Thursday, May 25, 2006

Top 5 Things I Learned from Top Chef and/or a Harold Fan Wonders if Tiffani Was Robbed

The youngest son and I were at our posts at the TV at 10 p.m. last night, anxiously awaiting the season finale of Top Chef on Bravo.

The future pastry chef (well, maybe he'll be one, his career choices change around) and I were high fiving every time someone made a positive comment about Harold and of course were ecstatic when the pencil-toting, stubbled, t-shirted chef from New York won the whole shebang.

It was a bit of an anticlimax though. The show was edited to look like it gave Tiffani a smack down that maybe she didn't deserve. I know, I am shocked at that impression, too. Tiffani seemed to be a bit reformed in her relations with other. It might have been a case of too little too late. She was also very audacious in her menu (which was to be a five-course tasting menu designed to match with wines from actress Lorraine Bracco Italian import line). She chose to make it a 10-course menu by having two variations on everything. Take a look at some of the things I learned from Top Chef last night and then we can discuss the concept that Tiffani was robbed. (Did I really just type that?)

1. Nice guys can finish first, at least when they can cook as well as the mean ones.

Harold's essential niceness always came through as well as his dignity and respect for other contestants. That showed in many ways in the final show, but especially when the eliminated chefs voted for him to be Top Chef.

2. Don't make enemies on the way to the top.

Since Tiffani seemed to be using the Survivor model to succeed, she should have remembered that the banished have some say on the outcome. I will say it is time for Dave to just get over it, though.

3. You can pair artichokes with wine.

I was stunned when Tiffani announced she was doing an artichoke course with the wines and relieved that Stephen had shown some class and volunteered to work with her. Instead of a disaster her artichoke "risotto" was judged by many to be the outstanding dish of the finale.

It was the only dish highly praised by the judges that was solely the creation of a finalist. It was interesting that Tiffani was blasted for the great dessert Dave made since it wasn't her concept, but while Tom and the other judges knew Harold's best dish (the beef two ways) had been Miquel's creation, Harold received nothing but praise. It didn't help Tiffani stammered and inflated her role in Dave's desserts, but still it rankled to see that "nice" Harold got away with what "mean" Tiffani couldn't.

4. You should play it safe to win Top Chef.

Once again my man Harold designed a conservative menu to play it safe and while it was commented on, he ended up taking it all with that approach. Once again, Tiffani went for broke. As Chef Tom said "Her highs were higher, but her lows were lower." There seemed to be no points for pressing the boundaries.

5. If you drink a glass of wine while you watch Top Chef you won't be able to write a recap of it for your blog at midnight.

I guess that fits more in the category of personal lessons that I learned.

So, how about it? I definitely didn't want Tiffani to win, but was the judging fair? Was she robbed? Or was she just a little vandalized and still deserved to lose?

At the end, she is shown teary-eyed talking about what the win and money would have meant to her. If she had shown (or to be truthful had been edited to show) this humanity during the run of the show, she might have actually had a better chance to win. Or at least fared better in the live call in poll (which was something like 93 percent for Harold).

Harold won. I'm pleased. But all didn't feel right. So long Tiffani. I hope you take this experience to heart and become more open and willing to depend on others. Too many cooks don't have to spoil the broth.


Unknown said...

It was a great show. Reading Tom C's blog at showed me that even in the final challenge, it really was a dead hit. This is where Harold's people skills and "niceness" put him over the top. I think that he has shown himself to be a humble leader since the very beginning. Many times he took the blame for a team mistake, because someone needed to. I think Tiffani was great, too, but you can't be a chief if you don't have anyone in your tribe. I can't wait for Season 2!

maurinsky said...

Tom C. has always been a big fan of Tiffani's, so I don't take his blog without a big pinch of salt.

I think where Tiffani failed was that the purpose of food is to feed people. Not just to feed their stomachs, but to feed their eyes, their senses of smell, their hearts...Tiffani is too self-centered to bring the nurturing and love that food can represent to the table.

When that judge asked her who she cooks for, that was her downfall. She needs to realize that no matter how beautiful and delicious your food is, if you don't have people who love to share it with you, you have nothing.

I still like Dave, he cracks me up. And, lord help me, even Stephen has redeemed himself.

And hello, this is the first time I've visited your blog.

Paige Jennifer said...

Yay Harold! And nice little collection of Top Chef life lessons your summed up there. I especially like the don't-make-enemies-as-you-climb-to-the-top. You learned that lesson but come on now - I highly doubt Tiffani did....

Unknown said...

I saw an interview with Dave, and he is indeed working on a cookbook.

Sorry, I have to also correct my typo from my post above--"dead heat" not "dead hit."