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Rebuttal: Why Top Chef Masters is so Engrossing

Recently we stumbled upon a review of our new favorite show, Top Chief Masters, written by TIME’s Josh Ozersky. We were both appauled and decided that this will be the topic of our first serious blog post: a rebuttal to Ozersky’s piece.

Let us just say that we are not paid, do not represent any organization, have the utmost respect for TIME Magazine as a publication and institution and this is simply our opinion. Do not sue us.

First off, Ozersky comes of as complete douche bag in this review and in the linked IM exchange between Ozersky and Kat Kinsman, managing editor at CNN’s Eatocracy. We disagreed with nearly everything in his review and sided mostly with Kinsman in the IM exchange (she gave a few amazing quotes which we will expound upon later).

The crux of Ozersky’s argument is Master’s suffers from a dearth of conflict. Ozersky writes:

The contestants are already established chefs playing for charity money, so there are no stakes for anyone, and little in the way of backbiting: essentially, it’s what you might see at a high-end charity auction. And about as entertaining as a bottle of Nembutal.

The premise of the show is that the chefs are competing for funds, which will go to their charity of choice. However, we agree with Kinsman who writes, “I don’t like when mommy and daddy fight,” while disagreeing with the sentiment. It’s refreshing to shift the focus from the personal conflict. Why bother with trite backstabbing when we can get more of the chefs’ personalities, and even better, more focus on creating interesting challenges and *gasp* the food itself. It’s very refreshing.

By avoiding the interpersonal conflict that has become such a tired reality t.v. trope Master’s appears groundbreaking. As young people we have grown up with overly dramatic reality TV: the Real World, America’s Next Top Model, Big Brother, Survivor, etc. All of these shows give an unrealistic portrait of back stabbing and bickering that only occurs within  the deepest states of intoxication. Having respected professionals, representing respected non-profits is not only entertaining but it is reality in a professional context. In fact, politeness, friendship and respect should be striven for in our entertainment. It is interesting to see people who are masters at their craft, it is interesting to see people who like each other interacting, and the creativity of the food is interesting.

Regarding the burly Curtis Stone, Oseland (who looks and speaks like David Wain), and others. We both agree that their assessments have been a bit spotty and overly polite. We counter that the relatively sedate judges are  more realistic and add to the tone of tempered contest the show cultivates. Sensationalist judging is just as much a reality show trope as testosterone-brimming contestants. Overly enthusiastic judging is often based in the unreal (see American Idol) and therefore has little bearing on what is actually happening. However, the PG nature of the judging has not detracted from the fact that people are eliminated and whether or not the audience agrees with the decisions creates tension. In fact, because of the caliber of cooking we expect it is difficult to discern which dish is worst. As chef Traci Des Jardins said in episode 7: Date Night, “I expect you are all splitting hairs.” We agree. In addition, it is easier to forgive the judges for any questionable evaluations because the stakes are not nearly as high for the individuals.


About Rachel Young

My name is Rachel Young I am a graduate of Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. I am an environmental studies major with a concentration in chemistry. I grew up in Minnesota, USA but lived in China for part of my childhood. I am currently employed with the American Council for and Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

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