I've been watching "Top Chef" for a long time. I've seen every one of its nine-plus seasons, every one of every episode therein.
I've been upset when my favorite chefs were sent knife-packing early and when chefs I didn't much root for won the big title.
It happens. Only one winner can be crowned in the Bravo network reality competition show, after all, which means as many as 15 or so fall each season.
Last Wednesday on the show, now in season 10, a woman who might have been considered a frontrunner went home early. Too early.
Worse, a chef who has been pretty weak and very annoying stayed instead.
Viewers hate that.
Kristen, who had amassed $45,000 winning individual competitions before leaving, packed her knives and went home. She apparently was wildly popular. This is suggested not only because I liked her, but because of the "Top Chef" blog comments from the masses on the Bravo TV website.
A couple of those blogs are good reading. Chef/judge Hugh Acheson's is downright funny. He helps fill the void both as a verbally deft judge and as a blogger left by Anthony Bourdain, who was a recurring judge on "Top Chef" in the past, but who's moved on, at least for now (more on that to follow). Bourdain's blogs were unsurpassed in their entertainment value.
Then there are the viewer comments after those blogs. These are not good reading. These are, at times, a little cuckoo. I try not to read them, but it's like that same old train wreck that keeps on wrecking sometimes you just have to ... well, you know.
And so it was with some of the comments about Kristen's demise. Some simply vented disappointment, but others were verbally apoplectic rants at the judges, questioning their abilities, intelligence and ethics.
The thing is, it's just a TV show. And that's coming from a rampant, fan of the "Top Chef" franchise. No matter how much I love the show, an ousted chef doesn't consume me to the point of keypad explosion.
Anger management, anyone?
I interviewed "Top Chef" judge and producer Tom Colicchio leading up to his appearance a year ago at the Gallo Center in Modesto and asked him about fans who, well, talk smack about some of the decisions.
"What I love," he said in that February 2012 interview, "is when someone tells us, 'So-and-so was a much better chef, how could you have done that?!' And my answer is 'How do you know? You're telling me they're a better chef? You know this why? I don't remember when you were sitting at the table and having all those meals.'
"It's crazy, it's crazy, if you really think about it. And if you ever engage someone, they go, 'Yeah, I guess you're right.'
"But on the other hand, it's great to have fans who are that passionate about what we do."
Well, I'm a fan a huge fan but nowhere near that passionate: See above, it's just a TV show.
The aforementioned Anthony Bourdain is the biggest draw to the new ABC offering "The Taste," the latest reality/competition series to try to capitalize on the "Top Chef" TV cooking craze.
"The Taste" debuted Tuesday with Bourdain who also came to the Gallo Center, selling out the theater in 2011 along with chef/restaurateurs Brian Malarky (a former "Top Chef" competitor) and Ludo Lefebvre, and food show veteran Nigella Lawson as judges and competitors themselves.
Not sure yet what the show exactly will entail. The two-hour premiere was a team selection process, as each of the four judges blind-tasted bites from contestant hopefuls, giving the boot to those whose food wasn't tasty enough.
Frankly, it kind of dragged. I love Bourdain in all his acid-tongue glory, and like the other three judges just fine, but the process was pretty boring.
Seemingly, the show will feature the four judges mentoring their team members each week to create the same dish in bite-sized portions; then all four will taste those bites, not knowing who cooked what. That way, judges send home competitors based only on (natch) "The Taste," possibly even shipping off their own team members.
It all sounds promising. Hopefully, once the actual competition gets under way, the show will become more compelling. An Anthony Bourdain is a terrible thing to waste.