Carin Baer
Mark Harris
August 06, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Top Chef

TV Show
Current Status
In Season
Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, Gail Simmons
Reality TV

We gave it an A-

Unlike the drill-sergeant antics on Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen, on season 3 of Top Chef the food always looks mouthwatering; Judge Tom Colicchio is an exemplary combination of talent, constructiveness, and high standards; and not a morsel of entertainment value is wasted. Like most Bravo competition shows, Top Chef proceeds from the premise that there is fun in putting a group of exceptionally skilled and ambitious people together and pushing them to do their best. It might not sound like much fun to eavesdrop on a bunch of talented prima donnas throwing down over sloppy knife work and the deployment of flavored foams, but it’s much more exciting (and appetite-whetting) than the Hell’s Kitchen alternative of watching a bunch of doofuses get reamed for burning the rice. The food looks better on Top Chef, and so does the production; there isn’t nearly as much TV-for-dummies editing as on Hell’s Kitchen — you know, in case your mind wandered during the commercial, here’s a whole minute that you just saw again. That’s filler — TV’s version of Hamburger Helper. And real cooking shows don’t use it. In my dream reality series, the best of Top Chef‘s contestants would go burner to burner with Ramsay. I suspect they’d make sushi out of him. And still make it look good enough to eat. A-

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