I’m so happy that Kristen won Top Chef Season 10: Seattle. I was rooting for her throughout the whole season. Like many others, I was totally devastated when she was eliminated during Restaurant Wars (granted she did claim the failure was her responsibility). But I was psyched to see her totally dominate the competition on Last Chance Kitchen and gaining redemption and eventually making it to the finale of Top Chef. (Did we mention she won?!)
Also her performance both inside and outside the kitchen was noticeably commendable. In the past, what I have observed of Asian American women (the rare presence of) in Reality TV competitions is of two extremes. One extreme is they are weak and submissive to their competition and fall victim to bullying by fellow competitors and becoming defenseless or relying on others to stand up for them. (Example: Beth from last season’s Top Chef Texas and Gina Choe on America’s Next Top Model Cycle 6), emphasizing a stereotype that Asian American women are quiet and shy and do not speak out. The next extreme is they are tough loud rude mouths (Example: This season’s Josie and America’s Next Top Model’s Sheena Sakai from Cycle 11). Or they are more in the background where their accomplishments are not recognized and they work within the mastermind plan but people still wonder why they are still in the competition (Example Becky from Survivor…the season where they made a social experiment of dividing the tribes by race) .
In contrast, Kristen breaks all those stereotypical barriers with her Top Chef win. On Top Chef, Kristen clearly did not show herself to be the loud dramatic one. She came to Top Chef to win it all and focus on her food and cooking and not cause any tension. However, she does appear as likeable and friendly among competitors (Stefan constantly calls her his wifey). At the same time, Kristen clearly does not come across as a quiet weakling. Throughout the season, Kristin has cooked many delicious dishes that won her quickfire and elimination challenges. She appears determined and confident that she should and will win. However, Kristen remains humbled by her wins (I love the parts when Padma announces her name in winning the best dish and Kristin says “Are you kidding me?!) She definitely is not someone who gives up after being thrown down. She gets back up and gets stronger as shown during last chance kitchen challenges. Kristin definitely learns from her mistakes and acknowledges her strengths as seen in the finale, giving her the win. Moreover, the judges and her competitors and the Top Chef fans respect and admire her as an accomplished chef who will go so far and has a wonderful future ahead of her.
PS. I love the fact that Top Chef did a little bio of her in the finale where Kristen explains how she was adopted when she was a baby from Korea and how her family supports her career choice to become a chef and her goal of going to Korea to get to understand her cultural heritage!
PSS. Sheldon wins Top Chef Fan Favorite!