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Top Chef, season 5

9 Ratings: 2.9
Season 5 of the reality competition cooking show on Bravo
1 review about Top Chef, season 5

Some thoughts before Top Chef season finale tonight!

  • Feb 25, 2009
  • by
One of the interesting things about reality cooking competition show Top Chef is that the judges favor quality of the dish over innovation or complicated techniques. The way the dishes are judged is simple: it just has to taste good.

So what if you've used the ultra-new method pioneered by Grant Achatz of freeze-drying the duck before gently dousing it into the fryer? It still tastes like shizz compared to this simple leafy salad with honey balsamic dressing and candied walnuts! More so than other competition reality shows (like, say, Hell's Kitchen), the judges' decisions on Top Chef seem to be pretty fair, even if I don't agree with them all the time.

That being said, I think I've been right many times in the past. So, before tonight's season finale of Top Chef, here's my assessment of the three remaining contestants:

In my mind, Hosea is the most tepid chef on the show, having come through with a few lucky breaks. His knowledge of cooking techniques can be very specialized, but it's not very well-rounded. For instance, though he cooks at a seafood restaurant, he only knows how to fillet large fish. When it comes to filleting small fish like sardines, Hosea is practically useless. 

This example is very telling: While Americans consider sardines a "garbage" fish, they are enjoyed and regularly incorporated into dishes in countries like Italy and China. Hosea's inability to fillet a sardine tells me that he's not even passingly familiar with other cuisines.  Anyone can sear salmon and plate it with a nice side salad in that annoying nouveau-American kind of way. But can you de-bone some sardines and stirfry them with vegetables?

Also, I find Hosea's demeanor very passive aggressive. Though he makes out with another female contestant Leah on the show, he's ready to throw her on the bus. And even though Stefan comes off as an arrogant bastard to everyone, Hosea is the only one who wants to pick a fight. Oh yeah, and also he wants to win Top Chef so that an American wins the competition, not a European (ie Stefan). Who cares? Nationalism is beside the point when you're competing on a show that regularly utilizes French, Chinese, Italian, etc cooking techniques.

Who wants a passive-aggressive Top Chef who's only familiar with handling big hunky slabs of Grouper? Not me!

Stefan seems to be the best-trained and most talented of the chefs. His fluent knowledge of techniques rival just about any contestants on the show. The difference between Stefan and other talented contestants, like Fabio and Jeff, is that the latter two try to show off their cooking techniques all at once,  sucker-punching the judges with their dazzling, magnificent talent in one stupendous dish.

Stefan knows the same techniques as Fabio and Jeff, but it's his application of them that shows how he's more in control of his talent. He naturally intuits which techniques would most suitable to which dish. He shows off his talents meticulously, in small subtle doses, knowing he only needs to show a little bit of leg, so to speak, for the judges to get it.

His drawbacks? He's kind of an a**hole and he's getting lazy. If Stefan is given the option, he'll pick the easiest dish to cook or the most underskilled contestant to cook against. His worst enemy is himself.

The once-aspiring actress and model originally started out as a fluke in the kitchen. Her skills initially seemed patchy, her confidence was clearly flagging, and it seemed like the only thing she could do well was make a proper pastry crust — and even she effed that up, at least once!

Yet slowly but surely, Carla has been getting better and better. After winning her first challenge late in the competition, she's been racking them up. It seems like she'd had the skills and talent all along — but not the confidence. After all, this is someone who attended culinary school in France, but also knows how to make some great "down home" Southern food.

She might be just as talented as Stefan, but she's more familiar with American dishes. Also, what she has that Stefan doesn't seem to is a sense of soul in her cooking. She sends food out with love.

My pick for the winner of Top Chef? Carla!
Top Chef, season 5 Carla, Top Chef season 5 Hosea, Top Chef season 5 Stefan, Top Chef season 5

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March 06, 2009
Did you guys see the reunion? It was a bit boring, but I did enjoy seeing Stefan and Fabio. Leah looked totally uncomfortable, and Carla was great. I wish she would've won Fan Favorite. @Sheila, yeah I have to agree that Stefan and Fabio are very cute. I even considered buying one of those "I [heart] Fabio" Ts... until I felt lame about buying into the product placement.
March 02, 2009
I have watched every season and every episode of Top Chef from the beginning and I was quite sure that Stefan was going to take the title. He was definitely the most talented but let his ego get in the way. However, I have to say that Stefan IS A TOTAL HOTTIE and so was Fabio. Some of the best looking guys were cast this season!
February 27, 2009
@LingEatsCake...totally agree with your assessment. The last time Stefan made a dessert, everyone loved it so I thought that would help him in the end. You knew that Tom was going to frown on the carpaccio since taking a fresh piece of fish and freezing it is contrary to his whole style of cooking and philosophy about food. Also, every season there are a couple of times where someone says, "well I have never tried that before, but I thought I would give it a try" i.e. Carla's sous-vide beef. The competition, and especially the finale is not the time to experiment with new techniques or ingredients. He may have lost, but I would rather eat at Stefan's restaurant. Great review and great analysis...Thanks
February 27, 2009
Top Chef, more like "not quite the worst chef." I just watched the finale. What a buzz kill, very disappointed. End of the day we are basing our judgment on everything but the flavor, taste, and texture of the food. Personally I was pulling for Stefan or Carla; I think Carla had it until she gave the reigns to Casey.
February 27, 2009
I agree with all you guys. I do think that the judges held Stefan to another standard different from the other chefs. In the end, he might have not matched that. Still though, Hosea's win was a complete throwaway. What a waste of 100k. I'd love to see Fabio and Stefan open up their own restaurant together. Sigh...
February 27, 2009
I think the judges (and the viewers) wanted anyone BUT Hosea to win. It was painful to watch the congratulations. I thought the talent was really great this season and could've actually seen any of these people win: Jamie, Jeff, Leah...and especially Fabio and Carla. My favorite Fabio quote, "It's Top Chef, not freaking Top Scallop!"
February 27, 2009
I was so disappointed to see Carla hand over the reins to Casey. Casey blew her OWN finale meal in her season, and then blew Carla's last night. Stefan got too cocky and started resting on his laurels and that was his undoing. This was a disappointing season. I don't think any of these guys held a candle to Richard Blais!
February 27, 2009
Hey @drogoff, sorry for the belated response. I actually don't own a TV, and had to watch it today from iTunes. So... OK, I agree w/ eliminating Carla. She's a great chef, but unfortuately, the finale showed that she lacks the managerial skills to run a kitchen. She should've just told Casey what to do, instead of allowing Casey to persuade her from her gut instincts. Sadly, Carla doesn't have anyone to blame for herself. Since Carla was eliminated, I would have thought Stefan would have won. After all, his fowl dish with grape au jus (sounds amazing) was voted the best single dish out of any of them. He stumbled with the carpaccio and the dessert, but does Hosea deserve to win? OH HELL NO! At best, Hosea won through the process of elimination — but not because his food was the best. I was sickened to see his reaction to winning: smug, smug, smug. I wanted to rip that goatee off his chin! ;D Stefan was a classy guy in the end, consoling Carla with genuine affection and taking his runner-up status gracefully. Ugh, I can't believe it still. The producers of this show should hang their heads in shame!
February 26, 2009
I can't believe Hosea won. Shows what we know. I was bummed to see that Carla let Casey influence her into moving outside her comfort zone. She never had a chance. I think I would have rather eaten Stefan's meal. What did you think?
February 25, 2009
I would be happy if either Stefan or Carla won, but I think Stefan's attitude will probably take him under. But if Hosea wins, I swear I am never watching Top Chef again! You heard it here first! We'll see what happens tonight... :)
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9 Ratings: +2.9
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Top Chef, Season 5
Genre: Reality

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