EW Staff
July 25, 2007 AT 08:44 PM EDT

Of all the awesome things to happen to me while interning atEW this summer, one of the best was my visit to the set of Bravo’s Top Chef: Watch What Happens reunion special that brings back together contestants from the first twoseasons, the first five chefs eliminated from Season 3, and the judges who sentthem packing (with their knives). The one-hour special (airing tonight) offers behind-the-scenes footage noone’s ever seen, as well as secrets about how the show is made and what is still in store for this entertaining third season.(If I were a bettingman — and I am — I’d put my money on Brian. I know he relies too heavily on sea-food, butI think he’s got the charisma to win.)

The first person I got to talk to was Sandy, whose early dismissal was the most surprising of this season thus far. When asked if she was assurprised as me, she answered “I’m still shocked.” So am I, Sandy,so am I. I also got to talk to Clay, the first chef voted off this season. Iasked him if he had any regrets about having to leave so early, but heresponded quickly with, “No. I feel confident in where I stand as a chef.” Whichis cool, but I also feel confident that you did deserve to be the first one toleave.

addCredit(“Matthias Clamer”)

As fun as it was to talk to these aspiring chefs, the realthrill came when I got to sit down with all of the judges and discuss the future of the series. (Except for TomColicchio,who, unfortunately, was feeling really sick and only had a few minutesfor me — which is just as well since I experienced a, um, technicaldifficulty with my recorder.)  I asked them all the same question: Now that Top Chef has establisheditself has a bonafide hit, where would you like to see it go?

Padma Lakshmi was passionate about taking the show to the Big Apple. “I would like to see us shoot in New York. I mean, it is the culinary capital of North America”

Gail Simmons was into the idea of taking the show abroad.“I’d love to see us go global. I’d love to see us leave the States and takethese chefs really out of their element and really shake them up. Go to otherplaces around the world and show them what food really is; and all of us wouldget to experience different cultures’ cuisines.”

And Ted Allen? He just wants proper facilities.“Well, I was excited this year when we had bathrooms. Because last year we hadport-o-johns outside the set in this really crappy Los Angeles neighborhood. Can you picture Padma Lakshmiwalking up the steps into a port-o-john? Also, this season we had a reallygreat espresso machine on set.”

What do you think, Popwatchers:Would you like to see Top Chef go to New York?Would you like to see it go abroad? Which of the first five who voted off thisseason were you saddest to see go? Is this the best season so far?

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