Lee Anne Wong

The Season 1 chef'testant gives her behind-the-scenes take on the season premiere.

on Nov 13, 2008

(Oh Jesus, Jeff just winked in the intro.) Here we go again! First of all, glad to be writing after what has been a very electric few months not just in America but also around the world. By the time Obama is finally inaugurated into office we should be more than halfway through the season! I had many a celebratory cerveza with my buddies in Mexico on Election Night (we all absentee voted). So cheers to America, for its landmark historical decision, and hopes for exciting and promising changes in the time to come!

Working on this show has taken me to some pretty wonderful and exciting new places. The flipside of that is living out of a suitcase for months at a time for more than half the year can suck. So was I excited to film this season here in my hometown? Sure, I thought. I can see my friends, go out to dinner at all my favorite restaurants, spend some quality time at home. Right. I usually go straight back to The FCI after I wrap TC and everyone's like, "Ooohh, where'd you go? Somewhere exotic?" In my deepest, darkest voice possible, I say, "I spent my summer in Bushwick. About 16-20 hours a day. 50 days straight." New York was a grueling shoot because the nature of shooting anything in New York, especially food related, can be total chaos and I would find myself cursing at inanimate objects, like traffic lights, grocery carts, fire hydrants, and Father Time. Besides the stalkers, gawkers, and the few jerks who enjoyed harassing our crew on the street, it's not like you can ask a restaurant to close down for the evening so we can shoot an episode of Top Chef. The importance of why the show depends on confidentiality is really so we can provide maximum viewing entertainment for you guys (I suppose people just love spoilers too much). Being in NY was awesome, but not without its difficulties since there were already individuals camped outside the cast house with a long lens camera. I'm here to give you the dirt, plain and simple, from the production point of view. Yep, while New York is definitely one of the world's most exciting food towns, it sure doesn't know how to keep a secret.

Let me start by saying right off the bat that this season there are no Hungs, no Richard Blaises, and not a Marcel in sight. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as we found a group this year that is uniquely talented in their own right. I participate in final casting of the show, but don't always get my wishes for the final outcome. I was skeptical of a few choices for the cast and I can recognize a lamb when I see one, but that doesn't mean I didn't have high hopes for certain individuals. I always think it'd be a fascinatingly funny if we all made them wear paper bags over their heads with little eyes cut out, duct tape over their mouths, and then that way it would truly be all about the food.