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Gearing up for Top Chef Masters

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Wylie Dufresne makes a five-course meal for 3rd-graders in 30 minutes, using Uncle Ben's rice, sunchokes and a microwave (a completely fictional challenge, but you never know)?!

You know what we're talking about, people. It's almost time for "Top Chef Masters" -- "Top Chef" on steroids!

The spinoff of Bravo's popular competitive cooking show -- premiering at 9 p.m. Wednesday -- will feature 24 of the nation's (truly) top chefs, including the aforementioned Dufresne, John Besh, Hubert Keller, Rick Moonen and Chicago's own Rick Bayless, Art Smith and Graham Elliot Bowles.

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And If the first episode is any indication -- hint: it involves dorm rooms and hot plates -- chef groupies won't be disappointed.

The series is a slightly scaled down version of the original. Only one chef from each group of four advances to the final four weeks, though the usual quickfire and elimination challenge format remains in place. The chefs are playing for charity.

Understandably, the chefs are sworn to secrecy about what happened during filming in Los Angeles, but Jennifer Fite, Bayless' publicist, says, "It was the hardest thing Rick has done almost to date."

Bayless' competition: Cindy Pawlcyn of Napa, L.A.'s Ludo Lefebvre and Wilo Benet of Puerto Rico.

Fite says she had to beg Bayless to participate.

"Going back to doing mise en place and chopping onions ... these guys haven't done that in 15 years," she says. "And think about how old these guys are. Rick is fifty whatever. It was lot of work."

Meanwhile, expect Smith to be the crackup of his group because, as he told us, "Yes, it's a serious cooking reality show but the reality is it's television. People want to be entertained."

"Here I am with these big deal chefs and they're going to cook circles around me, but they sure as hell could not beat me in the funny part," Smith said.

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Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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This page contains a single entry by Janet Rausa Fuller published on June 8, 2009 9:00 AM.

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