Monday, May 12, 2008

A New Way To Choose The Democratic Nominee

"Top Chef" – one of Bravo’s most popular reality TV shows.

It’s a tantalizing mix of intense competition, delicious-looking food, memorable personalities, and a hot Indian hostess.

During the first several weeks of each season, it becomes clear who has a shot at the title of “Top Chef” and who does not. But once you get down to the final few competitors, it’s anyone’s game.

Let’s say we’re down to the last two or three. They’re all very talented, creative, and technically skilled. They’ve all received top notch training at the finest culinary institutes, and have served under the tutelage of the industry’s most distinguished restaurateurs.

So how do you choose who goes home?

It’s an almost impossible choice in some cases. But for the past 4 years, the judges have managed to narrow it down to one lone victor.

Chef Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, Ted Allen, Padma Lakshi, and various celebrity guest judges use their acutely sensitive palates, and years of eating experience to choose the winner. It may not be scientific, but I trust their judgment. They rarely botch a call.

And unlike the Democratic Presidential Primary race, everyone involved in "Top Chef" knows full well – from the get go - that only one person can take home the prize. There is no nominating convention, and there is no Vice Top Chef.

Also, there aren’t any contenders who refuse to go home when they’ve been beaten, or those that would threaten to tear apart the very fabric of the cooking community by insisting upon remaining in the competition after being eliminated from the competition – mathematically, or otherwise.

If Hillary, Barack, and the rest of the Democrats can’t make up their mind, allow me to suggest an alternative to the current wacky system – one that will leave no doubt as to whom the nominee will be.

Do you smell what I’m getting at?


I have no problem letting these two choose our next President.

And I’ll say this up front: Florida and Michigan, your votes will not be counted in either case, so quit whining.

It would have been much more interesting if we’d enacted this exercise from the very beginning of the race

Would Bill Richardson have been better at baking or frying?

Would Dennis Kucinich have made his famous 5 alarm chili?

Would Joe Biden have raised his voice indignantly, when he discovered that his special ingredient for one of the challenges was cod livers?

We will never know.

But there’s still time for us to discover whether Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama has better knife skills.

Will Hillary break from her assumed mold and show a surprising finesse for flavorful, fresh ingredients combined in unique and innovative presentations? Or will she stick to her working-class roots, and produce filling and fattening, yet bland and difficult to digest food? Recipes from a Scranton diner, perhaps?

Hillary, when hungry, is not a pleasant candidate. Allow her to whip up some meatloaf for everyone.

Will Barack allow his multi-ethnic background to shine through and exhibit a flair and creativity never before seen in the Top Chef kitchen? Or will he be as bad at cooking as he is at bowling? And accidentally set fire to his Saffron Caviar Shrimp Mango soufflé, and himself. And the rest of the staff.

Obama - as good at cooking as basketball? He has a wicked baseline jumper, and makes a wicked roux.

It could be a disaster for both candidates.

But that’s what would make this – the highest stakes of any “Top Chef” episode ever – such a wonderful exercise in democracy.

Not only would the winner receive $100,000 in seed money to help open a restaurant, a feature in Food & Wine magazine, a showcase at the Annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, a gourmet dream vacation in the French Alps, and the title of "Top Chef" - but also, the winner would get to face John McCain in the November General Election for the President of the United States.

I’d so tune in for that.

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