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Cindy Margolis becomes first 'Celebrity Cooking Showdown' finalist

By Tim Andrews, 04/18/2006 

Something else to add to the celebrity profile of one-time Internet download queen Cindy Margolis: "takes instruction well." Cindy emerged as the winner of last night's NBC broadcast of Celebrity Cooking Showdown's initial first round competition, launching her into Thursday night's finals against the soon-to-be-revealed winners of the show's two additional Tuesday and Wednesday night first round competitions.

Trying to capitalize on success of shows like Dancing with the Stars, Celebrity Cooking Showdown is NBC's week-long cooking entry into the world of celebrity-themed reality shows. Similar to the Dancing with the Stars concept, the show pairs up marginally well known celebrities with professionals -- in this case chefs -- who are there to teach and coach the celebrities into preparing a three-course meal for a pair of judges, all under the watchful eye of a live studio audience.

The first three days of the event feature three celebrities, with the support of their master chef teachers, preparing meals against each other for the in-studio judges. The winner for each of the first three night’s competition is then placed into the finals (which will air on Thursday) to compete against the other night's winners.

After the final Thursday night competition, viewers of the show will be given an opportunity to vote on the presentation of the food in order to help decide the Celebrity Cooking Showdown champion, with the competition's results show to follow on Friday night.

Cindy Margolis prepares her three-course meal during Monday's broadcast of NBC's Celebrity Cooking Showdown reality series (photo credit Trae Patton/NBC.)
The three master chefs will be the same every night, only the celebrities with whom they are paired up with will change. The master chefs include well known restaurateur and celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, one of the stars from the cable's The Food Network, Cat Cora, and Govind Armstrong, a Los Angeles based celebrity chef. The in-studio judges will also be the same for each night of the competition, with Colin Cowie, a celebrity event planner, and Gael Greene, a restaurant critic for New York Magazine, filling the roles. The host for the show is television star and comedian, Alan Thicke.

The first night of the competition featured a culinary battle between Cindy, NFL football player Tony Gonzalez, and NBC soap opera actress Alison Sweeney. The round's star/chef pairs were Cindy and Wolgang, Tony and Cat, and Alison and Govind, and each were shown being trained for their three-course meal in a brief video introduction. In addition to their training sessions, each of the stars were given an opportunity to call in their chef/mentors twice for 2 minutes intervals during their 50 minute preparation time, and the master chefs were also allowed to assist their students during the final 5 minutes of the competition.

The lively audience also played along as the celebrities alternately went from panicking to hamming it up as quick paced food preparation and its pitfalls ensued. Cindy appeared somewhat clueless at times and early favorite Alison appeared to falter after burning her hand on a hot pan. Meanwhile Tony, who appeared initially lost on stage, made a huge comeback and finished his meal early -- even offering to "help" out his fellow contestants. After the initial jitters, all of the stars appeared to have fun and really played to the audience and the cameras while successfully completing all of their dishes (the recipes for which can be found on NBC's website).

Once all the dishes were completed, it was up to the judges Colin and Gael to try out the dishes and render their verdict. Both of the judges had nice things to say about Cindy and Tony's dishes, but Gael disliked Alison's desert. In the end, it was a 1 point victory for Cindy over Tony, sending her into the Thursday finals.

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