Top Chef Las Vegas Preview: Bacon Doughnuts, Natalie Portman and Knives!
Stationing the sixth season of television's classiest food competition series in Las Vegas seems like a genius marketing move: take advantage of the city's Hangover afterglow, give Padma Lakshmi a reason to shake out her immaculately straightened hair and finally incorporate that C-plot in which a coke-jittered Toby Young races to each competition with a dead hooker in his trunk. But this is buttoned-up Top Chef, not Real World Chefs or Hell's Kitchen and we will rarely see the chefs outside of the studio kitchen (or the nearest Whole Foods). So buckle up for a season of carefully designed Vegas-themed challenges. Expect showgirls! Poker chips! And sin-themed quickfires!
For those of you late to the party, Top Chef is Bravo's highbrow food competition series, produced by the same company responsible for Project Runway. Padma Lakshmi is the body, er face, of the program, and if we're lucky, this season will rival the grease-driven sexuality of her Carl's Jr. commercials. Padma is juggling a few other plates though, like that NBC sitcom deal, so we'll have to bank on Padma's significantly less sexy guest judges (chef Tom Colicchio, writer Gail Simmons and journalist Toby Young) for any gratuitous wrist-licking, finger-slurping and sensual mustard dripping.
Wolfgang Puck trumpets in the Vegas season as the first guest judge. At his Cut steakhouse tonight, he oversees the contestants as they race to to prepare clams, shrimp, lobster and chops in thirty minutes. The restaurateur/visionary tells one contestant, "If you cooked this at home, these people will never come and visit you again," before throwing another chef's meal across the room.
Puck doesn't spit in a chef's face and tell him to f*** off like Gordon Ramsay does regularly on Hell's Kitchen, but he is one of the most threatening kitchen presences you'll see on Top Chef. Other guest judges turning up this season will be Nigella Lawson, Tyler Florence, Penn & Teller and Natalie Portman, probably meat-blocking the competitors just as dietary-restricted starlet Zooey Deschanel did for Top Chef Masters this summer.
But the real stars of the show are the seventeen contestants, including a Haitian immigrant who had to cook his way off the boat, a handsome pair of brothers, a woman diagnosed with Leukemia, and a self-proclaimed "artist" who rocks cowboy boots. They'll have the chance to distinguish themselves during tonight's elimination round when the chefs are asked to explore "their dark sides" and prepare a sin-related dish. Alcohol is generously poured, but the most inventive skip the bourbon, like the chef who prepares bacon doughnuts served with chocolate sauce.
After a season of gluttony, food-related tears and cleverly incorporated poker chip challenges, one contestant will walk away $100,000 richer. So pack up your knives and tune in at 9 PM tonight for a new delicious season of Top Chef Las Vegas!