This All-Stars season (#8, if you're keeping track) has been one of my favorites. Top Chef won the 2010 Emmy Award for Best Reality program and its recipe for success continues to challenge the "cheftestants" and entertain the TV audience.
The current season began with eighteen former competitors who all came close to winning the title of Top Chef. The last two competitors standing are D.C. based chef Mike Isabella and whiz-kid Richard Blais from Atlanta, GA. They'll go head-to-head tonight after a season of fierce challenges, including fishing and diving for their main course, cooking for Muppets(!), and making stuffing without the use of cutlery and kitchen utensils.
I have become such a fan of this show. I watch it not for the sometimes immature and ridiculous antics of the competitors (hello, it IS a reality show), but for the creativity of the chefs' dishes, the rare flashes of brilliance. I've also become a big fan of Head Judge Tom Colicchio and love seeing rotating guest judges such as Ming Tsai, Jimmy Fallon (obviously a huge fan of the show), and Anthony Bourdain, whose razor-wit always make me laugh out loud at judges' table.
Tonight's finale features one of my favorite star chefs, Art Smith, formerly Oprah's private chef. I love his Southern dishes and long to visit his restaurants, Table Fifty-Two in Chicago and Art and Soul in D.C.
Already a bit sad that the season is over, I discovered with glee that a new Top Chef Masters season is about to start on April 6 (Bravo, 10 P.M., EST). Instead of a cast of unknowns, seasoned chefs compete for the title. Previous winners include Rick Bayless and Marcus Samuelsson. Australian chef Curtis Stone (who is everywhere nowadays), Saveur magazine editor-in-chief James Oseland, and former Gourmet magazine editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl are the judges.
The list of cheftestants is here.