It’s been a big year on Top Chef. There’s been immunity challenges. And immunity challenges. There’s been good food, better food, and best food. In fact, this might’ve been the best season so far where food is concerned. And in the end, we got ourselves a new Top Chef.
It was a tight race. While I was surprised last week that Luis and Shirley were the ones who got cut (honestly, I thought Shirley would win the whole thing), we had Nina and Nick facing off in the end. Nina has consistently proven herself throughout the season. She was a strong competitor, always contributing good food. Was it the best food? Not often. Usually one person would slip right past her, giving that last bit of creativity or flavor to their dish, so she was often coming in second.
But contrast that with Nick, who was all over the place with his dishes. Leaning more on technique, Nick would often get over his head, piling on competing elements, while leaving salt off the menu. He had highs and lows; and while his lows were very low, his highs were very high.
In the end, one meal made the difference (and in my own opinion, one judge). Nick pulled through in the end — gaining the title of Top Chef — after delivering a great meal, despite poor service and curse words. But is he the right choice?
It’s no surprise that Nick is not the crowd favorite. Not that that should make any difference. Hung was not anyone’s favorite back in the day if I recall, and dear god, let’s not even discuss Hosea (though one could argue that was less the person and more the lack of talent in the kitchen). But Nick rubbed everyone the wrong way when Stephanie went home when he had immunity. But hey, that’s how the game was played (and if you watched Watch What Happens Live after the show, you’d see that Nick is still not pleased with how that all went down, and even Tom didn’t mean to imply he should have quit — they just asked the question).
Crowd opinion aside, should he have won? What surprised me here was that they based their decision on one meal. In the past — and correct me if I’m wrong — did they not look at performance over the entire competition? If you did that, would it be consistency or highs and lows? And in the end, if you’re looking at only one meal, was Nick’s really the best?
True, they had issues with Nina’s dessert. But from what I understood, everything else she served was great. Nick, on the other hand, had inconsistently cooked duck and a fish that needed salt. And while I can’t bring myself to align with Padma (who really had it out for Nick for some reason, suggesting they start judging on service and not food, among other things), I do think she had a point in a previous episode: How can they be this far in and still be discussing salt?
In the end, Nina probably should have been the champ. The only thing she didn’t have that Nick did was this: Tom. Tom seemed to be Nick’s number one fan. And it was clear that he was going to fight for Nick as hard as he could. And while we didn’t see it at the judges’ table, I think, in the end, he did. (I’m not the only one who thinks this either. And truth be told, I think Tom holds more power than the other judges anyway, given his experience with the show and discontent in the past. But that’s just my guess.)
Nick or Nina, I have to say it was a good season. We got to see real cooking. We didn’t have ridiculous themes that didn’t allow you to see how a person could really cook (think Top Chef: Texas — Make ribs! No, chili! No, this can of beefaroni!). In the end, they presented good food with their own style and personality. Did the best chef win? Well, is that really what this show is about? That sounds like another blog post to me.
*image from Bravotv.com