Top Chef began after the huge success seen by its predecessor Project Runway. It took a real life skill that could not be hidden by camera edits because the contestants had to produce a finished product. Top Chef is a great program for all food lovers. You can see the most amazing dishes created in a matter of minutes or hours depending the challenge.
The premise is simple. The show starts off with a Quickfire challenge, which I consider the preamble to the show. The Quickfire is designed to see what the Chef's can do in a small amount of time using only their background and prior knowledge. They have no planning and almost always make it right down to the buzzer. Typically the bottom three and top three chef's are showcased. The bottom three are aware of what they did wrong and will have to "bring it" in the Elimination Challenge later in the episode. Typically the Winner of the Quickfire receives immunity in the Elimination Challenge competition, which can be great if the elimination challenge is not team based.
Then the show continues with the Elimination Challenge, which allows for more prep and planning on a budget of course, with limited access to the stocked kitchen. Sometimes the Chef's are so stumped they are even planning in the supermarket as they find items and go from there. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't. As I mentioned above the Elimination Challenge could be individual based or team based, but typically it is team based. So when a member of your team has immunity it just means that everyone else has to step up so your team does not fall behind. Some of the Chef's get lost and think oh, one of our team members has immunity so that means we won't be on the chopping block. Wrong!!
During the first season it was everyman/woman for his/herself and when they formed teams it was a nightmare. As the series has grown more contestants are realizing it is helpful if you can get along with your teammates. It not only helps you not get eliminated, but you turn out a better product for the guests to enjoy.
The judging only takes place at the event the Chef's are creating dishes for. Tom Coliccho is the "Chef" judge and he stops in the kitchen to see how the contestants are progressing. One season a Chef forgot an ingredient and Chef Tom saw that ingredient being prepped and commented at Judges' table about why did that ingredient disappear. The ingredient could have made the dish better and was subsequently sent packing. So his presence could be helpful or hurtful depending on which way you see it.
There is always a guest judge and recently they have brought in Anthony Bourdain and Ted Allen to spicen the mix up. This show is just great entertainment and always enjoyable. Sometimes a little to predictable, but every now and then there is a suprise. Bon Appetit!