Ashley Merriman is a lesbian chef on Bravo’s cooking reality show, and she did not like it when producers made his cook for a heterosexual wedding, because the gays cannot get married and that is discriminatory! Not only were the female chefs made to cook for the bachelor party and the male chefs make to cook for the bachelorette soiree (ahem, gender stereotypes!), but heavens to Betsy, Top Chef made Merriman and two other gays (Preeti Mistry and Ash Fulk) cook for an institution they’re prohibited from. And then Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio blogged about it, and was basically: I hear you Ashley, but shuddup and cook.
“I find it beyond comprehension, making us go do effectively a wedding challenge, when at least three of us on the challenge aren’t allowed in that institution,” Merriman told the cameras.
Responded Colicchio: “The institution of marriage should be available to all. The idea that you can have a life-long partner and not make decisions for them in a hospital, not share in insurance benefits, not automatically have parental rights unless you are the birth parent, is just flat-out wrong. As for whether that means that the Top Chef challenge should not have been centered around a wedding theme, as Ashley implied, however … I disagree. We’ve had two wedding ceremonies on Top Chef to date, one of them a gay wedding in San Francisco in Season 1, the other in Chicago in Season 4. And we’ve hosted a bridal shower before, in Season 5 in New York. It’s logical that we’d broach a wedding theme here in Vegas; it’s known for being a wedding town (Side note: I don’t believe the couple we cooked for were later married by an Elvis.) I understand how Ashley felt, but by logical extension, does this mean that she would never attend a friend’s wedding or prepare something for that wedding ceremony as a gift? If a couple came to her restaurant wanting to host their reception there, would she turn them away?”
Whether you side with Merriman or Colicchio isn’t really the point. (Okay, maybe to some degree.) What we’re honestly impressed with is Bravo letting the debate unfold on TV and the web, not editing out that part of the story like plenty of other producers might have done. Bravo is a network that actively corners the gay market, and they sell our purported upscale lifestyles to advertisers, effectively cashing in on us. So yeah, we’d argue they have a responsibility to LGBTs. And here, they met it. Top Chef provided an unsuspecting forum for a same-sex marriage discussion, and nothing’s healthier than that, even if it’s cooked in butter and rolled in fat.
Now, as to whether gay contestants should be asked to compete in a hetero wedding challenge? Of course they should! Because cooking for the bachelor parties, or the reception, has nothing to do with marriage rights; it’s about celebrating one couple’s love. And even the gays, legal marriage or no, throw parties to celebrate their commitments.