Angelo, one of the crush-worthy contestants on the
Season after season I tell myself it's all about the food, but who am I kidding? There something about a guy who cooks...competitively. Ever since the first season of "Top Chef," I've fallen hard and fast for at least one contestant (give or take a judge). For season eight, former contestants from the past seven rounds have returned to duke it out for the title. Just seeing so many familiar faces is reason enough to round up my loves and lusts from seasons past.
First love: Harold, Season 1
The first ever "Top Chef" winner didn't have the machismo or pectorals of your standard TV hunk but that didn't matter. Harold had integrity. "I'm a cook," he'd say time and again to explain why he didn't care about pandering to the camera. He abided by the rules of the kitchen not the rules of reality TV. Harold's chef Bible clearly stated: help someone out if they're 'in the weeds.' And although his slouch suggested meekness, he was strong as Hercules where it counted: flavor. He's since moved on, opened up a celebrated New York restaurant and I think (from MySpace stalking spurts) he's married. Sigh.
Out-of-my-league crush: Sam, Season 2
Tall, lean, but at times vulnerable-who didn't swoon every time Sam offered up his Diabetic-friendly-fare? He was the kind of guy who was probably captain of the football team in high school, but after, say, enrolling in a freshman year women's studies class and joining a local jam band, became a little less mainstream. Still, I pictured him patting my head with the affection of a big sister's boyfriend--even in my fantasies. So while I publicly agreed with the popular vote...
Secret crush: Ilan, Season 2
...I privately harbored a 'thang' for the guy who felt a little more in my league. Ilan, was the whiny saffron-loving season winner who never really won the viewers' hearts. But I liked his look. Sneakers, a Karate Kid headband, architect glasses and a stupid haircut really gave that dowdy "Top Chef" uniform an edge. But after seeing him complain and continuously torture Marcel (who was annoying but didn't deserve the treatment he got), I was turned off. Kind of.
Ginger crush: Dale, Season 3
Dale's into dudes, but that didn't stop me from pining like a schoolgirl for this dusty, scruffy redhead. His slacker style rivaled Ilan's, but he carried it off even better, thanks in part to his self-deprecating humor.
Mentor crush: Tom, Top Judge
Come on. Don't tell me you've never thought about it. He singlehandedly proved a middle-aged, bald dad can out-sex an entire room of Sams. I attribute his appeal to wisdom-backslash-confidence-dot-edu. When the series launched, reality judges were brutal. The Simon Cowell school of cruelty was a ratings juggernaut. But Tom didn't cave. He reinvented the reality show judge as mentor, offering support and insight to new chefs, kudos to solid meals, and sexy side-grins to recipes that didn't seem promising. My Spidey senses tell me his good instincts surface not only in the kitchen, but in the bedroom. BA-DA-BING. (No she didn't!)
Total fling: Michael V., Season 6
He's that skate-boarding, tattoo-sleeved, rebel chef, who doesn't do things by the book like his big brother. Sexy at first, but by the end of the season it got tiresome. He was prone to tantrums in the kitchen and didn't possess the kind of maturity of a Harold. But in the words of whoever coined the phrase: I wouldn't kick him out of bed. At least, not until breakfast time--then I'd coax him into making me some rehydrated futuristic eggs Benedict with his whirly-gig cooking gadgets.
Team-changing crush: Ashley, Season 6
Michael's biggest competition in the crush department was Ashley, the Pacific Northwest dead-sexy lesbian who stole my heart. She wasn't the best chef, however her firm but generous approach to the competition had me at hello. That may also be because she had a really soothing voice.
Pre-pubescent crush: Jeff, Season 5
Had I been 9-years-old when this season aired, I'd definitely have replaced my TeenBeat poster of Chad Allen with this guy.
'I've no idea what he's saying but I like it' crush: Eric, Guest Judge
You had to really listen when Eric Ripert weighed in on a dish as a guest judge on the past few seasons. Sometimes his French accent was so thick the editors just slapped in subtitles. But like Tom, a fellow superstar of the culinary world, his tenderness took me by surprise. Ripert never tore into a contestant for the sake of drama (like someone else, cough, Toby Young, cough). In fact, he was so supportive of self-doubting season six contestant, Jennifer, it could bring you tears. Tears of lust.
Serious crush: Angelo, Season 7 and 8They say it always happens when you're not looking for it. And by the seventh season of the series, I wasn't. But this guy stole my heart. An excellent chef with a cockiness that belied his soft voice, he wasn't above admitting occasional defeat. (Remember when he fell for the flavor of Amanda's ribs over his own dish?) He had the edginess of Michael V., the integrity of Harold, and when his hair wasn't all gelled up like a frick-in Gotti brother, the smoldering appeal of Sam. As one of the all-star chefs returning for a new season, I'm prepared to take my crush to the next level: Facebook fan page friend-ing. Be gentle with me, Angie.
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