Watching the TV program "Top Chef", what sticks out is how the most delicately refined of the chefs often fare worse than the others or, better said, often the refined nature of such chef’s food is not recognized. This happens almost always when their food is tasted at the same time as the other chef’s food.
This kind of attempt at direct, one-after-the-other taste comparisons breaks all known, accepted knowledge of how tasting and comparing flavors and food qualities has to be done. It is totally wrong and can never result in full recognition of the felicities of all the offerings. It will almost always give a decided advantage to the strongest flavored, usually less subtle of the dishes.
For centuries, even millennia, chefs and food experts have known that, between the tasting of flavors, the palate has to be thoroughly cleared of the taste of the previous flavors. Otherwise, if this is not carefully carried out, the palate will always resonate in the taste of the stronger flavor, of the strongest-seasoned flavors, and of the spiciest flavors, especially that of salt, to the detriment of more subtly and delicately flavored foods.
For example, on the last "Top Chef 2009" finale, the judges had three different versions of each course placed in front of them and proceeded to taste them all, one after the other. Almost invariably, the apparently strongest-flavored or spiced/salted dish was favored.
As The Anstendig Institute’s paper, "AB Testing", and other papers dealing with comparisons of sensory stimuli point out, the only possibility of true, real-time AB testing comparisons resides solely in the sense of sight. And even with our sense of sight, stringent conditions for such comparisons must be preserved, whereby our inaccurate, undependable memory for sensory stimuli is not activated at all, and the reality that the body always reverberates in the characteristics of the previous stimuli is eliminated. That form of “direct comparison” described in the "AB Testing" paper is the only form of AB testing that is accurate and even meets stringent scientific conditions.
All other forms of sensory comparison, be they in hearing, tasting, smelling and feeling, demand complete neutralizing of and elimination of any stimuli the precede the stimulus that is to be evaluated at a given time.
That is reality. There is no changing that fact.
Obviously the "Top Chef" judging does not take this reality into consideration. It even ignores the time honored tradition/rule that the palate has to be “cleansed” after tasting anything before moving on to taste something else.
This is sad, even tragic, because the program is high quality and has some truly great chefs competing. But, all too often, the most refined and delicate chefs, who regularly make the most refined food, are eliminated.