Top Chef All-Stars: Season Preview
By Kim Hollis, David Mumpower and Jason Lee
December 1, 2010
With regards to Season 7, we had originally slotted it lower than Season 3 but upon reflection, even though we disliked many of the dreaded “personalities” cast in lieu of better chefs, the reality is that the finale included some of the best food ever seen on the show according to Tom and Padma. Also, Tiffany and Ed as well as supremely annoying Angelo are all capable of making a world class meal so while we didn’t enjoy the season, we like the talent more than Season 3. This is because Season 3 made for great television and was in fact the reason we fell in love with Top Chef in the first place but when we look back on it, the reality is that there was only one great chef in Hung. CJ was funny and we have constantly stated Tre got a raw deal but upon re-watching the Restaurant Wars episodes that saw him eliminated, we now realize we had something of a blind spot for him. He deserved to go home. The other finalists that year, Dale and Casey, seem like fine, relatively accomplished chefs but other than the first and second seasons, this is the least impressive final grouping and in fact the body of the top 7 do not seem like the Crème de la Crème of Top Chef contestants. There are a lot of a likeable personalities from Season 3, which is why we enjoyed the program so much, but who would you argue (other than Hung) is definitively better than say Eli from Season 6? And Eli finished fifth that year.
We've also asked Jason Lee, who has recapped the previous seasons for BOP, to chime in with his thoughts on how the seasons ranked. Here are his comments:
I think it would be a mistake to wander into the same pitfall that I believe my fellow BOP compatriots have stumbled into. I strongly believe that the two chefs from Season 1 will be powers to be reckoned with. Why do I think this? Simply go back and re-watch the 4 Star All Star special, in which the top Season 1 chefs competed against the top chefs from Season 2. What happened? Season 1 not only kicked Season 2’s butt, but two chefs stood out: Tiffani, who blew the judges away with her duo of kobe beef, and Stephen, who had the best Quickfire and Elimination dishes of the entire competition.
On top of that, you have to consider that the Season 1 chefs are now seven years divorced from their Top Chef experience. They have had a much longer time to take the lessons learned from the competition and put them into practice. To employ a poor culinary analogy, they’ve been marinating in their post-Top-Chef juices longer than the other cheftestants. As a result, I’d watch out for Stephan and Tiffani.
Right or wrong, I’ve always looked at Elia and Marcel as chefs with pretty low ceilings in terms of talent. I predict both of them to fall relatively early.
Casey was strong near the end of the season but fell off during the finale. Dale appeared to benefit from peaking right at the best time (the finale), but against a higher caliber of cast, I think he’ll drop out pretty early. Tre is somewhat of mystery. He’s rightfully seen by fans as someone who would have easily made the final if not for a slip up during Restaurant Wars (I bet he always uses peeled apples in his bread pudding nowadays) but whether he’s able to maintain a high level of performance over 14 episodes, I don’t know. I see him getting far, but burning out in the end.