First of all, thanks to all who wrote for the sweeping, decisively positive response to the question I posed at the end of last week’s blog. It’s always been a goal of mine, in doing Top Chef, not only to help the chefs become better at their craft, but also to inspire the viewer to play and create in the kitchen and to enjoy the process more, perhaps, than before s/he tuned in. Keep the anecdotes coming … and keep on cooking ….
This week, our chefs cooked for joint bachelor/bachelorette parties, and Ashley spoke articulately about her dismay and discomfort cooking to celebrate an upcoming wedding when gay people are still denied the right to wed throughout most of the world. I’m going to go out on a limb and say a few words about same-sex marriage: First of all, part of the problem with the issue is that it is framed by opponents as a discussion of whether gay people should get special rights. This is specious – yes, special legislation or court decisions grant them the right to wed in a particular state, however this is done to ensure that they share equal protection under the law by finally being able to avail themselves of the same rights as everyone else. They are not seeking special treatment, just equitable treatment. Second, religion has no business being part of the discussion. When a couple is wed in a house of worship, the officiant may be performing a religious rite, but as far as the law is concerned, that officiant has been authorized to perform a civil function, plain and simple. And even were same-sex marriage to be legalized by the state, no one would be holding a gun to the heads of the clergy to require them to perform a ceremony that their faith or personal creed does not condone. Just as some rabbis would not perform my marriage to my wife because I wasn’t Jewish, clergy can decline performing same-sex marriages; gay couples can either find clergy willing to officiate or can be wed in a civil setting. The idea that religious leaders are continuing to shape state law is just wrong. The institution of marriage should be available to all. The idea that you can have a life-long partner and not make decisions for them in a hospital, not share in insurance benefits, not automatically have parental rights unless you are the birth parent, is just flat-out wrong.
As for whether that means that the Top Chef challenge should not have been centered around a wedding theme, as Ashley implied, however … I disagree. We’ve had two wedding ceremonies on Top Chef to date, one of them a gay wedding in San Francisco in Season 1, the other in Chicago in Season 4. And we’ve hosted a bridal shower before, in Season 5 in New York. It’s logical that we’d broach a wedding theme here in Vegas; it’s known for being a wedding town (Side note: I don’t believe the couple we cooked for were later married by an Elvis.) I understand how Ashley felt, but by logical extension, does this mean that she would never attend a friend’s wedding or prepare something for that wedding ceremony as a gift? If a couple came to her restaurant wanting to host their reception there, would she turn them away?
Having the men cook for the bachelorette party and the women for the bachelor party was done purely for fun and expedience; it made sense to structure the challenge that way, since entertainment at a bachelor party is usually provided by women and vice versa. There was no intent to make a statement about whether one gender can cook better than the other – I agree with Jen’s comment that it just didn’t matter. In past blogs, I’ve discussed gender differences in the kitchen, so I don’t need to get into that today. Any points I make below about “the men” or “the women” are referring to the teams in this challenge; I’m not making larger generalizations about male or female chefs.
OMG!!! There is no gay/straight in cooking! When you are a Chef and you are privileged enough to cook for a special occasion IT doesn't matter if the person you are cooking for is gay,straight or purple! Turning down a cooking assignment because you don't agree with the persons religion or sexual orientation will end your career fast! Ashley I come from a very large family and do have a few members who are in committed same sex "marriages", My Uncle and his partner have been together for 30 years! and IF a chef turned down his commitment ceremony because of his orentaion I would make sure that everyone knew that that chef is a BIGOT!
I'm totally enjoying seeing you all reacting with such enthusiasm about the dishes served. This season should be exciting. I look forward to more. Tom, thanks for your incitive blogs.
Please don't ever do a gender-based competition again. I love the show...been with you all since the start. What may seem like "fun," however, just leaves everyone feeling crummy. I know you understand how to make the show fun, whimsical, crazy...without setting groups with a historical imbalance against each other. In particular, I'd also call out whatever producer decided to highlight the sexist remarks of one of the chefs last week, and follow it with a gender challenge this week.
