A little while back we had a fine dining and beer discussion spurred on by a guest posting by Potable Curmudgeon and New Albanian Brewing Company headman Roger A. Baylor.
The issue of food and beer came up again recently for those of us who watch Bravo's Top Chef, in an episode the prominently featured beer and food pairings as a quick-fire challenge.
I had plenty of thoughts on the episode, and shortly after I came across the following post by BeerPhilosopher.com's Shawn Connelly. Shawn did a nice job of pointing out the same frustrations I had when viewing the episode, so I asked him if we could reprint his post. He was nice enough to grant us permission.
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I have my wife to thank (or blame) for getting me hooked on reality TV shows. We watch Survivor, American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Rock of Love (I and II – what can I say, I was something of a rocker throughout the hair band era and Poison elicits a certain nostalgia …), Gene Simmons Family Jewels (ditto), Deadliest Catch, Hell’s Kitchen and Top Chef with regularity. I bet I'm even forgetting a few. We DVR everything and watch 3-4 of these random episodes in rapid succession, sans commercials. It’s amazing how much TV you can watch when you’re skipping the commercial breaks. If you think about it, doing it this way is not unlike watching a 2-hour movie, commercial free. It’s TV concentrate.
I’m not necessarily proud of the fact that we’ve somehow become reality TV junkies, but cramming this much pseudo-reality drama-dy into your head in quick succession does give you a unique perspective on pop culture and obvious degradation of our society … Maybe we do it to validate in our own minds that we’re relatively normal compared to the train-wrecks often witnessed on these shows, but somehow I doubt this is a sufficient excuse for watching random people voluntarily making fools of themselves on national TV.
But maybe it is … who’s got the pop corn?
The last show I mentioned, Top Chef, is in its fourth season now, I believe. In a recent episode, the hopefuls were challenged to create a dish to pair with beer. The contestants went through a blind tasting and then selected their brew of choice to inspire their dish. I don’t recall if the rules stated that they had to use their beer in the actual recipe, but I do know it was to be paired with the food at the very least for the judges consideration. Most of these crack chefs (and I do mean crack) opted for the worst of the worst light American lager swill overwhelmingly. A couple proclaimed that they “don’t cook with beer” as if it were somehow beneath them and their refined culinary skills. After all the selections were made, and the dishes were prepared, hopeful Jennifer’s beignets won, paired with … Landshark Lager.
This post obviously has little to do with beer, specifically, but it does have to do with the perception of beer among professed “foodies.” Obviously, I don’t feel in my admitted amateur opinion that this line up of chefs necessarily represent the cream of the crop when it comes to young chefs in America, but I do think their attitudes toward beer and its place alongside “respectable cuisine” is telling. These guys are seen at the end of each episode waiting for the winner(s) to be announced, puffing away at their cigarettes and slamming down what appears to be Michelob lager straight from the bottle. Do most chefs chain smoke like that? If so, that might explain why they don’t know good beer from rancid dishwater … they’ve managed to puff away any remnant of a palate they might have once had.
At least Top Chef gave beer a nod in this particular episode, but rather than assembling a selection of fine craft beers for the contestants to select from, they opted to offer mostly swill – whatta ya wanna bet they wouldn’t do that if the pairing was with wine? I don’t wanna sound bitter, but c’mon. This season's show takes place in Chicago ... where's the Goose Island beer?
Oh well, I suppose there is something fitting about mediocre chefs with their mediocre beer.