Should Gay Top Chefs Have to Cook for Breeder Weddings?

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.

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  • Bill

    It IS our responsibility to speak up WHEREVER and WHENEVER the opportunity presents itself.

    Ashley was right to speak out.

    Queerty is wrong to judge her for that.

    It is, after all, people like Ashley who AREN’T afraid to speak out that allow us to progress.

    Would we fault a racial minority on Top Chef who voiced their objections to cooking a meal for a country club that denied blacks membership due to their blackness?

    I think not.

  • Jayson

    I agree marriage is a right to all.. but as a person in the “service” industry, like a chef, you should just do the job you’re hired for, and not make it political. If you are so flush you can turn down gigs that are not to your taste, then do that, but you’re on a show, and that show sets up challanges for you to do. They set these things up in advance and I don’t think they care one way or another about the contestants personal issues.

  • Kropotkin

    What’s a “bredder”? Is it someone who makes bread?

    We should protest all of those evil bread makers!!!!!

  • Adam

    Don’t you people have spellcheck? It’s “breeder” (and, elsewhere in the headlines on this site, look for “homphobic” and “innoncent”).

    That being said, I agree with Ashley’s right to dissent, especially given the conversation generated. She shouldn’t be excused from this particular challenge based on her beliefs without repercussions; if this were real life, it would be the equivalent of turning down a potential lucrative contract, and there would be serious financial repercussions.

    The comparison to the country club is not entirely accurate. First off, I doubt Top Chef would choose such a controversial venue. Second, In that case, the offended chef might expect the country club to change their policy, especially since the policy might include “no blacks in the dining room” (for example) and other clearly discriminatory behavior. Here (and I haven’t seen the episode), what would Ashley have happen? Should the couple call off their wedding, sell their shower gifts, and donate the proceeds to marriage equality? It’s not as though the bride and groom have said “no queers, here, please.”

  • The Gay Numbers

    @Jayson: That’s the mind set of the house slave. I assume you will be offended by the comparison. but it is. She can do her job, and still have a voice in what bothers her. Maybe you can’t, but then that’s all the societal baggage you carry that tells you there is something wrong with sticking up for your beliefs.

  • The Gay Numbers

    @Adam: As I remember, she performed the challenge. that’s not really at issue.

  • Gigglingfool

    she did the job, and she worked her ass off on it actually doing two dishes, unlike the other ladies. She was just voicing her discomfort with the competition and stating that she didnt really want be involved because it felt like supporting the current standards of marriage.

    why not, state your concerns, go for it! had he actually decided to not participate i would have been disapointed

  • ML

    It’s spelled, “breeder.”

  • Casper O

    Glad she spoke up! Good one!

  • M Shane

    No. 2 · Jayson : you’re right.more or less. She had a choice to whine or not and they would have been right to toss her out on her ass-that was their option.
    I was a chef myself at a very exclusive Orthodox Jewish restaurant. Why shouldn’t none jews get to eat? I wouldn’t have been allowed to eat there unless I joined up. It never occured to me to complain, I was happy doing a good job. I have a neighbor ,an 89 yr old black man who chefed in some of the best restaurants in Chicago-where he would never have been allowed to enter as a customer. but he was a remarkable chef, and was happy with his work.

    There aren’t that many women chefs or even places that will try women, because of the physical strength and endurance involved. I guess if she was willing to take the chance and it may have allowed a platform for her concerns she came out alright. She could have screwed up her career too.

  • The Gay Numbers

    @M Shane: @M Shane: What are you talking about? Who gives a shit that youw ere chef before so long as she did in fact cook. She did. In fact, someone reminds me she made two dishes. One that was described as teh best of the show. She only was hurt because her other dish was not as good. So, you are clearly not on her level. She again was just voicing her views while cooking. Whining would be not cooking, and storming off in a tantrum. Are you saying people who are professionals are supposed to never voice their views unless it is the right context? If so, what the hell context is ever gong to be right? Some people think all context are wrong for oru issues.

  • tarheel

    I think it is disgusting that we sink to a low of referring to others using a derogatory slang word (e.g. breeders).

    When we expect others to respect us and not use derogatory words when referring to us.

    We fall into the same ditch that they are in by trying to hurt them with words that exhibit disrespect.

    PLEASE, we are above that childish way of acting, let us be proud and respectful to others, even if they are not respectful to us.

  • Jamie

    I would marry Ashley if gay marriages were legal. I’m straight but seeing her has given me second thoughts. There is something amazing about her. I hope she does well though out the show so I can watch her for longer.

