Top Chef: Not Carla...

Josh Brusin

February 26 2009 - 12:18 AM

After a few seasons of Top Chef you feel that you can second guess the winners. Hosea had that segment at the beginning where he mentions that a win would mean more to him than the other two as they have careers… nuff said.

But this time I took a stand. At 54 minutes in… with 6 minutes left (including commercials), I called it for Carla.

I called it for Carla after she fucked up the souffle… after she fucked up the entree. I had no problem rationalizing it. I found Carla to be a true risk taker. I honestly felt that she would have been finally given some credit for understanding the power of simplicity and true comfort food flavors… even in spite of miscues. I thought that honest simplicity would rule the day over practiced technique.

For me to call it for Carla at this point would also mean that two other contestants would have to have done something wrong. I'd say conceptually – sure. Stephan could be a Ritz Carlton-caliber chef. His European sensibilities are obvious. They mentioned that his squab was cooked in only the way a European chef could cook it. He did what was expected. He played it safe.  Hosea was up and down and finished the meal with a second savory dish. He played it safe. His first course on the upside down shot glass looked terrific but after that it was a couple of safe decisions. Playing it safe should be smart but not to the point where your food lacks "soul" – as the judges put it.

Carla chose to listen to her Sous Chef. She did what people are told to do very often. Surround yourself with people who are talented and let them be talented. Maybe her mistake was to assume that the woman she was paired with could add to the challenge. Maybe her mistake was not insisting to do things her way. But to insist on doing things her way is being a conventional chef, like Stephan, or like nearly every other chef out there. Carla certainly has the self confidence and the ego to feel that she's a winner when she cooks her food. She said that. But she doesn't have the ego to insist on her way (she should have) and while I can grudgingly agree that it's a character trait that is pretty much a requirement in a chef, it shouldn't disqualify her from a win.

I hope she can realize that her food, as she always says, is love. In this case she chose to work with her sous chef. Obviously too much, but when the other chefs failed to deliver any "soul" according to the judges Carla should have won because in spite of her failures she still did that. Without it you just have ingredients. As we know Hosea took most of those.