But its not as if Hung was cooking a blend of Vietnamese and French dishes. Most of his dishes were classic French dishes that shown no Vietnamese influence. During the boat challenge when he went on that rant about his dish he made being hundreds of years old and you shouldn't criticize him on that point. Tom instead challenged him on if he could make a better dish than that. Hung immediately said yes to that.
I think Tom's criticism were based partly because Hung suffered from a more milder case of Stefan disease, a chef who for one reason or another grew bored with the competition and decided to phone it in a bit. Except Hung decided to break out and win it.
These are two different things, though. The boat challenge he did just phone it in and made a dish that was neither French nor Vietnamese, just dated. It was a failure regardless of what it may have said about him personally.
But the criticism of him in the semis was that he didn't show enough of "himself' but it was a self as defined by Tom and not Hung, based entirely on his ethnicity, not his actual life and especially his professional experience which was heavy on the classic French side.
And to counter him to Angelo and even Casey, both of them have professional experience with Asian cuisines, but neither was criticized nor told that they had no "soul" in their food because they were cooking outside their ethnicity. If anything, everyone on the judging panels assumes and expects delicious Asian food from Italo-Dominican Angelo from Connecticut. And Italian Mike Isabella has yet to really cook anything Italian. Fabio happily plays his stereotype, but if he were to suddenly make a delicious borscht or tamales they wouldn't say "Where's Fabio in this?"
But they saw the Asian immigrant man not cook Asian food and said "Where are you in this dish?" and even when he said where he was, they still said "not enough." I don't think it was intentional, but I do think the judges unfairly ascribed a very narrow definition of who they wanted Hung to be based primarily on his race and ethnicity that no other chef has had to deal with. Yes, he is a naturalized American and raised by parents who ran a Vietnamese restaurant, but that doesn't mean he's governed by the decisions of his family, and the judges kept trying to force him into that box.
Edited by vallegirl, Dec 30, 2010 @ 7:28 PM.