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Meet the contestants who will heat up another season of 'Top Chef'

Contestants Sam Talbot (L), Carlos Fernandez
Sam Talbot and Carlos Fenandez are two of the fifteen new chefs vying for the winning spot on "Top Chef." (Michael Yarish/Bravo)

Tonight, Bravo's cooking competition/reality show ``Top Chef" returns to the air. The first season was jam-packed with back stabbing, name calling, emotional hissy fits, and, amid it all, creative cooking. So what will the second season offer to top that?

"A lot of drama, a lot of good food," says judge and chef/owner of Craft restaurants Tom Colicchio. And that's different how?

But there have been changes. For one thing, much-reviled host Katie Lee Joel has been replaced by Padma Lakshmi, a.k.a. Mrs. Salman Rushdie. The cookbook author/supermodel also appeared in the Mariah Carey movie "Glitter," so that bodes well.

Also, the show has moved from San Francisco to LA, but that doesn't mean it's gone totally Hollywood. (Which is not to say Hollywood doesn't rear its head on a few challenges.) "I'm not sure we even have any palm trees," says executive producer Shauna Minoprio. "We show a different LA than people think of. For the culinary world, there's all the cultural diversity. It's very cool and interesting and cutting edge."

And then there are the chefs. There are 15 at the start of this season, and as a group they're more accomplished than the first season's crew. Now there are master cooks, sous chefs, restaurant owners, executive chefs. Other than the two line cooks (one we predict won't last, one we think will), everyone seems pretty fancy.

But fancy doesn't mean well behaved.

"They do these outrageous things," Colicchio says. "People get jaded, they say it's all scripted, but none of it is. If someone was writing it, you wouldn't believe it."

So what do these drama queens have to say for themselves?

ILAN HALL, 24, New York City. ``I have a better grasp on what tastes delicious to the world than anyone else in the competition."

MARCEL VIGNERON, 26, Las Vegas. ``My dedication to gastronomy combined with my competitive nature and raw talent make me a contender."

BETTY FRASER, 44, LA. ``I represent every man and woman who gets great pleasure by preparing good food for others."

MARISA CHURCHILL, 28, San Francisco. ``I always enjoy my food more when I'm home sharing it with friends and family."

SUYAI STEINHAUER, 29, New York City. ``My unconventional training and background lend a unique flair and flavor to my food."

CARLOS FERNANDEZ, 36, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. ``I have run a top-rated, successful restaurant impeccably for 11 years."

CLIFFORD CROOKS, 28, West Caldwell, N.J. ``Why me? Loyalty, focus, drive."

JOSIE SMITH-MALAVE, 31, Brooklyn, N.Y. ``If anyone wants to get dirty with me, I'm the wrong person to get dirty with."

SAM TALBOT, 28, New York City. ``I have the mind of a chef and the soul of a chef. It's also a great way to win $100,000. HA! "

EMILY SPRISSLER, 30, Las Vegas. ``I'm the first in the kitchen, and I'm the last to leave."

FRANK TERZOLI, 39, San Diego. ``The flavor of my food is perfect. I am not a hack."

OTTO BORSICH, 46, Las Vegas. ``Thousands of candidates applied. I have already won just by being selected."

ELIA ABOUMRAD, 23, Las Vegas. ``I would carry the title Top Chef with honor. I will make you proud."

MICHAEL MIDGLEY, 28, Stockton, Calif. ``I will try some crazy stuff. Sometimes I like to gamble."

MIA GAINES-ALT, 32, Oakdale, Calif. ``In my world, the last word starts and ends with me."

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