Change I can believe in
Bravo has finally released the vital details on their new season of Top Chef , and this time around the


Details Announced for Top Chef Washington D.C.: Eric Ripert For President

Change I can believe in
Bravo has finally released the vital details on their new season of Top Chef, and this time around the whole show is going to be centered in Washington D.C.--certainly an interesting and cosmopolitan destination, food-wise, and a perfect excuse for the producers to snag superchef Eric Ripert as a judge since he already has his Westend Bistro up and running inside the Ritz-Carlton at 22nd and M in our nation's capitol. (Former Top Chef contestant and Ripert protege, Jennifer Carrol, is currently running the kitchen at 10 Arts, in the Ritz in Philadelphia.)

This year's spread of chef-testants doesn't include any local talent (or, really, anyone from the Northwest at all), but does have someone who grew up near my hometown of Rochester, New York: Tracey Bloom, currently the exec at Table 1280 in Atlanta, GA.

Click through the jump for all the dirt, straight from the good folks at Bravo...

The 17 new cheftestants come face to face in the nation's capitol for the ultimate power play that will determine just who has the chops to become Top Chef.

This season captures the varied tastes of Washington D.C. and features appearances by some of the town's top names including Apollo Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, White House chef Sam Kass, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, Congressman Aaron Schock of Illinois, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, CIA Director Leon Panetta and NBC White House Correspondent Savannah Guthrie. The challenges featured will be some of the most creative and inventive yet: the chefs take over the concession stands at the Nationals stadium, go inside the CIA's closely guarded headquarters and literally receive out of this world direction on one challenge from a NASA astronaut orbiting Earth .

Once again returning to the kitchen, cookbook author, actress and host Padma Lakshmi presides over the judge's table alongside head judge Tom Colicchio, recent James Beard Award-winner and chef/owner Craft Restaurants, and judge Gail Simmons of Food & Wine magazine. Joining the series as a regular guest judge is Eric Ripert, award-winning chef and owner of the acclaimed Le Bernardin restaurant in New York City, the 15th ranked best restaurant in the world.

The 17 Top Chef: Washington D.C. cheftestants will be whittled down week by week as they compete to outshine their competition. The winning chef will receive $125,000 furnished by Dial Nutriskin, a feature in Food & Wine magazine, a showcase at the Annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen and will earn the title of "Top Chef."

Astronauts? The CIA? Nancy Pelosi? No, that's not jumping the shark at all.

Every year, I hope that Top Chef will get back to the days when it was a show about cooks actually cooking--not just about stunts, gimmicks, guest stars and product placement. Mostly, I am disappointed. But because I am an eternal optimist (what, I am!), I have high hopes yet again. I mean, nothing can suck like Top Chef Vegas did, right?


You can read bios on all the chefs here, and start marking your calendars now for the June 16 premier of the new season.

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