Top Chef: Season 3 Lowlights
As we get ready for the Top Chef season finale tomorrow, we are taking a trip down memory lane with our cheftestants.

Yesterday, I went over my picks for the top moments so far, today, it's the lowlights. Somehow I had an easier time selecting these; I guess that's the nature of reality TV.

Take a look at what I came up with and see if you agree!

An overall low point for me was the product placement. I realize that the flip side of having shows available to us with the convenience of DVR's, iTunes and online streaming is that shows have to come up with alternative methods of selling ads.

My problem with the product placements on Top Chef is that the products themselves can sometimes be so counter to what most really good chefs are trying to do. When I'm not watching reality TV, I happen to be lucky enough to work with some awesome chefs in the Pacific Northwest area. To a one, the consistent trait they all have is love for quality ingredients that are produced locally and responsible and food prepared with creativity, thought and care.

Now, everyone loves a burger, but to have a challenge based on a Red Robin menu just somehow seems to fly in the face of the ethos my experience tells me a lot of chefs have. The very idea of a chain restaurant with the same menu across the country is contrary to the kind of creative cooking these chefs aspire to. So I found it disheartening to have to watch them sing the praises of some of the products and sponsors. Who knows? Maybe I am completely off in my feelings, but it just seemed so obvious that it was words put in their mouths and it was off-putting.

Another all-episode lowlight: desserts. What's up with that, chefs? I know that the skills associated with being an excellent pastry chef or baker can be night and day from the skills associated with being an excellent chef. But it's the third season of Top Chef. By now, chefs should be coming into the competition with at least one strong, reliable and adaptable dessert recipe committed to memory or tattooed on their inner thigh.

For the episode-specific lowlights, I'll start with Episode 3: Low-fat American classics for the Elks club. A trifecta of dullness. Any one of those things as an element for a challenge, maybe. But all three? Snooze. It did require some creative thought on the part of the chefs, but just overall, not a particularly interesting challenge to me.

Episode 5: Where did the time go?

The chefs learn that their challenge this week will be all about timing. As they are racing to put together their Latin-inspired lunches for the cast and crew of a telenovela, Tom Colicchio comes in and announces lunch has been moved up so now they only have one hour.

Oh come on now. Do you really expect us to believe this was a spontaneous event? Tom Colicchio only redeems himself in my eyes by the fact that he seemed unable to keep a straight face when delivering the news. Look, arbitrary and capricious difficulties thrown at contestants is all a part of reality TV. We know it, Bravo. You don't have to dumb it down or dress it up.

Episode 6: Hung cannot walk the walk.

If comments left by our BuddyTV readers are any indication of popular opinion, people find Hung Huynh to be really annoying. His arrogance, defensiveness when criticized, chaotic energy in the kitchen, and lack of a desire to help his other chefs rub a lot of folks the wrong way. I completely get it, but for some reason, I still kind of like the guy. I don't think I would want to work with him, but his irritating traits seem amusing when safely at home on the couch, out of range of that knife he was running around with.

But whether you like him or hate him, you probably expected that Mr. Big Talker would be ready to throw down when he was paired with the volatile Joey Paulino in the Bertoli challenge.

He didn't throw down, though, he laid down and rolled over when Joey didn't listen to his direction for freezing the food. Joey admitted he can get a little focused and stop listening, but it seemed like he just needed Hung to be a bit more aggressive in standing up for his ideas. But he wasn't and it was actually Joey who got sent home for it.

Episode 6: “Supersized” episode.

It was 15 minutes longer. It didn't really need to be. I like Top Chef and all, but if you're supersizing my episode, you better make it worth my time. Otherwise it's just empty calories.

Episode 8: Do-Over!

After a wildly unsuccessful Restaurant Wars challenge, the cheftestants got another chance and the elimination was skipped for that episode.  My problem with this is on principle only.  From an entertainment perspective, I like Restaurant Wars so I didn't mind watching them do it twice...but it really wasn't fair to prior seasons and made the judging process a little less airtight.  There have been equally disastrous challenges before.  Why should these chefs get a second chance?

Overall, though, I found this season to be consistently enjoyable.  While it is a reality show, and so of course succumbs to some silly drama-creation at times, in general I think Bravo's shows are some of the better-produced and more intelligent reality offerings available.  I'm glad to have Project Runway to look forward to now that Top Chef is ending!

So what did you think?  What were the worst moments of the season for you? 

- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
(Image courtesy of Bravo)