Wednesday, August 19, 2009

'Top Chef: Las Vegas' review - Sepinwall on TV

In today's column, I review the premiere of "Top Chef: Las Vegas," starting off by comparing the difference between original recipe "Top Chef" and the to-be-completed-tonight "Top Chef Masters," and then randomly veering into a discussion of how Toby Young needs to get his act together this season.

Either way... food, Padma, Colicchio, etc. Enjoy.


Clevelle said...

While I agree mostly with your review of Toby Young, Tom Colicchio is by far, the most insufferable person on that panel. If he's going to mentor/advise then that should be his only role. About the only thing I appreciated about Toby Young is his penchant for annoying Tom.

floretbroccoli said...

In the first season they tried to have it both ways, with Tom C. as judge and as the Tim Gunn figure. At the beginning of the second season they explicitly said that Tom was judge only, NOT mentor.

They've kept the kitchen walk-throughs, but he doesn't give advice.

Faye said...

Being British i haven never seen Top Chef - we have Masterchef but I suspect its not the same - but am horrified by the idea of Toby Young as a judge. I would take a punt that it is not a 'British sense of humour' (is there such a thing as a national sense of humour? We do toilet humour and hard wit in equal measures, but the US has them too) as was suggested at critics tour, but a rather large sense of self-regard that Toby Young has always carried around - See his 'memoir' of his time at Vanity Fair as evidence, where he spends a large percentage of his time complaining that smart, beautiful women wont go out with him, and dissing them as uppity, as if he was ever on their level.

Blimey, that sounded bitchy. Ha. I do not like.

Fred App said...

If they need to fill that slot for acerbic critic, why not try to snag Anthony Bourdain? His comment a couple of seasons ago that someone's broccoli rabe looking like something you'd find in Bob Marley's closet is still the funniest quip I've heard on the show yet.

Even the curly-haired dude on Top Chef Masters is better than Toby Young.

bart08 said...

Nice article.

I love Top Chef Masters, and I think it's been phenomenal. And actually, there is a group of hardcore loyalists who love Masters as well - mostly comprised of foodies.

Perhaps the best Top Chef blog out there that caters to this audience is

(Dom, the blogger, also does a dynamite job of previewing the contestants)

I wasn't too bothered by Toby Young, but I know a lot of people were. Ah, well.

Andrew said...

A couple of seasons ago, the 4th judge's chair (after the theme-oriented guest judge, Tom and Padma) was filled by a rotation of Gail Simmons, Anthony Bourdain and Ted Allen. Given that Allen and Bourdain are busy hosting their own shows on other, non-Bravo/NBCU networks, it's not surprising that they haven't been back. But to only have Simmons (and then only Toby Young) made the panel feel stagnant, even with the influence of the featured guest judge. From the Masters critics panel, Gael Greene or Jay Rayner would be a nice addition to the rotation alongside Simmons and Young.

For what its worth, I do appreciate that nexus between facial hair humor and puns. Or at least, I do when Top Chef is seemingly the only new TV on this week, it's ridiculously hot outside.

Adam said...

Both Jay Rayner (the curly-haired dude) and James Oseland would be preferable to Toby Young; I've enjoyed them both, and Rayner's new book is a great read.

I'm pro-Masters; I watch the show for the cooking, not the interpersonal bullshit. Tonight's going to be fun -- go Hubie!

Maura said...

TC Masters was such a joy until last week, when they brought in a brigade of former TC contestants. They changed the entire tone of the show, and not in a good way. Still, TC Masters has been the best competitive reality show I've ever watched.

I read an interview with Toby in which he said he was embarrassed by how he came across last season; even so, I would prefer to see Jay and Gael come in as substitute judges.

Sonia said...

First, I just want to say that I love how these cooking contest shows are bringing these very talented chefs forward into more mainstream culture. It must be very exciting for them, and seems to be puching their cooking to a whole new level.

I wasn't thrilled with Toby Young either -- seemed to me he was more intent on insulting people rather than offering constructive criticism (or even just relevant criticism) of the food. I loved when they had a a new celeb judge every week...why not bring back the TC Masters, now that they've all participated, I think they have a whole new perspective on what it takes to win.

Or, just bring back Eric Ripert. Who cares if his accentis so thick you need a knife to cut it? I know I'm being a big girl with a crush, but he is SO adorable (and I loved the ep when the contestants had to recreate his dishes!).

I know he's on a different network, but can you imagine Guy Fieri as a guest judge...LOL...he's great!

And more Spike...ever...

Lenny Boyle said...

Totally disagree with Faye. Toby Young has been on telly a lot over the years in Britain and he is a very likable and funny guy. His restaurant criticism is very good as well. He is awkward and socially quite inept, as his aforementioned memoir will testify, but I bet by the end of the season you all love him. I'm convinced of it. And if you don't you're just plain wrong.

Antid Oto said...

