On Thursday’s Top Chef, the judges surprised viewers by sending Renee home, after Team Vegan’s pop-up restaurant proved to be far less than fabulous. Did they send the wrong cheftestant home?
When Season 13’s contestants were charged with creating pop-up restaurants specific to neighborhoods in Los Angeles, it was the team who made vegan food — Philip Frankland Lee, Grayson Schmitz, Renee Kelly and Frances Tariga-Weshnak — who failed spectacularly. The judges decided that it was Renee who would pack her knives, after declaring her dish dry and mushy. Fans, however, were shocked that Grayson would be remaining in the competition — not only was her dish from the first elimination challenge characterized as “uninspired,” but she broke one of the cardinal rules of Top Chef — pushing back when the judges critiqued her: “I made 400 balls!” She also complained in the vegan challenge about not being able to cook with meat, and the judges thought her pop-up restaurant dish could have been made by anyone. Although it’s early in the season, viewers seem to have already decided who they’ve had enough of.
Actually, it’s not just a second chance Grayson’s been given by not being sent home — it’s more like a third. Not only was she not eliminated in the season’s first episode on Wednesday night for her less than stellar meatballs, but she’s already been on a previous season of the show — Top Chef: Texas. Grayson’s attitude is even more disappointing to fans because she’s been given a chance to compete again.
If Top Chef is keeping Grayson around for the sake of drama, it wouldn’t be the first time. This is reality TV, after all, where people are often cast based on their ability and potential to generate conflict, and there have certainly been dramatic cheftestants in the past. And since it’s only the second episode in the season, we haven’t gotten to know most of the chefs, and if you’re not going to stand out with your food, you’d better be able to stand out by having some kind of personality. Philip hasn’t exactly endeared himself to fans thus far, either, what with constantly reminding everyone that he’s already won other cooking competitions, has some restaurants, knows Los Angeles better than anyone ever, etc.
Top Chef is a cooking competition, ultimately, though, and the reputations of a lot of big-deal chefs are at stake in the selection of the winner. In other words, attitude will only get you so far. Grayson’s going to have to start cooking like it matters if she wants to stick around.