Wednesday night’s episode of “Top Chef: Seattle” has the cooking competition’s judges in hot water … with fans.
This week’s battle featured the notoriously difficult “Restaurant Wars” challenge, where someone notable almost always goes down in flames…but not to this degree.
For Seattle’s smackdown, in which the chefs had to launch a restaurant from scratch in 48 hours, it was Kristen’s French contemporary cuisine versus Sheldon’s Filipino fare, and Sheldon Simeon’s risky menu was the indisputable winner of the night. No one is upset that the humble, sweet-natured Sheldon and his signature red hat won a car.
But it was the loser decision that has outraged viewers, who are cutting up the judges in online message boards, on Twitter and Facebook, and questioning their integrity.
In a shocking (no, it really was shocking this time) decision, Padma and company sent home frontrunner Kristen Kish, who’s won many of the challenges and accumulated the most money this season, and saved Josie Smith-Malave, who’s been rocking the bottom three for weeks now, not to mention driving everyone nuts with her annoying laugh and inane chatter.
It was Josie’s poor-time management skills, which have been problematic in several previous tasks, that led to her dish disaster, a Bouillabaisse made without gelatin (!) and undercooked scallops and overcooked halibut. But as team leader, and the chef ultimately responsible for sending out the plates, Kristen was determined to be most at fault. Viewers disagree.
But Kristen “fell on her sword,” making the honorable — and dumb — decision not to call Josie out on her part in the failures in the kitchen, leading to the inexplicable decision by the judges that sent home the top chef of the season. Even Josie was stunned to learn she survived another week, as she’d already prepared herself to dine and dash.
“We’ve been down this road with Josie many times, I can’t help feeling like she’s skating by because everyone is taking responsibility because she’s not stepping up,” Gail Simmons rightly noted during the deliberation.
“Good point. That’s a very good point,” Tom Colicchio added.
However, for reasons unclear to the audience, host Padma Lakshmi piped up passionately, fighting against Kristen and seemed determined to have the stronger contestant ousted. Apparently forgetting Josie’s seafood was inedible, Padma hinged her flimsy reasoning on Josie’s “tasty” sauce, which they had earlier criticized for there not being enough of on the plate.
And then they sent Kristen and her knives packing.
Watch the Judges’ Maddening Discussion About Who to Eliminate Below.
In a torrent of backlash the morning after the episode aired, Colicchio defended their decision on his Bravo blog post titled “Restaurant Woes”:
“I know what you’re thinking, and I know how you’re feeling, and all I can say is that having now watched the episode and seen everything that went on behind the scenes, I share your frustration. I really do,” he began.
Then he listed six facts about what the judges knew at the time, and then wrote, based on that, “We were faced with no choice but to send Kristen home.”
The facts they did know, however, is that Kristen has ruled multiple challenges, while Josie has continued to struggle, so they could have made the right call, but seemingly chose to play the drama card instead, and that’s why fans are disappointed.
The judges have faced heat before for sending home the wrong person, and each time they’ve reiterated that the chefs are judged on that challenge’s dish, not on past performance. But perhaps it’s time to reevaluate that rule, which, in cases like this, seems to undermine the reality show’s intentions of crowning the “Top Chef.”
“Top Chef: Seattle” airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on Bravo.
The unexpected elimination has Bravo’s blog commenters in an uproar:
“Is it Top Chef or Top Conniver?” writes one viewer … “I think Top Chef needs to revisit it’s judging procedures. It lost a lot of integrity points last night.”
“Awful, awful decision last night – really sickening,” says another named Charles.
“As judges, you abrogated your duties and let the fans down. Shame on you. Serves you right that now you have to eat more of Josie’s food,” writes HungryTiger.
“I have watched every episode of every season of Top Chef. Many times, I disagreed with the judges on whom they sent home or when, but never before did I question the integrity of the judges (and/or producers) until today. Yes, the judges’ decision to send Kristen home was that egregious, perplexing and unjustifiable. In fact, I have a hard time believing this is not some sort of poor, pathetic attempt at grabbing notoriety for a lagging reality show,” writes bob.sklabob.5.
This sensible viewer offers this suggestion: “It would be good if you as judges could hold yourselves more accountable to ask better questions. You kicked off the person with more talent and with better character because you couldn’t figure out what happened.”
Tom’s perspective on the controversy did earn some respect from at least a few fans though:
“Very, VERY nicely written and argued,” said bdw.
“I hear what you’re saying and based on what info you saw and experienced, you did what was “right”. However…” wrote mum0672.
Watch: Stefan Wins Zero Hospitality Points for Making the Judges Feel Like “Idiots”: