Bravo sweetens franchise with new spinoff

Bravo’s “Top Chef” is finally getting its “Just Desserts.”

Cabler has cooked up another spinoff of its popular “Top Chef” franchise, but this time focusing on the sweet stuff. Casting gets under way this week for “Top Chef: Just Desserts,” which is set to air sometime in 2010.

“Just Desserts” will pit pastry chefs against one other in a weekly elimination competish similar to the original “Top Chef.”

Desserts occasionally make an appearance on “Top Chef,” but as Bravo exec VP-general manager Frances Berwick noted, even the show’s top “cheftestants” frequently trip up while trying to whip up such concoctions.

“Their Achilles heel is usually the desserts,” Berwick said of the “Top Chef” cooks. “As this has gone on, we’ve been thinking that it would be fun to do a ‘Top Chef’ with experienced pastry chefs. We’ve had a few pastry chefs on ‘Top Chef,’ but they haven’t gone too far. It’s just a different skill.”

Berwick said there’s no host or judges in place for “Top Chef: Just Desserts,” but decisions will be made over the next few weeks.

Magical Elves, which produces “Top Chef,” is also onboard for “Just Desserts.” Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz are exec producers, along with Casey Kriley.

“Just Desserts” pickup comes soon after Bravo also picked up a second season of “Top Chef Masters,” which pits established, well-known chefs against each other, playing for charity.

Like “Top Chef,” the pastry chefs in “Just Desserts” will live together and face an elimination each week. (“Masters,” on the other hand, was conducted in a tournament style, with different chefs facing off each week until the final round.)

In adding a third edition of “Top Chef” to the schedule, Berwick said Bravo now hopes to have some sort of “Top Chef” presence on the network’s schedule throughout the entire year.

“We’re finding people really love this franchise, and there seems to be no end to the interest in it,” she said.

“Top Chef: Just Desserts” comes as several networks have added cake-related programming to their skeds in recent months — including TLC’s “Cake Boss” and “Ultimate Cake-Off,” in addition to Food Network’s “Ace of Cakes” and WE TV’s “Amazing Wedding Cakes.”

Berwick ascribed some of the “Top Chef” franchise’s success to the growing interest in cooking shows.

“There is a phenomenon going on right now, where people are very interested in the cooking space,” Berwick said. “I have to believe this is recession-related. People are enjoying the experience of cooking at home, because it’s cheaper than going out. We’re building off that phenomenon.”

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