Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Top Chef Masters: Judges React to Judgment

We are all allergic to judgment. It makes us angry, and it turns us against the people we perceive to be judgmental. The last two weeks of Top Chef Masters are a perfect illustration of this. Two weeks ago, Suvir Saran (my until-recently favorite contestant) competed with his fellow chef-testants in a competition that challenged the chefs to turn the cravings of contestants on The Biggest Loser into healthy meals. For instance, one of the chefs had to find a healthy way to satisfy someone's craving for a chinese buffet.

Saran's "Biggest Loser" contestant's craving was a bacon cheeseburger. Instead of trying to satisfy her, Saran created a veggie patty in a pita pocket (which she, unsurprisingly, hated). And not only that, when he presented the dish, to the judges and to the room full of "Biggest Loser" contestants, he went on a rant against eating red meat. He felt his duty was to give her what was good for her, regardless of what she wanted. No surprise: Saran is a vegetarian. One of the judges, in criticizing Saran, went so far as to call his veggie patty "a lecture on a plate."

At the end of the evening, Suvir found himself eliminated from the competition.

Last week, George Mendes dared suggest that chefs of his caliber were too good to be running a lunch rush at a fast food restaurant (the challenge of the week). For his "holier than thou" attitude...he got himself sent home.

This spate of eliminations is a wonderful illustration of how distasteful we find those who are holier than we are. And, interestingly, it sheds light on an interesting fact: it doesn't matter whether or not it's true!

Mendes is quite right...he IS too good to be submitting his food to the lunch crush conditions of a fast food drive-through. Saran is right, too...America IS experiencing an obesity epidemic, attributable at least partially to our eating habits. Neither of these truths, however, made their critiques more palatable. (Get it? Palatable?) When we feel that we are being judged, or lectured, our reactions are severe. We run away from our restrictive parents and we eliminate uppity chef-testants.

Judgment and critique are hallmarks of what St. Paul calls "the Law." This Law, says Paul, brings only death. Certainly, Suvir Saran and George Mendes would attest to that.

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