It’s been a full week since Dale Talde, most amazing chef in the world, was eliminated from Top Chef: All-Stars. It’s also been about an hour since I fully recovered from this tragic loss to one of the country’s greatest reality competition show. Am I exaggerating a little? Maybe but it really did take me that long to come to terms with the fact that my favorite contestant–and undeniably one of the strongest chefs on the season–wasn’t going to grace my television screen every Wednesday night.
Everything seemed to be going swell, too, especially after Dale took home both prizes on the previous episode, “Lock Down.” He wowed Sesame Street with his sweet-and-savory cookies and impressed the judges with his (literally) ironed sandwiches in an early morning meal at a Target superstore. Last week, we watched as it all fell apart: in “For The Gulf,” the cheftestants were put to the test by cooking Southern inspired food to commemorate cuisine from the Gulf and both times, Dale was left on the bottom. He was eventually eliminated over a sad bowl of Amberjack stew, while my heart burst. (Also, I’ve never heard of Amberjack before.)
I was proud that he walked off the show with grace and maturity. The Dale we saw on this season was a far cry from the angry and macho chef we saw in his first season, where punching lockers was the only way he could express his feelings. But he’s open about going to therapy for the past two years, he knew the mistakes he made on Season 4 and he understood why he lost this round.
Dale’s elimination still feels bittersweet as the show continues, especially with this week’s episode, “Give Me Your Huddled Masses.” With the theme of Ellis Island, the chefs were given the opportunity to explore their lineage and put together a dish inspired by their ancestor’s journey for their family. The jaded side of me wonders if the producers had set up Dale’s loss because they couldn’t figure out where his family was from, but I think I have more faith in Hollywood than that. I can’t help but wonder, though, how great it would have been to see him learn about his Filipino background and what delicious dishes could have been featured on the show. The episode would have been a perfect opportunity to highlight the stories of Asian immigrants, their struggles to make it in America, the history of the Philippines and where we stand today as Americans.
Alas, there’s only so much I can do with the what-ifs and could-have-beens. All I know is that my interest in watching Top Chef has seriously waned. Let me know who wins. I’ll be here pouting in the corner.