KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: America's Next Top Project Chef
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Thursday, March 09, 2006
America's Next Top Project Chef

Well, Bravo's Top Chef is the newest food reality show to hit the airwaves on a television near you. Shot in San Francisco and hosted by Tom Colicchio, owner of New York City's Gramercy Tavern, and Billy Joel's wife, Kathy Lee (who really needs to learn something from her husband about injecting some emotion into her lines), Top Chef is Bravo's attempt to keep their viewers tuned in and sated until the next season of Project Runway.

Let's review what has gone before: there was Rocco DiSpirito's horrific train wreck, The Restaurant, which was more about the waitstaff backbiting and Rocco schmoozing with women all over the front of the house than it was about the actual kitchen. The even more train-wrecky second season was supposedly more scandalous as it involved Rocco actually being shoved out of his restaurant ownership, but I never watched it. Still not enough food for me. Next up, there was PBS' Cooking Under Fire, the boring likes of which I couldn't stomach. Or maybe it was Todd English I couldn't stomach, I forget. The Food Network has its overly promoted The Next Food Network Star. You know, the first season wasn't bad, but what happened to the guys who won? Has their new show hit the airwaves, like, ever? I have to say, I'm not real inclined to watch the new season until that question gets answered. And finally, we have Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen, which is my very personal favorite. I don't know if it's his excessively craggy face or that I've planned a drinking game around him announcing, "That's a dog's dinner, that is! GET BACK ON YOUR STATION!" (you have to chug your entire glass if he then shoves the plate of food on the hapless contender's whites) that makes me lust for this show. Come on, how can you resist a foul-mouthed chef who suggests to a table of fame-whoring blondes that they "get back to [their] botox, darling"? Well, not me, for one and that's why I'll be watching the new season when it starts up again on FOX in June.

Top Chef is structured a pinch like Cooking Under Fire and a smidge like Survivor. In the first episode, the competitors first have to hold the line at Fleur de Lys for thirty minutes of dinner service. If they screw up -- dropping food, shaky hands, and sticking a finger in the sauce to taste all will get you gone -- Chef Keller asks them to leave the kitchen. At the end of everyone's trial, a winner is announced and given immunity for the next challenge. The next challenge has all the cheflings cooking their "signature dish" that all the other competitors and judges will taste, rate, and generally give a good chew-over, and this time, the loser goes home.

While the first episode got off to a bit of a slow start by retreading already-done territory, next week one of cheflings (it's only the first episode, I haven't committed their names to memory yet, god) tells the Las Vegas Snooty Sommelier chefling, "Obviously you're a tool and a douchebag." Since I happen to agree with her, I'm definitely coming back for seconds.

Top Chef airs on Bravo on Wednesdays at 10pm. If your TiVo chokes on a pretzel or you miss an episode check your listings, because they are repeating the hell out of it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Food Network winners, Dan & Steve, have some show called Party Line that is so horrifically boring and affected I can't watch. I think it plays in the early morning hours.


3/09/2006 1:22 PM

Blogger Passionate Eater said...

One of the most talented finalists in the "Next Food Network Star," Hans Rueffert, was diagnosed with cancre, and started up a blog about his experience with cancer, and about how his love for food was affected from the cancer treatments and his battle against the disease. You can find it at http://hansrue.livejournal.com/, and from there you can link to his blogger blog.

3/09/2006 9:13 PM

Blogger Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic said...

Oh, man. That's so sad -- I loved Hans and wanted him to win. Thanks for the link.

3/09/2006 9:23 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think the show is great -- and i agree that the "tool and a douchebag" preview line cracked me up, she's dead on. lordy how a better host would liven things up though -- much like iron chef america and its lifeless chairman. i must say that the highlight of the first show was, sadly, the irish fellow who was voted off. the producers should have stepped in and kept him alive. his nemesis, tiffani i think, is a chainsaw but seemingly adept in the kitchen.

3/12/2006 12:06 AM

Blogger Diner Girl said...

I thought I heard somewhere that there is a Season Two of Hell's Kitchen being filmed. That was an awesome show. You could almost smell them crapping their pants through the TV.

3/18/2006 5:34 PM

Anonymous Rinaldo said...

I have to speak up on behalf of Dan and Steve, the first winners, whose show, "Party Line," I rather enjoy. It's on at 9:30 am ET on Sundays, and has been since fall; they got a pickup for a second batch of episodes, in which the quality of taping and presentation has much improved. "Boring" is a matter of opinion, but I find them unaffected -- their initial dorkiness as TV personalities was genuine, and endearing (to me). They're caterers, so their show is about putting together different kinds of parties. I don't throw that kind of party, so I've not used their ideas, but they're fun to watch.

3/19/2006 7:05 AM

Anonymous Barbara said...

I think Dan and Steve are funny and low-key. They have blossomed, which is something that takes time. If anyone has seen early video of any of the Food Network Chefs, well the term dorks is being kind.

4/03/2006 3:25 PM

Blogger Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic said...

Diner Girl,

"Hell's Kitchen" is totally coming back in the summer. I can't wait.

4/11/2006 11:58 PM

Anonymous michelle said...

I was very disappointed with Giada D's personal criticism of today's contestant (cute, blond, female). She really dug into the poor girl by making fun of her "... that little girl laugh." Shame on you, G, it was obvious you were jealous. Your facial expression said it all, "Damn, she's cute, a nobody, and still did a better job than I did for many months when I got started." Let's face it, GL, you wouldn't have lasted more than one episode had you not been tied to your Grandpa's name. You were absolutely horrible. I'm sure nobody criticized your skinny body, large head, and nervous laugh. Back off and give the contestants a chance that you were obviously given.
Disappointed with Network for keeping you on.

6/16/2007 7:28 PM


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