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Living the (culinary) dream with “Top Chef” gaming

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Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio of Bravo’s Top Chef. They look friendly enough until it’s “pack your knives and go” time.
Photo: Heidi Gutman/Bravo

We’ll be the first to admit that we love Top Chef in all its protein obsessed, foaming, faux-hawked glory, but two new interactive games based around the series have taken foodie fandom to a newly crazy level.

First off, there’s Fantasy Top Chef. Similar to the black hole-like time suck known as fantasy sports, which are even garnering air time on ESPN (Has everyone forgotten that these are fantasy teams? As in, not real?), Bravo’s online fantasy game lets viewers create their own knife-wielding chef army. Each week players draft three Chef contestants that earn points based on their performances in challenges and on screen behavior. An Elimination Challenge win will earn you six points, a Quickfire, four. Anyone who says, “I’m not here to make friends” or some variation on that line, gets a single point for being obviously cliché and yet genuinely committed to the money over friends dynamic of reality television. Negative point values are assigned to crying, getting bleeped or talking back to the judges. Bad chef! Sit! Stay!

Aw, look - it's the cast of <em>Top Chef Season 5</em> in miniature New York.

Aw, look - it's the cast of Top Chef Season 5 in miniature New York.

Unlike fantasy sports, fantasy chef (not to be confused with fantasizing about Top Chef or, for that matter, Padma) is played as one large league with everyone vying for weekly prizes of a Top Chef cookbook and oven mitt, as well as a grand prize of $2,500 for the team with the highest score at the end of the season, er, show.

If you’re more interested in getting in on the action, there’s also Top Chef the Game, a video game based on the series that puts you in the apron and behind the burner to cook against other competitors in the Top Chef kitchen. If you’ve seen the show, you’ve seen the game, which is an animated version that presents you with a challenge and a line up of ingredients and asks you to cook your way to victory. Animated avatars of Padma and Tom judge each dish and score it, although exactly how they determine what’s shockingly delicious and what tastes like cornmeal mush in their animated environment remains a mystery. We’d like to see an avatar of Anthony Bourdain at the Judges’ Table; condescension and disdain too rarely make appearances in the gaming world. In the cooking world? There in spades.

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