I don’t really think of myself as a romantic guy. Usually when any sort of lovey-dovey nature starts to rise in me, my first instinct is to throw cold water on it. Still, this week’s challenge really touched me. We critics — what a pleasure it was to see Gael Greene again! — hadn’t met the lucky couple beforehand; we simply watched their engagement unfold from a few feet away, just like you viewers did.
Watching them share a meal together, knowing that they were in love and that this meal was going to lead to a tremendous commitment for them was incredibly moving. It reminded me of my own relationship with my partner, Daniel, and of all the wonderful things about being in love: stability, joy, respect. Watching a couple just starting on this journey made me feel incredibly lucky that we are who we are in life — all of us — that we can share life with each other, and grow and learn together, and even that food can play a significant part in that. (Now if only American gay couples could enjoy the same legal rights as their straight counterparts: Maybe thinking about that, and how that affects my own life, is one of the reasons I got teary-eyed at the meal’s end.)
As it should be for a romantic meal, the food this week was generally great, with all six cheftestants delivering dishes that far surpassed the low-bar, “Is it edible?” threshold of the past few episodes, where the challenges were pretty, well, out there. Even in the bottom three dishes, there were strong things to cheer for, though it wasn’t as much of a hair-splitting distinction as the chefs seemed to think it was. Hugh pointed out, when facing the Critics’ Table, that he, Traci, and Celina had delivered the most literal interpretations of our special couple’s touch-points, though I don’t think that was as much in his favor as Hugh seemed to think it was.