Sometimes I love the Food Network’s Chopped so much that I worry, as Soupy Sales used to say, that my brains might fall out. Other times, though, I think my poor heart might have been humpty-dumptified, broken so badly as to never be repaired. Such was the case this evening when Kent Rollins, the chuck wagon cook from Oklahoma, competed in a "redemption" edition (that is, one featuring four second-bests from earlier competitions) and lost again.
I found even more heartbreaking the recent (as in: watched recently by me) defeat of little Vito Facciabene, the dese-and-dosiest contestant the show has ever featured, and the most endearing. Having recently lost his restaurant in the Bronx (one assumes he looked everywhere, but to no avail), and with his wife pregnant and the couple’s first daughter presumably looking up soulfully at Veet a lot and whispering, “Daddy, I’m hungry,” he didn’t just want the $10,000 prize, but needed it — desperately. You could tell from the heartstring-tugging music that accompanied his little interview segments. So who wound up winning? Little Miss Stuckup from Somewhere, Alabama, with her blonde hair, excessive mascara, and penchant for telling the judges what a fantastic chef she is, even after one of them observed quite pointedly that a little humility from her might really hit the spot .
A few nights earlier, on an all-teens edition, it was a 13-year=old home-schooled boy who told the camera that he didn’t want to be thought of as a great teen chef, but a great chef, period, who won. He was smug, precocious, and adorable in the way that makes even the kindest onlooker wonder if bullying is always a bad thing, the kind of boy whose trousers you want to yank down around his ankles in full view of the prettiest girl in school after listening to him speak for four seconds. Ted Allen remains the least charismatic host in the history of television.
Like the judges — who commonly include two of the most prolifically tattooed men in America (restaurant kitchens are apparently a popular refuge for fuckups and misfits), and, in Marc Murphy, the homeliest man in the Western Hemisphere — I’m in no hurry to eat food onto which someone’s bled. It’s impossible to imagine that a lot of the non-self-harmers don’t sweat into their food, though, and am I alone in being a little bit dissettled by how much they handle everything? Is it not easy to imagine a chef absentmindedly picking his or her nose during a brief lull, and then neglecting to wash his or her hands afterward?
Maybe it’s best not to think about this sort of thing.