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Dining Lufthansa, Plus: What Aarón Sanchez Has in Common With Todd Helton
Monday, October 29, 2007 | posted by Mike

I'm no travel expert. I haven't done a ton of flying in my life, but I certainly have done enough to know that the poor reputation of airline food is pretty well-deserved.

If you weren't aware of that fact, you've now had two opportunities to learn it, thanks to the astoundingly similar challenges posed to the contestants on this season's Top Chef and Next Iron Chef. But, hey...it was a pretty cool idea, so I won't complain.

Anyway, both challenges included an aspect that is personally familiar. For TC, it was the dread and despair of being in Newark Airport. I refuse to call it "Newark Liberty." For NIC, it was the fact that the one time that I actually had a good meal on a flight, it was flying business class to Germany on Lufthansa.

I know what you're thinking: Hey, how did you get to fly business class to Germany?!?! Well, the former day-job had a policy that, if you had to fly overseas, you were eligible to fly business class. I was attending a week-long meeting in Hamburg and that meant I got to fly in the lap of (relative) luxury from Philadelphia to Frankfurt on Lufthansa. And, let me tell you, the food was pretty darn good. I don't remember too many of the specifics, but I can say that the wines were very good (and refilled quite often!) and it was my only experience with rabbit, which was tasty, although not something I would eat every day.

In short, Lufthansa = air-born culinary cred in my book.

Last night's episode nicely underscored my point from a little while back when I talked about what I liked about NIC, and the fact that the episode ran on the same night that the Red Sox finished off the Rockies in the World Series seemed fitting. In my post from a couple weeks back, I said:

But there’s something also to be said for watching virtuosos duke it out just for bragging rights. Sure the winner gets a nice contract with Food Network and the exposure for his or her restaurant that comes with it, but my guess is that the “title” itself would be enough for many of them.

Seeing Chef Sanchez's reaction to his elimination -- he was on the verge of tears -- was echoed an hour or so later in the reaction of the Rockies to the end of their post-season run. In both instances, it was the example of individuals who are already wildly successful in their own right, but who were compelled by their competitive drive (the thing that "got them there" in the first place) to take these competitions so seriously.

I've been to a bunch of minor league baseball games. They're fun. The hot dogs and beer are affordable and the players are all struggling to be noticed and move up to the big leagues. But I've never felt particularly elated when the home team won. Why? Because winning for these guys, although a great reward, is just an means to a greater end, which is to make it to "the show."

Whether you're talking about the World Series or Next Iron Chef, there really isn't an agenda of personal gain or monetary reward. Sure, they'll get a sweet gig on the Food Network and a couple thousand dollar bonus for winning the Series. But what really is at stake in these competitions is the respect and admiration of one's colleagues and the satisfaction that comes with knowing that you came out on top when you competed with the best.

What we saw from Sanchez and the Rockies last night is the honest emotion of striving for the top of the mountain and just coming up a bit short. That is the very definition of drama, and it makes for compelling television.



Hi, I'm Mike and I created TVFoodFan.com as a place where you can come to get the latest news and views about what’s going on in the world of culinary television.

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