Top Chef Television Show – Personal Guilty Pleasure

chefSo, I’ve got something of a confession to make…  For a few years now Top Chef has been a TV show I watch with my family.

I admit that I’m not all that proud of watching this show. It certainly isn’t something I expected to like at first – I’d go so far as to call it something of a guilty pleasure.

We first started watching Top Chef a little bit after my daughter went away to college for the first time.  Her roommate watched the series, and they watched a season together before my daughter recommended it to the rest of us.  We were a bit skeptical at first (so-called “reality television” has something of a negative connotation in our household) but the rest of the family agreed to watch through a full season before making a decision.

Somewhat to my surprise, I ended up enjoying it.  As I have mentioned many times before, I’m not really into cooking, but watching obviously passionate people talk about the subject that they know so much about is a really interesting experience, even if you don’t know that “julienning” is just a fancy terms for cutting something into strips.  We’ve started watching a number of other cooking shows as well since then, but Top Chef still remains our favorite to watch, and then pick apart. (Let’s face it, isn’t picking them apart one of the things people like about reality television shows?)

Honestly, I didn’t really think that I’d be into shows like Top Chef, but now they’re a big part of what we watch.  It’s especially nice that I can watch them with the entire family, or at least we can all discuss them afterwards.  We all have slightly different interests in terms of television, but cooking competition shows have turned out to be one thing that we can all enjoy to varying degrees.

If you haven’t tried this particular show yet, I would recommend that you watch a season in its correct chronological order. It may just surprise you. You might actually look forward to watching it, or at least to “discussing it” with your friends and/or family.

PS >>> We watch the shows as they air on the Bravo channel, so we hear a lot of bleeps. I don’t know if they bleep out all the objectionable words when you watch the shows on DVDs.


  1. Andrea says

    Top Chef- been there done that. It was great in the early seasons, and probably still is. But the Tom-Padma show gets old. And who would hire these chefs anyway? How many of them have ANY training. Sorry, it’s a bit of a yawn for us who have been there done that…Project Runway, Next Iron Chef, HGTVs Next Star…..

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Andrea, your comment reminds me of exactly what we like about Top Chef. Sometimes we disagree with each other, and other times we don’t.

  2. Donna says

    Danna, maybe you should start a guilty pleasures thread! I guess my GP would be reading classic pulp fiction and watching old films noir. I’m not into gore but some of my favorite writers are Chandler, Spillane, Hammett; those guys were tough but they had a style all their own.

  3. alfred says

    Danna the only cooking show I watch is Nigella Lawson on cookingchanneltv network. What I like about her is she doesn’t put on airs or being obnoxious or anything like some of the other chefs on tv. You even see her doing her own shopping for her ingredients for the recipes she is on at 10am my time Tuesday to Friday.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Alfred, I have meant to take a look at one of Nigella Lawson’s shows before. I think you mentioned her to me once before.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Bill, I’ve never watched Diners Drive Ins and Dives, but a few years ago I watched a show that this one copies. It “starred” a retired Los Angeles policeman, and he was really good at finding the dives around the states. I think it was on PBS.

  4. Nikki says

    I watch it sometimes too. My favorite cooking show is Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade. She gets criticized a lot for not being a “real’ chef. But frankly she cooks the way that is most useful for real people. And I love her tablescapes. Plus her life story is such an inspiration for young women.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Nikki, this past holiday season I watched her Halloween and Christmas specials. Her producers pulled out all the stops… her costumes and settings were elaborate and beautiful.

  5. Deborah says

    Top Chef is one of my guilty pleasures also. I have watched it since the beginning. I do wish there wasn’t so much that has to be bleaped, and some seasons are definitely worse than others about that. I enjoy seeing some of the contestants show up elsewhere. You do definitely need to watch the shows in order so that you appreciate the eliminations as they happen.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      We have only seen a few years of the show, and actually prefer the Top Chef Masters (except for this past season.) We had noticed the Masters were actually polite to each other and seemed to respect each others’ abilities. Again, except for this past season. We were surprised at the bad-mouthing some of these established chefs aimed at some of the other chefs.

    • linda c says

      Danna, It seems like there are quite a few bleeps in the TV Reality shows. Because most of us can read lips and therefore know exactly what is being said, within the not so distant future there won’t be any bleeping. Let the coach of any sports team utter some kind of profanity and the instant replay shows what that coach has uttered over and over.
      I don’t understand why it is so important to whoever decides on what or why these people want this stuff on tv is so important to them.. Just because they have “the freedom of speech” or “the freedom of expression” is just not good enough reasons for me.

