Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Second Helpings: Survivor: Las Vegas

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 2:13 PM

You see it on "Top Chef" all the time. The hobbled, baby wildebeest limping around the kitchen. A chef barely hanging on in the competition. Scared and bleeding. On their last legs. With a few hyena snapping at their ankles. A lions pride, calmly in the brush, watching.

Figuratively, Robin is that wildebeest.

Literally, though, she’s a true survivor.

Eli’s unfortunate comments cast judgment on Robin’s inspiration and victory this week. It was the type of comment that probably had more than one person, including myself, saying “Oh no, he didn’t”.

He did.

I can’t defend his choice of words. Even though I can vouch for his character (he happens to be an extremely loyal and family-focused person).

But I can help you imagine his mindset.

When you’re a young chef, overly ambitious and obsessed with your craft, cancer doesn’t mean much.  When you work in a great restaurant and push hard every day, nothing else means as much.  A tight brunoise or turned vegetable are all that matters.  Life is barely a blip on the radar.

It reminds me of this quote from White Heat by Marco Pierre White.

“When boys don’t last the pace that makes me feel good because I can and I will”. - chef de partie at Harvey’s.

That is a ruthless yet accurate comment.

Change that to, “I love it when cooks can’t keep up, even if they’ve had cancer,” and you have a sampling of what I think Eli was getting at.

Competitive restaurant kitchens are dark, ego-infested waters, sometimes verging on lawless societies.  Somewhere between the wild west and a pirate ship. And with an eye patch on, it is easy to lose vision of the real world

For what it’s worth, Robin best expressed the theme of this challenge. Her sloppy, heavy crumble, whether intentional or not, was the perfect foil to her lightly splashed petite salad. Win.

On "Top Chef," and in the jungle, we root for the wildebeest.   Hoping that it can outlast a pack of hyena.  Usually, it can’t.

And our only solace?

Hoping that the hyena will have it’s day, eventually, running for it’s life...

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