Chef Sang Yoon prepares a dish at the "Top Chef Masters" Season 5 Premiere Tasting Event presented by Chase Sapphire Preferred and Bravo at 82 Mercer on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 in New York. (Photo by Evan AgostiniInvision for Chase Sapphire Preferred/AP Im
LOS ANGELES — As fans wait for the new season of “Top Chef,” which is set to take place in New Orleans and premieres in October, Bravo has decided to serve them an appetizer. The network will release a six-episode prequel series online, “Padma’s Picks,” in which longtime “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi takes to the streets of the Big Easy to find local talent who will compete for a spot on the cable show.
All six episodes will be released Aug. 14 online at bravotv.com. The winning competitor will advance to “Top Chef: New Orleans.”
“Padma’s Picks” is unusual because it’s solely Lakshmi’s vote that will decide the outcome rather than a panel of judges as on “Top Chef.”
“It’s more documentary style than ‘Top Chef’ and is meant to really get people excited about New Orleans,” said Lisa Hsia, executive vice president of Bravo Digital.
Bravo has been aggressive in using new forms of media to extend its brand — allowing viewers to interact with television through social media and providing expanded digital content. Transmedia, as it’s called, extends the viewing experience across multiple platforms, connecting fans and increasing viewership.
“Top Chef: New Orleans” will be accompanied by another edition of “Last Chance Kitchen,” a digital series that premiered during Season 9, “Top Chef: Texas.” “Last Chance Kitchen” brings back eliminated chefs and gives them another opportunity to prove themselves. The winner has the opportunity to return to that season’s “Top Chef” but must also overcome the ingredients that got him or her eliminated the first time around in a quickfire-style challenge.
“‘Last Chance Kitchen’ was born out of the digital team’s challenge to use leftover footage; we needed to create something that was essential to storytelling,” Hsia said.
When “Last Chance Kitchen” ran during the most recent season, “Top Chef: Seattle,” it got 9.5 million screen views and was the most-viewed digital series in the history of NBCUniversal, Bravo’s parent company, she said.
Bravo introduced another redemption-type spinoff that is running in combination with Season 5 of “Top Chef Masters,” which premiered July 24. “Battle of the Sous Chef” is a solely digital offering in which three sous chefs of the “master competitors” are given their own competition.
“It’s a fascinating look at the master chef and his protege,” Hsia said. “The sous chefs are very worried about not performing well for their bosses.”
The digital series is intertwined with the cable series, showing flashbacks of each, and the results of “Battle of the Sous Chef” can bring challenges to the master chef if the sous chef performs poorly.
A master chef, for instance, might be required to use only a butter knife in his food preparations if his assistant is at the bottom of “Battle of the Sous Chef.”
“Transmedia really extends a show from one hour to a full week,” Hsia said. “It keeps fans engaged beyond just the traditional TV window.”
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