I turned on the Emmys tonight just in time to watch Top Chef win "Best Reality Show." And I have to say, I was happy to see it. It's certainly a well-produced reality show, and there is no doubt it's had a significant effect on the food culture.
The status of chefs has certainly been elevated by Top Chef, and the food culture as a whole has been elevated by the show as well. For example, for years the James Beard Awards were just a trade awards show with limited visibility and awareness in the non-foodie universe; this year, however, when we won, everyone I knew outside of the food world seemed to have heard about it. I didn't have to explain to anyone that the the Beard Awards are the Oscars of the food world. Why? Because the millions of people who watch Top Chef are constantly hearing judges introduced as Beard award winners.
But the first thought that stuck with me as I looked at Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons beaming and laughing on stage is how pop culture is always so full of unexpected twists and turns. When I first met Gail Simmons she was Jeffrey Steingarten's assistant. Now she's a reality television star and show host. It couldn't happen to a lovelier human being, so I couldn't be happier for her. Gail is smart, talented, unpretentious, and a pleasure to eat a burger with.
And what of Tom Colicchio? Well, years ago Tom was a guest on a local cable show, New York Eats, that I co-hosted along with Jeffrey Steingarten. I wish I could tell you that I knew then that Tom was headed for television stardom and rock star chef status. But I couldn't. All I knew then was that he was (and is) a smart fellow, an incredibly focused human being, and a very good cook.
So here's to you, Gail and Tom. Congratulations on your Emmy. You really do never know.