Cheftestant Paul Qui of Uchiko restaurant in Austin, TX
I just watched the latest episode of Top Chef and I’m excited that Paul Qui and Beverly Kim made it into the final round. I, like so many of my fellow Austinites, have been rooting for Paul Qui since day one. Paul has such a heart of gold, a positive attitude and enormous talent that I almost forgive him for trying to serve me some crazy nuoc mam sorbet at Uchiko on my first visit to the restaurant.
Beverly is a different story. I, like so many of her haters, did not want to like her. She’s a perfectionist, precise, driven, laser-focused, could be seen as selfish. Moreover, she’s mousy, quiet, apologetic, tended to get emotional, could be seen as weak. Quickly I realized that the reason for my dislike was a personal one–I did not like her because she reflected a stereotype I was all too familiar with. And I didn’t want that stereotype on TV.
Cheftestant Beverly Kim engrossed in slicing some veg
Now I realize that I was fool. It’s not only important for someone like Beverly Kim to be on TV; it’s necessary. It’s all too easy for her competitors and the rest of the world to hate her and to be infuriatingly condescending and superior to someone–to a personality shaped by upbringing, values, belief systems, life experiences and lack of privilege–they just do not understand.
When fellow competitor and challenge partner Heather Terhune threw Beverly under the bus for no good reason and proceeded to direct all kinds of unwarranted aggression at her, my blood boiled with an empathetic rage. After the Restaurant Wars episode, wherein the other two finalists Lindsey Autry and Sarah Grueneberg berated Beverly like they would a child or puppy, I shrieked for vengeance. I felt a kind of Schadenfreude-like glee when Bev won Last Chef Standing, moseyed back into the competition, won a spot in the finale, and made the supposed finalists faces melt into a look of disdain and fear.
Perhaps Beverly Kim will get the last laugh, if she hasn’t already. She could win the damn thing, which would be very cool indeed because women and people of color competing in the Top Chef finale (much less winning the season) is a rare thing. Even though I adore Paul Qui and think he will probably win, I’m rooting for Beverly with all my heart. She’s not just a woman of color on TV; she’s a class act. Considering all the shit she’s been through, you’d never even expect her to be.
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