In American society women are socialized to be the more insecure gender and men are conditioned to exude confidence. The socialization process is so subtle and consistent that it is very difficult to even notice that it is happening. I see examples of how women are made to feel more insecure than men all the time and the finale (part 1) of this season’s Top Chef is no exception. Chef Jennifer Carroll was the only woman among the final four chefs. Throughout the season her food was praised as much as the other three finalists and she clearly had equal ability. After the judges critiqued everyone’s food in the finale, one chef was clearly the favorite and they had issues with the dishes of the three other chefs. Based on the judges comments, it appeared that Jennifer was eliminated based on her comments at the judges table rather than the taste of her food. If her food was inferior to the other bottom chefs, I wouldn’t have been bothered or be writing this post. But it seems clear to me that she was eliminated because she didn’t appear confident and defend her dish with the same vigor that the men did. I don’t blame Jennifer. She was in a very intimidating situation, but if she was a man I think she might have gone to the next round. I’m not criticizing the show or implying that the judges were biased in anyway, but her actions are a clear example of how a female chef growing up in a patriarchal society in a male-dominated field would react in that situation.
The judges criticized both of Chef Michael Voltaggio’s dishes, yet he went on to the next round primarily (I believe) because of his confidence. He has been a very arrogant competitor throughout the season and convinced everyone that he was the best chef of the season. It seemed that the judges felt he was more qualified to move on due to his attitude rather than his food. The judges thought one of Jennifer’s dishes was too salty and her duck dish was very good, but she changed her concept for the duck dish, which she was criticized for. At the judges table she said she messed up and couldn’t grill the duck because she forgot about the coals. However, during the competition on camera she said the duck seemed to turn out even better cooked in its own fat rather than being grilled. She had a successful dish according to her and the judges but she threw herself “under the bus” at the judges table rather than bullshitting like the guys and defending her dish. She could have told them that she simply changed her mind, which happened several times with the other chefs throughout the season. It is in these types of situations where people’s true colors shine. The confidence of the competing chefs differed throughout the competition; however, how they were able to show or hide their insecurities before the judges varied. That final scene at judges table is a classic example of how women are conditioned to react differently in those situations and Jennifer was eliminated simply because she was less poised than her male competitors.