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Posted at 12:54 PM ET, 08/26/2009

Shucking Clams Like a Girl: Your Take on 'Top Chef'

By Julia Beizer

It's been a week since "Top Chef" debuted, but tempers are still simmering around these parts about one of our local cheftestants. With regard to a clam-shucking competition, Zaytinya's Mike Isabella said, "There's no way -- no offense -- but a girl shouldn't be at the same level that I am." (Watch the video above for the full clip.) Chatters in Tom Sietsema's discussion today were none too pleased, so Tom called the chef to get his side of the story. Sietsema reports:

"I'm a very sarcastic person," Michael Isabella told me this morning. The news that some viewers are upset with his comment (to fellow contestant Jennifer Carroll of Philadelphia) is "disheartening," he says. "I've been friends with Jen since before the show."

He thinks "Top Chef" producers wanted to "hype it up" in advance of tonight's segment, which pits the male and female chefs against one another.

Did he mean what he said, though? Isabella says he doesn't. "Half my staff is female," he says.

His boss's advice: Focus on the challenge and "don't read the blogs," counseled Jose Andres.

Survey time. Let us know what you think and leave your comments below.

-- Julia

By Julia Beizer  | August 26, 2009; 12:54 PM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  | Tags:  Tom Sietsema  
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I didn't watch the show; have no interest in YouTubing it or anything else but it's a "reality" show, they're under pressure, they're prompted to be "real".

No one here has ever said anything out of line, off color, something relatively innocuous that they wish they could take back? Something sexist or what might be considered racist if you wanted to take it that way? (Anyone here remember the brohah over a local city council-type meeting several years ago in which someone used the word "niggardly" - a word that was correctly used to mean "grudgingly mean about spending". Instantly people complained about the "racist" remark, including a number of well educated people who either didn't remember the word's definition, or defined it for something it had absolutely nothing to do with).

Doesn't anyone want to ask what his staff thinks of him? What's he like in a real kitchen under real working conditions? How does he treat staff he works with? Isn't that more important and more real than an isolated comment on a "reality" show?

Is everyone complaining against him that familiar with him to accept a one line spouting as his whole make-up?

Current reality shows remind me of a comment made during the early survivor series, after I suggested to someone that "survivor wasn't real...that it wasn't anything Army Rangers or their service counterparts didn't do regularly." The person responded, "Yeh, but they don't have the pressure of knowing how much money they could lose if they make get kicked off the island." I said, you know, you're right; they'd probably be too concerned about the life of their their Ranger. Her first response was, "I didn't mean that the way it came out. You know what I meant." Of course I did; her former husband was a U.S. Navy Seal.

So lighten up. First find out what Mr. Isabella is really like before you say he's an incurably bad person who should be be caged or worse.

Posted by: Dungarees | August 26, 2009 8:46 PM | Report abuse

Knowing that half his staff is female just makes his comment even more indefensible. It must be a horror show working under that sexist.

Posted by: maidela | August 27, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

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