Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Finale Lesson on Top Chef

Did you see the Finale of Top Chef? My daughters and I watched horrified as Carla, one of the three finalists, unintentionally threw herself under the bus (as the contestants often like to say on the show.) The only positive spin I can put on this, as one who has been rooting for Carla to win, is that by doing so she has given a lot of us women out here a real gift -- a lesson, if you will. Follow your instincts. Especially when it really counts, always take care of yourself first. Like they say on the airlines, fasten your oxygen mask before you help others fasten theirs.

Of the three finalists, Stephan, Hosea and Carla, Carla was all about the love. Stephan was extremely talented, smug, snarky and insufferably cocky. Hosea, who ultimately won, was also talented but not as experienced, a bit whiny and continually engaged in a culinary pissing match with Stephan. Carla was calm, quirky, funny as hell, talented and always tried to infuse her food with love. Ultimately it was the love that did her in.

Each of the contestants was given a sous chef to help them prepare the dishes of their final challenge. When Carla's helper started suggesting a different way to prepare her meat and a souffle for dessert instead of a tart (which Carla was known for) you could almost see Carla not wanting to dampen her helper's enthusiasm. She didn't say, "No. I'm the chef here and we'll do things my way." Instead she saw her helper and herself as a team and she agreed to try some things the way her helper suggested. Bad move this time.

When the judges tasted her food their response was, "This doesn't taste like what we expected from you. You got to the finals by cooking your own way. Why would you change now?" You could see Carla deflate before your eyes, like a souffle that's been startled before its time. She knew immediately what mistake she'd made. All the nurturing women watching knew instantly what had happened because we've probably all done this to ourselves in the past. You take care of everyone around you before you take care of yourself.

I'm not saying this is a bad way to be. I think it may make you a better person, providing you don't overdo it. It makes you a great team player. It makes you a great mom. If you run a restaurant it may make your kitchen more harmonious. In this case, it just didn't make Carla a Top Chef and for that I'm sad. 

Carla accidently threw herself under the bus and reminded all of us out there that there are times when putting ourselves first is absolutely okay and is, in fact, "being all about the love."



  1. Tricia - you so beautifully described what I was feeling during the finale, except I was yelling at the television...Are you crazy? This is the finale! You don't try something you've never done before now!

    I loved Carla. She was so much fun..just the kind of friend you'd love to hang out with...funny, kind, interesting, bright.

  2. Cynthia--I agree. I'd love to hang out with her. And when Hosea won I could hear him look at Stephan and say, "Neener, neener, neener!" although his lips never moved.


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