City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

And so it begins: “Top Chef D.C.” premiere

Top ChefWelcome back to the world of “Top Chef” — that strange and mythical place where bacon turns into foam and 300 Washington yuppies can be conjured up with the snap of fingers.

A lot has happened since we bid our goodbyes to the last TC crew in December:

  • Eli Kirshtein has moved to New York.
  • Kevin Gillespie has not opened a barbecue restaurant.
  • Hector Santiago has organized a gourmet tour of Peru and can occasionally be seen selling burritos on the sidewalk in front of his restaurant, Pura Vida.
  • And Padma Laskhmi. Ahh, Padma. She’s been a very busy omnivore. First, she had a baby. Then, thanks to a new sponsorship deal with Lipton, she joined the Tea Party and was promptly swept into public office as the representative from the 3rd congressional district in West Virginia. Because of her busy legislative schedule, the entire “Top Chef” operation has decamped to Washington, D.C.

And so it begins.

We meet our new crew of bacon-foaming aspirants on a Washington rooftop. (The National Gallery of Art, I think, but don’t hold me to this.) There is a lovely buffet table set up with raw ingredients. We meet our 17 newbies, too numerous to even bother catching all their names. A few standouts:

  • Tracey (above), our one Atlantan and chef at Table 1280 at the High Museum. She is mouthy. Maybe a little prone to getting her hackles up. When someone asks what her food is like, she says, “It’s good.”
  • Kenny from Telluride, CO, who seems to be a guy to beat.
  • Angelo, a New York hotsot, who seems to be the other guy to beat. Angelo engages Kenny in a one-sided conversation that goes something like, “I was just in Europe, ever hear of it? Or yeah? Well I was in Monte Carlo and ate at Louis XV. Do you even know what that is? Oh? You’ve been there? Will miracles never cease.”
  • John from Michigan, a middle aged white guy with Rapunzel-length dreadlocks who wears the permanent expression of a man with tempura-fried brain circuits. I’m guessing there was an unfortunate accident involving a toaster and spilled bong water. I love him.
  • Jacqueline, pronounced “zhak-LEEN,” a caterer our to prove herself in the full-service restaurant boy’s club atmosphere of TC.
  • Lynne, a 50-something chef instructor from the Culinary Institute of America, who didn’t do anything interesting beyond putting Camembert into ice cream, but we like her because she used to own Grappa in Buckhead.

So, with D.C. monuments in the background, T.C.’s elected officials — Tom and Padma — made a grand entrance and immediately start  them on the:


Our happy 17 must show their skills at mise en place, or getting all their choppables chopped. Peel 10 potatoes, brunoise (fine dice) 10 cups of onions and cut up four chickens. Then, make some sort of potato, chicken, onion business. Winner gets 20 grand. Go!

Kenny proves himself to be a machine. With his hands flying like Michelangelo to marble, he piles perfectly peeled potatoes by his station, and then he’s on to onions. O my God! He’s going to lose a finger if he chops this fast, but no. And then the chickens, which he can will into their constituent pieces with merely a look in his eyes.

Angelo, who comes in second, is not happy at all. He is the mise en place champ, not this cretin to claims to have eaten at Louis XV. If it’s any consolation, Angelo makes the chicken-onion-potato business that the judges deem yummiest of all.

Time’s a wastin’, so Tom announces the:

ELIMINATION CHALLENGE: Make a dish that represents where you come from

There will be an event. In some grand Washington space with pillars. And hundreds of yuppies will descend on your nibbles like vultures. You know the drill. Whole Foods!

Soon we’re careening through a new Whole Foods Market, and so and so — that jackal — buys up all the fish. And, ooh, this maple syrup looks good. I come from maple country. And — action shot! — a flustered cheftestant pushes his cart too quickly through an aisle and bumps into a display of organic quinoa crisps.

The chefs decamp to TC kitchen and do their thing. Jacqueline is not at all happy with the way her low-fat Upstate New York chicken liver mousse is coming out. Tracey makes shrimp and grits. John thoughtfully pours three bottles of maple syrup onto his head and says, “Wow, this feels like I’m back in Michigan.”

They go to the big, fancy hall — Jacqueline toting her bucket of grainy offal sludge and vowing to pull it off.

No one is ready, yet here they come: the army of mean yuppies. Also Tom, Padma, Gail Simmons and new judge Eric Ripert, the Le Berdardin chef. May we have some of your little plates of whozis-whatzis?

So, as expected, Jacqueline’s liver paste is vile. Tracey’s shrimp with maple-cheddar grits is meh. John’s maple mousse hair extensions are soggy and weird. Angelo hits it out of the park with his arctic char with pickled shallots, chilled tapioca, dill and bacon froth.

Angelo wins the two-fer. John gets sent packing. Tom tells him, “I think you’re a much better chef than what you showed us here today.”

