There are lots of ways to get hooked on Bravo’s Top Chef, some of them less savory than others. But the main reason my small family has now watched all ten seasons, playing catch-up for several years by downloading previous episodes, has nothing to do with cooking, fist fights between contestants, or what glamour-puss host Padma Lakshmi is wearing. It’s about my son’s identity as a Vietnamese adoptee.
Even without the adoption connection, our dedication to Top Chef is not as weird as it sounds: My husband is a foodie; my son, picky eater that he is, likes to make his own concoctions; and I’m a sucker for stories about driven, creative people, no matter how schmaltzy or manufactured the reality-show narratives seem.
Still, Korean adoptee Kristen Kish, Season Ten’s recent winner, sealed the deal. My son always cheers on the Asian contestants. (He and I had a mischievous love of foul-mouthed and explosive Dale Talde from Season Four, for instance.) The Season Three win of Hung Huynh was bottled happiness for us.
But Kristen Kish was my son’s equivalent of a knight in shining armor. From the time it was revealed in the seventh episode (“Foiled Again”) that she’s an adoptee who doesn’t know her birth parents, he’s been in her corner, personally invested in her dream of returning to Korea for the first time as an adult.