The television scene

Sailing the seas with ‘Top Chef’


Bravo’s Top Chef has dominated reality cooking show ratings over 10 seasons. Now it’s dominating the high seas.

Earlier this month, 16 chefs and hosts Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons joined almost 2,000 fans on the Celebrity Constellation out of PortMiami for “Top Chef: The Cruise.”

Fans chowed down on multiple dishes inspired by the show, participated in cooking demonstrations and even took in a DJ set by Top Chef Hubert Keller.

Simmons welcomed the interaction with the chefs aboard, as she met their families and “got to know them as people.”

“When we shoot the season, we spend no time with them,” she said. “When they’re on camera, we never see what goes on in the kitchen.”

Simmons and the passengers were able to interact with the chefs through multiple question and answer sessions, book signings and chance encounters.

Fans could also book a jeep expedition in Cozumel, which included a tequila tasting and Mexican-inspired cooking demonstrations with Top Chefs Casey Thompson and Tiffany Derry.

“There are those moments that aren’t programmed so to speak,” Simmons said. “One night I was dancing with friends and a bunch of fans were coming up to me and dancing with us. They were just happy to be there.”

Some of the Top Chefs even got to highlight their hidden talents. Fans jogged with Richard Blais, shot hoops with Paul Qui and played poker with Michael Isabella.

“They asked everyone to choose an activity that they love to do, that they could kind of bring people into that would make it a more authentic experience,” Simmons said.

Bravo’s first cruise went off without much of a hitch, according to Simmons. However, there was some concern at first over how mass-producing meals based off a Top Chef recipe would turn out. Celebrity’s chefs used Top Chef recipes to make some of the meals onboard, but still, “You lose control a little bit,” Simmons said of giving a recipe to another chef.

Besides cooking and watching food, fans had a barrage of questions. The Q&As were so popular they needed to be longer, Simmons said. “We didn’t schedule enough time to do it. . . . I would love to sit down with one of the stars of my favorite show. I would have a thousand questions.”

Still, Simmons appreciated the support onboard.

“It was overwhelming,” Simmons said. To be “captive in a situation with so many people who are fans . . . It was amazing to see so many people dedicated to what you do every day.”

Anthony Cave

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