LOS ANGELES (LALATE) – The Top Chef New Orleans 2014 winner results last night prompted immediate Bravo backlash and outrage against head judge Tom Colicchio with many viewers vowing never to watch the show ever again. The season finale delivered two incredible talents. The manner in which the finale progressed – from lack of restaurant equipment, confusion about course additions, and disconnect about judges roles – left many viewers outraged, even before the winner was announced.
The Top Chef New Orleans winner 2014 was announced as Nicholas Elmi. But before fans learned who won Top Chef New Orleans 2014, Andy Cohen appeared in the Bravo Clubhouse for commercial teases during the hour. Alongside Cohen were Nick and Nina. And while Nina was all smiles, Nick was not. During his eventual WWHL appearance, Nick, despite over twelve weeks of programming, still couldn’t watch his language, and was bleeped by network sensors during the live telecast.
Throughout much of the season, there was a massive distain by viewers toward Nick that escalated during the France-Spain episode. And last night, Bravo pushed their Play Bravo service, asking viewers “You be the judge, who should win Top Chef”. The viewers voted 82% to Nina and 18% to Nick.
But the real issue was not Nick and Nina. It was the producers’ handling of the finale.
The episode called into question several production concerns. First, Bravo should especially in the season finale tell the finalists the list of mechanical equipment that they are being provided in their kitchen, if not allow them a walk through the kitchen before purchasing food.
Here Bravo was more concerned about pushing product placement companies – Whole Foods and Toyota – then allowing Nina to know if she had an ice cream machine or not in her kitchen before buying tons of eggs and cream at Whole Foods. After Nina purchased a large percentage of her spending allotment on ice cream preparation, she was short handed. This is not the first time this season that chefs are told to buy food and then prepare dishes with no understanding of the kitchen facilities ahead of purchasing. It does not serve the show, the contestants, or the food to play mystery kitchen games.
Second, there was confusion about the number of courses and the point system. Last year, the finale was live, with each course prompting a win or loss. It was simple and not open to debate.
This season, Nina did extra courses and then appeared to get punished because her extra offerings were not exceptional.
Third, the voting system this season appeared highly suspect. Last year, the finale voting system was based upon best dish, round to round. A win was a win, a loss was a loss. This season, the producers created a format – an even number of courses – that was destined for a tie. Clearly Bravo anticipated a 2 vs. 2 tie as a possible outcome.
Ultimately, that tie breaker made it appear that Tom Colicchio was acting arbitrary. But the entire format of a tie breaker could have been prepared properly during production ahead of time. Instead, it resulted in what appeared to be random factors. Judges were asking to comment about Nick’s shouting, having never seen what went on back in the kitchen.
Ultimately the lack of production preparation, formatting the finale’s structure, mystery about kitchen equipment, and lack of clarity of a point system left viewers thinking the show is an arbitrary competition. For now, whoever designed the format of the finale should be told to pack their knives and head home.
New Orleans, Nicholas Elmi, Top Chef