28 January 2009

Top Chef spoiler alert*

I am struggling to conceive of an adequate expression of the emotions I am feeling right now in a way that wouldn't offend anyone. I think the best analogy is a break-up.

Sure, at the beginning of the season, everyone** loved Jeff because, well, he was the hot one. It probably happened a little bit after Jeff whipped up that marvelous, glorious, innovative tomato sorbet for Gail's bridal shower that it dawned on us, one by one, that Jeff was married. We probably would have been upset by this news if we'd noticed in the first episode, when Jeff had little more significance to us than as eye candy, but we were truly crestfallen to be hit with the news after Jeff had begun to prove himself in the kitchen as a really solid talent.

Top Chef is as much a frothy reality TV show as it is a gourmet cooking show, so it would be appropriate for me to take a minute out to focus on that other aspect. In a nutshell, Jeff was characterized for his creativity. In the quickfire challenge when the chefs had to whip up a dish using only packaged, processed foods that would be found in the average pantry, I felt certain that most of those chefs were doomed, but for a couple flukes. Jeff proved me wrong with his very well-plated, interestingly conceptualized dish of deep-fried conch and a pina colada-esque blend of flavors. If making a colorful, memorable, genuinely tasty dish out of crappy packaged food on a VERY strict timeframe isn't a test of talent, I don't know what is. In any case, he was eliminated tonight for crafting a ceviche that was "too watery" and had "too much going on."

I will now stop with my elegy and focus now on my emotions. First off, tonight's episode was psychologically exhausting for me, as I was very sentimentally/emotionally/gastronomically tied up with each of the three men on the chopping block. Stefan is far too talented to be cut until the bitter end of the show, in my opinion. Fabio is admittedly not a genius and in fact committed a culinary sin in the way he cooked that venison, but he's so charming, and his personality is part of why I look forward to the show every week. And then there's Jeff... oh Jeff. Two weeks ago, I wrote down my fantasy Top Chef bracket, and Jeff was in the final three (with Jamie and Stefan).

It looks like I will have to re-write that.

What it comes down to is that I feel a bit of a void. He is the background of my phone (obsessive, yes, I know, but if everyone else gets the carte-blanche to obsess over Robert Pattinson, I think it's fair enough for me to harbor an irrationally extreme crush of my own)... but, again, as much for his looks as for his talent. After the show was finished, I looked at my phone and started faintly tearing up.

I'm taking that as a sign that my heart is involved in this show to an unhealthy degree.

It's bittersweet, for sure, considering that two of my favorite cheftestants are still in the running -- and, I'd speculate, on solid ground. I feel hopeless and upset at the injustice of the judging/elimination conditions (do they not weigh past successes/failures into their deliberation at all?) and think it's a travesty that Jeff didn't at least make it further.

But I guess you win some, you lose some... Because guess who's guest judging next week!?!

*: For the record, the melodrama in this entry is entirely intentional and mostly for the sake of rhetoric.
**: By everyone, I mean teenage girl Top Chef addicts everywhere.

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