Dear Leó Jafar,
By now you must have realized that at some point before she was your mother, your mother, Padma Lakshmi, was pregnant with you. You might as well know that I, Joshua David Stein, am your maybe father. And if, as too often it comes to pass, fathers speak not to sons and sons search in the apocryphal dusk of genealogy for a father to call their own, I'd like to impart to you some things I've learned watching your mother in her role as television hostess of the fifth season of Top Chef. You know, she wasn't always the star of a crappy sitcom. At one time, she held court for a kitchen full of fools and Calphalon.
Perhaps that's uncharitable. FIrstly, Leo Jafar, don't be unkind. Faced with a rigged slot machine, the culinary equivalent of the Great Automatic Grammatizator, chefs were given a short amount of time to make a dish based on three jumbly words sets of which seemed to describe your mother perfectly. [Sweet, Tart, Asian] [Blue, Cheese, Mediterranean] [Piquant, Slow, Pretty]. Amazingly, minor failings in execution notwithstanding, they ably completed this. The challenge was paid for by Cookster.com, a website. Today they featured your mother as author of the day. That's strange and exactly how the world works. Transparency is the last refuge of scoundrels.
For the elimination challenge, son, chefs were formed into randomly knife-block generated pairs and asked to cook for the Macy Culinary Council, the Council on Foreign Relations for the retail giant, in a manner the contestants thought would be pleasing to the five Grand Wizards—Tyler Florence aka Malcolm McDowell; Nancy Silverton, aka Andie MacDowell; Tom Douglas aka Edward MacDowell; Takashi Yagihashi aka Roddy MacDowell and Govind Armstrong aka The Rock—using ingredients found in their bags. Son, do not take bags full of food from strangers and just because your mother knows them, doesn't mean they are good people. She was once married to a man who was under fatwah. But don't ask her about that because she is still sensitive about it. As you'll find out, love doesn't always last and people change but as Ray Davies once sang, "People often change, but memories of people can remain."
This, though, is the real lesson: Working in pairs is difficult. It's much like a marriage and here is what to know: Don't be an asshole. As you'll have noticed, last night, Gashmouth Isabella and Robin Cancer were teamed up together. Robin is annoyingly verbose and has a martyr complex. Gashmouth Isabella is arrogant though his self-regard is unwarranted. Gashmouth didn't listen to one word Cancer said and, in fact, told the camera that he was essentially giving her busy work and then throwing it out. Both characters are useful object lessons. First, don't be an asshole, or if you must be, don't be so loud about it. Gashmouth is a great example of what an asshole is and why no one likes him. No one likes Robin Leventhal because she is an annoying sofa of a human but compared to Gashmouth, one can't help but root for her. As for Cancer, take from her that if you should always be thinking whether people like you or not. For if they don't, as in the case of Cancer, and they probably won't, you are, after all, your father's son, don't lie down for them. Don't content yourself being led by the nose like a mute ox to the slaughterhouse for the unknown road always leads there.
Next is this, drawn from the pairing of Michael Voltaggio and Ass Fuck. Beyond the frontier of respect for others is the heath of self-deprecation. Journey, if you must, to the very edge but don't venture too far afield lest you, like Ass Fuck, undercut yourself to buttress others. Like Robin Ass Fuck was led down a road unknown but unlike Robin Ass Fuck was liked. He was wise to surrender to the superior talent of Voltaggio for his own gain. Nevertheless, his groveling before the judges, comparing Voltaggio to Picasso, was counterproductive and frankly, embarrassing. Know your audience, know you're in a competition. Know, Leo Jafar, that at any moment your friends can and will turn on you. Today's friend is tomorrow's enemy and the social fabric knitting us together is all too easily ruptured by ideology, self-interest and, well, anti-Semitism. This doesn't mean you shouldn't form alliances. But do as Kevin and Jennifer or as Roosevelt and Stalin did: work together but yield little, give less and in no way undercut your ability to defend yourself in the future.
Two more things: Don't listen to spotty squinty bald gits. Monet is as good close up as he is far away. Learn from your mother and her friends, when someone spouts readymade poorly conceived bons mots give them the cold shoulder. Don't deign to respond with the unnecessary but not incorrect observation, "You, Sir, are a useless combination." Simply don't respond and perhaps Toby Young will disappear back into the warm yucky canal from whence he came.
Finally, call me. Reconcile if we aren't already reconciled. Don't wait until it's too late, until our detente is merely symbolic. It was just Yom Kippur and I know I'm a little late but I'm sorry for anything I might have done to hurt you. As for Padma, if you see her say hello. I hope both she and you are doing well.
Your Maybe Father,
Joshua David Stein
PS Thank Mike Byhoff for the video if you ever see him around.