At the risk of spoiling the results for those of you who missed the Top Chef finale, I'd like to second Matt Yglesias in praising the show and in declaring my support for Hung. But my support for Hung was, though I am loathe to admit it, based in simple ethnic nationalism. In truth, my loyalties were with the brash, abrasive, and diminutive Howie, covered in vivid detail by Grub Street. Once Howie was knocked out, I was adrift. Hung was, let's be frank, kind of an obnoxious blowhard, always shocked by the merest criticism. "You thought I shouldn't have served braised human flesh! Wow, I mean. Wow. That's weird. But okay ..."
Here's the thing: he was the last short man standing, and also (let's put all our cards on the table here) he was a scrappy immigrant. Now, I'm not an immigrant, but I did move from Brooklyn to Washington, D.C. In that disorientation and displacement, I identify with Hung's journey from Vietnam.
One thing I found a little creepy: everyone said he was utterly soulless (*cough*, sounds like an Ivy League admissions office), and so he talked about his "soul" during his "let's emote" session at the end of Part I of the Finale. That struck me as ... soulless. I'd have much preferred a bold statement of, "They say I ain't got no soul. That I'm a robot. WELL-I-AM-ROBOT, MUST-DESTROY-HUMANS!" and then fired a red beam from the middle of his forehead that vaporized Padma Lakshmi.
As for Padma Lakshmi, some say ill-considered plastic surgery has given her a Michael Jackson nose. I say, first, that no one talks about Tom Colichio that way, which suggests a certain level of misogyny. And, second, I think she's quite beautiful. (And South Asian! Woo!)
That's enough for the ethnic and heightist and displacedist nationalism.