      • Danna - cozy mystery list says

        Linda, I’m glad for the bleeping, and am surprised that some words are no longer bleeped. I just watched last week’s episode of Modern Family, and was quite surprised at “son of a —ch” now being acceptable on one of the major networks, during the “family time” block – although I would be surprised during any time block! (I used to like that show, and even though I think it has lost all of its sense of humor and fun, for some reason I am still skimming through it. I’m truly a creature of habit…)

        • linda c says

          Danna, I am in favor of the bleeping too . I hear enough of that profanity in my daily life. I think TV just doesn’t need it. I guess when a TV show is listed as ” Reality” some producers just get carried away with just how much ” reality” is really needed.

  6. says

    I used to watch Iron Chef–whose cuisine reigns supreme!!! Now I say that stupid phrase in the kitchen when I’m teasing my husband. We got such a kick out of that show. Who really needs to know how to use squid in desserts?

    It was a lot of fun to watch with my husband. We laughed a lot.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Maria, that “whoosh, whoosh, whoosh” sound as the actor who plays the “Chairman” turns his head from side to side is a little too campy for me. I just don’t understand how chefs like Bobby Flay can seriously stand there and not crack up.

  7. linda c says

    Danna, I really don’t watch a lot of the Food network channel because I am just not that interested in cooking. Regardless of what some of my family members say I think I can put together a decent meal .
    I did like the competition for the next network chef that the Food Channel has on during the summer months. But the TV show on this network that like the most is “The Secret Diner.” A few of my family members have tried to make a go of having their own small mom and pop diners and I did work for a time as a waitress in one of them. Too bad there wasn’t a show such as this “The Secret Diner” during those times. I have to give a bunch of kudos to ANYONE who can make a go at a mom and pop restaurant. This is very hard work and for the most part running this kind of establishment is a “darned if you do, darned if you don’t” place to try to earn a living.
    I tend to give a diner or restaurant two times to screw up for me before I call it quits as a diner myself. One time though I got a sandwich at a local fast food place that was served with blue bread. I sure didn’t give that place a second chance!!

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Linda, I don’t want to see what goes on “behind the scenes” in restaurants! When I was in high school, I worked as the salad girl and dessert girl at an officers’ club. Yikes!!!

      • linda c says

        Danna, We had a smorgasbord type restaurant in the area several years ago that was really quite popular but is no longer in business. Pay one price, eat all you want, just give your waitress a good tip as she brings you your plates, eating utensils, drinks. This was a good deal, especially for two people on a limited income. We really did enjoy the place. Okay, Now you might be wondering why that restaurant is no longer in business.
        One Saturday night while we were at the restaurant a father of a family sitting just across from us was passing out the plates for his kids to go to the food line to get what they wanted to eat. As he was passing the plates, I would say maybe, the 4th plate from the stack, there was leftover food stuck between the plates and this was quite a lot of leftover food. I kid you not, I am not making this up.
        The Dad was furious. He wanted to go take on whoever was responsible for this. The mother, also quite angry, convinced the dad to let her take care of the situation. She called for the manager.
        After showing the manager the dirty plates, the manager offered to allow the family to eat for free the rest of the night. The parents both said, no way, they were leaving and would never be back.
        This family got up and left along with several other families that were sitting close by. We also left. I had a hard time going out to eat for a long, long time. This restaurant moved out of the area not long after that.
        From that time on I ALWAYS check the stack of plates BEFORE I even get up to go to the serving line. If one business does this, I would think they wouldn’t be alone.
        Sorry for this disgusting reply on a beautiful, cold Sunday morning. Hope this doesn’t gross you out too much.
        We all just need to be careful when we go out to eat. We are at risk when we eat what comes out of some of these kitchens.

        • Danna - cozy mystery list says

          Yow, Linda! When we go out to dinner, my husband (and children) actually “make” me sit so that I can’t see what’s going on in the kitchen. I actually always have my back to the kitchen door in every restaurant we go to, for exactly the types of “goings on” you are describing. We recently went to a restaurant where, as the server placed the bread dishes in front of us, we could see the dishes weren’t clean. We simply got up and left. Having worked in a kitchen when I was in high school, I know that sometimes the dish-washing machines are sometimes loaded so that the plates are too close and don’t all get thoroughly clean. But there is no excuse for those dishes to make their way out of the kitchen.

  8. Mark says

    I love Top Chef too and I think this season is really great. I feel like Top Chef is a show that actually has better contestants as the seasons go on rather than bottom-of-the-barrel folks that seem to appear on other shows. My other favorite reality show is Face Off on SyFy which is basically Top Chef for makeup artists.

  9. Janean S. says

    Hubby and I like watching Diners, Drive Ins and Dives.

