Top Chef Masters - S2E8 Postmortem
Awwwwwww... so sad. But I'm not troubled with the judging like some (I'm looking at you, Doktarr!). So let me just address this quickly.
It's been suggested that Feniger's critic scores ran contrary to the crowd's score, and that Rayner was unusually harsh. Last point first. I didn't think his tone was particularly harsh, but even if it struck you as such, he was only half a star below Gael and Gail. That's hardly a curmudgeonly, aberrant score. As to whether the judges' scores were out of line with the crowd... well, sort of, but not as much as you think. Yes, the judges scores were about a full star lower than the crowd, but the crowd still gave Feniger their second-lowest rating out of all five chefs (Susur coming in last with the crowd). So the judges scored her fifth out of five, and the crowd scored her fourth out of five. I don't see any disconnect there. Yes, the crowd scores for her were marginally higher, but generally speaking, that's what you'd expect. Since the crowd score is an average of scores from a very large sample of diners, you'd expect, on average, the top scores to be a little lower and the bottom scores to be a little higher. So I think this idea that Rayner tipped the scales, or that the judges and the crowd weren't on the same page is a non-starter. Plus, Susur was only on the bottom because there wasn't enough room on the top. This was between Waxman and Feniger, and is anybody really surprised that Waxman edged her?
And yet, it's sad to see such an ebullient personality kicked to the curb. I'm guessing it was a very good dish, but when everybody is pretty much firing -- and it sounds like everybody pretty much was -- something on the simpler end of the spectrum is probably going to lose out to something that's a little more refined. I'll be curious to read the critics' blogs once they go up, but my hunch is that Feniger simply undershot the level of refinement that they expected for the event and the stage of the competition, which made her stick out. And when you're on the chopping block, the last thing you want to do is stick out.
On the other end, I get the feeling... and it's just a feeling... that Moonen is regarded by many as, perhaps, not on the same level as the rest, and I hope this week puts that notion to bed. If he survives next week and makes the finals, he'll have earned it.
Which brings us to what's always the best topic of conversation heading into the semis. Who do you want to see in the finals? As far as who's most deserving based on performance so far, it's hard to say. If the next episode were voided and the judges had to simply choose three to advance based on the season thus far, Susur is the only shoo-in. Though he's been a little inconsistent, I feel like Moonen probably deserves a free pass as well, especially coming off a week as strong as this one. My vague notion is that I'd place Samuelsson fourth based on performance thus far, though I wonder how much of that is simply because he really challenges the judges, and much as I love him, you could make a case for Waxman being the most deserving of the door. You just have to adore the guy, and there's always something so satisfying about seeing simple, soulful food rock the house, but he's obviously tired and hasn't shown us his best as of late. It's not a crash of Anita Lo proportions, but Episode 8 Waxman isn't Episode 5 Waxman.
As far as who I'd like to see in the finale? Susur, for sure. And even if he's the least deserving -- and I'm not conceding that he is -- I feel like Samuelsson could be so much fun in the finale. He has such a foreign, outlandish style, and if the last challenge is, once again, to cook your life's story, who isn't curious to see what he does with that? Waxman's a big ol' teddy bear whose food just makes people happy, and Moonen's a dynamo whose dishes keep sneaking up on people... can't we just skip episode nine and go straight to the finale with four chefs? Ah, well. I guess I can take solace that I'll be equally disappointed no matter what happens next week.