Bravo's Top Chef D.C. -- the seventh season of the cooking show -- starts tonight. But everyone in food media is being a cranky-pants about it. Every preview I've read finds something to complain about: Padma Lakshmi is too sexy. Or the chef contestants are too famous already. Or the "cooking on a deadline" concept is boring. I'm sad to think that my favorite show on TV seems to be, ahem, losing steam.
One of the most popular complaints on the food sites is that everyone is sick of host Padma Lakshmi -- specifically her slow-talking and her incessant parading of her sexy bod when marketing the show. Sounds like some people are jealous of this hot mama. True, she was a little over-the-top talking about eating testicles on Lopez Tonight. But if I ate that much and looked like that, you can bet I'd be parading my body around, too. And her slow-talking has never bothered me. To tell you the truth, I think the Top Chef judging panel (Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, Eric Ripert) is one of the most cohesive, fair, and thoughtful on TV -- if it takes them a little while to express themselves, well then, so be it.
Another criticism of the show -- and this one makes me pause -- is that the original concept of the show was to feature budding talent; but now the contestants are all gainfully employed, and many of them already have a big following. As this excellent piece in the Washington Post noted:
"There's no element of youthful striving (or, in fact, youth); it's become a show in which older chefs seek validation and buzzy PR."
I see the writer's point, and yet I'm not bothered by it. Sure, it's fun to root for the young underdog; but it's also entertaining to see big stars with big talent cooking awe-inspiring food each week.
Finally, many viewers say they are bored to tears by watching people cook on TV. To me, the show is about much more than food. I watch it to see how talented artists compete and perform under pressure -- not to glean dinner ideas. The food porn no doubt adds to the fast-paced action; but it isn't the central focus for me.
In my humble food-obsessed opinion, Top Chef is one of the more intelligent reality shows on television. And if this isn't enough to convince you to watch, let me very enthusiastically offer up one more reason: Eric Ripert.
Top Chef D.C. premieres tonight at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.
Will you watch Season 7 of Top Chef? What do you think of these criticisms?
Image via BravoTV