I was quite impressed by this episode’s guest chef, although reading some of the blogs at bravotv.com, it seems as if some found his commentary on the harsh side. Remembering some of the guest judges from seasons past, who seemed to relish the opportunity to pick on others, I thought that Norman van Aken gave honest constructive criticism without being overly critical. Watching this episode I started to think about the editing, and a level of distrust arose within me. Obviously, when there are fourteen contestants and this week there will only be one winner and one person sent home, there needs to be some selective editing to show the highlights, especially as they relate to those two individuals. I wonder, though, if other individuals are fairly portrayed as characters in the drama (for example Hung, Joey, and Micah). There are always the protests that it’s “all about the food,” and perhaps from the judging standpoint this is true, but not from a television producers’ perspective. I just wonder when you hear comments like Hung’s callous remark about Micah not truly missing her daughter, or the way in which Joey reacted to Hung’s “stealing” – was there something that couldn’t fit into the editing? What if Joey and Hung had a conversation about said watermelon drink, which would be the only way I think I could side with Joey? It would put a different spin on the situation than what is now presented.
The kiss of death at eliminations has to be when one of the chefs standing before the judges admits that they don’t understand why they are standing there. Last week, Clay tried to say that he stood behind his dish but then backed down; this week, Sandee replied to one of Gail’s questions that she was “astonished” to be standing there. While those were both probably honest statements, and the chefs probably had good reason to say them, I think there comes a time in everyone’s life when it is necessary to sling the bull. For example, when writing college papers... Or, in a situation more relevant to the task at hand, when one knows that s/he is one of the bottom four chefs in a challenge.
Obviously this means that there was something wrong with one’s dish – as no one is perfect, maybe it would be beneficial to go ahead and admit SOMETHING that went wrong. If Sandee had said something – maybe, that her water took too long to boil – not something that the judges had in mind when calling her out, I doubt that it would do anything than give her some points. Last week the judges were impressed at how humble (well, to various extents) and loquacious the chefs were in defending themselves (I’m especially remembering Dale here). Unless the admission is that the chef actually cheated while preparing the dish, I don’t think that recognizing a mistake made would ever count against someone in the judge’s deliberation. Rather, admitting that one feels “astonished” to be in the bottom four seems to imply a lack of understanding either in the challenge or in cooking – neither being things a cheftestant probably wants the judges to know.