I was pulling for Casey to win the Top Chef finale, because I wanted to see a woman win the money and the title and the bragging rights. After she choked on the final challenge and having seen Dale’s amazing looking dishes and hearing his wherefore and why he had applied to be on the show, I really wanted him to win. I was rooting for the “big gay chef” (to borrow his own words).
I have often said that the real downside of this program is that we can’t actually taste the food and we only see the dynamics of how they interact through the “vision” of editing. Though Hung came across as, frankly, an inconsiderate shit, it was clear from the beginning that he had skills and though I didn’t agree that we never saw his personality in his food, I thought he lacked some of the fire of some of the other contestants. Though he was my last choice of the final three, it is equally nice to see him win as compared to another “white guy” chef. I started to say hetero, but I honestly don’t know about Ilan, or Harold for that matter. Looking at my students they are not overwhelmingly men, or overwhelmingly white. When I worked at Hotel Chi Chi, white males were definitely in the minority even in the F&B-side management. But still, the majority of chefs we see that are recognizable to, for lack of a better term, non-culinary professionals seem to be mostly white males (the Food Network stable of women cooks, I think, isn’t the same as chefs).
I don’t lose sleep over this, but I think Top Chef tends to throw it into relief by the numbers being roughly even at the beginning and 1 in 4 toward the end. I don’t think it’s a sign that women aren’t as good as chefs, I think the amazing women currently working in the industry is proof enough of that. I don’t even think that it goes to some outdated notion that women aren’t as competitive as men. I don’t honestly know what I think it means, but it’s intriguing and a little worrying for some reason. Worrying mostly because I think shows like this, that appeal to amateurs and professionals alike, may have an impact on perceptions about the industry and about the people in it and I don’t think the women come across as well if in all three seasons the final four has been one woman and three guys (gay or straight).
I am hopeful there will be a season four, and no I am absolutely not interested, that isn’t remotely something in which I want to participate. I’ll be rallying for a competent woman to kick some cheffy ass. And, I do hope they bring back Padma. Whatever the internet buzz on her on-set shenanigans or lack of talent, I think she’s interesting, she seems to have a palate, can cook in her own right, and she is drop dead gorgeous. I also hope we will get to see more of Ted Allen next time (as Queer Eye is ending) and Anthony Bourdain should be on at least every other week. His comments always steal the show.
All in all, despite me burnout on reality TV, I think Top Chef is the best of a mostly bad bunch, but I would still rather see some solidly written dramas, comedies, documentaries, whatever, slide into the time slots of these shows as a whole. I doubt that is going to happen any time soon as they are so much cheaper to produce than something with a decent script and some competent actors.
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