So I've been watching Top Chef since the beginning except for Season 3 when I was briefly without cable because I thought it was too pricey only to realize I hate living without cable and it's not that expensive. I have to say, I really love the fact that, unlike most reality shows, the person who deserves to win usually does. Or perhaps I'm just buying into the editing. And I don't even mind all the product placement that much, it's kind of amusing. Although I wonder how effective it is. I'm not running out to buy Quaker oatmeal or Swanson Broth. Actually, one Thanksgiving, about 5 years ago I baked two big pans of homemade stuffing - one with my usual expensive organic boxed broth and the other with some canned Swanson broth, and after tasting both, well lets just say I haven't bought Swanson since.
But this season, for the first time, I found Top Chef very humbling. I've always been the kind of person who could make a very elegant dessert, or show up to a potluck with a dish that outshines all the others. And I really do love to cook for people - in college I would bake cookies to cheer everyone up before stressful deadlines, and in my last year co hosted a weekly cocktail party complete with freshly squeezed juices, homemade infused syrups, and delectable hor'douvres. And when I graduated and started working full time, I'd bring baked goods into the office every few weeks - zucchini cranberry muffins, pumpkin bread with cream cheese, chocolaty brownies, chocolate oatmeal cookies, carrot cake. This of course makes one very popular and solicits lots of praise (which I love). And since meeting Jon, who I think is one of the very few people who actually critiques and challenges my cooking, I've grown even more. All in all, I think I'm a pretty great cook. But while watching Top Chef this season, something occurred to me. These people, well most of them, blow me out of the water. Sure, my knife skills are better than any of my friends, I can mince garlic faster than most food network celebrities, I actually know how to make buttercream roses (though I seldom do), and I can whip up original home cooked meals every night of the week. But these people know how whip up an authentic gumbo when the time calls for it, or cook 5 different preparations of scallops, or skin eels, (or act really excited to be winning a $25 book from a celebrity chef). And now that I've had this epiphany that there are actually a lot of chefs out there who are in fact better at cooking than I am, I'll have to settle for being a pretty great home cook.