Again, I look forward to Top Chef starting a new season each year, and I've learned a great deal as a home chef by sharing your company each week. I say with all sincerity, please don't do this again.
I'm looking forward to continuing to watch a great 6th season.
Tom, I agree with you completely on both the issue of gay marriage and your position on having wedding themes for elimination challenges. Well-said!
I just wish they would do the exceptional cooking and leave the personal opinions out of the show. I personally do not want to hear it. I want to see challenges in the kitchen and leave the legal issues to the lawmakers. If this keeps up, I will turn the channel as I did tonight, I got tired of hearing the lady whine about being gay and reluctant to do the wedding challenge. ENOUGH!!
Tom, I'm a huge fan of the show and particularly enjoy your erudite commentary each week, but I have to point out a logical inconsistency in your argument about marriage. You state that you are in favor of "equitable treatment" for all, and yet you flatly contradict yourself by stating, "religion has no business being part of the discussion." In fact, your statement clearly proves that you are (sadly) not in favor for equitable treatment for all. "For all" means "even people you disagree with." I understand that the conversation is necessary and difficult, but you do claim repeatedly that the show is about the food. Maybe you should stick to what you know best, food, and leave the philosophy and law to those who are experts in those fields, respectively.
I love your show and have not missed a season. I love to see what the chefs create with the restraints put upon them, and I really enjoy hearing the judges critiques. Although annoying sometimes, I can understand the drama, but I can't stand when personal issues and politics get involved. We are so overloaded with political issues that it's nice to escape and watch something simple such as a show about the art of cooking. Please leave political issues out of it.
I just wanted to make a quick point. Ashley was very upset about having to cater a Bachelor/Bachelorette party as a challenge because gay couples can't get married. As a chef would she never cater weddings or "pre-wedding" parties ever? I am only blogging about this because she was "offended" that Top Chef would make them do a wedding related challenge when gay couples can't get married. Hasn't Top Chef had something wedding every season? Her comments made me think: Well what if one of the Top Cheftestants couldn't have kids, should they not have challenges that involve children during the show? Trust me I know it's not the same, but her comment was kind of ignorant.
I wish that someone would design a decent holding area for the chefs awaiting judge's table. I think advertising and product placement is overdone, especially on reality tv shows, but I'd rather see a pretty display of bright yellow Glad ware boxes than the cardboard shipping boxes, dirty mop bucket, pallet and ladder I saw this week in the dingy, gray dungeon.
I could care less about anyones sexuality, but I'm getting so tired of the label; I'm not a chef, I'm a gay chef. I'm not an American, I'm a gay American. If being gay is how you define yourself and everything you do, it's no wonder many see you as having a chip on your shoulder. Sorry if I'm affending anyone, just my opinion.
Ashley's comments were completely irrelevant. This is a cooking show with difficult challenges for a reason. I don't want to hear someone whine incessantly about a challenge simply because they don't agree with who it is for. Grow up already and get over it. What does her political view have to do with the quality of food she is supposed to be preparing? Say it once, if you must, then acknowledge and move on!!!
I am very compasionate towards people who can not legally marry the person they love. HOWEVER, you are a chef....are you going to turn down every wedding job offer you ever get? Whats next, no heterosexual dates in your restaurant!
I would think that shows like Top Chef make people cook more, not less. What's more, shows like Top Chef and Good Eats show how important technique is, and encourage people to add new skills.
I'm surprised how many contestants say "I've never done ___ before". If I had decided to be a chef, I would constantly be wanting to learn new things. I'm a modest home cook, but I keep on trying new recipes and techniques just for the sake of learning. For example, even though I don't care much for omelettes, I've been practicing just for the challenge in getting it right (and a Good Eats episode I watched tonight should help solve some of the problems I've had).
