All the Skinny on “Top Chef: Las Vegas”

Bravo has revealed the identities of the 17 “chef’testants” who will be competing on Top Chef: Las Vegas and announced the sixth edition of Top Chef will premiere Wednesday, August 26 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. TopChefVegas

Top Chef: Las Vegas’ contestants will be competing for a grand-prize package that will include prizes similar to the reality culinary competition’s previous seasons.  Thanks to show sponsor Glad, the winner will receive $100,000 in seed money to help open a restaurant; a feature in Food & Wine magazine; a showcase at the Annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen; and the title of “Top Chef.”  However Top Chef’s sixth season will also feature an additional prize: $100,000 of merchandise provided by Macy’s. 

The popular program was filmed in and around Las Vegas earlier this year and soon became the talk of the town’s culinary circles – and the city’s worst kept TV secret. 

Bravo refused to confirm or comment about the long-awaited Vegas version “Top Chef” until last month, after production had wrapped on the seventh series of the popular show. Meanwhile, cameras and crew members were seen throughout the city, shooting segments at various locations including M Resort, which served as the production location during filming, Springs Preserve and World Market Center. 

The network said “some of the top names in food, movies and entertainment” will be featured throughout season six, including actress Natalie Portman, and Las Vegas Rio headliners Penn & Teller. 

Unfortunately, none of the “Top Chef: Las Vegas” so-called “chef’testants” are from Las Vegas. The closest to a local competitor the city has is the youngest of the brothers, 30-year-old Michael Voltaggio, who lives in Los Angeles, Calif. (The Voltaggios grew up an hour north of Washington, D.C., in Frederick, Md.)

Some of the biggest names in food will also take part, including Wolfgang Puck, Todd English, Daniel Boulud, Charlie Palmer, Paul Bartolotta, and Hubert Keller (who made his “Top Chef Masters” debut during the spin-off series’ debut last month), among others. 

Lately, there have been a couple of Bravo’s Top Chef sightings as the cheftestants, Tom Colicchio and the gang bounced around from hotel to hotel shooting Season Six.   They’ve been spotted at Mandalay Bay and The M Resort.

As a footnote, Tom C. has two restaurants in Las Vegas.  Craftsteak at MGM Grand, opened in 2002 and is one of the best steakhouses in Las Vegas- a favorite haunt of ex-President Bill Clinton and rocker Gene Simmons.  Colicchio’s other venue is Wichcraft, also at MGM Grand- the sandwiches are to die for.

The network had formally renewed Top Chef for a sixth season in April and the Sin City represents the sixth different location for the culinary competition, which now ranks as Bravo’s highest-rated series following Project Runway’s move to Lifetime.

 “Las Vegas has become a culinary destination — some of the world’s best chefs and restaurants are here — so it’s only fitting that our newest season was the best yet,” Top Chef lead judge Tom Colicchio said. “You’ll be surprised by the quality of chef’testants we discovered this season. They really raised the bar.”

In addition to Colicchio, Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi and judges Gail Simmons and Toby Young will also reprise their roles for the show’s sixth edition, which was filmed at The M Resort Spa & Casino in Las Vegas.

The season will also include guest appearances by  Wolfgang Puck, Todd English, Natalie Portman, Daniel Boulud, Penn & Teller, Hubert Keller, Laurent Tourondel, Tim Love, Michelle Bernstein, Tyler Florence, Charlie Palmer, Paul Bartolotta, Nigella Lawson and Jerome Bocuse. 

The upcoming season of “Top Chef” will follow the same structure as previous seasons, with a short “quickfire” challenge at the beginning of each episode followed by a main elimination challenge. 

“Each episode holds two challenges for the chefs,” stated this morning’s press release. “The first is a quickfire test of their basic abilities and the second is a more involved elimination challenge designed to test the versatility and inventiveness of the chefs as they take on unique culinary trials such as working with unusual and exotic foods or catering for a range of demanding clients.”

Bravo is also bringing a few new features to the “Top Chef” table this season, including a special “Top Recipe” Web series featuring season five contestant Fabio Viviani. 

Each week, the former “Top Chef: New York” personality will demonstrate how to cook the winning dish in a segment exclusive to the Web. 

Another “Webisode” series, “Guest Judges: Strip’d,” will provide insights and a more personal perspective of the judges, while another will show the chefs out on the town in Las Vegas and give viewers a peek into the chefs’ lives outside the kitchen. 

Further technological enhancements will include a phone-based “Slice & Dice Showdown” hosted by one of the show’s judges, Toby Young. The mobile video series will see each of the Voltaggio brothers lead a team of their fellow “Top Chef” competitors through a foodie challenge in anticipation of the final, ultimate dessert bake-off.

Top Chef: Las Vegas’ 17 contestants are:

– Ash Fulk, a 29-year-old from Pleasant Hill, CA who currently resides New York, NY

– Ashley Merriman, a 32-year-old from Center Sandwich, NH who currently resides in Seattle, WA

– Bryan Voltaggio, a 33-year-old from Frederick, MD who currently resides in Urbana, MD

– Eli Kirshtein, a 25-year-old from Atlanta, GA

– Eve Aronoff, a 40-year-old from Ann Arbor, MI

– Hector Santiago, a 41-year-old from San Juan, PR who currently resides in Atlanta, GA

– Jennifer Carroll, a 33-year-old from Philadelphia, PA

– Jennifer Zavala, a 31-year-old from Cromwell, CT who currently resides in Philadelphia, PA

– Jesse Sandlin, a 30-year-old from Baltimore, MD

– Kevin Gillespie, a 26-year-old from Atlanta, GA

– Laurine Wickett, a 38-year-old from Rochester, NY who currently resides in San Francisco, CA

– Mattin Noblia, a 29-year-old from Biarritz, France who currently resides in San Francisco, CA

– Michael Isabella, a 34-year-old from Little Ferry, NJ who currently resides in Washington, DC

– Michael Voltaggio, a 30-year-old from Frederick, MD who currently resides in Los Angeles, CA

– Preeti Mistry, a 33-year-old from San Francisco, CA

– Robin Leventhal, a 43-year-old from Sun Valley, ID who currently resides in Seattle, WA

– Ron Duprat, a 40-year-old from Mare Rouge, Haiti who currently resides in Hollywood, FL and Naples, FL

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