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TV serves season’s best dish, Top Chef

Conjure up a vision of a reality show. What comes to mind?

Probably some lame competition with catfights and tons of drama (the majority of which is fake). Most “reality” television shows are scripted and edited within an inch of their film taped lives. With confessionals and a disclaimer during the end credits that read along the lines of “contestants were judged through both judges and input from TV producers”, reality TV has a bad rep.

Well, for those in search of a “real” TV show, keep looking, because Top Chef is not it.

Yes, it is a competition. Yes, there are constant clashes between contestants. And yes, it is full of cuts, scraps and confessionals. What most unfamiliar viewers do not know is that Bravo TV struck gold four seasons ago with the hottest cooking show on television that puts Iron Chef to a crying shame.

Top Chef: Chicago began as usual, with 16 high-strung “I’m-better-than-you” chefs from around the nation. They have a lot at stake: a package of $100,000 to open a restaurant, a feature in Food & Wine magazine, a showcase at the Annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen and a “gourmet dream vacation” in the French Alps.

They are willing to get nasty if it means the title of Top Chef.

The show is pretty much a no-brainer. With 16 contestants, including executive and sous chefs, a culinary designer and a personal chef, each episode is made up of two competitions: The Quickfire Challenge keeps the chefs on their toes, followed by the more important Elimination Challenge.

At the end of a commercial-ridden hour, the two lowest competitors are appropriately shamed by the sharp-tongued Tom Colicchio and one is booted from the competition.

During the season premier, March 12, pairs of contestants battled head to head during the Elimination Challenge, required to recreate classic dishes with fresh twists. Poor Nimma, who disappointed during the earlier Quickfire Challenge and whose shrimp scampi proved far too salty, was given the cut.

What makes Top Chef so deliciously entertaining is not the mouth-watering dishes (with recipes now available in the Top Chef cookbook), but rather the fact that the entire premise of the show is the true tragicomedy of television. The contestants spend weeks on end in the same hotel, wanting to take their fancy knives and throw them at one another, but one always comes out on top (carved over shitakes or not.

The judges also give cringe-worthy critiques, making viewers almost sympathize with the chefs ? almost. The truth is, the cruelty of Gail Simmons, Ted Allen and host Padma Lakshmi is too hilarious to chastise. Though something like faro with mint cr

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    Chantelle BrownFeb 5, 2010 at 6:48 am

    Stobbe! You have amazing endurance! Way to run 13 miles! I know on my best day I could NEVER pull this run out!