Kick-Ass Oriental Lady

Top Chef spoiler alert. Though, if you have even six degrees of separation from any form of social media, this post is not a spoiler. But just in case you were busy and DVR’d last night’s finale…

I love Top Chef. I am inspired by how excited the chefs get about their food and their craft.  Also, I might have a mini-crush on Tom Colicchio. I really liked the last four standing, but sorry, Douggie and Gregory (who seem like genuinely nice folk and I would be super excited to eat their food), I was secretly hoping either Mei or Melissa would win. I love that one of the courses in Mei’s winning menu was congee. I also grew up eating congee (congee is Cantonese. In the Mandarin vernacular it is: xi fan; literal translation: thin/soupy rice). She made congee cool. People who have never heard of congee or hundred-year old duck eggs may now want to go try some. This NEVER would have happened a few decades ago when kids would stare at my pork rou sung (shredded pork “floss”, a common congee topping) and butter sandwiches. I am lucky to have eaten at ink., so I may have already had the privilege of eating Mei’s food. Sorry, if I didn’t notice you though, because I was too busy staring at your boss!

Both Melissa and Mei spoke during the season of the need they felt to prove the validity of their non-traditional careers to their traditional Chinese parents (with the exception of Melissa’s mom, who seems pretty darn cool). I consider myself very lucky that my parents have always been supportive, even when they doubted my choices. But it did remind me of when I told my dad I had decided to be an English major. He said: That’s good, baobei (“sweetheart” in Mandarin), but how are you going to eat? He wasn’t trying to be discouraging; he was just being practical, based on his experience as an immigrant who arrived here on a one-way ticket with a single suitcase. Ironically, when I surprised my parents, choosing on my own accord to go into one of the traditionally Chinese-parent-approved professions, my mother lamented: it’s such hard work and I’m worried you won’t be able get married or have children for a long time! As Mei and Melissa would probably agree, sometimes you just can’t win with Chinese parents. Or maybe, just parents in general. They want the best for you, but may not always agree on what is the best. But the best parents are those who respect your choices and stand by you anyway, even when the road may be long and/or less taken. The best part of last night’s show was when Mei, who was known for her stone-cold “Mei face” all season, broke down in a string of holy sh*ts! and tears when calling her mentor, Michael Voltaggio. Congratulations, Mei! Thanks for representing Oriental Ladies everywhere. I hope your parents are really, really proud.

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