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Hello, my name is Lesley Suter, and I’m a TV eater.
You tell me what sounds like a more intimidating endeavor: jumping out of an airplane and freefalling for a few thousand feet, or critiquing food in front of such luminaries as James Oseland, Gail Simmons, Curtis Stone, Francis Lam—and the one and only Ruth Reichl? Let’s put it this way: in one of these two scenarios, you at least have a parachute.
So yes, I’m the new judge this season—or as I, a longtime Top Chef viewer, like to say: I’m the “Who the heck is this chick?” chick. So, allow me to attempt to clear up a bit of the mystery by sharing a few things about myself that you may find enlightening. Or at least a worthy five-minute distraction from work. (In that case, I could also just post a picture of a cat eating spaghetti next time, if you’d rather. It has the same effect—maybe better.)
1) I will never jump out of an airplane.
I would have been right there alongside Douglas Keane on the drive out to the Perris, CA kitchen. I consider myself a pretty brave soul in general, but there’s something about the sensation of freefalling that is like nails on a chalkboard for me—I’ll do just about anything to avoid it.
2) I’ve tuned in to every season of Top Chef and Top Chef Masters since Season 1.
Of course, I’ve also watched every episode of Animal Planet’s Treehouse Masters, so this fact may say more about my TV addiction than my super-fandom. Still, going from sitting in front of the television screen to sitting at the table beside Curtis Stone is surreal to say the least.
3) Watching yourself chew is a bizarre experience.
Don’t believe me? Have your friend record some video of you eating something and then play it back for you. See? Now, immediately destroy the footage.
4) Like Herbert Wilson, I can’t shuck an oyster.
Well, let’s just say I haven’t yet found the occasion to shuck an oyster. I bet with a sturdy glove, the right knife, and sufficient desire I could manage it. Though, I’ll admit that in my food-writing career I have used well over my limit of “shuck”-related puns. Most recently, a headline for a new oyster bar: Awe Shucks. Guilty.
5) I wrote about music before writing about food.
Apparently, this is not altogether uncommon experience in the industry. It makes sense: Trying to describe what Otis Redding sounds like to someone who has never heard him requires a similar skillset to describing what, say, enchiladas taste like to someone who has never eaten them. I feel sorry for any individual for which either case is true and recommend that they go out and experience both immediately. Preferably at the same time. Now that’s what I call dinner.
Speaking of, I’m late for a dinner of my own. I’d say I’m looking forward to it, but nowadays, unless a team of Canadian skydivers lands on the table before the first course, I’m hard to impress.
Lesley Suter is the dine editor of Los Angeles magazine.