I spent all day Monday in a Los Angeles hotel conference room meeting potential Season 2 Top Chef contestants. Chef after chef paraded in front of us proclaiming their intention to become "Top Chef." We saw people who want to open restaurants, buy new homes, publish cookbooks, start new food trends, and be famous. One thing we were not looking for was people who are in it just for fame or money. There are a ton of committed chefs for whom food is their life. You can see it in their eyes and hear it in how they describe food. It's not hard to tell who really wants it and who is just in it for the experience.
It was hard not to remember last year's casting session when we met Tiffani, Harold, Stephen and company for the first time. Those guys were in it to win it and let it be known from the first moment that they would do anything and everything to win that money. I remember all of us being really confident that the show was going to be good -- and at the least very colorful and dramatic -- after meeting that group of chefs. Considering that the show didn't exist then, the Season 1 contestants were incredibly driven to be on our show and took as much a risk on us as we did on them. How did they know that we weren't going to sic Gordon Ramsey on them to spray his nastyjuice all over them?
There was one thing that none of the Season 1 crew did when they came for their final callbacks: Bring food! The group we met yesterday stepped up to the plate and I was stuffed by the end of the afternoon. We had a smorgasbord of Indian food, gourmet sandwiches that could be served at Tom Colicchio's 'Wichcraft, bubble gum flavored creme brulee, and brownies in the shape of a puzzle piece from someone hoping to fit in our "puzzle." (Cute, huh?) One woman brought a pineapple to show us that she could correctly slice it in a nod to a test we put some of last years potential chefs through. Once treated to food, we were stunned that more/all the chefs weren't serving it.
ANDERSON ATTACKERS: I am a little late to write about this... but I am so sick of everyone attacking Coop (that's right I am gonna call him Coop) for his Angelina Jolie interview. The Alessandra Stanley piece in last Thursday's Times was brutal and uncalled for. Consider that the rise of celebrity journalism and the stalkarazzi report stuff we never wanted to know about losers like Denise Richards and Jessica Simpson. And consider that the cable "news" channels are regularly obsessive about singular stories, mysteries and curiousities like Natalie Holloway and the Duke Rape Case... so then I don't see the problem with a two-hour interview about issues surrounding Africa when the alternative is one or the above. I think Coop is a sincere guy, and when he's bringing up points of interest about what he's seen in Africa during a conversation about Africa that can't be considered grandstanding. With so much screaming and name calling and slanted, biased coverage on cable, what's the problem with a quiet conversation? And I got no problem with having Cher on to talk about helmet safety. No problem at all. Did I know or care about helmet safety until Cher talked about it? Not really. So now I know. Call me shallow. And I watched her talk about it on C-Span, too. We're talking about two shows the guy put on with celebrities. When Coop has Mary Hart reporting live from La Lohan's pedicure, then we'll be in real trouble.
WISH UPON A STAR Today is Mardi Gras for all the Star-haters among you, as the View lightning-rod announced that she's splitting the gab-fest before Rosie joins the show. As great news as you might think this is, think again. You need Star on that show, she serves a purpose. And that purpose is to bug the hell out of you, to say things that make you throw toast at the TV and call your friends and get them to turn on the box. How fun would it have been to watch she and Rosie go at it every day? Rosie is going to chew up poor Elizabeth and put her on a cracker. I have a sad prediction. Star is going to come out of this with the sympathy vote because she was "pushed out." She'll do an interview somewhere and gather public opinion around her. It's just a thought. I ran it by Kathy Griffin when I interviewed her for this blog. She disagreed.