Didn’t make the cut to get on Bravo’s Top Chef: Season Five, currently shooting in New York City? Not high profile enough to qualify for Bravo’s fall spin-off series, Top Chef: Masters? Too old for Bravo’s upcoming Top Chef Junior? Enough common sense to stay away from Next Food Network Star? Hey, there’s still a way to get onto a TV cooking show that could raise your profile and help make you rich—if you send in your application, fast.
Here’s how the Food Network is presenting its yet-untitled competitive cooking show to potential participants:
“Food Network is currently casting for a new cooking competition series and is looking for professional chefs who want to test their culinary skills against their peers. Four competitors will race against the clock; their food judged on taste, creativity and presentation by the experts. Three are eliminated and only one remains the winner.”
That’s all the information the Food Network is giving out for now. There are no details about when the series is scheduled to run, who’ll be tapped to be the host or the judges, or what the winner’s prize will be.
We can estimate that the show’s initial budget will be modest, however. The participant search is limited to “dynamic, outgoing, experienced chefs in the New York/Tri-State area. Men and women, any ethnicity and cooking specialty are encouraged to apply.” It looks like the lack of a travel budget will preclude the participation the 99 percent of the country’s culinarians who don’t live close enough to the Food Network’s studios in the Chelsea section of Manhattan to take the subway. But maybe the Food Network will let out-of-towners pay their own travel if you stipulate as much.
To apply, go to the following web site:
and fill out the two-page form. It asks for basic contact information plus a resume, and applicants must respond to eight brief essay questions (“How would your colleagues describe working with you?”). Show producers want to see what you look like, too, so you’ll need a current photo of yourself—no photo attachments bigger than 2 mg, please.
It’s not surprising to see the Food Network delve further into the competitive cooking arena. It’s always had the Iron Chef franchise, of course. But lately rival cable network Bravo has grabbed big ratings and the resulting bigger advertising dollars with its Top Chef series. The Food Network almost has to come up with something new just to get its mojo back.
But Bravo isn’t standing still, either. This fall, the network will debut a new series, Top Chef: Masters. Here’s how the company previewed it for ad buyers 10 days ago:
“A spin-off of the Emmy-nominated hit series, Top Chef, and from producers Magical Elves, Top Chef: Masters unites some of the brightest stars in the world of food, award-winning, widely-renowned chefs who will compete against each other in a series of weekly challenges.”
That’s all we have to go on for now, but it’s logical to assume that while the show will feature well-known chefs, it will lack some of the inherent drama that arises in Top Chef when competitors are sequestered in a house together until they are kicked off, one by one.
But it should still be a fun show to watch and will likely garner high ratings. We’re not so sure that will be the case for another Bravo spin-off scheduled for this fall, Top Chef Junior. For an audience that has already seen the original Top Chef and Top Chef: Masters, Top Chef Junior (the working title) might represent the saturation point. Will the Top Chef audience tune in eight weeks in a row to watch kids ages 13-16 duke it out in the kitchen?
Maybe the whole idea of televised cooking competitions has reached the saturation point. Which is why we’re keeping an eye on a much-different Bravo series about a chef, the yet-to-be-titled Jean-Christophe Novelli Project. It’s a documentary that tracks Novelli’s attempt to reproduce his considerable European success ( a Michelin star, restaurants in London, France and South Africa, and the Novelli Academy Cookery School in the UK) in Los Angeles. The cameras will follow him as he moves to L. A. and opens a cooking school there, focusing on how well his students learn their lessons.
Don’t know this guy? Bravo’s public relations department tells us the New York Times declared Novelli the World’s Sexiest Chef. However, a search of the Times’ archive finds no declaration, only a reference to Novelli being named the fifth-sexiest man in the world by a British magazine some years ago. Don’t worry; that alone is enough to ensure that a sizable audience will check out his show.
Sexy guy or not, chefs and restaurateurs will want to check it out, too. Novelli may not sit at the very top of the world’s culinary hierarchy, but he just might be the best at leveraging his culinary expertise into ancillary ventures (cookbooks, cookware, cooking schools, TV appearances like this one) and in forging lucrative sponsorships that help him do it. Like the upcoming documentary, many of his activities are a heck of a lot less demanding than preparing meals in a maxed-out restaurant night after night.If you want to raise your profile in the industry, apply for a slot on the Food Network show. But if you’re looking for someone to model your career after, Novelli is the chef you want to keep your eye on, even if you’re not as lucky in the looks department as he is.