I don’t watch many reality competition shows, but I have watched Top Chef since it began. This is now its 9th season and it is nearing the conclusion of this year’s struggle, down to three chefs. Apparently the show has made a decision on how to draw ratings, other than have the enchanting Padma Lakshmi as host, which has always worked for me.

This season, they are replicating the marketing strategy that was employed in Season 2. That year, the chef who was regarded as the most inventive in the field, Marcel, was despised by some of his lesser opponents. Near the end, when it was obvious that he would win, two others decided to assault him the night before the final event. Not surprisingly, Ilan Hall, who abetted the attack, was victorious. Perhaps even less surprising, of all the winners who have opened their own restaurants, I believe Ilan’s is the only one that was closed because of health code violations. That was the sole time that a bullying strategy proved effective on the program. Until now…

Two of the women cooks, Lindsay and Sarah, decided early in the program that their best chance would be to sabotage other chefs who seemed to have a high skill level. Sometimes they did this by not assisting teammates, sometimes they berated competitors to the judges, all with the goal of succeeding by making others fail. Their strategy has now been proven to be effective, with both of them in the final round. The third cheftestant, Paul, should probably watch his back, or else he will find a few extra pounds of salt seasoning his dishes.

It doesn’t matter much to me. As long as Padma is the host, I’ll keep watching. I’ve often thought that Salman Rushdie’s problems were probably not too high a price to pay since it enabled him to be married to her for three years.