Telemundo's Quickfire Challenge: Launching 'Top Chef

Series marks producer Magical Elves' first foray into Spanish-language market

Telemundo is giving a big push at the Television Critics Assn. press tour to its “Top Chef Estrellas” reality series.

The Feb. 16 launch of the Spanish-lingo rendition of the Bravo culinary competition is a priority for the network and for “Top Chef” franchise producers Magical Elves.

“We’re excited to get into the Latin market — it’s one of the few where there’s real room for growth,” said Casey Kriley, Magical Elves’ senior VP of current programming.

In a departure from the Bravo original, “Estrellas” features eight celebrity contestants, including telenovela stars David Chocarro and Cynthia Olavarria (pictured). The stars compete to raise money for charity, and “no one’s packing their knives and going home,” Kriley said.

The 13 “Estrellas” episodes were shot in a two-hour format, and will air as a three-hour block on Sunday with an hourlong post-show recap seg. Telemundo scored last year with “La Voz Kids,” a youth-centric rendition of NBC’s reality hit “The Voice.”

Putting actors on a reality show is a first for Telemundo with “Estrellas.” It’s an experiment in seeing how the audience responds to seeing their favorite stars out of character.

“My hope was just not to burn anything,” Olavarria joked during the breakfast sesh. She got a big laugh by describing her initial response when she was approached for the show. Cooking, she noted, is not her natural forte.

“If I cook my own food I’ll get fat, and that’s not what I’m looking for,” she said.

The experience of doing the show with celeb contestants added a fresh twist to the format, Kriley said. She was pressed about whether such a rendition was in the cards for the Bravo series.

“For Magic Elves, it’s possible, and I think Bravo would be very open to it as well,” she said.

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