The _Top Chef_ of your dreams may involve outrageous ingredients, inspired chefs, and aggressive, coolly-confident characters; mine apparently involves chefs marooned in space. In my dream _Top Chef_, the contestants, Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, and me, were all sent out to a far-away planet, along with a shipful of miners and farmers and builders, to establish a new colony (Gail Simmons had her own ship and went back to Earth between episodes). The winning chef would be the head chef at a brand-new luxury resort on a distant continent; the losing chefs would all be sent off, together, to colonize another planet.
Our trip to the new planet only took a few months, although we were all jammed pretty well together in our small staterooms on the spaceship “Nell, from Battle Beyond the Stars”:http://www.scificool.com/images/2008/09/battle-beyond-the-stars-2.jpg. When we landed, we found a world of tangled jungle vines around ancient trees, with sunny clearings in between. The chefs were set up in one clearing, living in mobile home-like structures we’d brought along; a few clearings away, the construction workers had begun to build a city around the base of a giant tree. A third clearing was paved over so that Gail Simmons’s faster-than-light Space Shuttle could spirit her in and out quickly, so that she wouldn’t be stuck doing her own makeup and looking like she did in that Western challenge last week.
I stayed on Nell, making sure that any essential supplies — non-stick pans, foie gras, insect repellant — were sent down. Every time a chef was eliminated, I sent a shuttle down to get them, then set them up in an escape pod and shot the escape pod into orbit around our new planet. At the end of the season, I chained all of the escape pods together, hooked them to a shuttle, and sent them on a year-long trip to a new, remote planet — the planet of the chefs. I hoped they all got along, because they’d have no-one but each other to keep company out there! Although I did know we’d sent ahead all the materials and ingredients to build and open a number of lovely, fully-equipped restaurants there.