Many Top Chef viewers were surprised to see a familiar presence on the August 15 episode, as Andrea Strong of food blog the Strong Buzz was brought on to eat at the two restaurants launched by teams of cheftestants on the show. Though Strong’s presence did interject an au courant note, things got a little ugly when Strong’s, um, strongly critical remarks about the restaurants were read aloud on the show.
While other pundits are busy mocking Strong’s commentary, food blogger Stephanie Vander Weide Lucianovic makes a great point on her blog, Grub Report: It kind of seems like Top Chef set Strong up to look stupid.
She was introduced on the show simply as ‘a food blogger, Andrea Strong…her blog is The Strong Buzz.’ Did Tom or Padma or Ted mention that Strong’s worked in restaurants, written for The New York Times, New York Magazine and the New York Post? No. Why didn’t they? I’m not sure. I’m totally and completely confused why Top Chef didn’t accord Andrea Strong the same friggin’ respect and culinary genuflecting they give to every Tom, Dick, and Anthony they bring on the show to perform as guest judges.
When Suzanne Goin or Daniel Boulud or even Rocco DiSpirito show up to slather their words of harsh criticism and high praise all over the cheftestants, we KNOW they’re ‘qualified’ to hold those opinions. HOW do we know? Because Top Chef TELLS us, ‘he has a book,’ ‘he has a restaurant,’ ‘she has a James Beard Award.’ All Andrea Strong got was, ‘Yeah, she’s this food blogger and she ate your food and this is what she thought.’ They exposed just enough of her to foster the predictable and understandable viewer vitriol that amounted to such comments as ‘Who does she think she is?’ and ‘What sort of food background does she even have?’
Lucianovic’s right about the vitriol. Even though Bravo gave Strong the chance to respond on its website, she’s still receiving plenty of criticism for both her on-show written remarks and her dismay at being pilloried on Bravo’s site.
While Strong struggles with the aftermath of exposure, other bloggers slyly reveal that they too were asked to participate on the August 15 episode.
It was supposed to be a whole table of bloggers — Daniel Maurer and I for Grub Street, Eater, Restaurant Girl … but they wanted us to not write about Top Chef at all, and that couldn’t happen. Only Andrea took the pledge.
I wonder if she’s sorry about that promise now.