We've already seen hints this season that some chefs may have had good ideas for flavor combinations, but couldn't execute their ideas. I think a chef need good technique in order to know what can be done with ingredients and thus free their creativity. For example, Jesse seems like she knows what tastes good, but she improperly cooked 3 of her 4 proteins so far. I think the chefs that have formal training have a significant technical advantage.
Thank you, Tom, for your comments. I agree with most of your points wholeheartedly, except for the fact that Ashley was correct in stating that Top Chef should not be endorsing (either implicitly or explicitly) an institution that is, unfortunately, inherently discriminatory. I say this not because I believe that TC or Bravo should be taking a stand on the issue one way or the other, but because like any other hot-button issue, I don't think that either the show or Bravo should be doing anything that can be seen as endorsing one particular view or the other. The fact of the matter is, marriage equality is such an issue. Although I personally believe that the fact that gay people can not (as you pointed out) partake of the same rights and privileges as straight couples is one of the last legally sanctioned forms of discrimination in this country, I don’t think that TC should be participating in an activity that endorses marriage any more than they should be participating in an activity that can be seen as being pro-life or pro-choice, or pro- or anti- death penalty. The root of the problem here is the failure of the producers of Top Chef to realize that marriage and marriage equality is just as inflammatory an issue as abortion, the death penalty, race relations, gun rights, or any of a dozen other major political issues. You need to realize what it looks like from the perspective of those who are being discriminated against, like Ashley.
I was so excited when I realized a new season of Top Chef started - then out came the gay card. This is Top Chef. If they can't cater or cook for anyone at anytime for any affair then they shouldn't be in the chef business. It makes you feel that if they were in a restaurant cooking for you and you were celebrating your wedding anniversary they might spit in your food. I am not a cook, I don't like to cook, but I think it is so fascinating how the contestants can take things I don't even know the names of and present them so beautifully in so little time. However, when the gay girls were at the table talking about how bad they were treated, I turned off the TV. I will not be watching this season. I wanted to watch a cooking show not a show about how "life is not fair and everybody feel sorry for me". You can either live with sour lemons or make lemonade. I choose lemonade.
Hello my name is Josh from Kalispell, Mt. I am one hell of a cook or should I say chef. I know all sorts of cooking mainly a lot of my own dishes. My Grampa and Grandma are cajun on my moms side and my Grandpa and Grandma on my dads side are from Alaska. So I pretty much got it across the border as far as the different flavors of the world. As well as korean, french, Chinese. I would like to be on the show can you please let me know how to get on.
I'm sorry Tom, but in what world do you live in where women work well together? I know professional feminists/women's advocates who are at each other's throats as colleagues and who sabotage each other. And every women chef or manager I've worked with and for in restaurants treats the other women like sh*t. I don't get it. My intuition would agree with you--but my experience says no!
Tom, had to stop reading the blog on first page because it's only 9:30 here on the west coast and I was afraid it was going to give away the ending.
Perhaps I'm wrong, I'll finish reading after the show this evening. But if it does, and I've seen this on the site before that info is released before the show airs here in the west and wish it wouldn't do that or at least maybe remember to give us a heads up if we haven't seen the episode the blog/article/video might contain spoilers.
I know some might say, well just don't look at the site (I'm sure Bravos advertisers wouldn't be too excited about that solution) but I like to catch up before a new episode airs especially at the first part of the season when I'm learning the new contestants, who I want to root for and who I want to see go knife packing!
Last but not least, (and I'm sure I'll catch some flak for saying this) however, I am all for personal expression but I wouldn't trust the palette of a professional chef with metal sticking out of their lips, face and tongues, flicking it with their tongue constantly and then putting their fingers up on their mouth. I've sent meals back served by waiters with fingernails that looked like they worked in a body shop by day. The food is not the only thing that should have a "professional presentation." Just my opinion.
loved you in the coke commercial! and yes, top chef is great inspiration to get in the kitchen at home and make something upscale, fresh and delish :)
Since equal protection under the law is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution you are correct that people are seeking equity. I honestly hadn't thought about whether or not it was difficult for homosexual chefs to participate in a challenge that requires them to endorse something from which they have been illegally barred, but it seems to me that it would be painful and that perhaps it is time for TC to rethink the marriage challenges or at least include more same-sex marriages as a way to redress the legal bigotry.
