that the author thinks the show isn’t as good as it used to be – even though he has no hard evidence to back it up (like ratings, for one thing), and even though the most recent season before this one produced one of the show’s biggest breakout stars in Kristen.”

    …have to agree with this critque. Love the Grantland website, but to often their criticism is 1000 words of why they personally dislike something. Top Chef is dead because “everyone is saying so”…Justin Timberlake’s album was a disappointment and didn’t interest America (despite being the biggest selling album of the year)

    still some growing pains for the site.

  32. This season was especially disappointing considering this past Summer’s TC Masters was so great.

    Any news on a future TC Just Desserts? Not my favorite, but any TC is better than no TC.

    above all, THANKS KEITH