There’s the Top Chef blog, Top Chef reruns, the endless media fodder about Padma and Tom and Dave Martin’s new restaurant, and all the speculation about next season, which judge Gail Simmons tells us is definitely the best one yet. This being the aughts, though, the show needs to expand its mindshare in the off-season and has done so with a wireless game on AT&T; and Sprint. Top Chef Challenge proved impossible to download onto a new iPhone, but its creator sent us a phone with the game installed. It’s ridiculous, as is Top Chef, but like the show, it actually draws in some crazy way on the realities of cooking.
Some parts are just mindless: A dish-cleaning game is just another Tetris tribute, and the Tom and Padma figures that appear periodically to assist you, like Zeus and Hera appearing in battlefield visions, are even sillier than their TV counterparts. But the cooking challenge, where you have to keep track of three or more different dishes cooking at varying speeds, has a whiff of seared flesh and smoking oil to it; and the plating challenge, in which you have to remember what goes where on new dishes, is probably all too familiar to the weary line cooks that populate Top Chef. Most intelligent of all are the interactive conversations you have with your co-workers, where the wrong response will alienate them and stall your advancement to the game’s completion. Somebody definitely thought about Top Chef Challenge, and damn if it didn’t have its intended effect of keeping the show in our minds when we should have been thinking about more pressing matters (like getting off the subway at the right spot).