As for the sexism issue...
Perhaps y'all should consider casting men who aren't raging misogynists the way that Mike I. is. Because listening to him spout hateful things about women is offensive and makes it seem as if Top Chef endorses sexism in the kitchen and in the world at large. If Mike I. made the same comments about ethnic groups or religions that he made about women he would have been axed for hate speech. A bigot is a bigot no matter against which group they are biased.
Well said. Once you start looking at ways that you feel that you don't agree on the competition (in which you've agreed to be) you no longer are playing to win, but creating reasons that you think you don't deserve to be in the race in the first place (Preeti nails it when she comments this is the world in which we live, she's had a partner for 13 years....so what's the issue?)
But not accepting this, most likely in the end you will realize that self-fulfilling prophecy and ‘undo yourself’ as so eloquently and appropriately stated.
Therefore, I'm taking the liberty to rephrase a Nursery Rhyme from a bygone age:
If wishes were horses then beggars would ride, If turnips were knives, I’d have them by my side. If ‘ifs’ and hands were pots and pans, There would be no need for ‘Top Chef’ Hands!
As much as I love the show, I think might love Tom's blog a little bit more. Your thoughtful and insightful commentary truly rounds out the viewing experience, and the minute the week's show is over I rush to this site to see what's been written. You are a very accomplished writer - and I'm buying your book tomorrow!
Thanks for "going out on whim" - you absolutely correct, and eventually we will get there.
To be honest, I think this show is very well done, but as a person who has watched Top Chef from the beginning I do wish a bit more time would be dedicated to explaining why sometimes one person loses over another. I have read a few articles where you and a few of the other judges have talked about spending hours making very tough decisions, but sometimes unfortunately that does not come through for the viewers. That is not to suggest you have made a wrong decision or a poor one, and clearly you spend a lot of time trying to get the decision right. This is also not to suggest that every episode needs more explanation because clearly a lot of the time the choice is obvious. However, sometimes a little more explanation would give us as viewers a little bit more insight into what the judges know. For instance, in this episode Eve was sent home instead of Jesse. I know that each episode is free from the last one in terms of elmination, but Jesse was bottom three in episode 1, bottom 3 in episode two's quickfire, and bottom three in the elimination challenge. As a viewer I do not understand why Jesse wasn't eliminated. Again, this is not to suggest Eve was the wrong choice, but sometimes the reasons why one chef stays over another would make it easier to understand that the right decision was indeed made. Perhaps if it could not be addressed in the show itself, maybe it could be addressed in your blog once in awhile. Hope this amkes sense, and thank you for continuing to do this show. Best of luck always...
Tom, I appreciate your opinion, but in my opinion you are completely wrong about religion having no part in the discussion. I firmly believe that the life and teachings of Jesus Christ has an enormous place in all conversation. My opinion! I will just say this, I was greatly disappointed when Bravo decided to make Top Chef a pro gay marriage propoganda outlet. I thought this was a cooking competition? Bravo did not do that with the gay chefs last season. I am seriously considering not watching the rest of the season because I want to watch a competition, not a program with gays that are not going to cook for a straight couple or wedding event. I would not watch it if the straight chefs refused or had trouble with cooking for a gay event as well. I know you all will read this and just roll your eyes and think I am ridiculous, but I am one opinion with lots of friends and family. Please do not make me have to quite watching Top Chef!
Tom - Your expressions of feelings about the whole gay marriage issue were right on target, and I completly agree with you. Thank you for putting it all in a clear, rational and thoughtful package.
Tom, you said it perfectly regarding same sex marriages and the need for religion to stay out of politics. My husband and I are appalled by our laws being shaped by religious fanatics, who've forgotten separation of church and state. On a lighter side, you've one of the reasons I enjoy watching Top Chef. I look forward to many seasons. I hope current and future Top Chef contestants take a cue from Top Chef Masters. It was a pleasure watching Top Chef Master chefs' respect for each other.
