In the darkness the trees are full of starlight (henwy) wrote,
In the darkness the trees are full of starlight

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Look! Over in that alley! Upside down in that dumpster! It's Leftover Man!

I'm on day 3 or 4 (or maybe even 5 by this point since I've lost count) of my Top Chef marathon where I'm watching every season from the very beginning. As I've mentioned before, it's an interesting experience for me since I never thought I would ever want to re-watch any reality show competition. I think most people would feel this way since it seems like it could never be as good the second time around. After all, you already know who the ultimate winner is as well as how all the major conflicts turn out and the general flow of the show. What I never expected was that there are some interesting facets that only become apparent because you already know what's going to happen.

For one, it's interesting to see the editing choices that the producers of the show made since they also often have more information at hand as episodes are filmed long in advance. There are many 'Ah Ha!' sort of moments as you realize why they chose to keep certain scenes like very basic and almost incidental conflicts between two characters in early episodes because later on down the line it explodes into something major. You finally get to realize all the pieces of foreshadowing that have been included to shape the narrative.

Second, it's also interesting to re-watch these episodes because I found that in many cases I only really remembered those people who lasted until the end of the competition. This shouldn't be a surprise since if they lasted until the end, it meant that they had a lot more screen time than competitors who were eliminated early. Not to mention the fact that as the numbers whittle down the people remaining also get proportionally more face time as the episodes go on. Any single contestant in episode 1 might only be on screen for a minute or two but by the time you reach the finale whoever is left is claiming a quarter or third of the episode's run time. That means that there are some surprises when re-watching these shows. It's only that the novelty comes in the early episodes of the season rather than the climax at the end.

As I'm watching all this fine dining, I also can't help but feel a little wistful. I'm not exactly the fine dining kinda guy. I still remember when the food network first got on cable and my mom and sisters would watch it in the evenings together. I would scoff at the fru-fru food on the screen and tell them rather disdainfully that for the price of that small plate of food I could probably go and buy myself 50 Big Macs. For me, the sensible option between the two seemed obvious. That said, I am a little regretful that I will probably never get the opportunity to try any of this food that seems to send people into such rapture. At the very least I would like to at least have sampled some of these pricey ingredients like caviar, foie gras, whale, shark fin, black truffles, etc. I'm not sure that I could really appreciate it with a palate honed by fast food and bologna sandwiches, but it would still be an interesting experience.

On the downside of watching all these episodes of Top Chef is seeing the startling amount of waste when it comes to food. These are people working with the best ingredients available in price and quality and it seems that so little of it actually makes it on the plate. To see them taking an entire side of beef and ending up with a half dozen plates with a 3 ounce steak on each pains me. This doesn't even include those times when the food is simply part of the competition rather than meant to be consumed like oyster shucking contests or whatnot. I know that at least some of it must be salvaged somehow for food kitchens, but the vast majority of cooked 'bits and pieces' are simply tossed into the trash. The waste is appalling. I almost wish I could wander through the Top Chef kitchen after each quick fire and elimination challenge with a pillow case and graze my way through what's left over.

So at the moment, I'm four episodes into season 6, with a couple seasons left. I won't actually run into any episodes I haven't seen before until season 7 and I'm looking forward to it. It'll be nice to actually be able to root on a contestant without knowing the outcome.
Tags: food, tv club: top chef

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