Monday, August 17, 2009

Top Chef's Masterful Spinoff .....

As I noted here, a few weeks back, I've enjoyed a number of cooking shows over the summer. One of my favorites has been Top Chef Masters ... a spinoff of Bravo TV's popular Top Chef series.

It's a variation on a theme with which we've become familiar ... a culinary competition that whittles down a pool of cheftestants through a variety of challenges. In the spinoff, though, the competitors are not up-and-coming young chefs, but established masters in the profession, each with a dossier of culinary awards, successful restaurants, celebrity clients and best-selling cookbooks. Many of them are familiar to regular Top Chef viewers, from their appearance as guest judges on that series.

And, instead of competing for their shot at fame, and a substantial cash award for their personal accounts, contestants in TCM are competing for a substantial cash award to the charity of their choice ... and a chance to work with - and against - their peers.

One of the things I've liked about the spinoff is the lack of character promotion ... and assassination. Maybe it's because each of the TCM contestants has already, successfully demonstrated their kitchen credentials ... some of them for decades. Each seems more comfortable with themselves, and one another ... it shows in the banter around the kitchen during the challenges, the occasional assistance they provide one another in the course of those challenges, and their conversation over drinks once the challenge is finished and the judges are working out their decision in another room.

Sometimes, in the original Top Chef, it's easy to lose sight of the cooking, for all the character being sliced-and-diced and thrown around the kitchen.

It's made for a great summer repast, and the final course will be served-up this Wednesday evening on Bravo (along with the premier episode of
Top Chef, Season 6). Who do I think will be the 'master' Top Chef Master? I'm pulling for anthropologist-turned-chef Rick Bayless to win ... though I also wouldn't mind seeing Hubert Keller win. Michael Chiarello? Fuggedaboutit.

And speaking of Top Chef, Season 6 ... Bravo, could you PLEASE get rid of judge Toby Young, and replace him with TCM's Jay Rayner?