From Publishers Weekly
Part fanzine, part cookbook, this volume will appeal to the anyone who tunes into Top Chef each week to see contestants out-cook each other, using vending-machine ingredients to make appetizers or preparing lunch for the cast of a telenovela. Replete with dozens of glamour shots of contestant/contributors and sweetly old-fashioned profiles of the judges (host Padma Lakshmi is "a no-nonsense kind of gal"), this volume feels like a guide to a strange, food-obsessed cult. The author sighs over pretty, eccentric Betty Fraser, "it was always hard to know what to make of Betty," and notes that season two winner Ilan Hall was "good at falling into the kind of cliquish drama you might find in a high school cafeteria." The recipes themselves, taken directly from the show's "quickfire" and elimination challenges, are dauntingly involved, much more suited to cooking competitions than the average home kitchen: they never use one ingredient when three will do, nor do they shy away from expensive options like foie gras, truffles and abalone. Even simple-sounding dishes like Chiles Rellenos are accented with complicated sauces and garnishes. It's hard to imagine anyone consulting this book to whip up dinner, but it's easy to see how a Top Chef obsessive would get much satisfaction out of it, if not necessarily a full stomach.
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Bravo’s hit culinary reality show now has a companion cookbook, though to be fair it is as much of a fan book as it is a recipe book. Sure, there’s a generous array of recipes, ranging from the simple (Sara M.’s Eggs in a Hole) to the somewhat more involved season-three winner Hung’s Sous-Vide Duck with Truffle-Scented Broth), and fans will get a kick out of seeing just what all goes into these winning creations and then trying to match their culinary skills to the task. At the same time, nonfans of the show will likely find a heavy amount of distracting detritus in these pages. Episode guides, personality profiles, and other cultish reminiscences all reserve this handsome, high-quality book pretty much exclusively to the large number of viewers already under the spell of the show. Perhaps most appealing for such fans will be the introductory essays describing the behind-the-scenes reality of the reality show, how the contest was dreamed up, and such priceless revelations as the show almost making it to air with the name Grillers in the Mist. --Ian Chipman