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'Top Chef' show earns respect

Top Chef, the reality food show that serves up drama along with creative dishes each week, has gained the respect of culinary experts.

by: Richard Leong | 12 Mar 2008

Sixteen contestants will be vying for the top $100 000 prize in the fourth season of the show that begins this month.

"The calibre of chefs just gets deeper. Any of these chefs could come away and win," said award-winning chef and member of the judging panel Tom Colicchio.

Each week Colicchio and a panel of judges led by host Padma Lakshmi dismiss a contestant whom they deem made the worst dish.

Although better chefs meant better food, it also made the judging harder. "It made me a nicer person at the judges' table," said Canadian food critic Gail Simmons, one of the regular judges.

"Although I was better fed, my job became more difficult," she added.

The show on the Bravo cable channel attracted an average of nearly 2.5 million viewers last season and leading chefs like Eric Ripert, who acted as a guest judge.

Top restaurants like Le Cirque in New York have also opened their doors for filming of the series, which also attracts reality-show buffs who are hooked on the clashes between contestants.

In addition to the food, the interpersonal stories provide the fun and narrative twists in each episode of the series which has grown in popularity each year.

The judges were tight-lipped about the new season's contestants. While the finalists of the series that was filmed in Chicago have been determined, the winner has not been chosen.

"The viewers are going to think what they are going to think," Colicchio said.

"We don't choose the nice guy. We choose the best food."

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