Dear Top Chef: DC, Judges, and Cheftestants:
I shan’t miss you.
Top Chef, I have not missed a single episode of any of your seasons. I have laughed, I have lusted over both foods and cheftestants (and still do.. I’m looking at you, Michael V. and Sam..also, those shrimp’n’grits by Tre in season 3? I have dreams about them.), I have felt the pain of the folks who miss their families, and felt the disappointment when they have to leave. Even in seasons 3 and 5, where I didn’t enjoy most of the people on the show, I still enjoyed the food they made. I stuck by your side through season 4, which is, to be brutally honest, a completely forgetable season apart from Andrew’s line “I have a culinary boner” which totally overshadowed the fact that season 4 gave us our first female Top Chef.
Padma, I applaud whoever chose you as the host to replace Katie Lee Joel. She was abysmal, and you (and your cleavage) are a beacon of light in the darkness that has been Season 7. But the flashes of brilliance on your part are growing dimmer and dimmer, even as your cleavage grows more expansive. Gail, you and I have had our differences, but I’m glad you’re going to TC:Just Desserts. The main thing I’ve always liked about you, even when your opinions suck, is your unabashed love for fatty, delicious, dessert foods. Tom… oh, Tom, what is there to say about you, my beloved Bear? Even Tony Bourdain, who I look forward to seeing each season, wasn’t up to his usual inspired standards of hole reaming.
I think I’ve hit upon the key word, here: inspired. There was nothing inspiring about this season. Perhaps you shot yourself in the chef’s shoe last season; that was a stellar bunch of chefs! And they were interesting, and there was conflict that went beyond petty crap and personality differences. The credentials they had! Oh my. This season was infinitely lacking in any of that; talent and drama were practically non-existent.
I know how I feel when I cook; I feel like I’m creating something new, even if it’s a dish I’ve made 90 bajillion times before. The most basic of my moma’s comfort food can still excite me when I cook it, can still ignite in me the same passion that making a completely foreign dish can. I haven’t seen that in any of the cheftestants this time ’round. My all-time favorite cheftestants and judges are the ones like Season 5s Carla (another bright spot in that season), who go on about “cooking with love.” It’s the same principle with any creative thing, whether it’s cooking or writing or playing music or acting or designing clothes: it will fail to inspire you if you have no passion for it. And if you have no passion for it when you’re making it, then how can you make the audience (tasters and judges) care about it?
I’m not saying you don’t have passionate chefs on the show this season, but if you do, I haven’t seen it from them in anything they’ve made.
To quote Pike in the BtVS movie, I’m not mad; I’m just disappointed. And I don’t like feeling that way about you, Top Chef! You gave my mom something enjoyable when she was having chemotherapy and couldn’t taste most of her foods; watching you, she was able to experience things that she was never gonna be able to taste again. You gave us something to bond over, and I miss having that quality of show coming from you. This season’s been lower than low, so I ask you–nay, implore you!– bring back the good stuff next season!
I’m willing to stick with you for your spin-off shows, like TC:Masters and TC:Just Desserts (which I will watch, of course). But I don’t expect the same quality from them as I do from you! You’re the parent, the role model, and you’re just not doing your job properly. I don’t want to give up on you, so don’t make me feel like you’ve given up on me.