If you're reading this blog, then by now most likely you've met the 16 contestants from our first episode. As you can see we have a diverse and interesting bunch. Once again it seems as though the new season has brought an even more skillful bunch than the last, almost as though Top Chef has become an important stop on the upward slog for serious up-and-comers, who turned out in droves to audition. This season we're seeing better knife skills, stronger resumes, and more overall experience. Most of the contestants are sous-chefs or chefs of their own restaurants -- not a first year culinary student among them. I'm OK with that, because I think the title of Top Chef should go to someone prepared to meet the many demands of running a restaurant, and in this a little experience goes a long way.
I've been reading around the blogosphere and getting a kick out of some of the theories I've read about this season: One theory has it that the contestants' placement in the publicity photos is a clue as to who will ultimately get the title. This one's funny because we shoot those ads one week into a grueling six-week schedule, when no one -- from producers, to the contestants themselves -- knows who is going to win. At the time those ads were shot, we had eliminated only two or three of the chefs and the most persistent feeling was one of anticipation and looming exhaustion. It's a good theory though. Creative.
Another theory is that this is the season a woman will definitely win. I expect that is because right off the bat, the high number and quality of our female contestants was apparent. I'd be delighted to have a woman win the title, to join my female peers and serve as a role model for all the young women and girls who are considering culinary careers. But, as of this writing we have not yet shot the finale; even I don't know who will ultimately take the title. I can promise this, though: It will be the chef who impresses us the most with his or her creativity and skill, regardless of gender, ethnicity, hairstyle, or eclectic fashion sense.