D.C. Double-Header: A Shot at Love

"Hello Padma, may I cook for you?"

Very out of character for me, I missed the PREMIERE episode of Top Chef DC. Ashamed as I am, my excuse is rather legitimate. I eat for a living . . . and well, I was out eating. Like any normal human being in this day and age, I DVRd the episode. And as soon as I found a solid hour of time to dedicate to the pinnacle of culinary programming, I sat down on my couch (with food, of course) and took it all in.

It’s funny- before the beginning of every season I cannot imagine any other group of cheftestants other than those from the previous season. “It just won’t be the same,” I think to myself. “They are not going to be the Top Chef group that I know and love.” But every season, my thoughts deceive me and the cheftestants prevail like every other group before them . . . tattooed, foul mouthed, some fat, some skinny, dying to have sex with Padma regardless of sexual preference… But there is one vein that runs through each and every one of them- a sincere passion for food. Whether it be braising a ballotine in a port reduction, or grazing on the leftovers after Wedding Wars, for these chefs, it’s beyond love; it’s a burning desire to immerse themselves in the world of food. Which is why we always have to feel bad for the underdog.

He needed to get back to the Phish tour anyway (image: Bravo TV)

In this case, it was very obviously John Somerville from the minute he appeared on screen. A man walks in looking like a Rastafarian and we judge (don’t deny it). But who can blame us? The idea of one of his dreadlocks falling into a stockpot and being mistaken for a leek is rather disturbing. Regardless, the man had heart goddamnit! All of us Top Chef

aficionados know of “The Dessert Curse.” I agree that he foolishly took the sweet path in the very first elimination challenge, but he did one thing that no one else was willing to do- he took a risk. Although it’s only the first episode, to me, John showed the most passion out of any of the chefs. It might have been difficult to understand through his tears, buckteeth, and mumbling inflection, but I was still listening to John’s final words. “I’ve found that every negative experience that happens to you makes you grow in a way that you never knew or anticipated could happen.” Now tell me that’s not love.

In episode two of the DC throwdown, we see passion and drive portrayed from a slightly more jilted perspective- through selfishness and entitlement, rather than chivalry and collaboration. For me, it was clear. Angelo took a back seat in the team challenge because he knew he had nothing to lose. Instead of striving to win it all, he stopped short, letting his entire team fall beneath him. I mean, come on . . . is anyone really going to win anything with peanut butter? Mousse or no mousse, you pulled that baby out of a JiF jar. Team challenges are common on Top Chef, and while the cheftestants usually find them debilitating, they usually bring the cream to the top.

Angelo: Great chef? Maybe. Royal D-bag? Definitely (image: blogs.villagevoice.com)

I have no doubt that all of these chefs, and all those that came before them, possess this “burning desire” that I speak of. But it’s not about the hand you’re dealt. It’s how you play the hand. Some play fair, others dirty, and some don’t play hard enough to ever get ahead. It looks somewhat obvious already that Angelo will be the “Top Chef” when it’s all said and done. But if you are indeed the best chef, cook your ass off and prove it; don’t sabotage somebody like this is the Real World/Road Rules challenge. John may have packed his knives and left, but at least he can say he played. And the man played with love and integrity.

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