Real World, Top Chef

by moderndomestic on May 4, 2009

Good Stuff Eatery

A photo of Spike Mendelsohn, a contestant from Top Chef Season Four. The photo hangs in his restaurant, the Good Stuff Eatery, proving that life does indeed go on after Top Chef.

Still annoyed that Hosea won season five of Top Chef? I am. However, The New York Times had a rather soothing article on Friday about how fame after Top Chef can be more of a nuisance than a blessing, and that winning the show doesn’t really prove anything about one’s professional ability.

In many ways, I found this article painfully obvious – and a rehash of an article New York Magazine wrote back in 2007. After all, has Top Chef really produced an actual Top Chef? Has the likes of Marco Pierre White or Thomas Keller or even Tom Colicchio ever graced the studios of Top Chef – as a contestant? I would argue that the closest Top Chef has gotten to that kind of talent is Harod Dieterle, winner of season one, who won over the judges with his precision, finesse, and passion. And, as the Times article points out, Harold’s restaurant, Perilla, received a tepid review from New York Times’ restaurant critic Frank Bruni.

No, I think that actual Top Chefs are probably too busy opening restaurants and honing their craft to appear on Top Chef. At least, in the vast majority of cases.

Like I said, I found this article rather soothing – and maybe just a little sad. It points out that the artificial rules of reality TV shows aren’t the best predictor for success in life. I would argue that the same thing could be said for high school, or college, or grad school, where one can successfully navigate the arbitrary, rule-bound bubbles and be completely unprepared for the real world. And yes, in case you’re wondering, I’m totally speaking from personal experience here.

Reading this article and finding out that Hung Huynh, the cocky and competitive winner of Season Two, isn’t even working right now, is kind of like finding out that the brilliant kid that used to sit next to you in English class ended up working at his father’s auto dealership.

That being said, it’s also good to know that the chefs we loved are still going strong – even if they didn’t do well on the show. Nikki Cascone, from season four, is planning on opening a second restaurant. Harold may not have pleased Bruni, but his restaurant is popular and successful.

I was sad that the article failed to mention the two DC-based Top Chef alums: Spike Mendelsohn, and Carla Hall, both of whom have successfully cooking careers in DC. After the success of his first restaurant, The Good Stuff Eatery, Spike is planning on opening up a pizzeria, and rumor has it that Carla is eying a cooking school space in Columbia Heights.

But what this article really made me want to do it go eat. After all, the frustrating thing about watching Top Chef is that you can’t taste the actual dishes – but now I have the good fortune of being able to eat the cuisine of at least one Top Chef alum. Anyone up for a run to Good Stuff this Friday?

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