Word of Mouth

Kelly Liken returns for tonight's Top Chef reunion episode

We'll be seeing Vail's Kelly Liken at the Top Chef Reunion tonight. Kelly was among the four finalists who went to Singapore, then was sent home in the penultimate episode -- but not before cooking many dishes that won the judges' praise. Interestingly, Kelly said several times on the air that Kevin -- the ultimate winner, but consistently underrated on the blogosphere until then -- was the one to beat. After his win, he said exactly the same about her.

It's always nice to see the chefs interacting without all the crazed stress of the competition, and you hope they'll be a bit more forthcoming on some of the questions that have been teasing away in our minds all this time. Here are some they might answer, but probably won't:

Did they find some of the challenges as dumb as I did -- the partisandwiches, the food for Padma and Tom's babies, the "easily executable" fare for the Hilton Hotel chain?

Do they think the judges have completely free rein in making their decisions, or do network powers sometimes intervene?

Is there a judge whose tastes and/or food prejudices they find suspect? Another whose opinion they particularly value? Do they think the judges are sometimes petty, vindictive or plain wrong?

Given the editing, did they recognize themselves or their competitors when they watched the show later? What was the biggest misrepresentation or distortion they perceived?

Were any of the winning dishes really horrible?

We can tell some past winners are sincerely admired by current competitors. Are there others whom no one really respects?

Why all the Frenchification? Why can't anyone just call it custard instead of creme anglaise?

Is it true that the show favors pretentious fare with multiple ingredients -- exotic and hard to obtain, if possible -- over beautifully executed classical dishes and new, trendy techniques over the tried and true?

No, I don't think Tiffany and Ed were having an affair, and also I don't care. I've stopped being annoyed about Arnold being sent home when it was Lynne who sabotaged his pasta. I know I'll never figure out whether Kenny is a true beast in the kitchen or a bullshitter. But I do want to know if anyone saw Alex make that damn pea puree.

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Juliet Wittman is an investigative reporter and critic with a passion for theater, literature, social justice and food. She has reviewed theater for Westword for over a decade; for many years, she also reviewed memoirs for the Washington Post. She has won several journalism awards and published essays and short stories in literary magazines. Her novel, Stocker's Kitchen, can be obtained at select local bookstores and on Amazon.
Contact: Juliet Wittman