I'm glad someone addressed this issue. Two seasons ago my wife and I had a bet going on how many times one of the gay female chefs looked on camera and said "I'm doing this for Zoe" I'm all for equality in all aspects of life whether it be based on sexulaity, creed, gender or ethnicity but TV has had enough of that. STop whining and just cook.
Chef Colicchio, you are one awesome human being - thanks for your comments in support of marriage rights for ALL.
I understand how Ashley felt about the issue of the legality of gay marriages, but, from a pragmatic point of view, professional chefs cater weddings all the time; and refusing to do it will cut off some of your income. I also think that Ashley showed some immaturity in her reactions to it.
Is Ashley even aware that the very first Top Chef wedding challenge was for two grooms? What a bunch of flimflam her hissy-fit was.
Great comments! I agree with all of your points. I would have preferred to get more info on the challenge though. (Remember, this is a cooking contest.)
Ashley and Preeti's diatribe about not wanting to give their all to this challenge was like shooting themselves in the foot. I understand and agree with their frustration about their situation, but a cooking contest is not the forum to express this point. The major reason is that their future customers could be heterosexual. More importantly, neither has been very impressive (except the watermelon dish) thus far. However, Bravo is an agenda pushing network. If you have the power to keep Top Chef about the food, please exert your will post haste.
Getting back to the challenge, it's so funny that "V" brothers care more about competing between themselves. The rest of the cast is insignificant to them. Love that sibling rivalry. It will probably produce amazing food.
I just wonder how Jessie and Eve (& Preeti) made it on the show. So far, they are terrible cooks.
Tom, your blog is always my favorite. I like to hear your perspective as someone who has been in the kitchen and can pinpoint the mistakes in execution. Top Chef is exciting, interesting, entertaining and educational every week, and I never miss an episode.
That said - please, please, please tell your producer pals that nobody cares about this polarizing political nonsense. I don't care if you're a boy, a girl, gay, straight or striped, I just want to see you cook. Two episodes in to this season and already it feels tense, already I am on the lookout to be clobbered over the head with another gender/sexual orientation reference. I realize a component of this show is the drama between the chefs, so I don't mind hearing a comment now and then that reveals someone's personality. But I feel like, particularly in last night's episode, there was so much drama I couldn't keep the food straight. As an example, I was much more interested watching the epic battle that was Hosea vs. Stefan - because that was a rivalry that had to do with actual skills. I hope that this political stuff tapers off and the chefs personalities take center stage as the season progresses. Give me a Fabio or a Carla, or a Richard Blais - someone who is fun to watch. That's what Bravo is for. When I want politics I will turn on CNN.
Thanks so much for reading an opinion from a faithful fan.
I love the show and have been a steady viewer for the last 4 seasons. I personally don't understand why people on the show have to announce that they are gay. The straight people don't announce it. As to Ashley and her attitude, the real issue is the word marriage. The issue would probably go away if the term civil union would be used. As to the sexist statements made the first week, they were no worse than the womans comments last night. Who would you rather see in the pool? The girls or the fat boys. Can't have it both ways. Just cook will ya, enough of stupid personal agendas.
Do we really need a civics lesson from a chef..pleeze...i loved last night's episode; the food looked great...unfortunately the women (except Jen) do not seem nearly as talented as the men and it seems they will be going down week after week.
You are articulate and wise...ever thought of going into politics? I'd work tirelessly on your campaign!
Can we not leave politics and complaining out of the kitchen? Jeez, give us a break! Everyone but everyone has an opinion but remember it's a cooking show!!
I don't care what your stance on gay marriage is, why in the world is it on a cooking show? I just want to watch people cook food, not take on the latest social debate. If this is a new twist Bravo is doing I don't like it.
