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Bravo developing 'Top Chef Junior' spinoff for young teenage chefs


By Christopher Rocchio and Steve Rogers, 06/11/2008 

Bravo has apparently decided to take a chance and wade into Kid Nation's cooking grease-splattered waters.

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The network has announced it's developing Top Chef Junior, a new Top Chef spinoff that will follow a similar format to the culinary competition series but instead feature contestants most likely between the ages of 13- and 16-years-old.

"With Top Chef as the number one food show on cable comes the natural expansion in our food domain," said Bravo Media executive Frances Berwick. "With Top Chef Junior we're reaching a growing market and are developing a series that will teach and test the skills of younger aspiring chefs and appeal to the whole family."

Top Chef Junior will be produced by Top Chef producers Magical Elves and executive produced by Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz and consist of eight episodes.

According to a Bravo spokesperson, the network hasn't determined any additional show details yet, including whether Top Chef's host or judges will be part of the spinoff.

Top Chef premiered on Bravo in March 2006 and has since aired three more editions.  Bravo recently renewed Top Chef for a fifth season and casting is currently underway.

Top Chef Junior won't represent the first time a network aired a spinoff of a reality series featuring younger contestants, as Fox aired an American Idol spin-off in Summer 2003 called American Juniors.

Created by Simon Fuller and hosted by Ryan Seacrest, the show followed a similar format to Idol but featured contestants 16-years-old or younger. 

American Juniors premiered well -- averaging 11.7 million total viewers -- and Fox had initially planned to air a second season in Fall 2003.  However the show sagged in the ratings each subsequent week and ultimately attracted less than half of its premiere audience for its finale, causing Fox to drop the show from its fall schedule.

Kid Nation, which aired on CBS last fall, featured 40 young "pioneers" living on their own in the remains of Bonanza City, NM -- an alleged "uninhabited ghost town" -- for 40 days.  Critics savaged the series, citing concerns about endangerment and exploitation of the children, which were all between 8 and 15 years old. 

One of the main issues that had fueled criticism of the series was a letter in which Janis Miles, the mother of a 12-year-old female participant, told the New Mexico Attorney General's Office that her daughter had been in the face with grease while cooking potatoes on a wood stove and four other children had required medical attention after they accidentally drank bleach.

Kid Nation producer Tom Forman acknowledged the grease-spattering and bleach-sipping incidents took place but noted that the incidents could have happened "in any kitchen, in any school, in any home, in any camp" and the children had all immediately received medical attention.

The attorney general's office launched an inquiry into the show's production but eventually decided not to pursue the investigation any further, citing an absence of "any formal complaints to this office or request for investigation by any state agency."

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