On November 12, the fifth season of Bravo's culinary competition, Top Chef kicks off at 10 p.m., and we can barely contain our excitement over the kitchen drama, rice disasters, foam foibles and incredible food to come. To help you share our anticipation we've compiled a list of the top 10 reasons why you should tune in and follow the culinary battle.
10. Blogs – Every season Bravo invites past competitors and judges to weigh in on the weekly drama with blogs on Bravotv.com. Reading past contestants’ rails against show newbies for repeating the same mistakes over and over again can be fairly entertaining for Top Chef junkies as evidenced by the hundreds of comments that pile up after most entries. Seriously, don’t they all know better than to volunteer for dessert by now?
9. Padma – Top Chef’s host is obviously gorgeous, but it’s not just her penchant for knee high boots that makes her one of the one of the best reasons to be pumped for Season 5. After three seasons on Bravo’s hit culinary competition and with two cookbooks under her belt, Padma has definitely has earned her foodie stripes, and her judges’ table voice is easier to identify with than the ultra-harsh guest critics. Plus, every time Padma says, “Please pack your knives and go,” we get goose bumps.
8. Recipes – Note to first time viewers, do not watch Top Chef on an empty stomach. While the judges may not always approve of what’s being served up, the food usually looks good enough to devour. Rather than licking your TV, we suggest going online to find select recipes from every episode. You can find out just how tricky it is to turn 29 ingredients into Casey’s alligator fried steak and braised greens with razor clams.
7. Tom – It’s hard to imagine a better head judge than Tom Colicchio. The bald-headed kitchen czar doesn’t hesitate to extend an earnest compliment or a blush-inducing tongue lashing when the moment requires it, and Colicchio sometimes comes off as the wise parent watching over a kitchen full of squawking kids. Even with Colicchio ultimately controlling each chef’s competitive destiny, most competitors have nothing but good words to say about him, and many leave as friends, collaborating with “Chef” on charity dinners and special events outside the show. And with Craftsteak and ‘wichcraft both open in Vegas, you can eat Colicchio’s cuisine right here at home.
6. Tricky challenges – Create a meal out of a vending machine? Work the line at the city’s busiest short-order joint? Cook airline food that doesn’t make Anthony Bourdain want to puke? Watching the competitors try to chop, grill and foam their way through Top Chef’s panic-inducing challenges is half the fun of the show.
5. Anthony Bourdain at his absolute snarkiest – Bourdain. The very name makes Top Chef contestants’ balls shrink and has them shaking in their Crocs. The Travel Channel’s hard-drinking, far-traveling personality is at his most critical and quotable as a guest judge on Top Chef, reminding us just how much fun creative shit talking can be. Such was the case with a failed dessert of mango sticky rice with toasted coconut from Lisa in Season 4. Bourdain called it “baby vomit with wood chips.” Ah, a master at work.
4. Vegas Chefs – Our fair city has delivered some of Top Chef’s most memorable competitors like Marcel, Elia, Stephen and Hung. Now, Hawaiian-born, Vegas-based cheftestant Gene is bringing Vegas back into the mix after a fourth season depressingly devoid of local talent. So far, all we’ve seen of Gene are the commercials in which the chain-sporting, guitar-playing chef sings, “I’m not ready to go home yet,” but we can’t help liking him already. We got your back, Gene.
3. Culinary boners – Yup. That’s what you get (and women, this includes you) when flavors taste so good it borders on sexual arousal. Of course, you can’t actually taste the food through your television set, but that shouldn’t stop you from getting off on the show’s gratuitous food porn.
2. New York – It’s about time the nation’s top culinary destination hosts our favorite cooking competition. In a city where even street vendors create dishes worthy of five star ratings (and dedicated web sites), Season 5’s chefs will have to swim, or sink like bad soufflé.
1. The Food – When you strip away the corporate sponsorships, celebrity-chef appearances, oversized personalities and scalding drama, Top Chef is really about the food. It’s about asking talented individuals to take miserable situations and strange ingredients and create something satisfying and delicious. When they fail, it’s brutal, but when they succeed the result is mouth-wateringly good culinary inspiration. Delicious.