by Emily Miller with foreword by Padma Lakshmi
Chronicle Books -- 2009
Buy it on Amazon
It's Padma's world. The rest of us just cook in it -- just mostly without a gigantic LED countdown clock, a dozen cleaver-wielding competitors jockeying for prep space and a mandate to make haute nibbles from the contents of a 7-Eleven's snack aisle. But if that's what cremes your brulee and you haven't the tats, 'tude and temerity to audition for competitive reality TV, you can live vicariously through this book.
Or you can just go online and save the $29.95.
See what we tested and find out whether the book's worth buying after the jump.
Takeaway tips: BravoTV.com does a pretty dandy job chronicling and enhancing the show online, and this book -- with incidental recipes -- feels like a Web site that's been printed out, bound together and larded with sultry pix of Padma coupled with overheated cheftestants' and fan insights like "I see Padma -- smokin' hot. I can't even cook. I get sweaty armpits just looking at her" and "I'd eat anything off of her. I'd drink her bathwater." There are also quizzes, Mad Libs, episode recaps and competitor bios complete with info on present gigs because really, no true Top Chef fan would rest easily not knowing the whereabouts of Suyai Steinhauer (New York Fork delivery service) and Emily Sprissler (private chef and new mom).
And if you're dying to know who ranked as "Sweatiest" on page 184's "Top Chef Yearbook" spread, spoiler alert -- it's Howie.
Quality of pictures: Food photos are styled within an inch of their lives and printed so large as to be almost intimidating. The rest read as promo images and screen captures and seriously, would it have killed them to up-size the pictures of Eric Ripert?
We tested: Well ... nothing. Here's why.
C'mon -- you're not buying this for the recipes. Bravo posts them on their "Top Chef" site and if they've been removed, a spot of creative Googling can net you most of them. Even if you can't, are you really, REALLY dying to attempt Frank's Creamy Fruit Salad from the Season Two canned food Quickfire or Spike's Sensual Beef Salad from Season Four's "Bring the sexy back to salad" challenge?
This is not the food these chefs would likely make if given their druthers. It's largely based on impossible situations and sponsor-mandated products (mostly given generic alternatives or suggested substitutions -- honey for Diet Dr. Pepper, for instance), and as such may be creative and tasty, but probably not indicative of what they'd make in their own restaurants or catering kitchens. Wait for their inevitable cookbooks or visit one of the hundreds of websites to which they've each contributed recipes post-"Top Chef."
Worth the investment: This book is going to sell incredibly well, and chances are that if you're here on Slashfood reading cookbook reviews, someone in your life is going to think, "Oh, (your name) is one of those 'foodies.' This will make a perfect Christmas/Hanukkah/Secret Santa gift." Odds are, you will never again want for Padma pin-ups and half a billion new ways to work with scallops, ceviche and Sriracha.