What weekly cooking competition show began in 2011, has won one Emmy, is under 15 minutes long and whose last season grabbed 11.5 million streams on multiple platforms for its 12 episodes? That would be “Last Chance Kitchen,” Bravo’s web after-show that you won’t see on TV.
“Top Chef’s” Season 16, which is based in the state of Kentucky, is in full swing – including the early arrival of the dreaded Restaurant Wars challenge, pitting three teams of four chefs against one another. Last week ‘s episode 4 was a cliff-hanger, with Nini Nguyen, Sara Bradley and Brian Young all falling way behind after volunteering to oversee the front of house for their team’s eaterie. On top of that, judge Tom Colicchio announced that there would be two eliminations after the challenge in Part 2 of Restaurant Wars that airs this week.
But just because no one got the boot yet didn’t mean there was no “Last Chance Kitchen” — which allows each week’s eliminated players a way to stay in the game — after the TV main course last week. Those savvy enough to catch the streaming after-show that follows each episode already know that this nightcap series can have a big impact on the main course.
And, right now, after probably the worst showing ever by a trio of “Last Chance” competitors including Brother Luck (seen above) from Season 15, who has been in the “Kitchen” from the start, and Season 16 contender Natalie Maronski, who has been on the streaming spinoff since Episode 2, are about to face off this week against two new knife-packing victims of what appears to be a probable bloodbath in the making. Kevin Scharpf, who hung on in “Last Chance Kitchen” for one week , said goodbye last time thanks to badly battered fried clams.
NOTE: Starting this week, Bravo is moving “Top Chef” to an hour earlier on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT. And do tune into “Last Chance Kitchen,” because this one could be a doozy.
Why should you add “Last Chance Kitchen” to your viewing menu? Here are four reasons why:
*It can upset a whole season of “Top Chef.” The last cook standing on “Last Chance Kitchen” gets to rejoin the on-air cast and get a second chance to go all the way. Three “Kitchen” survivors have actually gone on to win the whole kit and caboodle and earn the title Top Chef: Season 10’s Kristen Kish, Season 14’s Brooke Williamson and Season 15’s Joseph Flamm.
*Colicchio is a righteous dude who doesn’t mince words. But he knows how to serve up an honest opinion, be it harsh or high praise, with common sense and humor. Padma Lakshmi, who has been the host since Season 2, is easy on the eyes and has flair for fashion. But dare I say her critiques are a little too sour and off-key when officiating on the dishes set before her. But on “Last Chance Kitchen,” we get unadulterated Colicchio commentary and it is refreshingly frank but also often supportive. You get the idea he roots for everyone to be on their game and is not so finger-pointy when they aren’t.
*Having just three or four contestants allows for more tension. At this point of “Top Chef,” when there are still 12 competitors in the game, it is hard to pick favorites let alone tell one from the other. But you can actually focus on the skill set of each contestant and get to know their personality a little better with fewer cooks in the kitchen.
*You get to learn plenty of ways to flavor meals with Hidden Valley Ranch products. Whether you want to or not, weekly challenges often employ seasoning packets of this stuff. Keep in mind, that the makers of the dressing are the sponsors of “Last Chance Kitchen.” So don’t gripe about product placement.