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Did Web site spoil ‘Top Chef’ finale?

Chew on this, food fans: did one of your favorite magazines spoil the ending of the “Top Chef” competition?Food & Wine magazine’s Web site posted interview features Tuesday with the two “Top Chef” finalists in an attempt to prove it wasn’t working with inside information when one of the profiles was spotted a day earlier.Viewers will find out for sure Wednesday when the pre-taped compe
/ Source: The Associated Press

Chew on this, food fans: did one of your favorite magazines spoil the ending of the “Top Chef” competition?

Food & Wine magazine’s Web site posted interview features Tuesday with the two “Top Chef” finalists in an attempt to prove it wasn’t working with inside information when one of the profiles was spotted a day earlier.

Viewers will find out for sure Wednesday when the pre-taped competition between Ilan Hall and Marcel Vigneron is shown on Bravo. “Top Chef” has been cable’s most popular prime-time series in January.

Stop reading now if you hope to be surprised. You wouldn’t taste a dish before it’s done, would you?

Eater LA, a Web log devoted to Los Angeles’ restaurant and nightlife scene, said that for about 15 minutes a Food & Wine story identifying Hall as the reality-show winner appeared on the magazine’s Web site on Monday afternoon. Eater LA quickly trumpeted it.

Eater LA also noticed last week that Hall had quit his job at the restaurant Casamono in New York and was playing a song that talked about “money in the bank” on his MySpace.com page. The winner of “Top Chef” gets $100,000.

“I put two and two together and said this might be the spoiler,” said Lesley Balla, editor of Eater LA.

Jill Davison, a spokeswoman for Food & Wine, said the Hall profile hadn’t actually been posted, but that an intrepid fan managed to find it on the Web site’s server.

She said Food & Wine had prepared profiles of both Hall and Vigneron in advance in order to be ready to go quickly when the show aired and to “ensure confidentiality of the subject.” The Web site on Tuesday allowed people to click on the two profiles. The Vigneron story describes him as the “surprise winner.”

It wasn’t clear why the Hall profile was spotted on Monday and not the Vigneron one. Davison insisted a Vigneron profile had been done in advance and not hurriedly prepared Monday night so the Web site wouldn’t be seen as a spoiler.

An honest mistake? A nasty hacker? Or could this all be a publicity stunt designed to hype a magazine and a television show?

How could we be so cynical?

Bravo had only one comment: “You’re just going to have to watch what happens,” spokeswoman Cameron Blanchard said.