Top Chef: The Cookbook
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.