D Magazine’s Loren Means loves to watch Top Chef. Therefore, she volunteered to watch all of the episodes this season and write a recap. She’s a Texan and she’s on Texan stereotype alert. Go, Loren.
Top Chef is back and according to Bravo’s tagline for the show, “Everything is Bigger in Texas!” Wow, I wonder where they got that idea. Note to producers: We are bigger than France. And our buildings are NOT bigger than those in New York. So there’s one strike. I suggest you change your promotion from bigger to better. On to the show.
After meeting most of the cheftestants last night–not all 29 of them, but most–I think it’s safe to say we have some very talented people on this season. Tom Colicchio appears more aggressive this season and he kicked them off Simon Cowell-style. Grrr. I like this Tom.
Oh, it gets better.
Well, the cast of 29 very excited chefs is certainly large. Last night the enthusiastic contestants congregated in front of the (small) Alamo. Padma shows up to greet them and also inform them that only 16 will continue on to compete. Chris C. is so excited to see her! “Damn, Padma looks hot. I have to stay in this competition just so I can look at her.” (Note to Chris: as a non-participating viewer I will see gobs of Padma. If your main focus is to stare at Padma – go home and turn on the TV. Lord, I already don’t like him.)
Once all the excitement settled, Padma welcomed the cheftestants to San Antonio and, for me, this moment felt a bit like the Travel Channel meets the Food Network. Padma, dressed in a long flowy pink strapless dress, welcomed the group who stood in front of the Alamo. They could have been standing in front of a tree. She made no reference to the significance of the building which, for many of us, represents the brave men who battled Santa Anna’s army. Ozzy Osbourne peed on the Alamo and PeeWee Herman, well, I’m sure they will get to Mr. Herman’s contribution to Texas history in a future episode.
The opening shot dissolves. We reopen in a kitchen!
We meet Group 1 which is comprised of 10 chefs. There are several executive chefs, a couple chefs de cusine, one personal chef/caterer who later introduced himself as a “chef to the celebrities”, one self- taught underdog, and one who is currently “between jobs.” Immediately, we see some clear front runners. Emeril Lagasse is the guest judge for the Quickfire in which the chefs are presented with a whole pig and they must each choose a cut to prepare for the judges. Once the chefs have made their decisions, two volunteers jump forward to butcher the pig. Hilarity ensues.
Well, not really but I was laughing outloud as a vegan chef, who hasn’t worked with meat in 10 years, attempted to slice out the ribs while the “chef to the celebs” attacked the pig, Lord of Flies-style. He wielded a saw and boasted that he never has to butcher his own meat because his clients are wealthy. Fortunately, Chris Jones of Moto, steps in and relieves his vegan friend, Collin. Also fortunate, no one steps in for Stone, Chef Tyler Stone. Tom Colicchio strolls up shortly after Tyler has hacked the tenderloin in half. Horrified by such atrocities, Tom practically donkey kicks the kid out of the kitchen mid-challenge. After putting up a little fight and a final “fair enough” Tyler leaves and I laugh. I like this season’s Tom.
The other 9 chefs are able to finish their dishes and present them for Tom, Padma, and Emeril to judge. Some chefs will get the majority vote and receive a chef’s coat; others will be put on “the bubble” and have to compete again later for one of the 16 spots.
Earning a chef’s coat in this group are Heather, Nyesha, Chris J., Richie, and Sarah. Grayson, who is between jobs, and Molly, who claims to be a fine dining chef aboard a cruise ship which is a total oxymoron to me, are sent to “the bubble” while the sweet vegan, Collin and the heart- warming underdog, Simon are sent packing. (Like a vegan chef had a chance at winning this? Not fair.)
Next up is Group two. Wow, you can almost smell the pedigree in the room. Everyone in this group is an executive chef, a restaurant owner, or a chef de cuisine. All have worked with incredibly talented chefs and all brought their A game. All but Nina. Gayle joins us as the judge for this Quickfire where the chefs must choose a main ingredient as a group. (Team building time!) They are presented with several choices but ultimately all decide that rabbit is the most versatile. Everyone flies into action, and when the buzzer goes off, Nina is caught with an un-plated Thumper. Bye Nina. Dakota, Whitney, Chuy, Chris C., Keith, and Ty-lor all receive chef’s coats. Janine, who didn’t get her sauce on the plate, and Edward, whose rabbit was undercooked, are sent to “the bubble” where they remain to fight another day.
Episode one ended with 11 spots filled, four chefs on “the bubble” and 10 cheftestants in group three waiting to compete. With only 4 spots left, the pressure is certainly on for group three.
I think this will be an exciting and fun season and I can already see we will witness some excellent talent in the kitchen. After next week, we’ll have the final sweet 16 but, for now, Keith, Nyesha, Sarah and Heather have my vote. Would love to hear your favs.
Happy tails to you until we meet next week.