Hospitality On A Plate

I don’t watch Master Chef any more. It’s not that I don’t love a good cooking competition. It isn’t the quality of the cooking, the expertise of the chefs, or the contestants. I just got sick of the yelling, the swearing, the demeaning comments, and the this-isn’t-me-chef-I-can-do-much-better groveling. Not just one of the judges, but all of them reacted to failed dishes as if the cook created the fiasco just to insult their palates. Tears, shame, anger. All over a culinary attempt gone awry. The meanness of it all killed the entertainment value of it for me.

I’ve worked in many restaurants over the years, and worked with many chefs and cooks. Swearing doesn’t bother me, and I don’t find the off-color humor insulting – it’s just the culinary environment (and I’ve got quite a colorful vocabulary myself). But there’s a difference between this kind of back and forth among the staff and what goes on in front of the camera: the one is hospitable, the other destructive. Both end in fantastic food on a plate, but one nourishes the soul while the other shreds it.

Eating and drinking are necessary, life-sustaining daily acts. Preparing a special meal or enjoying one at a favorite restaurant is meant to be a gift of nourishment and hospitality. Nowhere do I see this truth in the judges and their treatment of the home chefs. Perhaps it’s really there, just edited out to increase the drama and ratings. Perhaps honest advice and criticism without an insult wouldn’t get good ratings. Perhaps it’s all just part of the media game. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. But something’s gotten lost.

In many cultures, hospitality toward family, friends, and strangers is a sacred practice. In scripture, being hospitable to anyone who sits at the table was considered a faithful act. Who knew what angels we might entertain, disguises as strangers?

Angels or not, I don’t want my zeal for producing a delicious meal to turn a life-sustaining activity into the soul’s punishment.

Gracious God, make my heart hospitable and my table the same. Amen.

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Johnna

I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

2 thoughts on “Hospitality On A Plate”

  1. and if it IS part of the media game as I suspect it is, then what a sad commentary on our viewing “druthers”.
    I enjoy a bit of competitive cooking when, say, chefs are trying to best Bobby Flay or some such event but I can’t abide just mean-spirited tear downs of other aspiring artists–to what end–it’s just stupid egocentric behavior which I can see readily enough in real life.

    1. I agree. Your words make me wonder how insulting behavior became more marketable than courtesy…thanks, Bill!

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