One of my favorite shows on TV right now is Top Chef. Part of my love for the show, I must admit, stems from my love for host Padma Lakshmi, but, primarily, Top Chef is great for anyone who loves and appreciates food and is completely fascinated by culinary expertise.

Now in its fifth season, Top Chef, takes a select number of America’s “up-and-coming” food-smithes (usually around 20, I believe) through a series of culinary challenges to test their knowledge, creativity, speed, execution and overall stamina. This yearly competition has not only gained the respect and admiration of the entire culinary community, but, from what I can tell, has become THE premier vehicle for promoting food brands, too.

From Swanson’s Broth to Diet Dr. Pepper, brands are cleverly inserted into “challenges,” in hopes of becoming the key ingredient in each contestant’s dish. It’s actually quite brilliant…

Take for example, last weeks episode, in which, Quaker Oats, sponsored the “Quick Fire Challenge.” Chefs were given 30 minutes to prepare a unique dish, using their assigned ingredient (i.e. poultry, beef, fish, fruit, veggies) and, of course, Quaker Oats. As I watched, it was amazing to me how many things could be derived from basic oats (which Padma smartly refers to as the “wonder-grain,” prior to starting the challenge). When I think of oats, I think of oatmeal, granola, or, cookies, not using it as (a much healthier version of) the “breading” on my fried chicken. Earth Time, quotes former contestant, Spike Mendelsohn, who agreed:

“As viewers saw on last night’s show, Quaker Oats are nutritious, affordable, and one of the most versatile foods you’ll find,” said Chef Spike Mendelsohn, Top Chef Chicago chef’testant and owner of Washington, D.C. hotspot, Good Stuff Eatery. ” From an oat-based pie crust to a spicy oat-crusted chicken, Quaker Oats can be enjoyed throughout the day, extending a recipe and your wallet beyond the breakfast table. The Quaker Oats Viewer Quickfire Challenge is a really unique way for people to showcase their culinary talents with great-tasting Quaker Oats.”

Quaker adds…

As a trusted source of nutrition for more than 130 years, Quaker Oats are an easy and delicious way to add whole grains to your diet that gives you both value and nutrition. In fact, oats are one of the most studied foods for their heart health benefits. Quaker has more than 25 years of clinical proof that the soluble fiber from oats can help lower cholesterol as part of a heart healthy diet. At only about 40 cents per serving, Quaker Oats also provide essential nutrients, including thiamin, iron and fiber, which are lacking in most Americans’ diets.

Broadcast on a national stage with a (very) rough estimate of 2.5 million viewers per episode, Quaker Oats, was able to raise awareness of the overall health benefits of oats, as well as extend the grain’s perceived use and relevance in the mind of the health conscious consumer. And, who else but the market-dominator, stands to benefit from an increase in oat use? Yeah, brilliant…

There is no doubt, this episode will encourage me to look for more ways to insert oats in my life. And, that’s what it’s all about, right?