CULINARY CUTTHROATS: How many cooks is too many in a kitchen? Bravo is looking to find out.
Twelve unknown chefs will compete for $100,000 and a feature in Food & Wine in a new Bravo reality series called “Top Chef,” premiering on March 8. The format is similar to Bravo’s “Project Runway” — the two shows share executive producers. The host, Katie Lee Joel, doesn’t quite share the fame of Heidi Klum, though. (Joel writes a column called “East End Girl” for Hamptons magazine.) Gramercy Tavern’s Tom Colicchio and Food & Wine’s Gail Simmons serve as permanent judges, with guest experts appearing on each episode to help critique.
Simmons said of the contestants, “A lot about being a chef is being a leader, so we looked for the most dynamic personalities, who could come in and take control….There’s a broad range of talents, all with some professional experience, several line cooks, a cooking school instructor, some caterers, private chefs to celebrities, a sommelier, a woman who is a stay-at-home mom but also runs a small cooking school out of her home, and a culinary student just starting out. We looked at how long they can last on the line at a four-star restaurant, and gave them blindfold taste tests of diverse ingredients.”
As for Food & Wine’s involvement in the project, she said, “In ‘Project Runway,’ Elle magazine was such a great partnership that [Bravo] decided to try something similar. Food & Wine was a natural fit since one of the things the magazine is known for is scouting out new trends and talent.”
Nine of 10 episodes have already been filmed. The finale will take place in Las Vegas.
In recent seasons, the foodie world hasn’t exactly leant itself well to the small screen — note NBC’s ill-fated “The Restaurant” with Rocco DiSpirito and Fox’s recently canceled “Kitchen Confidential.” But perhaps all things culinary will fare better on cable? In addition to “Top Chef” on Bravo, HBO recently bought the rights to two of Gourmet editor in chief Ruth Reichl‘s memoirs, “Comfort Me With Apples” and “Garlic and Sapphires,” and plans a “Sex and the City”-like adaptation.
— Sara James
THE WONDER YEARS: In the world of corporate politics, when your bosses and peers secretly gather in a room to talk about you, it’s usually a bad sign. Not for Richard Beckman, however. Condé Nast president Chuck Townsend hosted a surprise party Monday night at the Four Seasons for Beckman, a former publisher of Vogue and GQ and current chief marketing officer and media group president. The occasion was the 20th anniversary of Beckman’s hiring as an advertising manager at The New Yorker. (The magazine had been acquired the previous year by Advance Publications Inc., but had not yet been folded into Condé Nast Publications, which is also the parent of WWD.) A spokeswoman said about 100 people had been invited to the event, where Townsend planned to present Beckman with a piece of Steuben glass engraved with the message “It’s always about being the best.”
— Jeff Bercovici