    A little off subject but I am hoping you all could give me some suggestions. I just finished reading “Murder on the QE2″ by Donald Brain and loved it . I wanted to read more cozy mysteries set on board a cruise ship. Does anyone have some suggestions for me to read? Thanks ever so much.

    PS I love the site and blog so many great books.

    • Judith says

      Marian Babson has a couple books set on a cruise ship, Death Sails at Midnight and Cruise of a Deathtime. One of Shelley Freydont’s Linda Haggerty mysteries, High Seas Murder, is also set on a cruise ship. RT Jordan’s Polly Pepper goes on a cruise in Set Sail for Murder. Cruising for Murder by Susan Sussman and Sarajane Avidon is another cruise ship mystery. Conrad Allen has a period mystery series about a shipboard detective that starts with Murder on the Lusitania.

    • BB says

      Steve Allen’s Steve and Jayne:
      – Murder on the Atlantic (1995)

      Mike Befeler’s Geezer-Lit:
      – Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder (2012)
      [Finalist 2013 Lefty Award]

      J.S. Borthwick’s Sarah Deane and Alex McKenzie:
      – Bodies of Water (1990)
      – My Body Lies over the Ocean (1999)

      Candy Calvert’s Darcy Cavanaugh (cruise ship nurse):
      – Dressed to Keel (2006)
      – Aye Do or Die (2007)
      – Mai Tai to Murder (2007)

      Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple:
      – A Caribbean Mystery (1965)
      Hercule Poirot:
      – Death on the Nile (1937)

      Carol Higgins Clark’s Regan Reilly:
      – Decked (1992)
      w. Mary Higgins Clark:
      – Santa Cruise ( 2006)

      Susan Rogers Cooper’s Milt Kovak:
      – Dark Waters (due in June)
      E.J. Pugh:
      – Don’t Drink the Water (2000)

      Mary Daheim’s Judith McMonigle Flynn:
      – Dead Man Docking (2005)

      William Doonan’s Henry Grave (octogenarian cruise investigator):
      – Grave Passage (2009)
      – Mediterranean Grave (2011)
      – Grave Indulgence (2012)

      Carolyn Hart’s Death on Demand:
      – Murder Walks the Plank (2004)
      Henrie O:
      – Set Sail for Murder (2007)

      Maria Hudgins’ Five Star:
      – Death on the Aegean Queen (2010)

      Maddy Hunter’s Passport to Peril-Emily Andrew (tour guide):
      – Hula Done It? (2005)

      Mary Kruger’s Gilded Age:
      – No Honeymoon for Death (1995)

      Joanne Pence’s Angelina Amalfi:
      – Cooks Overboard (1998)

      Elizabeth Daniels Squire’ Peaches Dann:
      – Where’s There’s a Will (1999)

      Stella Whitelaw’s Casey Jones (cruise director):
      – Second Sitting (2008)
      – Dead Slow Ahead (2008)
      – A Wide Berth (2010)

        • Danna - cozy mystery list says

          Thanks, again, Judith. I just posted an entry for the Cruise Ship Mystery books. I had no idea there are this many!

  10. Denise says

    Have enjoyed Top Chef , but my favorite cooking shows – the original Iron Chef and Chopped. Not sure about some of the ingredients but they are very creative chefs!

  11. Annette says

    I love top chef also. I also see no reason for the language. We also watch chopped and amazing there are boneless on that and it is enjoyable.
    My hubby and I started watching a comedy on a major station and we were enjoying it until the 4 “dads” took the kids in a bar – all kids in a stroller. And the dad’s all proceeded to start drinking. That was the end for me.

  12. says

    I love Top Chef. There was even a mystery in one of the seasons…who stole the pea puree?! It was a very strange episode, and to this day, even the producers don’t know the truth of it. Or if they do, they’re not telling! :-)

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Susie, we watched that season. I have a feeling the producers know exactly what happened to that pea puree. When they “relived” the pea puree mystery it seemed like they had many cameras going all of the time in that kitchen…

  13. Kate says

    My mom and I both love Top Chef and text each other while watching :) I put it in a different category than many other “reality” shows: it’s a group of serious, talented people at the top of their game who are being judged by masters in their field. I also like Project Runway for the same reason. Sure, they can get gimmicky and campy (the whole Last Chance Kitchen thing annoys me!), but in general they’re harmless entertainment.

    Also wanted to say, thank you so much for this site and blog! It’s such a wonderful resource.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list says

      Kate, last year, when the Last Chance Kitchen was new, we watched it. This year, however, we don’t bother. That whole Last Chance Kitchen annoys us also! To me, it seems like just another time Tom (main producer) can get paid to air advertisements.

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