The Toby Young Insult Tracker


Editors’ Note: Some of you may already be familiar with Mike from TV Food Fan, where he’s been doing very important work tracking former Top Chef stars, getting behind-the-scenes tips from Marc Summers, and even following food-lebrities on the way to work. We’ve asked Mike to pop over to ES once in awhile to drop some food TV rants and raves on us. First up, his take on the ultimate WTF moment that was Toby Young’s first apperance on Top Chef.

When you sat yourself down in front of the television last week for the latest episode of Top Chef (with the Top Chef live blog running on your laptop, right?!), you probably weren’t suspecting anything out of the ordinary. You’re watching and thinking to yourself, “I wonder where that cute Gail Simmons is! I like her. She’s opinionated, yet cheery and supportive.” And then you realized you were S.O.L. when you saw the bald British guy.

That’s right, Toby Young is the new judge and he comes equipped with the requisite British Reality Show Judge Insults. It was invented by Simon Cowell, imitated by countless others and brought to the world of food by Gordon Ramsay. The perfect British Judge Insult manages to get the point across while being both condescending and creative. When not done well, it’s just plain awkward.

Toby didn’t disappoint in the first episode, trotting out four separate attempts to denigrate the work of the contestants with a clever put-down. Some were more successful than others. In order to give each of those insults its proper analysis, we present to you a comprehensive list, accompanied by a score and critique from our own expert panel of judges.

Without any further ado, let’s go to the scoreboard…

Insult #1:
“The U.N. Weapons Inspectors were looking in the wrong place in the run-up to the Iraq War because I have found the weapons of mass destruction and they are in this bowl before us, stand well back.”

TVFF – 3 Young really stumbles out of the gate. WMD jokes weren’t funny at the journalist dinner and it’s not any funnier NEARLY FIVE YEARS LATER.

Insult #2
“It rather reminded me of one of those Hollywood films in which classically-trained British actors have been cast in character roles. The two leads were upstaged by the supporting cast.”

TVFF – 8
He rebounds nicely in that he managed to not only insult the chef in question, but also American popular culture. He also has the added benefit of being pretty much spot-on with his assessment of British actors. Basically, he’s saying the ingredient was Tom Wilkinson.

Insult #3
“I thought the fish was overcooked. The whole dish was underseasoned. It was the bland leading the bland.”

TVFF – 4
Seems like it works at first blush, with the oh-so-clever pun on the word “blind.” And then it just kind of falls apart. Who, exactly, is leading what? This is what happens when you come up with a “clever” insult in the shower and then have to wait patiently for the appropriate time to use it. Unfortunately, that time never arrived.

Insult #4
“I think it tastes a bit like cat food.”

TVFF – 6
I was going to give it a “5” for its bluntness, but I’m throwing an extra point in there because I get the feeling Toby Young actually knows what cat food tastes like. I’m guessing it was baked into one of those meat pies. The meat in those things is delicious, but I’d rather not think about the source.


TVFF – 5.25 A bit disappointing, all things considered. I think he would have fared better if he had imitated Ramsay, just screaming and calling people “donkeys.” Hopefully, he’ll improve as he gets to know the weaknesses and insecurities of the contestants and he can really twist the knife.

(Photo: Wikipedia)

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  • gansie January 13, 2009  

    i’m def not a fan of toby. but i’d love to know the inside story of why gail is out. was she pushed out? is she simply enjoying her honeymoon/married life? i need details!

  • BS January 13, 2009  

    I agree with your scores, but I’m less optimistic on him improving. I thought he was so annoying. Honestly it even crossed my mind whether this was the episode where Top Chef jumped the shark.

  • JoeHoya January 13, 2009  

    Just the other day I was wondering if it was still cool to say things jumped the shark…

    But you’ve got a point, BS…Toby Young may be the killing blow if Ted Allen’s new show is any good.

  • Maidelitala January 13, 2009  

    Invented by Simon Cowell! No way. Remember that Sally Jessie Rafael look alike red-haired British Lady (named Anne Josephine Robinson) who hosted the The Weakest Link“”? She was the one who first cashed in on the American fetishism for being verbally eviscerated by our erstwhile colonial overlords.

  • BS January 13, 2009  

    aaaaah – good call maids. that lady was so scary/titilating

  • T. Piper January 13, 2009  

    Oh boy, a British food personality who likes to insult people! Never seen that one before!

    Seriously, bring back Gail and her luscious mommysacks.

  • TVFF January 13, 2009  

    Maid — you make a good point on The Weakest Link, although I reserve the right to argue that, stylistically, there are some differences between her emcee roll and the performance-show judges. But your central argument and timeline are spot on.

  • Oxen Cox January 13, 2009  

    Toby Young is a delightful mess of television programmimg. They marketed his debut for ratings and he might have been a bit stifling, but that’s fine with me. He talked enough so we didn’t have to listen to Padma speak at all.

  • Maidelitala January 14, 2009  


  • Mrs. L January 14, 2009  

    I think he’s an insult to bald British guys everywhere 🙂

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  • Elizabeth February 10, 2009  

    For everyone who’s not a fan of Toby Young join the Facebook page Toby Young Must Go and let’s send him back to the land of bangers and mash.

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