Sweeping generalizations to be made from watching cooking competition shows:
1. Chefs like tattoos.
2. Chefs smoke and drink.
3. Chefs swear like a *bleep*.
To be sure, not all of these things are true for all chefs. But with a window into the world of high cuisine afforded by shows like “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Top Chef,” dang if some of those things aren’t true for a bunch of the chefs who get the chance to compete.
When “Top Chef” starts its 15th season Thursday on Bravo, no doubt there will be a few tattoos peeking out of the chef’s whites worn by the field of “cheftestants.” And you can bet there are a few who kick back with a cigarette and/or a beer or glass of wine when the competition is over for the day. But it’s all but guaranteed that there will be a dirty word or two uttered — or, more likely shouted — by those running around the kitchen as the timer counts down to zero.
No matter, really. All that flurry and fluster and heat-of-the-moment candor is what makes watching “Top Chef” fun. (The stream of bleeps that comes from “Hell’s Kitchen” host Gordon Ramsay’s mouth is almost a main character of the show.) Because really, when it comes down to it, a dozen or so folks running around an industrial kitchen trying to make a gourmet dish in 30 to 45 minutes has got to be a pretty high-stress situation, so a little slack in decorum is understandable.
That they finish anything at all, much less something that tastes great, is a feat often inversely proportionate to the serving size of their finished product.
Since its premiere in 2006, “Top Chef” has highlighted the cuisines of San Francisco, New York, Miami, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, Chicago, the state of Texas, the state of California, Las Vegas and Charleston, S.C.
This season, the chefs venture to Colorado, where they’ll cook up a storm in Denver, Boulder, Telluride and Aspen, where part of the grand prize — a showcase at the Food & Wine Classic — takes place. (The rest of the prize includes a feature in Food & Wine magazine, a cash prize of $125,000, and the title of Top Chef. It doesn’t come with a crown or a sash, just bragging rights and a leg up on one’s peers.)
Because of the setting, expect a few locally themed challenges, including an Olympian-worthy test of strength, speed and skill; a deconstruction of the Denver omelet; and a dish featuring Rocky Mountain oysters. (Hint: It does not involve seafood.) The cheftestants are a mix of those from big cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Diego and the Bay Area), those with local roots (Denver, Colorado Springs), and a few from far-flung locales (Simsbury, Conn., and Alaska’s Denali National Park).
Hosted by Padma Lakshmi and featuring familiar judges Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons and Graham Norton, the show will include guest judges and guest stars, and more than a few surprises. Season 15 of “Top Chef” gets underway at 9 p.m. Thursday on Bravo.
Funny lady: It’s been 50 years since “The Carol Burnett Show” premiered on CBS, and in its 11-year run it garnered loads of awards, including three for outstanding variety-musical/comedy series. In “The Carol Burnett Show 50th Anniversary Special,” airing Sunday, Burnett will reminisce about her favorite sketches, her outrageous costumes, and her fondest memories of the show, take questions from the studio audience, and share a blooper reel. She’ll be joined by original series regulars Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner, along with clothes designer Bob Mackie and guest stars Martin Short, Stephen Colbert, Bill Hader, Kristen Chenoweth, Jim Carrey and many more. The special airs at 7 p.m. Sunday on Ch. 3.
Real news: Long before our current president claimed he was being maligned by the press, another president found himself the target of several stories in the Washington Post that aimed to get at the truth behind the lies. “The Newspaperman: The Life and Times of Ben Bradlee,” an HBO documentary premiering Monday, delves into the life of the man once called the country’s “most dangerous editor.” Told largely in his own words, “The Newspaperman” traces Bradlee’s life from humble beginnings in Boston, to Washington and a friendship with a young Massachusetts senator named John F. Kennedy, to his rise at the Post and the investigation into the Watergate scandal that brought the end to President Nixon’s administration. Featuring interviews with those who knew him, including Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the reporting team behind the Watergate investigation, the film also features interviews with Tom Brokaw, David Remnick, David Maranisss, John Dean, Henry Kissinger, Jim Lehrer, and other friends and family members. “The Newspaperman” airs at 7 p.m. Monday on HBO; it’s followed at 8:30 by “All the President’s Men,” the movie that dramatizes the Watergate investigation starring Robert Redford as Woodward, Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein, and Jason Robards as Bradlee.
They’re baaaack: Shawn Spencer (James Roday) and Burton Guster (Dulé Hill), the fake psychic team of “Psych,” will once again grace us with their astounding detective skills. “Psych: The Movie,” airing Thursday on USA, picks up three years after the series left off, with the team reunited at the holidays to solve an attack on someone close to home. As in any good holiday reunion special, all the regulars — Shawn’s dad, Henry (Corbin Bernsen), Juliet (Maggie Lawson), Lassiter (Timothy Omundson), and Chief Vick (Kirsten Nelson) — will be there, along with a few favorite recurring characters, and plenty of ’80s cultural references. The two-hour mystery begins at 7 p.m. Thursday on USA.
Holiday fare: Get in the spirit with these offerings: “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” 6:05 p.m., and “Elf,” 8:15 p.m., Friday on Freeform; “Office Christmas Party,” at 8 p.m. Saturday on Showtime; “The Great Christmas Light Fight” returns Monday at 8 p.m. on Ch. 27; and “Shrek the Halls,” 7 p.m., “Toy Story That Time Forgot,” 7:30 p.m., and the return of “The Great American Baking Show,” 8 p.m., Thursday on Ch. 27.