Monday, April 13, 2009

A very Top Chef Passover

April 13

Regular readers of this blog will know Top Chef and other shows that have created legions of fans that seem more interested in celebrity than food. My cousins don’t care much what I think of the broader effects of the celebrity phenomenon on food in America, but they sure like Top Chef.
Cousin Nancy Brodovsky (née Lackner) can’t get enough of it, nor can young Yael Kornfeld.
We were all in Denver at the home of Yael’s uncle Richard (my first cousin, and Nancy’s but from opposite sides of the family tree) for Passover.
It’s the custom in many Jewish families to discuss the Haggadah, the book from which we read the Passover story, at length, interrupting whenever a question arises. For the entire Passover seder is intended to be a learning experience.
That’s definitely the custom in my family. In fact, we discuss everything, whether it’s during a seder or not, at length, interrupting whenever a question arises. For life is intended to be a learning experience (and because we all tend to have strong opinions and were never encouraged to keep them to ourselves).
So some of us also debated Top Chef.
I don’t watch the show, but I’m rather familiar with it because I’m in the food world, just like I don’t ski but, being from Colorado, I know how to say things like, “that was some sweet powder.”
I think the fact that I know who many of the chefs are on the show but have no idea what kind of food they cook illustrates my problem with it — that it stresses personality over food.
Ah, cousin Joe Levi said, but when eating in a restaurant the ambience is important, right?
Joe’s an architect, so he thinks about things like that.
And the presentation of the food, and the lighting and the music? Can’t the personality of the chef also be a factor in the enjoyment of the meal?
He has a point.
Yael is the third daughter of Tom Kornfeld and his wife Sarah. He is Richard’s older brother. Their oldest brother is artist Doug Kornfeld, who lives in Cambridge, Mass., and would have been at the seder, but he hurt his back. So Yael’s little brother, 10-year-old David, brought his laptop and set up a video link, allowing Doug and his wife Susan to enjoy the festivities.
Richard, who has hosted a family seder for years now, insisted that this was not intended as a new tradition.

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