If I have ever experienced pangs of guilt over watching Top Chef—-Bravo’s reality show that dices up contestants as much as vegetables—-then it paled in comparison to the sense of shame I felt after watching the first episode of Season 3. The high court of culinary judges booted Clay Bowen, an earnest young chef who apparently thought he was tanning leather instead of preparing wild boar chops.

OK, fine. Bowen screwed up the chops. Maybe the dish deserved Tony Bourdain‘s disdainfully hilarious line, in which he compared it to “economy class” chow on Air Cambodia. But let’s briefly review Bowen’s life story, shall we? Bowen is a self-taught cook from Mississippi who told us during Episode 1—-a moment that should never have aired—-that his father was a chef who committed suicide. “Things didn’t work out so well for him with his restaurant,” Bowen says on a video interview on Bravo’s Web site.

Well, nothing like boosting a young chef’s fragile ego by giving him a chance on a potentially life-changing reality show—-only to kick his ass straight out the door on the first day. Maybe Top Chef can start picking on other self-taught chefs with tragic personal histories? Maybe someone whose mother died in a bizarre pizza-oven fire? Or someone whose father suffered a fatal heart attack after mistaking a line of grated ginger for coke?

Family redemption is just another subplot worthy of contempt on Top Chef.

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