You need to know that my obsession with watching Bravo’s “Top Chef” is not at all about the entertainment; mine is not the lay person’s interest in seeing contestants sweat it out in the kitchen under the sexy, watchful eye of host Padma Lakshmi and then face critique by sexy-bear Tom Colicchio et al. I’m watching as a means of training, sizing up the competition if you will. You see, I’m a professional chef, and, season after season for the past five years I’ve harbored the (now dashed) hope that one day I would compete on the show, AND WIN! In my dream I'm the “seasoned pro” of the bunch, the cook with the bad knees but the good sense that shows these kids that it’s about the basics, hard work and technique, not flash ingredient combinations and liquid nitrogen.
This idea (no.....not a delusion!), has come to an abrupt end. I realize that I can not compete with these kids and I certainly could never win. Just four weeks into the current season of “Top Chef” I feel both humbled and humiliated. I’m humbled by the obviously supreme talent of this year’s crop of cheftestants and humiliated to imagine what would happen to me in the “Top Chef” kitchen. I'm sure I'd be creamed (no pun intended) by Michael V. or the steely/smart Jennifer and my bad knees would be the least of it at the hands of these “kids”.
This season is shaping up to be both the best and the worst season of the show for me. These are some really great cooks doing some really delicious food under circumstances that I would have a real hard time with. I've been really impresssed with the fact that most of the food so far has reached me on both an intellectual (damn, why didn't I think of that!) and gustatory (yum, I wanna eat that!) level. That both turns me on and bums me out. Advanced age has slowed me way down and even though I’m a really good cook I don’t think my synapses would fire quick enough to out think or out cook the top tier talent of this season.
It’s a sad thing when your dreams die and I’ve just let another one slip away. I guess I’ll just have to be content with teaching young student-chefs about hard work, good sense, the basics and techniques and let them figure out the liquid nitrogen on their own.