The Final Table: The Final Table
December 1, 2018 1:51 AM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

Teams of elite chefs vie to impress the world's toughest palates as they whip up iconic dishes from nine nations in this star-packed competition.

What a pleasant surprise this was! Top notch production values; truly talented chefs; shot really well; terrific food and plating; and a focus on cooking and camaraderie rather than manufactured drama.

The calibre of chefs really make this work, and the fact the series gives them room to breathe - both in terms of personality and in terms of letting them cook without a bunch of gimmicky restrictions. Really felt like an updated Iron Chef without the camp.
posted by smoke (16 comments total)

A total Top Chef nerd, I jumped right on this. But I only watched the first episode. I just couldn't take all the breathless pauses, the dramatic-and-ever-changing lighting and the weird halting/pausing cadence of the host.

Is it worth it? Should I suck it up and just watch? Clearly, the contestants are a talented bunch, and I'm assuming they continue to get some truly world-class chefs as the final judges. But it feels like 20 minutes of show stretched to 45 minutes of drama.
posted by Frayed Knot at 7:59 AM on December 1, 2018

Yeah, I watched the first one and then skipped forward to the UK episode to see what specialty they would be asked to cook, but wasn’t very tempted to watch any more after that. Maybe the early episodes were suffering from too many cooks? Once the field thinned out a bit, and they didn’t need to introduce them all, it might be able to spend more time on the actual food.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 8:37 AM on December 1, 2018

I did find the pacing evened out as the field thinned, for sure. Though I will say that the format is quite rigid and never changes - that was actually a positive for me! "Here's an ingredient, make a dish" as opposed to the more laboured set ups we usually see.
posted by smoke at 12:45 PM on December 1, 2018

Some Netflix exec said 'Give me Ultimate Beastmaster, but with food!' and this is what we got. I was pretty into it. Each dish gets a good amount of time, description, and evaluation instead of some getting glossed over pretty quickly. I always appreciate that.
posted by Garm at 9:16 PM on December 1, 2018

Did you have any favourites? I think I liked Charles and Rodrigo most. Charles is like this... ethereally beautiful food-elf from another dimension, but I really like the chances they took and the humility. Shane and Mark are truly excellent chefs, but they do certainly know it and there was a bit of arrogance there I felt (like, justified arrogance, is that a thing?).

Amnider was clearly out of her league, I'm amazed they lasted as long as they did, but I thought the Kiwi had a pretty bad attitude. I quite liked Daniel from Boloud - Graham seemed like a bit of a tool, but it was nice to see them getting along by the end.
posted by smoke at 1:15 AM on December 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Charles grew on me, if slowly.

In the end i think i wanted Mark to win, and as someone sensitive to diversity and representation in the food world in general and on cooking shows in particular, it was a lot for me to root for the old white guy, only to have the most generic and seemingly least deserving white guy win it (i think least deserving is a poor phrase choice there - i just felt like they did such a good job finding people with really interesting backgrounds and then the competition was won by a guy with unarguably the most standard mainstream american backstory).

I read Greg Morabito's review on eater where he also complained about the early episode pacing - ill be honest and say that i understand theyre squeezing in a lot of people/dishes but it didnt really bother me AND a major major plus of this being direct-to-streaming was doing away with the whole preview-commercial break - actual show content - commercial break -review format that i find dominates so much terrible reality tv either because they have insultingly low notions of their viewers attention spans or bc they know most people are doing several other tasks at the same time and not devoting their entire attention to the tv.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 11:37 AM on December 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

I really hate that format where they replay the same footage like twice before the ad break, and twice after.
posted by smoke at 6:29 PM on December 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

I decided to give it another go so I watched the Brazilian episode, and I did caught up in it, not least because of the insanity of watching people attempt to make feijoada from scratch in an hour without advance planning. I guess having a pressure cooker is what makes it even possible?

The grandiosity of it all is still bothering me a bit though: the lighting and set and music. Not all British TV cooking competitions are as cosy as GBBO, but even the more dramatic ones don’t have that kind of budget, and I find it a bit grating. The cooking is certainly impressive though.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 7:55 AM on December 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

It’s half Iron Chef, half Drag Race, and I loved it way more than I thought I would.
posted by sixswitch at 7:30 PM on December 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Charles is like this... ethereally beautiful food-elf from another dimension, but I really like the chances they took and the humility.

UGH, Charles is just dreamy. I was surprised by the strong reactions I had to some of the contestants, in particular Timothy Hollingsworth (who represents so much of bro culinary culture and just bothers me, especially when he was talking back to judges about how his beans were cooked for the British breakfast challenge?? bug off, dude).

