BBC America’s Last Restaurant Standing wound up it’s second season last night. I found it quite interesting to watch Raymond Blanc have to make his decision about with whom he wanted to go into business.
On one side of the equation was Alasdair and James. James was a very good chef who had proven himself utterly horrific with his communication skills and as having a high-degree of tunnel vision. Alasdair, James’s friend, was one of several front of house people this season who clearly had no idea what they were doing. It seems to me that the show placed a heavy premium this year on casting couples where one member could cook well and not on finding teams where one person people who could actually do the job of running a dining room, or necessarily even wanted to run a dining room.
That tactic made total and complete sense, it takes skill to run a dining room, but it seems as though much of what’s required there can be taught, while being able to cook is an art that some can never master. So, I understand where the show was coming from, but Alasdair was out of his depth all season and James was no help whatsoever, he only made Alasdair’s problems worse because he, James, spent the vast majority of the season only being concerned with his fiefdom and not with the other tasks that the teams had to handle. And, to make matters worse, not everything James did in the kitchen actually panned out.
The two of them managed to avoid elimination in round after round after round because James’s cooking was usually brilliant and always had the potential to be brilliant. To say that he carried the team may be true, but his not helping his partner nearly helped bury the team repeatedly.
On the other side of the table was the team of Michele and Russell. They did well all season, but one never really felt that they were doing brilliantly. They were successful, certainly, but watching the show I always felt as though their success was based more upon their not doing anything wrong rather than truly being exemplary. They may have had great moments, but they seemed very workmanlike.