Tom Colicchio says Top Chef 3 cast were “nominated” by real chefs; debut ratings up

The Wednesday debut of Top Chef 3 was watched by 2.024 million viewers, an increase of eight percent over last season’s debut, according to Bravo. There were 1.407 million viewers ages 18 to 49, a five percent increase.

Those numbers made it “the No. 1-rated food show on cable television across all demographics,” and to rub it in, Bravo notes that its show “outperformed ‘Next Food Network Star’ season three 9-11 p.m. premiere (06/03/07) by 100 percent among 18-49 (1.407 million vs. 705,000) and by 26 percent among total viewers (2.024 million vs. 1.606 million).”

Meanwhile, head judge and cranky bastard Tom Colicchio tells Newsweek that this year’s cast of chefs were cast based upon nominations from other chefs. He says that during the first two seasons, “half the chefs were talented; the others were kind of struggling.” To remedy that, he says, “part of the process was to call chefs that I know and ask them to nominate potential contestants, and so I think this season we have a much deeper talent pool.”

Newsweek asked him “[w]hich contestants came from that nomination process,” and Tom says “[a]ll of them, to one extent or the other. We had open casting calls, but even when we got down to 30 or 40 potential contestants, we treated it like a restaurant. We started calling chefs that they worked for and asking how they did in the kitchen.”

As to the show’s popularity, Tom says it’s “because it’s not about someone yelling and screaming and carrying on. It’s really about the food.” And the hazing.

Bravo’s “Top Chef 3 Miami” Returns as No. 1 Food Show on Cable [Bravo press release]
The Food Comes First [Newsweek]