It’s a fortuitous coincidence that this particular episode of Top Chef aired tonight while the Royals and Giants were battling in Game 7 of the World Series. As one season comes to an end and another just begins, no matter what the competition is, the thrill of victory and the pain of defeat keep us watching week after week.
Over the course of a baseball’s lengthy 162-game season, we get to know the players, learning what it took for them to get to the big leagues. Parents play catch with sons in their backyards and drive them to Little League practice. Young children develop batting stances and throwing motions. Each swing of the bat or smack of the ball against the glove builds up to tonight.
In that same way, a lot happens before a young chef first puts food to plate. Family recipes, specialties, and favorites become the early signatures of young cooks, and where and how they’re raised creates the story of their food. Life before Top Chef made the chefs on Bravo each week who they are today: Melissa wants to prove she made the right choice to her conservative parents. Keriann wants to “have it all.” Even Aaron takes a sympathetic turn, explaining how a difficult childhood and persistent sense of insecurity fuel his competitive fire.
But, the one thing about Top Chef that does make it different from baseball is that we jump straight to the playoffs. Chefs don’t have 162 games to refine their rosters, make trades, or work out the kinks in a swing or pitching motion. Defeat is elimination. Every week is a Game 7.
The addition of the “sudden death” quickfires has added an interesting wrinkle, increasing the stakes for the episode-beginning cooking that often feels like a throwaway. Sure, immunity is an appealing prize, but the chef who wins the quickfire is fairly likely not to be among the bottom come judges table-time. Later in the season, more cash, cars, advantages, and other prizes will incentivize things, but for now, being on the bottom becomes more than a self-esteem knock. It could be curtains.
NEXT: Not Padma’s cup of tea