“A game is not a fight.” — Chiwetel Ejiofor
Remember the good ol’ days of having a dream and having to prove your worth in the kitchen? Well, “Top Chef” remembers. “Top Chef” takes the hardworking Joes and Janes of America, from chefs and restaurant owners to sous-chefs and line cooks, who are trying to make it big and gives them the chance to prove their worth in the kitchen. And when we say prove, we mean it. Instead of tooling around on a soundstage for an hour or so, the good folks at Bravo have to endure weeks and weeks of a brutal culinary gauntlet. “Top Chef” has real stakes: one slip-up can sink a career before it begins, but whatever happens in Kitchen Stadium, the celebrity chefs get to go home, sip mojitos, and not give a thought to where they’re going to cook their next meal. Instead of giving the contestants some “kooky” ingredient, the show tosses the chefs into real challenges that force contenders to make extraordinary culinary concoctions under constraints that would make the pampered little darlings of “Iron-Chef” cry into their reductions. These constraints bring out some good old-fashioned American ingenuity and prove that the Land of the Free should not be discarded as a global culinary force.
“Iron Chef” features well-established chefs who probably spend more time on talk shows and writing books than in the kitchen and can’t even win all of the challenges against non-famous opponents. “Top Chef” contestants are underdogs trying to make it in the brutal culinary world; and we watch their evolution over the course of a season. We feel a true connection with them, even if they decide that bacon flavored ice cream or seitan with anything is a good combination of flavors – it is the creativity and the daring that excites us. Plus, have you seen Padma Lakshmi? We rest our case.