Friday, January 19, 2018

Top Chef and Dysfunctional Teams

I usually have less to say on a weekly basis about "Top Chef" but well, for those of you who watched this week and know my need to discuss the failures of dysfunctional teams, here we are.  The conceit was three teams of three with each chef's course having a time limit and a slightly different challenge in an Olympic nod. Skating judge type scoring would be used for each round, with the team's total being calculated across rounds for winning and losing teams.  
The white team lost.  What was clear to both the viewers at home and the folks in the room (where there were non-judge guests who had been assigned table colors to encourage them to route for a team) was that Claudette, who had the first round for her team really seemed to be working alone while a lot of help plating was being given to the other two team members up first.  Claudette was shown to ask for a number of things, and it was pretty clear that Tanya was frustrated since this was all happening at the time she could have been prepping for her stuff.  I go back and forth on this.  Tanya clearly felt she was helping more than she needed to, and at one point said, I'm gonna need your help because I'm behind now.  So Claudette stopped asking for help and then when called out for having a meal that lacked balance was very quick to note she had not gotten the help she'd needed. 
So, it was clear that these three chefs had very different ideas of what kind of teamwork should be put into place for this challenge and once you're in the weeds it can be really tough to figure out how to recover because you are already overwhelmed.  As someone who is still working on the remaining items from busy season at my day job, we've had a lot of meeting about what went wrong and why we're behind and a lot of it kind of looks like this - basically I would have been on time if these folks had been willing to provide me this assistance and if I had known going in they would be stretched or unavailable I would have planned differently. 
So, then Tanya was up and she had made a critical error guessing the temperature of her meat.  On top of that, she had taken the precise cuts round and felt she had needed early prep time to work on her cuts, and her prep time had, from her perspective become help Claudette time.  One thing I think the show kind of glided over was there was a third member of this team who really didn't seem to be helping anyone either.  Chris mentioned in his talking head spot he had noticed the tension and decided he couldn't be distracted by it which, umm, okay.  
So, in the end, this team ended up in the bottom but Chris, who mostly didn't help anyone, had the best meal of the three, so he wasn't in jeopardy. Which is not uncommon in these team challenges, and why so often you see folks saying, I knew we were going down, I just figured this was the thing I could save.  It worked for him, because from what we saw, no one cared that he hadn't helped his team, and no one was mad that he hadn't helped, Claudette was mad that Tanya hadn't helped enough, and Tanya was mad that Claudette didn't want to acknowledge the help that had been given, and so, Chris sat their looking like the nice guy, Claudette saved herself in part by blaming Tanya, and Tanya, in the end went to Last Chance Kitchen. Look Tanya made enough critical errors, that I'm not saying she didn't deserve to go home.  But, this was dysfunction across the team.  Sacrificing your food for others never works out, but it's so hard to watch not helping others get so rewarded. Or rewarded unequally.