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"Top Chef" Washington filming: Want to party with Padma? Sign on the dotted line.

Padma, wait for us! Sources reported "excellent food," "mediocre wine" at the top-secret "Top Chef" taping we dared not enter. (Amy Argetsinger/The Washington Post)

The first tip-off this was no ordinary cocktail party: the start time, 12:30 p.m. on a Wednesday. But hey, we'll roll with that.

The second tip-off: Outside Mellon Auditorium on Constitution Avenue, we found what seemed to be all of Washington's cocktail circuit, under-40 division, waiting in the hot sun, dressed to the nines and fanning themselves with -- what's that piece of paper?

A five-page, single-spaced, small-type contract you had to sign to attend a taping of "Top Chef," Washington edition.

Have fun, guys -- see you on TV. D.C.'s cocktail circuit, waivers in hand, lines up for the "Top Chef" made-for-TV party at Mellon Auditorium. (Amy Argetsinger/The Washington Post)

Bravo's hit cooking-competition series has landed in D.C. to film a season that could air as soon as this summer, but a no-spoilers culture of secrecy surrounds. We arrived at the made-for-TV party hoping to chow down on the results of a gourmet challenge; instead, we got handed the contract by a production-team member who turned out to be Nicole Boxer, daughter of Sen. Barbara Boxer. Now let's see...

Aware of the risks of bad shellfish or undercooked food? Check.

Agree to be filmed and have our images edited, reproduced and broadcast in any way producers see fit? Sure!

Promise not to run for public office in the next year? Yep.

Promise not to rig the competition? Agreed.

Vow not to reveal anything that happens at the cocktail party? Uh -- we're reporters!

And so our "Top Chef" adventure had come to an abrupt end. Our contract unsigned, we turned to leave... and walked right past judge Tom Colicchio, heading into a side door with Eric Ripert, silver-fox celeb chef of NYC's Le Bernadin and D.C.'s Westend Bistro. And then host Padma Lakshmi, in a clingy moss-green dress, shielding herself from the sun's burning rays with a red parasol. In her small entourage, a strapping young man hauling a wicker bassinet -- is that her newborn in there?

"No photos allowed!" a friend frets. Hey, we didn't sign anything! A lousy photo, though. Sorry, it was Padma -- we panicked.

By The Reliable Source  |  April 7, 2010; 5:50 PM ET
Categories:  Parties  
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