Top Chef Amar Santana Taught Us A Lot About Paella And A Little Something About Life

Senior Editor
01.22.16 21 Comments

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When I meet people I’m going to write about, I don’t like to show up with a story angle already all figured out, but I do usually have a question about the person — something I want to know about who they are and what they do. I don’t like to know what I’m going to write, just why I’m there.

With Top Chef contestant Amar Santana, my basic question was: how does your average home cook like me turn regular food into Top Chef-worthy food? Is it making it look pretty? That’s the most apparent difference, but there has to be more to it than that, right?

Moreover, even the smallest town has one or two good restaurants, and virtually everyone has a grandma or an aunty who they swear is the best cook. That makes a lot of good cooks out there. What makes one a great one? A top one, so to speak. To use the constantly parodied football metaphor: what is it that makes a good chef elite?

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Vince Mancini is a writer, comedian, and podcaster. A graduate of Columbia’s non-fiction MFA program, his work has appeared on FilmDrunk, the UPROXX network, the Portland Mercury, the East Bay Express, and all over his mom’s refrigerator.

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