Top Chef

by Jon Sullivan - 2021-10-04

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I'm not a chef. I'm a programmer. But I'm probably "chef adjacent". A cooking enthusiast.

As someone who really likes cooking, I find the TV show "Top Chef" to be irresistible. For whatever reason I'm very drawn to the idea of elevated food. Food taken beyond the comfort, home-cook, "like mom made" level. Taken beyond in terms of taste combinations or presentation or technique. The food esthetic beyond simple sustenance. And Top Chef is all that in rapid fire. But..... There are aspects of it I really hate.

I hate the reality show house concept in general. Having a scripted show where you pretend it's not scripted. Artificial click-baity drama. Showing people getting out of bed in the morning in a context where it's completely pointless. Heart string pulling phone calls back home to loved ones. Spotlighting any possible "feels" moment, no matter how contrived and engineered.

But what I hate most is the absurd "challenges" that are marketed as taking the chefs "out of their comfort zone". Wait... What???!! What the fuck is that? I've worked in restaurants, and I get that things often go sideways. But what is the point of using stupid stunts to determine a "top chef"? If I go to a winning chef's restaurant, am I somehow drawn to it because the chef was able to cook a great dish with only a wooden spoon and a sauce pan? Why is that EVER a reason to eat their food? Other than cheap thrills and drama? Other than the disturbing joy the judges seem to get from torturing someone. I want food where the chef is 100% in their comfort zone. I want good food, not stunt food.

And that's probably the obvious reason I could never go on one of these shows even if I was a chef. "Jon, why is your dish missing one of the components?" Gee... why don't you tell me dumbass? Yer the one who didn't give us enough time to cook. Yer the one who puts manufactured drama above real cooking. You could have had great food, and it's your own fault you don't. So keep pretending this "restaurant wars" bullshit has something to do with real food or real restaurants, and you'll get whatever you get.

Real chefs have zero problem turning out consistent and dialed in tasting menus night after night. That's real. How great you are at using canned soup in your dish? How fast you can chip ingredients out of ice blocks? Which celebrated chef is best at racing around a plowed field without ruining their knee for the rest of their life? What the fuck??!! Actually..... yeah... do put me on this show. I'll bring the drama. Next challenge - How well can you judge dishes when we release several hungry bears at the table? "Tom.... How can you call yourself a judge when you were bleeding all over the dishes? You're supposed to be a professional." How about, "you three had our least favorite judgement, and one of you will be eliminated"?

But... other than all that.... I love the show.

And yeah... I get that my photo for this has the salmon a bit over, the sauce grainy, and the garnish broken. Like I said, I'm not a chef....

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