  • sydneyfamous

    What the hell does being gay have to do with cooking or baking? What the fuck? Boo hoo, she has to cook for the heteros! Goddamn the heteros!

    Get over it, people.

  • spindoc

    I saw the show, and when she first said spoke out about gay marriage, I was really happy. I thought “How great Bravo had that comment go out. HOWEVER, she kept going on and on about it, and although I have gone to rallies, donated, and written letters to Congress for gay marriage, even I got sick of her going on about it. Look, she made her point. Then she had a choice, either don’t do the contest, or do it. IF I was a chef and was hired to cook at the YALE club, they won’t let you in unless you went to YALE, well I would either cook for them or not, but I wouldn’t cook for them and then bitch about it all day in front of everybody.

    Again, thank you Bravo for letting the first comment go out. But I wish you wouldn’t have filmed all the subsequent comments that made her so irritating.

  • MikenStL

    Glad she spoke up, but think she’s wrong…

    Sorta off topic, but I have kids and I’m Gay so what label do I use to pigeonhole me?

  • jason

    Part of me supports Ashley. I can see where she’s coming from. She’s basically excluded from celebrating the very thing she’s contributing to.

    As for Colicchio citing the fact that gay weddings have been on the show before, that’s really beside the point.

  • GJR

    Frankly, I think it is being a bit silly. Look, I am as disgusted as anyone else about the massive lack of equality. I do not support institutions who promote inequality. In this case though, it is for a couple who did not make the law, they are simply participants in the event. Also, she is free to choose who she works for in real life but she signed on the show to cook for all challenges. I admire the fighting spirit and think we have to take the struggle to people with power whenever possible but in this case she signed on to cook for whoever requests it.

  • Rowen

    I have a question for all of you guys who think she did the right thing. There was a woman in England, a few months ago, who refused to marry gay couples because it went against her religion. Same thing with a bus driver, here in the states, who refused to drive a bus because a pro-atheist ad was on the bus.

    Should they be given the same praise, since they spoke up for their beliefs? I do realize it isn’t a complete comparison, since the chef here actually went on to do her work, but she made it VERY clear what her opinion was.

    Of course, some of this could be Bravo’s editing/writing.

  • alan brickman

    She should be sued….just like the photographer who refused to photograph a lesbian wedding….

  • alan brickman

    activism as an attention seeking device for the individual demeans activisim for the cause…

  • M Shane

    No. 20 · Rowen; In the final analysis, I think the issue has prominence only because of Bravos “editing/writing”. She may certainly have said something aside inconsipuously and possibly not that uncommon. The situation, is unusual and strange to me, since I don’t watch T.V. at all.

    Surely Bravo just took it as the prompt to make an issue shine as an object of more show material. I doubt that , if she’s a professional chef she would have generally said that much.

  • The Gay Numbers

    It is funny to me that people don’t realize that shows are edited for emotional effect of telling the story the editor and creative types want to tell. Did you seriously think she went on and on about just because that’s the way they edited the piece. Wow.

  • schlukitz


    let us be proud and respectful to others, even if they are not respectful to us.

    Ah yes. Another traveler of the moral high road. Always be respectful and say think-you…even when they shit in your face.

    That was the way it once was in North Caroline where tarheels come from.

    Times have changed, however.

  • schlukitz

    Typo: Think-you should be thank-you.

  • Alleyne

    This isn’t a restaurant-employed chef raising a fuss about who her boss made her cook for. This is a gay person raising the important point that even knowing that the show would have several LGBT contestants, even though the network is consistently positioning itself as LGBT-allied and even though the man who runs the network is gay, heteronormativity wins the day. There really is no real-world equivalent of this; the challenges on Top Chef are entirely manufactured.

    It wouldn’t be at all difficult to avoid the fraught issue of marriage entirely. They throw these wedding challenges in (and also did the same with Project Runway) to give the hetero audience members something to relate to. But the entire world revolves around hetero people. They don’t have to have spectres of hetero relationships and romance in every venue, especially a cooking competition, for pity’s sake. At what point does a gay-run and allegedly pro-queer network say “okay, we’re not going to intentionally make anything about heteros this season”? At what point do they stop repeating challenges from past seasons and try something new and sexuality-neutral?

  • The Gay Numbers

    By the way- the head judge chef, afterwards gave a great statement about marraige equality so it is not like the show had a problem with the comment.

    It seems the people who have a problem with the comment are queers on this site more so than the show itself. It is a show by the way. They are not really in the trenches where you are supposed tob e silent. It would make for a a boring show.

