In honor of Top Chef: Seattle airing its second episode tonight, Hanna Raskin and Mike Seely take up the highly contentious issue of judge Hugh Acheson's unibrow for this installment of Tabletop Wrestling.
Hanna Raskin loves the brow.
I should admit at the outset that I'm somewhat biased on the topic of overgrown eyebrows: If I didn't spend a significant portion of my paycheck at an aesthetician's shop, I could probably use the |: ) emoticon too. I inherited my bushy brows from my dad, whose Sephardic set is so voluminous that I made my parents uncomfortable when, at age three, I developed a massive crush on Bert.
So I'm congenitally pro-eyebrow. I know, I know: Isn't it horribly hypocritical of me to support natural upper facial hair while I'm on a strict waxing regime? No. Unless a woman is demonstrably cooler than Frida Kahlo, she has no business stealing the painter's best line. Plus, I can't imagine I'd stay anonymous for very long if I had a brow stretching from ear-to-ear.
But as a closeted unibrower, I'm all for Hugh Acheson flaunting what he calls his "monobrow." There are lots of chefs out there: If a physical quirk helps raise Hugh's profile, fine by me. Remember, we're not talking about Guy Fieri's hair. The unibrow is a totally natural phenomenon (although Hugh keeps his remarkably well-groomed), and the guy wearing it is exactly the kind of chef who deserves the support of folks who care about the food system. In addition to running restaurants and writing cookbooks which espouse local, seasonal eating, Acheson has spoken out against antibiotics in the meat industry and non-sustainable farming practices -- without ever sacrificing his sense of humor.
This year, Acheson offered to shave his unibrow if his charity, which connects underserved communities with fresh fruits and vegetables, received $100,000 in donations, a challenge which speaks to the brow's value. Although donations fell short of the goal (maybe folks didn't want to see the unibrow go), I'm afraid it's just poor form to criticize a unibrow that's doing community service. |: )
While Mike Seely's ready to chase after Acheson with hot wax.
I have nothing against bushy eyebrows, or eyebrows in general. But, make no mistake about it, Acheson's Hughnibrow (TM) is very much a calculated part of his onscreen persona, to the point of distraction. Acheson is a fine chef, but....LOOK AT THAT HUGHIBROW! Acheson makes some great points about the contestant from Grand Rapids' demi-glace, but....LOOK AT HIS FUCKING HUGHNIBROW! Man, Acheson makes some mean grits, but...I WONDER IF HAIRS FROM HIS HUGHNIBROW FELL IN THE PAN!
See what I'm getting at here?
When a person becomes too well associated with a physical characteristic--think Dolly Parton's tits or Michael Fassbender's cock--that characteristic tends to obscure actual talents the person might have. The irony here is that by insisting on keeping his hideous Hughnibrow intact (and it's not like surgery's required to make it vanish), Acheson risks being defined by it. Which is a shame, because he is, by all accounts, a supremely talented individual.