Food & Wine releases profiles of both Ilan and Marcel, says they were written in advance

Food & Wine magazine has responded to yesterday’s apparently accidental release on its web site of the winner’s identity, which came in the form of a profile of one of the two Top Chef 2 finalists written as if the individual won.

Today on its web site, Food & Wine released a statement–and profiles of both Ilan and Marcel, both of which are written as if that person wins the competition tomorrow night. The full statement:

Yesterday, an intrepid reality tv fan found a Top Chef story on Food & Wine’s server. Food & Wine prepared profiles of both Top Chef finalists in advance of the last episode so that we had a story on the winner ready to publish immediately after the season finale. Now for everyone to see, here are profiles of both finalists, Marcel and Ilan. Watch Top Chef on Wednesday, January 31 at 10PM EST to find out the real winner.

That explanation is plausible, and assuming this isn’t all a brilliantly executed PR stunt, it doesn’t really make sense that someone searching around on the server would discover one profile and not the other, especially since the URLs are nearly identical (1, 2). And the explanation could easily be read as an attempt to disguise a simple, accidental mistake. While it would likely be difficult to write a brand-new profile of the loser in 24 hours, it wouldn’t be that hard to edit a profile of the runner-up to make it seem like it was written about the winner.

Perhaps I’m being overly analytical here but the profile of Marcel reads to me as though a paragraph or two was hastily added to make it appear as though he wins. Since the two profiles weren’t written by the same people, it’s possible the writer of Marcel’s profile, Kate Krader, just has a blunter writing style. Whatever the reason, her first paragraph ends haltingly with this line: “But when it was time for one chef to pack his knives and go, Ilan was sent home and Marcel was the surprise winner.”

The rest of the piece, except for four words (“To win the title”), is written as a straight profile that makes no mention of his win. In Ilan’s profile, however, Ilan’s victory is treated much more organically; for example, in the middle of the piece, Adam Sachs writes, “Now he’s won $100,000 in seed money and a fully loaded Sears Kenmore kitchen….”

Based on that alone, I’d guess that yesterday’s profile was the real deal, and some clever editing and rewriting has been used to attempt to mitigate the damage. This is a clever response, though; whoever wins tomorrow night, Food & Wine’s explanation will hold up. But if a new magazine partner is selected for Top Chef 3, we may know the reason why.

Top Chef on Bravo [Food & Wine]
Bravo’s New Top Chef Tells All [Marcel] and Bravo’s New Top Chef Tells All [Ilan] [Food & Wine]

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.