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Top Chef Countdown, Day 5: The Glad family of not-so-subtle sponsorship

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What are the odds on getting the Free Range Pork Farmers Association to sign on as a sponsor for season 7?
Photo: Trae Patton

In preparation for the Top Chef: Las Vegas season premiere on August 19 at 9 p.m., we’ll be counting down with daily musings on the show, its judges and cast and, of course, the undisputed star – the food.

If you’ve ever watched an episode of Top Chef, you probably noticed three very important things: Padma is stunning. The food looks incredible. And the Glad family of products is apparently a chef’s best friend.

Plastic wrap, zip-lock bags and plastic containers are everywhere in the Top Chef kitchen. I never knew chefs required so much storage. There are enough sealing and storing options that the chef’testants could go on reality TV strike and save their food from each challenge, refusing to serve a single bite without running out of space for weeks.

Product placement is a fact of life on Top Chef. From Glad bags to Swanson broth, certain episodes contain so much sponsor integration that you practically expect a guest judge to throw a thumbs up at the camera after they finish explaining a particularly sponsor-heavy challenge.

“Prepare a meal using Swanson broth and Alexia Crunch Snacks that you’ll cook on the hot engine of a Toyota and serve out of Glad storage containers. You have 30 minutes. Ready? Go.”

(Insert big arcing thumbs up and twinkling smile here.)

In some ways, Top Chef is a soap opera for sophisticated primetime audiences – a commercially sponsored entertainment with products integrated into the programming. And drama. Lot’s of drama. The only real difference is the lack of a cheesy script and that there’s more searing than sex.

However, Top Chef manages to pull off the gratuitous presence of Glad, broth and GE Monogram ranges, with a wink and a dash of spice. The sponsors never over shadow the inventiveness and skill that goes into the food, even when they’re a crucial ingredient in creating it.

“Here, chefs, use some Swanson broth and cook your clog-wearing hearts out or you’ll be packing your knives and heading back to the land of non-brand-name chicken stock.”

And when it’s time for the producers to throw a wrench in that perfectly planned dinner for 20, the chefs just sigh, grab some Glad containers and roll with the punches. Trash that soufflé; rework the sides; make sure not to over cook the protein. If they end up getting pushed out the door, at least they’ll walk away with some very fresh leftovers.

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