A funny thing happened to Top Chef when Season Six started in Las Vegas: the whole bottom fell out.
Contestants who obviously shouldn’t have been in the competition in the first place were quickly eliminated. The contestant who sliced her fingers to bleed all over the place in the Quick Fire challenge was eliminated for a dish that died on the table in the Elimination challenge. Another person who wasted time during the Quick Fire challenge for not knowing the differences between opening clams and oysters was also eliminated for a dish that died on the table in the Elimination challenge. For the first couple of episodes, this was an exciting departure from past seasons where the obvious loser lingers on forever before being eliminated.
Then the bottom kept falling out.
A typical season of Top Chef has contestants that fall into a familiar pattern: a few on top, a few on bottom, everyone else in the middle. Which often has the judges cajoling the contestants to get out of the safe middle to cook their way into the top or bottom. The worst season I ever saw was where the middle stayed the same, but those at the top and bottom kept trading places up and down with every episode. Half a season goes by before the middle is squeezed out to produce the top contestants to go into the final round. But this season is different. The middle is being squeezed by the bottom falling out faster than usual, making the top the safest place to be that only a few contestants are there consistently.
Are the cooking challenges and/or judging too hard this season? I don’t think so. Everything is what you would expect after five seasons of Top Chef. These contestants should have analyzed every episode to know what have been done in the past and what skill sets they need to have to face a particular challenge or adapt to a different challenge. Yet the contestants who are being eliminated are delivering dishes that are dead on the table. An inedible dish is the quickest way to get eliminated from the competition.
Which raises a disturbing question: Can any of these contestants cook their way out of a paper bag?
The answer so far this season is quite obvious. The contestants seem to be perplexed by problems that contestants from previous seasons were able to improvise or work around even if they had no experience with the main ingredient in question. If these contestants represent the most talented up and coming chefs available, maybe the show should be renamed as Bottom Chef. At the very least, casting for next year’s season should be better than this year.
Whatever problems that Top Chef had this season in Las Vegas will hopefully stay in Las Vegas.