I just want to echo the love for Top Chef Masters. I can't stand how every reality show has the same kind of ass**** reality-show contestants, which is why I watch hardly any reality shows. Even the worst fictional shows have much more believable characters. It's been a real pleasure just to watch good chefs cooking. And I agree with Maura, it made a huge negative difference when they brought in all the reality-show regulars last week. Yuck.

Unknown said...

I love the original Top Chef format, and am always entertained by the competitiveness and unique personalities of the contestants. However, I also enjoyed Top Chef Masters for the opposite reason! I really enjoyed watching all of these master chefs competing against each other, but what was most surprising was how much they all respected each other. The competition on Top Chef Masters was so different than on Top Chef, because the contestants all genuinely wanted the others to do well. I can see why traditional Top Chef fans might not like Masters for that reason, but I truly thought it was a nice break from the traditional format, and definitely got me excited for the new season in Las Vegas!

Anonymous said...

Fran, what television has Toby Young been doing? The only time I ever seem to see him these days is on the re-run of the celebrity Come Dine with Me.

I am happy to hear that Toby Young is embarrassed by his performance, and I think that Alan (if I may) was spot on in his critique. And I have doubts about how TY's failures were at all due to a differing style of comedy. There can be differences between American and British styles, to be sure -- although both are so rich and wide ranging that this claim could be troubled. But if he's going to lay claim to a different style of humour, I'd place his lame efforts in the 'Two Pints of Lager...' category and well away from, say, David Mitchell or Charlie Brooker.

Lenny Boyle said...

Toby Young has been popping up for years in ,usually channel 4, cultural commemtary bla bla bla talking head shows and he's always pithy and amusing. You're right about him appearing in the celeb Come Dine With Me and I thought he was great in that. He was also, along with Julie Burchill his old BĂȘte noire, the star of a documentary that was on BBC4 a few years ago about the rise and fall of the Modern Review (The Magazine he founded with Burchill) That's a fair amount of telly. Oh yeah, he also did a bunch of inteviews for the Simon Pegg film based on his memoir when that came out.
I put down his failure last season to him not having seen the show and because he's a bit of a dick, and that's coming from the great Toby Young defender which it seems I've turned into, I don't put it down to any supposed differences in humour styles between the two funniest countries on the planet. I've just got a funny feeling that he'll do well this season and ultimately he's a much more interesting person than any other British star of American Reality TV.

mook said...

I'm a TC Masters fan too except for the host & judges (except Rayner). The finale was just three great chefs trying to respectfully top each other. It was great.

Toby Young annoys the everliving fuck out of me. He's not witty and everybody in the culinary community that I know hates him. I think even stoned Padma is a better judge than he.

Gael Greene is horrible too. She was so hot for Michael Chiarello that it totally clouded her ratings of his dishes.

How awesome would it be if Bayless and Keller could take turns every other episode to walk through the kitchen and mentor the chefs? I know that neither is based in LV but I can dream...I wish both those guys were my cool food-loving uncles.

Mike F said...

I liked the Masters edition as a change of pace, and particularly liked the finale episode. Rick and Hubert were a pleasure to watch at every single turn. But let's face it, most of the other master chefs weren't as interesting. Plus, I thought the judges were a little too old and a little bit pretentious.

At the end of it, I missed Tom. He's probably my favorite reality show judge/host of all time. He's opinionated, sharp and relatable all at the same time. The way he probes, challenges and asks the right questions of the contestants, along with his fundamental commitment to certain chef-values makes him the brains and backbone of the show.

So, I greatly prefer the Top Chef original show...also because its more of a true competition. I would generally prefer less drama and more cooking/strategy. I'd also prefer if toward the end of each season's run if the judges were allowed to consider the totality of each chef's work up til that point when making elimination decisions. To me, that's the only major, annoying flaw of the show. That Richard lost last year to Hosea is just an unnecessary blight on the show's credibility.

Stef said...

I also loved the Masters, but I missed Tom C's influence in the judging. By having a panel of just critics, it seemed they were more concerned with coming up with witty one-liners or turns of phrase than with really dissecting the food. I like how TC: The Original has Tom and usually a guest chef to really talk about the dishes, what worked and what didn't.

I second the wish for Bayless and Hubert as fun chef-uncles. :-)

Nicole said...

I'm glad that I am not the only one who forgot that Hosea was the actual winner of last season's top chef. It really should have been Stefan. I also think that Marcel should have beat out Ilan in season 2.

Watching Masters and the regular show back to back really outlined how unprofessional the reality contestants are. I have never been about the "drama" as much as the food and so I was annoyed with Mike who was playing the sexist jerk card in the very first quick fire challenge.

I hope that Bayless and Keller make an appearance on season six because they just seem like really great chefs to learn from as well as great people who love what they do. They don't need weird tatoos or piercings to stand out, but do that with great food.