Bravo feeds the senses with Top Chef, a new reality competition series celebrating the culinary arts with a fascinating window into the competitive, pressurized environment of world-class cookery and the restaurant business at the highest level. The ten-episode, one-hour series will feature twelve aspiring chefs who will put their culinary skills to the test for the chance to earn the prestigious title of Top Chef.
Showcasing some of the brightest up-and-coming talent in the culinary world, the competing chefs hail from varied backgrounds including culinary graduates and students, personal celebrity chefs, a Sous Chef, a line cook, a nutritionist, a Tournant Chef, and a self-taught mother of three. But what they all share is a passion for the culture, preparation and service of gourmet cuisine. Katie Lee Joel will host this inside look at the inspired and fiercely competitive world of the culinary arts. Married to music icon Billy Joel, Katie's lifelong passion for cuisine began at an early age when she first learned to cook from her grandmother while growing up in West Virginia. Tom Colicchio, one of the culinary world's most celebrated figures and owner of New York City's Gramercy Tavern and Craft Restaurants, serves as chief chef and guides the contestants through the stringent challenges that will not only test their skills in the kitchen, but also uncover if they have the customer service, management and teamwork abilities required of a Top Chef. Throughout the series, Tom will be assessing their performance and driving them to achieve only their best. Food expert Gail Simmons of Food & Wine magazine will also serve as a regular judge for the series.
The competing chefs will intensely peel, whisk, grate, and mince their way through a series of challenges ranging from preparing elaborate parties and gourmet dinners to working with exotic delicacies including de-inking, trimming, cutting and preparing an octopus. Each episode will hold two challenges. The first is a quickfire test of their basic skills. With minimal time they will have to take whatever is thrown at them and create something spectacular. At stake for the chefs will be safety from elimination in the second challenge, which will be more involved and test the versatility and invention of the chefs such as their ability to cater for a range of demanding clients. The food will be tasted and evaluated by the host and judges, but will also be served to the customers at whom the challenge is aimed, whether it be patrons at a five star restaurant or a room full of hungry kids. Food has to appeal to the diner as well as the critics if the chef is to survive.
The challenges will also reveal if they have the fundamental skills required of a Top Chef, including their ability to work with people in the hierarchical environment of a professional kitchen and their understanding of how food feeds the visual senses through attractive presentation of their dishes. The winner must have the complete package and show excellence in each stage of the process, from the shopping for the ingredients to the cooking of the meal to the service from the kitchen. It will take a unique mix of both discipline and creativity to compete at the level of a Top Chef.
In each episode, some of San Francisco's most renowned chefs will guest judge including Hubert Keller of Fleur de Lys, Elizabeth Falkner of Citizen Cake, Laurent Manrique of Aqua, and Mike Yakura of Le Colonial. "Queer Eye's" Ted Allen makes a special appearance to judge a special challenge where the competing chefs must serve a dinner party to his guests.
The series is set in the culinary mecca of San Francisco, a city increasingly known for its innovative cuisine from Fusion cooking to a fanatic appreciation of fresh and organic food products. The region is connected to world-class vineyards, and in one episode the competing chefs will have the daunting task of preparing and serving food to a room full of top Napa chefs including Phillippe Jeanty of Bistro Jeanty, Keith Luce of Press, Greg Cole of Celadon, James Devitt of Budo, Cindy Pawlcyn of Mustards Grill, Victor J. Scargle of Julia's Kitchen at COPIA, Doug Keane of Cyrus, Todd Humphries of Martini House, and John Ash of John Ash and Co.
The competing chefs will live and breathe the high-pressure lifestyle that comes with being a master chef, and each week Katie and the judges will tell one to "pack up their knives." In the end, only one chef will make it through the spectacular finale episode, which will be shot in Las Vegas, to take the title of "Top Chef." The winning chef will receive $100,000 in seed money to help encourage their culinary career, be featured in Food & Wine magazine, appear at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen in June 2006, and most importantly, earn the prestigious title of "Top Chef."