Top Chef: Finale
March 9, 2018 11:40 AM - Season 15, Episode 14 - Subscribe

"In an epic showdown in Aspen, the final two chefs cook the meal of their lives in an effort to take home the ultimate title and prize. To win it all, they’ll need to impress not only the judges but also culinary superstars Nancy Silverton, Jonathan Waxman and Curtis Duffy. It's a fight to the bitter end, but only one will be crowned Top Chef." (Description from Bravo) SPOILER ALERT: This discussion is about the Finale episode, so there will definitely be spoilers from the get go.
posted by primalux (10 comments total)
While I didn't have a huge preference for either chef, I REALLY REALLY wanted a black woman to win Top Chef finally. Like REALLY wanted it. Joe seems like a good guy and a good chef and Adrienne was riding the middle for a lot of the season, so this is definitely not Nicholas/Nina levels of disappointment but I'm really starting to think that they need a more diverse panel of judges overall and on the regular judging team.
posted by primalux at 11:46 AM on March 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

I had the same thoughts, Primalux. They are both excellent chefs who made amazing meals, but I would have preferred Adrienne to win for representation reasons.
posted by apricot at 12:08 PM on March 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Wow, I had completely forgotten about how utterly meh Nicholas was in that season (and in fact the first google hit for "Nicholas top chef" has the headline "how top chef tarnished their brand in the finale").

I also really would have liked to see the first woman of color Top Chef, but it is hard to feel like Joe was a bad choice (I knew it was over when Tom called his pasta a fatto mano perfect) and the redemptive LCK-comeback story was certainly compelling.

I feel like Adrienne maybe got screwed by the editors, not in this particular episode but in that it took them a kind of long time to figure out what her story was supposed to be and then the "shaking off cooking the food of my highly pedigreed mentors" just seemed kind of middling. When she was talking in the finale about how her goal is to open a restaurant serving identifiably black food with the intention of earning a Michelin star I nearly screamed at the TV that if she had said that exact thing in episode two her story-line would have been so much improved. I guess that was sort of Chris' "thing" and I would have also loved seeing him in the final also.

There is something to be said for how not-well the show deals with anything that steps too far outside the very white mainstream of popular culinary culture. Its okay (even if it is remarked upon) to cook pasta (or scallops) nearly every episode but there seems to be pressure for "ethnic" chefs to show their ability to go outside their comfort zones. About 1/3 of this seasons cheftestants came from culinary backgrounds outside of strictly European ones, but it seems like the producers would need to do more than merely cast more diverse contestants to really diversify the show.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:09 PM on March 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

Exceptional_Hubris: Absolutely YES, to everything you just said (though there were two previous WOC who won, Kristin and Mei)

Your last point is definitely a thing that bothers me with this show. Even the other (white) contestants are constantly commenting about the other chefs who cook more in line with their ethnic backgrounds. Nicholas was constantly talking shit about Carlos only cooking Mexican food, as though the food from this huge, diverse country is any less diverse than "European fine dining". I've been rewatching old seasons and in season 4 Antonia (who never cooked anything that wasn't European, and mostly Italian, that I can recall) comments several times throughout the season that Dale "only cooks Asian food" and I was pretty happy when Anthony Bourdain said something like "Asian isn't really a concept - Asia is a really huge place." This wasn't in response to her, but it was basically the only thing anyone said that season to contradict this patronizing current that is always running through the show.
posted by primalux at 12:22 PM on March 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

touché on Mei and Kristin (you might have forgiven me for omitting Mei, but Kristin's definitely still around and shilling TC cruises? something pretty bad, though maybe not as bad as Brooke shilling for Sandals - or was it Secrets?).

As far as what to do next about boxing in "ethnic" chefs - its pretty clear to me, that in 2018, if you want racial diversity and representation, you're going to need a White Guy (tm). Im obviously (mostly) joking but I feel like it would be perfectly on brand to have some young-millennial white dude who is totally into Thai or Mexican cooking waltz into season 16 and have them wow the judges even though they never stray outside of their (totally valid and not that narrow) national cuisines of choice.

In more seriousness, im not really sure what structural changes would better facilitate integration of chefs with palates and backgrounds outside the European fine dining area. Obviously certain things like protein selections would impact inclusivity and there are inevitably team challenges where pairing the executive sous chef at a 3 starred molecular gastronomy spot wit someone who makes the peasant food of krygizstan would be an extra challenge, but frankly I cant think of an of these structural changes that would do more than just having judges and producers who value food of all types, origins, and costs equally.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:31 PM on March 9, 2018

They could set a season outside of the US. I don't know if they ever would.
posted by dilaudid at 9:08 PM on March 9, 2018

dilaudid, I just saw an interview with Padma where she suggested that very thing! She wants TC to do a whole season in Asia—she suggested various countries.
posted by epj at 10:06 PM on March 10, 2018

I dunno, you don't think that would be an excuse for the cheftestants to go to markets and comment on how "weird" everything is?
posted by chainsofreedom at 3:07 PM on March 11, 2018

I dunno, you don't think that would be an excuse for the cheftestants to go to markets and comment on how "weird" everything is?

I'm still rewatching old seasons and Mike Isabella's repeated refusal to not only not learn how to say Preeti's name but also comment "pretty, purty, preeti I don't know what her name is but I just call her purty" definitely would have made me agree with you in the past, though I'm pleasantly surprised how far the *contestants* in general have come in this regard. The early seasons of this show have not aged well at all, not just in terms of race and ethnicity, but good god how they used to bully women, especially older women. It's pretty gross.
posted by primalux at 8:55 PM on March 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Yeaaaah, this whole season was a bit of a wash for me. Nothing wrong with Joe but another cis white dude cooking Italian food is the best? okay....

Tom’s been thoroughly defending the choice on Twitter, which makes sense. But how about next year, none of the other judges are cis white guys and none of the guest chefs who pop in are so overwhelmingly white?

It’d also be interesting to see if there’s a correlation between people who get heel edits and their genders.
posted by hijinx at 12:02 PM on March 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

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