Keep gay marriage out of the kitchen along with all the other social debates, people can watch CNN or FOX for that. Top Chef is about cooking, gosh.
Tom your perspective is a balanced one. I was quite disheartened that politics or sexism or whatever you want to label it became an issue. Sad to think a professional chef would discriminate. If the tables were reversed and someone had a hissy fit regarding a same sex couple and cooking for them...all hell would break loose as far as not being PC. This being even being brought up in the episode just diminished my enthusiasm for the show. I will still watch and am a huge fan, but am disappointed.
I am not going to comment on same-sex marriage, I think Tom summed my feelings up exactly. But I will ask Ashley one thing.....as a restauraneur, if you were approached by a hetero-couple seeking to have say, a rehearsal dinner at your establishment, will you politely decline saying "not until my partner and I can wed legally"?? That woul dmake no business sense. Get over it and compete dammit, no matter what the criteria are.
I think the best thing Tom said on the marriage issue, is if someone showed up at her restaurant, would she turn them away?
I doubt it, business is business.
Leave the politics for after work is done.
I agree wholeheartedly with everything Tom said. As to the comment where MIKE says that Tom was excluding religious people from equality, that is absolutely baseless. Tom was stating that this country's laws are based upon the separation of church and state. The state cannot dictate one's religious beliefs and no religion can dictate the laws of the state. With that in mind, he was correctly stating that religion has no place in the discussion of the civil legality of marriage. He further stated that clergy should not and would not be forced to marry those people against his/her religious beliefs. They are perfectly free to state their beliefs from the pulpit and amongst people in free discourse. Again, Tom was properly stating that religious beliefs do not and cannot dictate civil policy in this country.
As to Ashley's comments, as most have said her stance was foolish and whiny. I said exactly the same thing to my family last night. However, I disagree that Bravo and Top Chef should have totally avoided the issue. There have been all kinds of "dramas" on the show that have nothing to do with cooking but have everything to do with the interactions of the contestants and factor into the enjoyability of the show. Just because this particular issue is a hot button for some people doesn't mean TC should cut it.
Anyway, my hat is off to you Tom, great blog.
Kudos to you, Tom, for commenting so openly, succinctly, and on point. I agree with every point, and I've never heard any one else make his/her case so well. You not only "teach" and "educate" in the kitchen, you also do it on your blog.
Not going to comment on the whole marriage deal. Thought the teams were interesting in the whole male v female theme. The men did seem to work better together as a whole, where some of the women were more concerned about other issues and not as focussed on the win. Can't believe that after last week, Eve didn't choose something else, or completely WOW them by proving that she could cook shrimp properly. Good choice on sending her home, I think that she was a little to timid to be a Top Chef.
That was a very articulate and succinct explanation of the gay-marriage issue. I have always hoped more people would look at it that way. While I also disagreed that she should have been quite so disturbed by the challenge itself, I felt that Ashley's arguments were coming mostly from her heart and her frustrations with being discriminated against. Therefore, she took it out on "the challenge". It must have been incredibly painful to plan with care a meal for an event that the government says you cannot have. Until you are in that situation, I don't think you can fully grasp it. I was worried about brothers being in the competition but I must say that they are both top of their game and very professional. I hope they both make it a long time. I can't wait for next week's episode!
Folks...this season was shot following relatively closely on the heels of Prop 8. Ashley also lives in Washington state, which is facing a battle regarding domestic partnership laws.
You have no idea how harmful Prop 8 was. No idea. It was devastating, and I completely understand her feelings. And, frankly, she did get over it and cooked. And had she not taken on the second dish (perhaps to overcompensate for what she was feeling...who know?), she would not have been in the bottom.
This show (and others) always contain a human element. People are portrayed as hard-working family types or raging douchebags. But, in the end, it does always come down to the food. Always.
And, Tom, thanks for your awesome shout-out regarding gay marriage. And, more importantly, thanks for the cheese grits with the red-wine poached egg at CraftSteak. Jesus, Mary and Joseph was that awesome!