Let the drum roll begin. The season finale that "Top Chef" fans have been hungry for is upon us.
Yes, Maui will take center stage as Bravo cable channel's smash hit chef competition series gets ready to crown its champion in a two-part finale that will air next Wednesday, Jan. 29, as well as Feb. 5.
Filming on the Valley Isle wrapped up last fall, and it's been hush-hush until recently. Maui's newest luxury resort, Andaz Maui in Wailea, set the scenic oceanfront stage and hosted the cast and crew.
Judges Sam Choy Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio sip island vodka and rum drinks in fresh coconuts at the Andaz Maui in Wailea, the host property for the cast and crew, as extras, such as Andaz Executive Chef Brent Martin (in sunglasses at back left behind Choy).
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The crew of the Mo‘olele delivers food to the cheftestants.
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A hula dancer puts SPAM front and center.
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Joining celebrity judges Masaharu "Iron Chef" Morimoto (who has a restaurant at the resort), Emeril Lagasse, Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio will be Hawaii chefs Sam Choy (is he or is he not opening a Kaanapali restaurant soon?) and Peter Merriman, who owns two on island.
"I've done a lot of competition shows and Food Network shows and let me tell you, 'Top Chef' is the real deal," says Choy. "I'd hate to be a contestant because it's tough as nails. The crew really did their research and put SPAM in the final episodes and canoe crops. They had those poor guys wearing malo on the sailing canoe with foods like the ones brought here by Polynesians. It was off the charts. I can't wait to see it."
"We felt that the national exposure would be a great opportunity for our brand," says Merriman, who shut down his restaurant for filming. "Viewers will be able to experience the dynamic setting where Merrimans Kapalua is located. It's been our experience that television shows highlighting Hawaii and our restaurants help create dreams of one day vacationing here."
What: "Top Chef," the No. 1 rated food show on cable TV, will present a two-part finale on the No. 1 tourist island in the world.
Where: Upcoming episodes were filmed at Andaz Maui and Gannon's in Wailea along with Merriman's in Kapalua.
Episode 1116 - "Maui Wowie:" Airs at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29. The final three chefs learn which Last Chance Kitchen contestant will join them. In the Quickfire segment, they will cook with SPAM and canoe crops.
Episode 1117 - "Finale:" Airs at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5. The two remaining chefs must execute the best service of their lives while opening pop-up restaurants to win the title and the bragging rights to be "Top Chef."
For more details: Visit the Bravo channel website at www.bravotv.com/top-chef.
Beverly Gannon also closed her Gannon's in Wailea for two days to provide a venue for "Top Chef."
"Shows like my big, empty dining room with high ceilings and open walls," Gannon says. "It was just like when Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler filmed the movie, 'Just Go With It' here."
Groups of hand-selected VIP diners still have to keep "spoilers" secret until both of the episodes air.
But publicists did reveal that "Top Chef visited Kumu Farms, Surfing Goat Dairy, Ocean Vodka, Maui Gold Pineapple, Maui Brewing Co., O'o Farm and Iao Valley, a top island attraction.
"Having 'Top Chef' film here is another exciting ingredient that serves to highlight Maui's local chefs, farmers, fishermen and food producers," says Chris Speere of Maui Culinary Academy.
"We look forward to letting the diversity of Maui shine in this season's 'Top Chef' finale," says John Monahan, Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau's president and CEO, who, with Michael Stephens of Andaz Maui and Terryl Vencl of Maui Visitors & Convention Bureau, successfully negotiated to bring the show here.