I caught some episodes of Top Chef on the Virgin America flight back from Seattle. They happened to be all but the final episode.
Normally I despise reality shows. This one caught me by suprise, I mostly enjoyed it. They keep the banal judging bullshit to a minimum during the show and the inevitable bit at the end is mostly bearable.
They focus on the food, the kitchen and the cooking. They talk to the chefs about their intentions and their execution.
I got my hands on the final episode and enjoyed it. Right up to the end credits where a small block of text flashes by.
Winning and elimination decisions were made by the Judges in consultation with producers. Some elimination decisions were discussed with Bravo.
So the whole thing is the stereotypical faked reality TV. The winner isn't the top chef, they're the ratings winner.
What a crock.