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The Morning After: Top Chef and Gay Marriage

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We’re into the fall-screener time of year, when the growing pile of shows-that-will-be-on-a-month-from-now is taking precedence over stuff-that-is-actually-on-TV-now. (HBO, for instance, just sent six episodes of Bored to Death, the Jason Schwarzman screwball-noir comedy, which after an iffy pilot is getting funnier by the episode.) So I’ll leave it to you to comment on last night’s Project Runway maternity-wear challenge.

I do have a belated thought on Top Chef, which I caught up with, and its entry into the gay-marriage debate.

Ashley, one of several gay contestants on the show, was annoyed by the challenge, which required the chefs to cook for a bachelor/bachelorette party, since she herself can’t legally get married most places. So she let us know it. Over. And over.

All right, look: for what it’s worth, I adamantly support gay marriage. (Really, how can gay people undermine the institution of marriage any worse than we straight people manage to?) I don’t blame Ashley for being pissed about being discriminated against, or for saying so.

But offended that Bravo—perhaps the most gay-positive network outside Logo et al.—would have a challenge premised on a wedding? Sorry, but running a restaurant is kind of a service business, a big part of which involves cooking for celebrations. If she wants to boycott cooking for wedding parties at her restaurant, that’s her business, but it’s not exactly insensitive for a couple—or Top Chef—to ask.

Regardless, Ashley did woman up and made two dishes, which is where my real beef comes in. All that praise for “watermelon carpaccio”? Sure, it seemed like a good pairing of ingredients. But she sliced a damn melon into a square. And her second dish violated one of the iron rules of Top Chef: you will not get credit for making a dessert if you are not a dessert chef.

Still, Ashley made it through comfortably, and my old home of Ann Arbor came out the loser, as Eve desecrated yet another plate of shrimp. Would you have sent her home?

Oh, and one more gripe: is anyone else getting tired of all the contestants’ zombie-like praise of “simple food,” the culinary cliche du jour. Just once I want to hear someone say, “I’m a chef! I want to make food so complicated you need an instruction manual to eat it!”

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