What parents need to know

Positive messages

Skill and talent are on display, along with some creative problem solving. But competition sometimes gets dirty and the tension causes contestants to undermine and bad-mouth others.

Positive role models

Arrogant personalities often prevent cooperative team behavior. The contestants are extremely competitive. Occasionally, a contestant will come off as both talented and nice. The judges are harsh, but appear to be fair.


Occasional knife cuts or other medical problems.


Varies depending on episode themes. In one episode, for example, contestants had to cook for a fetish party (meals include "The Total Orgasm" and "Tarts and T-ts").


"You're a douche bag," "your attitude is crappy," plus plenty of bleeped "f--k" and s--t."


Kitchen product and sponsor names are mentioned prominently, as in "Then I put the roast into my GE Monogram oven..."

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Wine is used as an ingredient; contestants are often seen drinking after work and occasionally appear drunk.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this reality series is a reflection of the real hierarchical power struggles in the restaurant industry. Produced by the same folks who put together the highly successful Project Runway, this show focuses on the nasty behavior between competitors instead of the cooking process itself. Critiques from judges are harsh, which may be hard for kid viewers to understand.

What's the story?

In TOP CHEF, aspiring cooks compete for the title of king/queen of the kitchen. The competitors face two challenges each week, in which they're judged by famous chefs and other notable foodies. First they must prepare a meal using a specific -- and often unusual -- ingredient under tight time constraints. The winner of this challenge is safe from elimination from the second challenge, which is to prepare another meal for a group of demanding clients. The last chef standing will receive, of course, the title of Top Chef, along with lucrative prizes they can use to jump-start their culinary career.

Is it any good?


Kids like to cook, but this show skimps on the process, focusing on personalities instead. The whiny, confrontational, self-absorbed contestants' language and behavior aren't age-appropriate for younger viewers, and they never show what it takes to work cooperatively as a team.

Also, some challenges aren't for young eyes. For example, one season had an episode that was all about preparing sexy, erotic food for a fetish ball. And another challenge revolved around cooking monkfish for a group of 10-year-olds; many of the competing chefs threw up their noses at the idea of preparing food for kids. Whose team won? The mom of three.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the challenges of working in a creative field under tight time pressures. What skills are required to make this situation successful? Also, how do you balance your individual creative talent while working cooperatively as part of a team? For kids interested in cooking, the featured meals may spur discussions about exotic foods or the process of preparing and cooking them.

TV details

Cast:Gail Simmons, Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio
Genre:Reality TV
TV rating:TV-14
Available on:DVD, Streaming

This review of Top Chef was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written bysander April 9, 2008

Interesting conversations

My 10 year old son loves to cook and he likes game shows and reality shows. He records his favorite shows fom food network and he asked to watch this one. I record them and pre-watch them and then we watch them together if I think the weeks shenanigans are OK. Most of the time we end up watching the show together and talking about how to play fair, good, creative ideas for recipes, and strange attitudes and behaviors by the chefs. I wouldn't let him watch it alone, but we have a great time watching it together :-)He has volunteered to start cooking one dinner a week as a result!
Adult Written byjohnny winkles April 9, 2008

Amazing show about food.

Oh, boohoo. go cry to your mommies this show RULES i love it. it teaches you about food and how to deal with a**holes. you all know what im saying. to all you haters out there: TOP CHEF IS THE BEST SHOW EVER CREATED!!!
Kid, 11 years old August 23, 2009

I love this show

I love this show! It's really good. I'm aloud to watch it.
What other families should know
Too much swearing


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