I didn't laugh. Not when Stefan admitted that he was "happy" he didn't win the title of "Top Chef." Not when host Andy Cohen (who is that guy?) presented a montage of this season's bald chefs, and certainly not when video was played of the extremely drunk Leah and Jamie giggling like psychopaths at the judges' table.
I wanted to enjoy the show. To find something to smile about after last week's beyond disappointing finale, but once again, "Top Chef" season five came up short. The only segment that brought even the slightest wrinkle of joy to my face was the Stefan-as-ladies'-man montage-- in particular the final image of his face, aglow with infatuation, at the sight of Padma walking in the room. I liked seeing that softer side of Stefan and wish that the producers' had shown more of that humanity throughout the season instead of always portraying him as the big bad European wolf. It might have made me appreciate him more. And it might have made me feel more invested in his food rather than always focusing on his poor attitude and bulging ego instead.
In many ways, last night's reunion show was a bitter reminder of what could have been with not just Stefan, but all the contestants. Part of my problem with this season was my inability to connect with any of the chefs other than Fabio, and at the end, Carla. The feeling was only further excerbated by each montage played last night. The show took each of the chefs and stripped them down to be defined by a single characteristic or moment in the season. Jamie was her whining, Fabio was his accent, Carla was her "hooty-hoo's." As hard as it was for me to relate to most of the chefs' personalities, part of me wonders how I would feel toward them if I'd seen the whole picture -- before the final cuts were made.
Maybe if I'd seen more of the spirited hi-jinks in the "Stew Room" I might have come to see that Leah is not just boy crazy, she is also a bit of a boozer. Maybe I would have noticed that Jamie can be lovable when she's not busy complaining about never winning. And maybe I would have had a reason to tune into the show week after week that did not involve Fabio. At the very least, I would have been priivy to a depth of flavor that was not present in the episodes that came to air. Like any good chef knows, a little salt and pepper can go a long way.