Get Ready For Top Chef 3: Miami
They came, they cooked but only one of them conquered!
No, I’m not talking about Columbus but the 15 contestants who landed on our fair beaches and brandished knives to battle for the prestigious title of Top Chef, as well as editorial coverage in Food & Wine Magazine and $100,000 in seed money to open a restaurant. Oh and one intangible perk thrown into the mix – oodles of publicity!
If you’ve been following Top Chef, you know Season 2 finalist Marcel Vigneron justified his cocky attitude with the mantra: “It’s not a popularity contest.” But in this day and age when chefs are the rock stars of high falutin’ grub, let’s face it Marcel: everyone loves to eat up that cult of personality!
So, let’s dish it out, Miami-style!
In the coming weeks, I’ll be blogging Top Chef from my Miami Beach headquarters. I wish I had known Top Chef was filming in Miami: I can literally see the Fontainebleau tower from my backyard! Even so, my griddle can still sizzle with local input.
Did they shoot the crappy, torn down sites at The Fontainebleau? (It’s still under construction!) Did they go shopping at Epicure on Alton Road? (I’d like to see a contestant buy $20/pound shrimp at Epicure on a $50 budget!) Did they serve molecular gastronomy at La Carreta? (I hope that dainty foam captures the essence of fried plantains and roast pork, bro!)
With confidentiality agreements signed and lips tighter than a Gladware plastic storage seal, even the press is in the dark. There are more questions than answers now, but I’m very eager to see how Top Chef producers interpreted our city caliente!
Check out the Season 3 trailer video, which promises a sleeker and more sophisticated production compared to Season 1 (San Francisco) and Season 2 (Los Angeles):
The opening sequence seems like a mash up of Miami Vice and Miami CSI. But who cares about bikini bottoms when there’s so much at stake for 15 contestants – three of which reside in Miami. (More about each contestant in my next post.)
Sexy hunk Tom Colicchio could very well be the new Horatio Cane leading a team of judges in the food police department. Gail Simmons from Food & Wine joins Tom at the judges’ table once more to enforce the laws of haute cuisine. Ted Allen—arbiter of good taste from Bravo’s “Queer Eye” and a regular judge on Food Network’s “Iron Chef”—will also issue warnings on serious cooking violations. Presiding over it all, leggy goddess Padma Lakshmi works the kitchen in her role as host. I can’t wait to see what tropical-inspired outfits she’ll be wearing. Hopefully she didn’t go shopping for tacky flip-flops and chonga shorts at Walgreens on 41st street!
EXTRA VIRGIN TOP CHEF FAN
If you’re new to Top Chef, join the club. I just spent the last few days watching all of season one and two, which I downloaded from iTunes. You don’t need to go such extremes to enjoy season three, but I must admit getting hooked to this reality show was easier than boiling water!
Each episode consists of outrageous, adrenalin-pumping and seemingly impossible tasks. A “quickfire challenge” tests basic abilities. A more complex “elimination challenge” follows, often involving teamwork. That’s where the drama truly begins as cooks purée each other’s egos to a pulp! Finally, at the end of each episode, at least one hapless contestant must hear the dreaded words from Padma’s lips: “Please pack up your knives and go.”
I eagerly anticipate new memorable one-liners that sum up the show’s ruthless competitiveness. Who can forget how finalist Dave Martin bitch slapped runner-up Tiffani Faison in season one? “I’m not your bitch, bitch!” Or season two winner Ilan Hall getting fed up with adversary Marcel Vigneron: “Shut up! Keep making your foams and go cry in a corner!” And for the record: “I’m really passionate about cooking!” does not excuse the fact that your performance sucked!
But it’s not all cutthroat: during season two, tears flowed and it wasn’t because of chopped onions. One contestant (Mia Gaines-Alt) humbly stepped aside so that another (Elia Aboumrad) would remain in the competition. Interestingly, Elia made it to the finals and celebrated by pulling a Britney Spears, shaving off all her luscious raven curls!
Oh the drama! But at the end of it all, it is a food show, folks. Immersing myself in Top Chef reminded me of how it’s possible to enjoy the art of cooking and good food even on a shoestring budget. Many years ago, I had a boyfriend who was a chef in training during our six-year relationship. Self-taught, he delegated me as “sous chef” in our cooking life. We would plan menus every weekend, go food shopping and prepare sumptuous meals in our humble apartment. It paid off: I learned how to kick ass in the kitchen and he’s currently an executive chef in a very successful local catering company.
I really appreciate the fact that Top Chef helped me rekindle my passion for cooking and I’m hoping that as in seasons past, Top Chef will truly incorporate the city’s restaurants, food suppliers and industry leaders in a way that will generate discussion about good food in the lives of everyday Miamians.
What’s more, in delicious irony, the show makes it official network debut just as the hurricane season is beginning to hiccup! So let the tempers brew, the kettles boil and the competition begin!
SEASON THREE EXTRA-CULINARY TREATS
BravoTV.com promises a “robust food and drink destination” for fans and foodies. I prefer to think of a thick, juicy steak in meatspace as “robust,” but with these treats, cyberspace might just get me to lick my chops: weekly cooking tips, special website interviews by Andy Cohen and exclusive webisodes by season one contestant Lee Anne Wong, who will be teaching viewers how to make the winning recipes.
And of course, no Miami series would be complete without a massive Hispanic audience marketing campaign involving sister network Telemundo. Season two contestant Carlos Fernandez, co-owner and executive chef of Hi-Life Café in Fort Lauderdale, will host cooking segments in Telemundo’s popular morning show “Cada Día” as well as webisodes entitled “Miami Spice: Hot Recipes with Latin Flavor.” I hope that by hot they mean hell-fire HOT! As we all know all know, Cuban food is savory but doesn’t have a lick of spice. Throw some scotch bonnet peppers into that garlic mojo, Carlos!
SET YOUR KITCHEN TIMER
Whet your appetite on Wed, June 6 at 10:00 PM ET/PT. “Top-Chef: 4-Star All-Stars” is an hour-long special featuring four of the finalists from seasons one and two in a cook-off for charity. Both teams will serve their meals to season three contestants. (watch: video promo)
COMING UP ON MIAMI BEACH 411: A little amuse bouche on each of the 15 aspiring Top Chefs! I’ve got another little surprise for you, but I can’t tell you … just yet! In the meantime, dish with us in the forums, or the comments of this post!
“Top Chef 3 Miami” will officially premiere on Wednesday, June 13 at 10:00 PM ET/PT.
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