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.
I don’t mean that as an insult, think about it, consistency is key when you go to a restaurant. You’re not going to go somewhere that has the best food in the world and great service one week and the next week seats you outside by the dumpster and gives you a bowl of Puppy Chow. Sure, you had a great meal there, but the bad experience is going to stop you from coming back. No, you’re going to repeatedly visit the place where the food is pretty good, the people are nice, and you have a basic idea of what to expect. You may try the Puppy Chow place every now and then, but you won’t be frequenting it.
And now we discuss the results…
So, Alasdair & James got by on flashes of brilliance and Michele & Russell on consistently doing their job pretty well. To me, the choice then became the team that could create a spectacular restaurant or a huge dud or the team that you knew would deliver something respectable. Alasdair and James squeaked through for weeks on end with the promise that they could be great, but consistency won out, it had to. Unless Raymond was going to be with Alasdair & James every night to watch every step, there was no way he could open a restaurant with them. He let them continue in the competition hoping that they would learn consistency, but they didn’t, which made Raymond’s final choice that much easier.
I might be more interested in Alasdair & James’ menu, but Michele & Russell’s restaurant is the one I’d rather go to. For my money, Raymond made the right choice.
But, go ahead, tell me I’m wrong and that Michele and Russell were just as mercurial. If you saw something I didn’t, speak up. If you don't I can only assume that I'm right.