‘Top Chef’ Announces Contestants, Changes

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Top Chef will premiere November 12 with seventeen new cheftestants for us to love and hate. Cheftestants range in age from 21 to 44 and come from as far away as Finland. There's only one chef living in New York right now: 27-year-old Leah. If you know anything about her, fess up in the comments. Other things to look forward to this season: New judge Toby Young (so long, Ted Allen) and appearances by the Foo Fighters and actress Natasha Richardson. Also look for the inevitable visits from Wylie Dufresne, Rocco DiSpirito, et al. We'll add more biographical info throughout the day, but for now the official announcement from Bravo is after the jump.

BIG APPLE, BIG STAKES BRAVOS "TOP CHEF: NEW YORK" PREMIERES WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 12 AT 10 PM ET/PT

17 Sizzling New Chefs Take To Gotham Along With
Guest Judges And Stars Including Martha Stewart, Foo Fighters, Jean-Georges, Eric Ripert, Natasha Richardson And New Judge Toby Young

NEW YORK October 1, 2008 Bright knives, Big city. The fifth season of the No. 1 food show on cable, Bravos Emmy and James Beard Award-winning series returns with Top Chef: New York, premiering a super-sized episode Wednesday, November 12 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The 17 new chef'testants take on The Big Apple this season to see if they have what it takes to become Top Chef. Once again returning to the kitchen, cookbook author, actress and host Padma Lakshmi presides over the judges table alongside head judge Tom Colicchio, renowned culinary figure and chef/owner Craft Restaurants, and judge Gail Simmons, of Food & Wine Magazine. This season introduces new judge Toby Young, food critic and best-selling author of the book "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People," which was the basis for an upcoming film. In what will prove to be the most challenging season yet, some of the biggest names in food, music and entertainment including Martha Stewart, Foo Fighters, Jean-Georges, Eric Ripert, Rocco DiSpirito, Wylie Dufresne, Jean-Christophe Novelli and Natasha Richardson will be featured this season on Top Chef: New York.

"Being in New York this season, we've upped the ante because this is our home turf so the pressure's on for the chefs to impress us," said Colicchio.

The 17 Top Chef: New York cheftestants will be skewered down week by week as they compete to out-flavor, out-cook and out-do their competition. The winning chef will receive $100,000 in seed money to help open a restaurant, furnished by the makers of the Glad family of products, a feature in Food & Wine magazine, a showcase at the Annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen and will earn the title of "Top Chef." The Emmy-nominated Magical Elves return to produce "Top Chef: New York." Dan Cutforth, Jane Lipsitz ("Project Runway," "Top Design") and Shauna Minoprio return as executive producers.

Following are the 17 new Top Chef: New York cheftestants:

- Alex, 33 - Hometown: New York, N.Y.; Resides in Los Angeles, Calif.
- Ariane, 41 - Hometown/Resides in: Verona, N.J.
- Carla, 44 - Hometown: Nashville, Tenn.; Resides in Washington, D.C.
- Danny, 26 Hometown/ resides in: New Hyde Park, N.Y.
- Fabio, 30 - Hometown: Florence, Italy; Resides in Moorpark, Calif.
- Gene, 33 Hometown: Whitmore Village, Hawaii; Resides in Las Vegas, Nev.
- Hosea, 34 - Hometown: Taos, N.M.; Resides in Boulder, Colo.
- Jamie, 30 - Hometown: New York, N.Y.; Resides in San Francisco, Calif.
- Jeff, 30 Hometown: Niceville, Fla.; Resides in: Miami, Fla.
- Jill, 28 - Hometown: Latrobe, Pa.; Resides in Baltimore, Md.
- Lauren, 24 - Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio; currently stationed at Fort Stewart
- Leah, 27 - Hometown: Scarsdale, N.Y.; Resides in New York, N.Y.
- Melissa, 28 Hometown: Md.; Resides in Boulder, Colo.
- Patrick, 21 - Hometown: Quincy, Mass.; Resides in Hyde Park, N.Y.
- Radhika, 28 - Hometown/Resides in: Chicago, Ill.
- Richard, 27 - Hometown: Long Island, N.Y.; Resides in San Diego, Calif.
- Stefan, 35 Hometown: Tampere, Finland; Resides in Santa Monica, Calif.