Top Chef & Underdog Theory


After last night’s episode of “Top Chef,” which Diana and I really enjoyed, I pointed out that C.J.’s team had it coming. C.J., who CHOSE his team, made a classic blunder: he chose the beautiful people, the most likable people, the most popular kids in the class. And as anyone who’s seen an 80s movie knows, when you’re the last to get picked in gym class that means you’re going to score a touchdown at the end of the movie.

The underdogs, in this case, were a rag-tag bunch–Sara, Hung, Howie, and Dale–a motley crew of social outcasts: various minorities (Jamaican, Vietnamese, shlubby, gay) and various personality types (controlling, obsessive, self-deluded, obnoxious) shoved together and forced to make good food. And guess what? They did. They made awesome food. Why? Because they had something to prove: when you’re picked last (and, believe me, I know from experience) you want to win in a very deep, very real way. Again, C.J. had it coming.

Plus C.J.’s team was super bland–like members of a high school Student Council all grown up. Charm, looks–CJ’s team had it–but they lacked talent. Tre’s dish disgusted the judges, Casey couldn’t chop onions to save her life. Did they look great while they cooked? Sure! But would you want to eat their food? No way.

Enter the Underdog. It’s not a coincidence that the great artists of the world are NOT the most popular kids in high school. Have you ever heard the expression, “Separate the artist from the art”? That’s because most talented people resemble Howie far more than they resemble C.J. Again, when you have something to prove–when life isn’t automatically easy, when people don’t like you because of your looks or personality–you work harder, you grow, you become excellent at what you do. Sara, Hung, Howie and Dale all embody this truth: they were picked last and then, at the end of the episode, they hit their home run. Now the only question is who will win the whole season? I’m betting it’s one from their number, an underdog. I’m hoping Hung.

You may also like