Christine Spines
March 05, 2009 AT 12:19 PM EST

Nobody tunes in to reality-show reunions to find out who was voted fan favorite. Yeah, yeah, Fabio was deserving enough of his win in that category (see clip below). You can’t deny that the guy has his charms, which are significantly amped up by having an Italian accent so sing-songy, you half expect him to break into the chorus of That’s Amore! But ultimately, who cares? Isn’t this beneath a show like Top Chef, which has always been more about ogling the food than gawking at the pychodrama between half-mad competitors or drooling over the emaciated Survivors’ 12-pack abs?

That’s what made me start to worry about the direction Top Chef seems to be heading in after Hosea was awarded the grand prize in last week’s finale. It was hard not to feel like the judges had pandered to the audience and handed the award to the guy most people would rather have a beer with, instead of to the chef who most consistently whipped up inventive, tasty food. But that would have meant sending obnoxious, smug Stefan on a battery of interviews and inviting him back next year to judge a challenge or two.

I tried to put that concern out of my head until I watched the post-game wrap-up tonight and saw how the producers were obviously attempting to trump up the whatever romance between Hosea and Leah. There was the bromance segment featuring Stefan and Fabio. There was even a discussion about whether Tom Colicchio was hotter to women or men. Seriously? It was so unnecessary. Top Chef is food porn in the extreme. They don’t need to play up the human drama when they have sex on a plate.

How do you see it? Is Top Chef becoming too concerned with turning the spotlight on likable hotties rather than the sweaty, ugly reality of making deeply delicious dishes? Could the show be in danger of losing its identity as a series about serious cooking that rises above other reality competitions? And what did you think about tonight’s reunion special overall? Sharpen your knives and go!

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