Another elimination, another season of Top Chef, the ninth, come and gone. The number of chefs who participated in Top Chef: Texas — 29 — was almost double the number in seasons past, and in the end it was Paul Qi who the other 28 chefs were left envying as the winner. But it wasn’t only the increased number of contestants that made Qi's victory impressive, and it may not only be the chefs who end up being jealous. Bravo’s introduction of Last Chance Kitchen, the short webisodes which pitted eliminated chefs in a winner-takes-all competition, upped this season’s difficulty level by eventually reintroducing a contestant late in the game. And its performance will likely have other food reality television shows considering their own online additions.
According to LostRemote.com’s exclusive report courtesy BRAVO’s Lisa Hsia, the 8 million-plus video streams across the web, Hulu, VOD, mobile, and iTunes made it the most streamed video series at NBC Universal ever. Votes for Fan Favorite were up more than 23 percent versus the most recent regular season of Top Chef, LostRemote reported. Unique Twitter handles mentioning Top Chef grew 25 percent over the course of the show, and unique Twitter handles mentioning Last Chance Kitchen almost doubled in the same time period.
Toward the end of the show, 26 percent of the Top Chef audience was watching Last Chance Kitchen. According to LostRemote, when Nyesha got beaten by Bev after a five-time winning streak, Last Chance Kitchen: Bev versus Nyesha captured 26 percent of the social conversation. "And streams increased 18 percent that week, including Last Chance Kitchen trending worldwide on Twitter. Indication that social messaging can boost scale," Lost Remote reported.
So given that, will Bravo bring back the Last Chance competition?
"I don’t know," said the online show’s host Tom Colicchio, who added that he thought the series went really well, but that he and his co-stars still don’t know where or when they’re shooting the next season. "Obviously it’s not going to be a surprise for the chefs next time."
Still, from an editorial and viewer standpoint, chef Colicchio saw the series as something worth doing again. "What it did was answer the complaint that people have had in the past when chefs go early, because in past seasons, like with Tre, and with Tiffani in All-Stars, they exited a little too soon. I thought it was really cool. It was really down and dirty."
Down and dirty in that it took half an hour to shoot an episode, Colicchio explained, whereas each full episode of Top Chef took 32 hours to shoot, 16 hours a day.
But couldn’t you make the same argument about Last Chance Kitchen? That someone like Nyesha, who successfully defended herself four times in the web series, perhaps more deserved a shot to return than Bev, who only did the same three times?
"Well, that’s the nature of the competition," said Colicchio, who noted the closeness of the competition between the two chefs. "Listen, we don’t set anything up. It’s hard to do. It’s going to be hard for someone to get in and get to the finale. It’s would be tough. It can’t happen very easily. But you could get on a run and put out some great dishes."
Another benefit besides the great food? As much as the chef enjoys the company of his co-stars, this show put him on his own. "It was quick," he said laughing, "and I didn’t have to consult with anyone on it."