Monday, October 19, 2009

We Have a Winner!

The winner of our "Why I Love Top Chef" essay contest is Holly Burpo. Congratulations, Holly - you have won a copy of the Top Chef cookbook, which will be winging its way to you shortly.

Here's Holly's winning entry.

When it comes up--and it does--I always tell people I learned to cook in self defense. During my childhood my grandmother cooked for me. My grandmother never made tuna casserole--in fact, I've never tasted tuna casserole. My grandmother made pea souffle. My grandmother could roast a chicken better than those silly Foster Farm or whatever commercials could dream of. My grandmother was good. Mom wasn't bad either.

I hated it.

I hated being sent to the store for "corn starch" and not even knowing which row to start looking in. I hated when she put swiss chard on perfectly good garlic bread and ruined it for everyone. I especially hated the five kinds of squash I never new the name of but really disliked each in their own special and individual way.

Then I moved out, went to college. I moved from San Antonio, Texas to Seattle, Washington and never came back.

I was on my own when it came to food. I was a picky eater with an unusually refined palate.

In words words, I was screwed.

And yet, as I scrambled to make sense of meat and starches and vegetables I hated less than others, it started coming back to me. I knew how to pick out ripe fruit. I knew where the corn starch was. I knew what radicchio looked like, even if all I did to it was pass on by.

I found Top Chef in its second season, and actually spent most of my time trying to talk the underdog--Marcel--into being more talented and less of a jerk. And wishing he'd please, please stop rapping. I'd learned how to cook because I had to. I got hungry several times a day. I'd somehow missed that it could be creative, how it could be fun.

Here was Top Chef, in one of its most emotional seasons, showing me the way.
My parents and I don't have a great deal in common, but now when I call home I can ask about Top Chef, because Mom watches too. Back then she said Marcel reminded her of my boyfriend. I'm not sure why and I'm much too afraid to ask. And while I couldn't call Top Chef when I had the bright idea to make mushroom soup, let the pan get too hot, and then set the butter on fire--I could call Grandma. But I blame Top Chef for convincing me I wanted to spend my Friday night making soup.

It's just a TV show, but it's become more. An intersection of experience, a point of reference. Something I suddenly have in common with the people who raised me, now two whole times zones away.

So that's why I love Top Chef.


Kit Pollard said...

Love the story, Holly! Sweet AND funny!

Laura K said...

Holly, thanks for your winning entry, I sent the book yesterday - enjoy!