While watching the last regular season episode of Top Chef (i.e. the last one before the two part final) I had a major epiphany. When my beloved Tiffany was sent home, I was appalled. I was furious and sad. I may have even yelled at the television.
Thought no. 1: I think I may be just a tiny bit too invested in this.
Thought no. 2: Hey. Wait. Is this any sillier than all the fuss about the people throwing and running and catching and stuff? I think not.
Maybe I finally get what sports fans feel like, which I've always found baffling. I guess I like people who make stuff and have pretty much zero interest in the big exclusionary business of running, catching and throwing. And I like tennis and the Olympics, but team sports leave me cold. And they don't let girls play so screw them.
Back to Top Chef. Last week's episode had so much going for it. Astronauts. The return of Anthony Bourdain. How could it possibly disappoint? Let me explain. First, there's something so weirdly personal about food. We all have to eat it after all, and to restate a cliché, you are what you eat. Tom Colicchio,Top Chef judge and proprietor of all things Craft, has said when asked why they get so upset when the food the competitors make seems thoughtless and inedible (which considering the caliber of their cheftestants (I know, I know) doesn't happen too often) he said that that the judges have to eat it. And if you were forced to try what turns out to be underdone poultry, you would take it personally, too. None of this was a problem last week. The five remaining competitors (my beloved Tiffany, Ed, Antonio, Kelly and that jackass Kevin), had to prepair a meal for a bunch of astronauts, including Buzz Aldrin. The winner's dish would subsequently be freeze-dried and sent into space. And Bourdain was back, and he's always a good time.
So all the little cheftestants were excited to be at NASA and playing at the top of their game. Over the past few weeks, Tiffany has been winning challenge after challenge. Judges taste her food and automatically look happy. In a blog posting, Colicchio raved about her and said her Mexican dish for the international challenge was as good as any he'd ever eaten. It's always nice when the person with the loveliest personality also seems to be super talented. That's why ths week was so upsetting. Tiffany was just a tiny bit off her game. I watched the extended judging table footage, and it was fair. The judges really liked everything, but someone has to go. And Tiffany accidentally froze her mussels rendering them useless and never totally recovered. So off she went. Sigh.
On a side note, another nice thing about Top Chef is that it might be the only place in our culture where you can see attractive young women happily eating without apology. Regular judges Padma Lakshmi (the ex-Mrs. Rushdie) and Gail Simmons are extremely attractive young(ish) women. You never hear anyone worrying about calories or weight gain or other subjects endemic to our joyless age. That itself is something of a wonder, though the fact I feel the need to comment on this is depressing in the extreme.
The first part of the Top Chef DC final airs tonight on Bravo. 10PM. Tiffany-less, and much the sadder for it.