I agree fully with Phil's assessment. I watched the first season, or a good part of it, just to see where it would go---which was, IMO, nowheres. My distinct impression was that they had already choosen the winner the day they qualified contestents.
What does a person's age have to do with whether or not they are good cooks? Yet, they kept harping on that one girl being so young (but never hit on another one who was the same age), and how she couldn't possibly be any good "yet."
As to Joe Bastianich, there's a reason he's the business brains, rather than the creative force, behind all those restaurants. He doesn't really understand food. Seems to me, if you're going to have somebody judging cooks it should be somebody who knows his way around a kitchen. Bastianich's culinary expertise, such as it is, is with wine. Actually, not wine in general, but Italian wine. That's a pretty tight area of knowledge, and doesn't qualify you to be so snobbish.
I have to wonder, though, if it matters to the outcome of any food competition show, who the judges are? I've yet to see any of them in which consistency was at all important, or in which there weren't distinct biases on the part of the judges, of where, in fact, the judges were experts in anything but the minds of the producers.
Last night, by accident, I happened to see a couple of episodes of BBQ Pitmasters. Same sort of set up. An MC who had the personality of a toad, three judges, of which only one has any barbeque credentials as such, and surprise last-minute challanges, designed to make the contestents fail.
And, of course, there's always Chopped. If somebody could explain why any professional, particularly female ones, would subject themselves to that sort of unfair, patently biased, judging I'd like to hear it.