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Why I may have to boycott this week's episode of Top Chef

by Hemal Jhaveri, posted Oct 27th 2009 8:00PM
top chef portman There's always an actor or an actress that, for whatever reason, raises your ire so much you can't stand to see the person in anything, be it a TV show, movie or glossy magazine spread. However irrational it is, his or her presence is enough to set your teeth on edge.

This week, I have to decide if my love for the Voltaggio brothers out weighs my dislike of Natalie Portman.

Until recently, I didn't particularly feel one way or the other about Natalie Portman, who's set to be the guest judge on Top Chef this week, but after reading her recent editorial preaching the upside of vegetarianism on Huffington Post, I'm ready to add her to my small but intense list.

First of all, let me say that I am a very strict, life-long vegetarian. And I mean my entire life. So, I don't come to this with some anti-vegetarian agenda. And even as someone who has never knowingly put a piece of meat in her mouth, Portman's pretentious proselytizing irks me to no end.

She's preachy and her essay makes it sound like everyone who still eats meat hasn't yet been "enlightened." If it's annoying to me, it's got to be condescending as hell to the chefs who make their living out of preparing all kinds of food.

This attitude is on display in her HuffPo essay, where she compares eating meat to rape. Seriously. She argues that "being polite to your tablemates [rather] than sticking to your own ideals, would be absurd if applied to any other belief (e.g., I don't believe in rape, but if it's what it takes to please my dinner hosts, then so be it)."

Since this is a TV blog, I'm not going to get into the politics of that sentence, other than to say that comparing animal cruelty to violent attacks on women doesn't particularly stand up as a nuanced argument. Especially when the sentence was written by someone who's openly signed a petition in support of convicted child rapist, Roman Polanski.

So, I get it. Portman believes strongly in being a vegetarian and now considers herself a "vegan activist." Whatever, fine. But, it's possible to hold onto your own convictions without berating everyone else for theirs.

I'm not spoiled in the least about tomorrow night's Top Chef, so I have no idea what the elimination challenge will actually be, but my guess is that, with Portman there, the chefs will have to go all vegetarian. I just don't know if I'll be able to watch.

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Melody Warbington

I boycotted.

October 29 2009 at 12:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


When a crime has been committed, the state represents the people against the perpetrator, not the victim who in this case was 13 years old at the time and she testified that it was rape. While I sympathize with the victim wanting this to go away, she testified that she did not consent, repeatedly asked to go home and told Polanski no while he gave her drugs and alcohol and then raped and sodomized her. It doesn't matter if she looked older than her age or that her mother might have pushed her on Polanski or that he didn't know her real age. He was a grown man and she was a child who said no. What matters is that Polanski was convicted (he pled guilty) and sentenced. If you and the idiots in Hollywood believe Polanski has been punished enough because he couldn't pick up his Oscar in person, then God help us all.

October 28 2009 at 4:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I start rooting against any chef who throws a fit when there is a vegetarian challenge. A chef who is prejudiced against vegetarians and incapable of producing a tasty vegetarian dish does not deserve the title of chef.

October 28 2009 at 4:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Natalie Portman has made kind of an a**hat of herself on HuffPo, but my gripe about Top Chef is whether we have to suffer the dietary whims of the rich and celebrated as a formal challenge on the show every season. If there was an entire "Top Chef Vegan" season, i'd watch it happily, but i don't see why we must watch these challenges, which tell us nothing about chefs who generally can prepare a delicious plate of food, but are often flummoxed by dessert. And the celebrity judges, gracious though they may be, leave a bad taste in my mouth.

October 28 2009 at 3:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Vegans, vegetarians, PETA, etc. lose all credibility when they preach about the pain to animals yet it's a "choice" to abort a baby. That coupled with Portman's support of Polanski the rapist is indefensible, but it's what I've come to expect from Harvard elitists who want to tell the rest of us how to live because they're just so much smarter and it's okay to rape as long as you're a brilliant director (their description, not mine).

October 28 2009 at 2:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Melanie51's comment

If the "victim" doesn't see it as rape and wants the charges dismissed, I don't see how anybody else is entitled to an opinion on the subject.

October 28 2009 at 4:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Chris is right, and I too wish people calling Portman a rape apologist (or looking to boycott this week's Top Chef because of it) would actually read what she -- and not Jezebel, etc. -- wrote:


Her support of Polanski -- and I can't get the actual petition to open, so I have only Gawker Media's word that she was among its signers -- is more problematic. If you think *that* warrants a boycott, that's a defensible position to take. But not your misread of her piece.

October 28 2009 at 1:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Matty Boh ;-)

Well, if this is an entertainment blog, then mission accomplished!

Natalie Portman has slowly fallen from the top of my Top Ten list over the past several years. I used to be so into her; making sure to see pretty much all of her movies and even live on stage. I saved magazibe articles and newspaper clippings, etc. But in recent times, she has really made an @$$ out of herself. She once said she would rather be smart than famous [a celebrity], but despite her Harvard education, she has proven to have left a lot of her true intelligence in Massachussetts and is embracing her celebrity. I'm sure that she thinks that she is right about everything and that she is intelligent and that her celebrity can help spread her great ideas to her followers. But that is exactly what I don't want from celebrities. They don't live normal lives, no matter how much they may want to, so they can't consider themselves in touch with everyone else.

I don't regularly watch Top Chef, but I do like it. I started watching it last year when my girlfriend at the time made me watch it with her. I enjoyed it. Although, I haven't kept up with it. But I'm going to tape tonight's episode anyway because even if Natalie Portman isn't my #1 anymore, she's till on my Top Ten List...barely.

October 28 2009 at 11:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

ok im really excited bout this episode, being a vegetarian i know its not easy making good food so i think it will be a good challenge for them.

October 28 2009 at 11:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What a lazy bunch of reading and writing here. Portman did not equate eating meat to rape, and anyone who reads her writing in this manner has not read and understood her writing...

The author of this post really should reread Portman's article before making such baseless charges, especially when they distort issues in such a careless manner.

BTW, I love steak and bacon.

October 28 2009 at 10:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Isn't this supposed to be reality-free? Isn't Top Chef a reality show? What is this doing here! I don't care about Natalie or the writer's opinions. I don't want any mention of reality on here!

October 28 2009 at 8:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Chris's comment
Joel Keller

It's been taken out of the Reality-Free category.

October 28 2009 at 11:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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