NBC and Bravo got together with major cruise lines and ripped off the idea for a "Top Chef" special from 3 producers who are now suing the networks ... and crying racism -- this according to a new lawsuit.
According to the court docs ... the three accusers pitched a reality show called "Walk the Plank" to Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Celebrity Cruise Lines. Thirteen chefs would compete against each other on a cruise ship with the winner becoming the ship's Executive Chef.
The cruise lines rejected the idea, but soon after that NBC announced the release of "Top Chef - Chefs At Sea" -- in conjunction with the cruise companies ... according to the docs.
The producers say they're especially galled by the alleged screw job because they say NBC's networks have an agreement with the National African American Leadership Organizations to increase diversity.
NBC hasn't responded to a call for comment.
The producers not only state in the docs that 2 of them are African-American -- they add that even though the third producer is not ... she is married to a Black man.