After months of tsurris and anxiety, last night's finale of Top Chef was sweet vindication and much needed reassurance that all is right in the world. Hung, a villain to some but a hero to us, won the title of Season Three Top Chef. (Also, weirdly, he shared what seemed like a passionate kiss with Food and Wine's Gail Simmons.) The episode was noteworthy for more than that! The show was also an argument against the democratic process. Wait! For the democratic process.
If you had had your say, Casey would have been Top Chef. Happily, she choked. Actually, that was sad but at least she failed with aplomb. Dale, sweet Dale, tribal sun-tattooed and lonely, finally found his "inner chef" but in the end, he's a bottom not a top.
Despite Frank Bruni's claim that celebrity chefs never to the kitchen venture, last night we saw Big Head Todd English, mannequin Rocco Di Spirito and full-lipped Michelle Bernstein, celebrity chefs all, labor in the kitchen. Rocco got Hung, Casey got Michelle and Dale got Todd. Annoyingly, Dale kept on braying about how "Todd English has too many restaurants to count." That's only true if you can't count past ten which apparently Dale can't. Rocco happily submitted to the mad genius that was Hung, his chiseled face betraying nothing but obedience. Casey, for her part, what's there to say? She just blew it. She kind of half heartedly tried to deflect blame onto Howie (who was her sous chef for the fourth course) and the altitude. But mostly, she just fell on her own sword.
I would have liked to see Casey put together a meal that actually could compete with Hung's. I was looking forward to a referendum on the great culino-ideological question between soul v. technical expertise. It's a question that has been played out for ages: between the Mediterranean and Nordic temperament, the vibrant and imperfect inventions of Gothic cathedrals and the austere and clean geometric shapes of Roman temples; between Fuse and C-Span 3; Barack and Hillary. A distrust against an analytical and intellectual approach to the world has been at the heart of the anti-intellectualism and obscurantism that muddles so much of today's public and political discourse. Instead the question was between a man with no taste (peep that I Heart Hot Moms shirt!) and a man with a palate tres raffiné.
Hung's victory may just have been one small step in the career of a chef destined for greatness but it represents a quantum leap in how America approaches analytic thought and technical expertise. It bodes well for Hillary, it bodes well for America.