  • Phoenix (Maggie Gallagher's Worst Nightmare Come True)

    I’d have cooked something up for them. Nothing they’d enjoy swallowing ‘though.

    @ Allyne, The Gay Numbers,

    Thank you, well said.

  • Adam

    @Alleyne: I agree in principal, but two things occur to me (putting my logistics/business hat on).
    1: This is Top Chef Las Vegas, not Top Chef Boston or Top Chef Des Moines. There is no same-sex marriage in Las Vegas, and, frankly, I’m guessing you’d have a hard time find a gay or lesbian willing to 1) have a commitment ceremony in Vegas, and 2) be willing to gamble on having a group of (admittedly talented) strangers plan your wedding menu. Frankly, when my partner and I reach that point, I want control over the food…
    2: I think part of the challenge was to play up the ‘battle of sexes’ aspect (men cooking for women and vice-versa), which is rather a moot point for a same-sex wedding–and I can’t think of another situation as well-suited to illustrate this point.

    That being said, I posted a Q on Andy Cohen’s blog (which mentioned the issue) about the possibility of a future Top Chef episode focusing on a same-sex wedding, which I think is a legitimate opportunity.

  • Rick

    @Adam: They had one first season.

  • Rick

    Everyone’s mom is a breeder. Take it easy.

  • Jeton Ademaj

    the tendentious and reflexively-politically-correct usually give themselves away from a distance, and typically have far less influence than overtly agreeable or neutral people who speak/act out against oppression. This is why StoneWall was more influential than the Mattachine Society.

    The show obviously solicited and edited her comments for the sake of melodrama, but her speech in that context was utterly groan-worthy, distracting and completely annoying…and her emotional upset clearly unbalanced her decision-making. She went on to make a 2nd dish far beyond her expertise, and came close to getting booted for that complete failure…all because she lost her cool and panicked in the face of the gender-based challenge.

    to the 1st commentator and all who agree with him, one never loses responsibility for choosing one’s battles, and ‘can’ has never meant ‘should’, as any military strategist could tell you. the point is not merely to fight, but to WIN.

    Ashley Merriman brought us no closer to winning, and my partner and I gained nothing from her complaints…her actions were more like Al Sharpton than Malcolm X. she was attention-whoring, and came off like a walking, talking headache. She should have known she was being pumped up for drama, creating a classic tempest in a teapot.

    that watermelon carpaccio looked damn good tho!

  • M Shane

    No. 27 · Alleyne: You are right to contextualize the situation;
    I havn’t watched television since I was a small child; (I have one for watching films.) I don’t really understand the situation in the least, so am confused about the venue.
    What though is a “sex-neutral wedding” .
    Assimilationists don’t realize that if there was such a thing, and all gay people were put on the same order as straight people many of us would feel diminished, as we don’t care to be the same as straight people, having worked hard at self esteem as gay men?women(?). In positing “sexual neutrality” you take away our dignity and make us just like everyone else., not a condemnation everyone appreciates..

  • hephaestion

    Ashley is right. And God bless her for speaking up. It’s high time someone did.

  • Jeton Ademaj

    @hephaestion: yes, because NOW Bravo TV will at last make gay-positive programming decisions…we all know how anti-gay they’ve been to this point. For my part, i know that when i want to learn how to advance any specific gay cause, i can just turn on a cooking game show and get all the deep political analysis required.

  • Justin

    The producers of the show film the cheftestants talking for hours and pick and choose what they want to broadcast.

  • Jo Halstead

    As a “breeder” (and thanks to the poster who pointed out that everyone’s mom is a breeder…), I have to say that I think Ashley was totally within her rights to speak up about what she believes, especially when it’s clearly an important and emotional issue for her.

    For the record, she didn’t object during the challenge or refuse to participate – so phooey to the poster who says she should be sued. In fact, she cooked two dishes (one of which was excellent according to the judges), greeting the bachelor and his guests, smiled throughout the service and was generally pleasant and hard working. She did her job and did it well.

    Her comments came AFTER the challenge, back at the house, over a beer, with the contestants she clearly felt okay talking about the subject with. Are any of you actually implying that we shouldn’t have the right to talk about issues at home with friends? Geesh!

    Frankly, I wish she could marry the partner of her choice. As someone who has been married three (yes, count em, three) times and made a mess of it each time…I wish she could have used the last opportunity of mine. Maybe she would have made a better job of it, and found happiness.

    I wish her luck on the show and in her personal and professional life.

  • J.Lowrot

    Did anyone else notice that Ashley didn’t complain this past episode for having to cook for members of the Air Force despite the fact that she is barred from that institution?

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