And I agree that this was much more entertaining than I was expecting. The past weekend was a horrible one for my family and we needed something to focus on to pass the time, and The Final Table was a perfect option. I'm thankful for it.
posted by witchen at 2:42 PM on December 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've been sort of watching this and I have thoughts!
1. The Colombian-french guy does a special dish that involves some obscure south american seeds. No way they didn't plan for this, they must have known in advance what they were cooking, if only to ask for the giant fridge to have the right ingredients.
2. In the India challenge, the guy asks for a vegetarian dish. In India, eggs are not considered vegetarian. The Aussies do an egg based dish and get away with it.
3. The complexity of dishes was not uniform across countries. Mexico got tacos (they should have picked moles or pozole) and India gets Butter chicken that's more British than Indian; while the Japanese and the French get complicated extra-time needing dishes.

But overall it was enjoyable, and nice to see non-western cuisine on the table.
posted by dhruva at 2:51 PM on December 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was a little disappointed with the winner. Like, sure, the dish looked delicious, but I felt like it didn't really represent what the competition was about. It was very low risk as it had been made hundreds, possibly thousands, of times. I didn't feel that chef was in fact the best or most experienced chef in the comp - rather he was very good and what he did, but many of the others had broader experience and knowledge of other cuisines and ingredients and techniques.

I kinda felt like what had been a super cosmopolitan and international show ended up with a very safe and whitebread conclusion. But, I guess the judges all chose it so it must have been good.

I want more women in the next season.
posted by smoke at 5:01 PM on December 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

On balance, I really liked it, especially as the first season of a specific format.

I liked the lack of interpersonal drama and other reality bull. I liked that the challenges were straightforward and the chefs were given plenty of time, equipment and ingredients. The gimmicky nature of a lot of cooking shows turns me off -- let me see people who are good at something do it well; that's entertaining enough.

I liked the reasonable level of diversity; 3 of the 9 Top Chefs were women; the 24 competitors were quite international -- and from some interesting places, like Ecuador and South Africa -- although overall too white and male. Not perfect, but not terrible. The "ambassadors" from each country generally acquitted themselves well; I don't know who most of the critics are because I don't know those countries, but if they're the local equivalents of Jay Rayner and Sam Sifton (and I don't know why they wouldn't be) then that's pretty good.

Some things could use tweaking -- only two countries in Asia, only one in East Asia and it's second to last; put, say, South Korea instead of Spain or the UK. The first seven countries generally had very populist dishes and suddenly the last two were doing really refined dishes. I don't think it needed that level of stadium pomp and excess, and a smaller-produced show (more Top Chef than Iron Chef) could have been every bit as interesting.

It was also sometimes unclear what the goal of each challenge was -- sometimes people got dinged about not being classic enough, sometimes it was they were too out there. Even the final -- if they'd just had the word "new" when describing the dish, then I don't think Timothy would have cooked what he did, which may have been the best dish but was really against the spirit of a competition where chefs were always innovating and out of their comfort zone.

One big change I'd make: It seems like the single thing that chefs are most jazzed about in these sorts of things is the chance to cook for the best chefs in the world and get their feedback and endorsement. So it's unfortunate that you had to lose the first round to actually get the chance to do that. If the master chefs had judged both rounds, first with the ambassadors and secondly on their own, then there would have been a little more consistency and all the cheftestants would have had the opportunity to cook for the master chefs.

In our household, Charles was the piece's villain -- just so pretentious and weedy and faux-humble and ugh. One of the problems with the rotating judges was that he got to recycle his schtick, whether it's appropriating "native" styles of cooking or in the Japanese episode serving "innovative" tofu skin and forgotten vegetables in both challenges. The thing about "using the forgotten part" of the product feels like a cliche, and particularly heinous on a show like this one, where you cook the fish head to make a statement -- but the production team is going to throw away all the perfectly good meat left on the actual fish, since it's been sitting under stadium lights for two hours. (I was still cheering for Darren a little bit, goddamnit, he's a local boy and it's hard to get attention out here in Calgary.)
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 7:59 PM on January 1, 2019

I liked :
- The no-interpersonal drama thing
- The "here's one ingredient now cook it" challenges
- It was generally entertaining
- I'd love to see more women chefs
- I really didn't like the last episode, I kind of enjoy it when they work as a team, and everybody has the same objective
- The France part was too technical and not that interesting
- The pacing was weird and the cuts were sometimes disorienting (like in the last two minutes, was it actually the last two minutes being filmed ? I couldn't tell)
- The non chef jury selection lacked consistency

Overall, I didn't regret watching it, but I ended up a little disappointed at the end
posted by motdiem2 at 5:07 AM on January 11, 2019

Not only did I watch and enjoy the whole series - flabbergasted how they got freakin' Andoni Aduriz and GRANT ACHATZ on a tv show ?!!?!?!? - but when I realised that Rodrigo's restaurant was only an hour's drive away from where I would be vacationing in Ecuador, I immediately got in touch and made a reservation.

Had a spectacular lunch at Boca Valdivia, and had an opportunity to have a nice, warm and long chat with both Rodrigo and Charles. Rodrigo's vision and talent connected with the rising level of international attention, in my mind, makes him one to watch and I look forward to visiting his restaurant again next year. Highly recommended.
posted by alchemist at 5:15 AM on January 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

« Older Book: Tess of the Road...   |  Babylon 5: Ship of Tears... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments