10 Lessons Learned From 6 Seasons of Top Chef

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Remember when Katie Lee Joel was a Top Chef judge ("I like this." Totally. useless.)? Does hearing the names Lisa or Robin still make you cringe inside because they were just...the worst? Remember the dreamiest Top Chef contestant (scratch that...cheftestant) of all time - the "hot diabetic chef" (as coined by an elementary school student), Sam Talbot?


Yes, I have watched every episode of every season of Top Chef, and when you've watched 6 seasons of any reality show that follows a somewhat established format, you're probably going to pick up on a few things. Here are some of the take-home lessons I've learned from 6 seasons of bordering-on-scary devotion to the show:


Not an amuse bouche/>

1. Know the amuse-bouche. When the challenge is to make an "amuse-bouche" (can you believe there was a day when I would have asked myself "wtf is an amuse-bouche"?), for the love of god, make sure it can be eaten in a single bite! Every time there's an amuse-bouche challenge, someone makes a plate with 5 things on it. If I know what an amuse-bouche is, I think the professional chefs should get it down too. One. Bite.


2. Compartment plates! Everything looks better in them.


3. "This is Top Chef, not Top Scallops!" - In arguably the most astute Top Chef commentary ever delivered by a chef-testant, Fabio (one of the more memorable personalities of Season 5, if not ever) laments that Jamie only ever makes scallops. Hilariously, chefs have been effing up scallops since the beginning of Top Chef. There are 2 lessons here: 1) Don't ever use frozen scallops (ah, Spike, how I loved you too). 2) Make stuff other than scallops.


4. Use bacon. Use booze. Have you ever noticed how much Padma - when not with child - and Gail, and Tom - like alcohol? And bacon? If it makes sense, use these ingredients! Don't make a beverage virgin if it can be alcoholic (somebody did this once...Padma seemed sad).


5. Don't make dessert. Seriously, unless you are a pastry chef or are forced to, never willingly make dessert. With few exceptions, it never goes well, and while the judges might complain about being served meat as a final course, meat as a final course is always better than a bad dessert!


6. For Restaurant Wars, take front of the house! Yes, this is the wussy way to go, but unless you are kind of terrible at front of the house (Laurine), or the judges have been looking to get rid of you for a few weeks and need an excuse like "could have done more with front of the house" (Laurine) - nobody gets out on front of the house! It's a strategic move, but it does seem to work.


7. Deconstruct EVERYTHING. Just ask the Voltaggios.


8. Not everything is meant to be made in 3 ways. Seriously, some things can be made in a mere 2 ways. Or, dare I say...1 way! Just make it good 1 way! Good one way is better than 2 ways good, 1 way suck. But they never learn, those silly chefs....


9. Toby Young: Kind of a Dick. Seriously, Toby Young was the meanest judge ever. It's fine to be critical, but Toby Young was mean for the sake of being mean...or for the sake of poor attempts at humor (I mean, really Toby Young, we're not going to buy that prison food tastes better than a James Beard nominee's slightly undersalted chicken). But guess what, Toby Young loses. He only made it 2 seasons as a judge on TC. Say hello to Eric Ripert...


10. The hot chick (or hot chick by comparison) never wins. Sorry, but it's true. There's always one obligatory hot chick/season (who always finds it necessary to sun bathe in a bikini) - and while they sometimes go far (Casey. Jen.), they never win.


These are just a few of the lessons I have learned from 6 seasons worth of Top Chef. What are some of the things you have learned?

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Jun 28, 2010 8:58PM EDT

hysterical post! laughed right along with you on all points. :) thanks!!! ...re: #4- Carla, season 5, made the virgin drink, in New Orleans, no?

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Jun 29, 2010 12:03AM EDT

I think it's also important to point out that perfectly-cooked lamb can buy you unofficial immunity for about 3 future eliminations, as demonstrated by season 5's Ariane.
& Toby is the worst.

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Jul 2, 2010 10:04AM EDT

11. If Tom Colicchio says "are you happy with the way your dish turned out," the answer is always "no."

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Jul 2, 2010 5:15PM EDT

Start a romance or heavy flirtation, the producers will keep you there as long as possible for the drama.

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Jul 6, 2010 3:11PM EDT

I agree with "quickfire"! Jen was soooo obviously flirting with coliccio!!! I though it was just in my head! But you gotta give it to her! She was reeeeaaally good for the first challenges! And I prefer Bryan, Michael is just too much self-centred for me... But it was good that he won, I woulden't imagine what he would have done to Bryan if he lost!!!
Sorry about my english! It lacks some practice... maybe a lot of practice!

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