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Under Pressure

Beverly Kim of 'Top Chef' says it's not personal, it's strictly cooking.

8:12 AM, Jan 20, 2012 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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What a week for headlines: An oceanliner keels, Rick Perry quits the race, Newt Gingrich's ex-wife talks about open marriage, and Rick Santorum wins Iowa. But the biggest news of the week is without doubt Beverly Kim's elimination from Top Chef: Texas. Yes, I'm joking, but as Beverly said over the phone yesterday, when a group of mostly strangers are put together in living and cooking quarters, what matters to them isn't exactly what matters in reality. "It's unnatural" and "not real life," said Beverly, who is the chef at Aria, a modern Asian restaurant, in Chicago. "Every challenge felt like life and death." Thankfully, life does not actually hinge on how you sear a halibut.

knife

Not that Beverly's halibut was even slightly off. During the edited episode, not one judge had anything negative to say about it—in fact, they were in awe of all the contestants' dishes. (The objective was to create an "evil" meal fit for an evil queen. It sounds stupid until you discover the evil queen is actress and guest judge Charlize Theron who will be starring in the upcoming Snow White and the Huntsman, a Universal Studios picture. The Bravo Channel, where Top Chef airs, is part of NBC/Universal. The objective could've easily been to create a meal of synergy.) In any event, finding fault with any chef became a matter of nitpicking and, in the end, Beverly's sauce was deemed too sticky and her concept too safe. Beverly said she understood the reasons and was glad to go home on a great meal. "It's better than going out on uncooked beans," she joked.

Beverly Kim was also a focal point of drama this season. Former contestant Heather Terhune openly faulted her in front of the judges. Lindsay Autry went "Joe Pesci" on her during Restaurant Wars. Others said Beverly was either too timid to speak up or ruthless in her own quiet way, using up pans and space others needed. Beverly admits the comments were hurtful but reminded me that "under pressure things are said that aren't meant" and certainly not meant to be taken personal. It is, after all, a kitchen. "I'm past all that stuff.... I don't want people to misunderstand any of us." She complimented all the chefs and pointed out who they are in their restaurants is not always who they are in a fierce competition.

Meanwhile, back at Aria, the patrons no longer complain to Beverly about the menu. "The customers are much more open." And no doubt starstruck.

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