I was very sorry to see John go. He might have made the show interesting.

35 comments Add your comment


June 17th, 2010
9:42 am

oh how I have missed your re-caps, John. Tracey better knock off making fun of Ohio. I am in awe of Kenny.

amy halpern

June 17th, 2010
9:57 am

Padma is not an elected official..where the heck did you get that information.


June 17th, 2010
10:13 am

Speaking of Hector, someone else decided to deep-fry a steak. Bad idea.


June 17th, 2010
10:13 am

angela, what was that kitchen collective you were talking about?


June 17th, 2010
10:23 am

Here’s the weirdest part, John. Did you end the super-long “Coming up this season on Top Chef” at the end of the episode? (You know instead of “next week on Top Chef”). I realized about 3/4 of the way through they show 5 chefs at NASA. I had to rewind it back to double-check. That HAD to be the 5 finalists. Seriously. Unless they divided the chefs up in teams of 5 and sent them to different places, which is highly unlikely. I won’t spoil if it is, but needless to say only one of ‘em isn’t a “shocker”.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by . said: [...]


June 17th, 2010
10:40 am

@Kenbud – well you know they always bring back eliminated chefs to assist towards the finale, so maybe that was a bit of misdirection?

It seems to me that each year, with each season, more and more “cocky” chefs are showing up as contestants. I can’t count the times last night I rolled my eyes at “I was this … ” or “I am the best at this … ” or “Really? You didn’t like MY food?”.

I miss the days of the token bad-guy (Steven or Marcel). Everyone else needs to head over to the walk-in and chill.

As for my faves, well – Angelo seems quite talented. I’m hoping Lynne does well. And I’m totally down for the home-town win from Tracey. But it’s too early for me to pick a true favorite.

Did anyone else think Padma’s stretchy-pants-white-vesty getup on the rooftop was just a bit unflattering??? :)


June 17th, 2010
10:57 am

I rooted for Richard Blais. I rooted for Kevin Gillespie. I will not root for Tracey. What a mouthy little b****. The sooner she’s eliminated, the better. No need for ugly (and I mean that in personality, not looks, though…) people to represent Atlanta.


June 17th, 2010
11:04 am

as usual, Atlanta stands no chance.

Rule .303

June 17th, 2010
11:12 am

Tracey just comes across as a miserable vallinaesque malcontent. Are we running out of talented chefs from Atlanta? Shrimp and grits? Really?

But I’m glad she represents the lesbian chef contingent because, you know, they’ve been so under represented on Top Chef.

Juliet Wittman

June 17th, 2010
11:16 am

Hey, John–Colorado’s doing pretty well, eh?


June 17th, 2010
12:41 pm

Kenny got robbed! I can’t wait to see Angelo fall on his arrogant face. He’s definitely not winning fan favorite from me.

BIG Richard

June 17th, 2010
12:44 pm

DC, about time, along with CHOPPED recruiting for DC chefs to make an appearance, but no DC chefs on the show in DC. Funny


June 17th, 2010
12:49 pm


Kelly Liken is a real Coloradan and may do well. But, Kenny? Not so much.

Kenny may list Telluride, Colorado as his home but he’s from Ohio. He has, as far as I know, no restaurants in Telluride and since I just spent 10 days there, I’m pretty certain Kenny’s Colorado roots are in where he chooses to live. That makes Kenny pretty smart, because that’s a lovely little patch of the planet. I’ll be rooting for him and Chef Derry who is an executive chef in Dallas after getting a start in an IHOP in Beaumont, TX about 10 years ago. Talk about a metoric rise from the waffle iron.


June 17th, 2010
12:49 pm

I can’t speak for Tracey’s looks or ability, however Shrimp & Grits was a perfect representation of Atlanta. Shoot, if she had made it as good as Murohy’s she probably would have won!!!!


June 17th, 2010
1:10 pm

I think Tracey did a fine job of representing for Atlanta and she was funny! Definately on team Bloom


June 17th, 2010
1:14 pm

Murphy’s shrimp & grits are not that good. I would rather take the 5 hr drive to Hominy grill.


June 17th, 2010
2:52 pm

Funny comments! I know John – the chef from Michigan – and we were all shocked to see they let him go. He is a fantastic chef and, you were right, he would have made the show super interesting! Still, I’m going to stay tuned. It won’t be the same without John, though:(


June 17th, 2010
3:39 pm

“Angelo, a New York hotsot….” Oh, the images that conjures up.
John from Michigan’s departure is a real loss. On many levels.


June 17th, 2010
4:25 pm

@Rodney …. There were 5 chefs, standing in a row … at NASA. (that’s all I’ll say, as not to spoil), so unless they divided the teams up by 5 and sent them to different venues (possible, but weird) … I seriously think they showed some major spoilage.

@Patrick ….

[...] – My recap of Wednesday night’s season-opening episode of “Top Chef” [...]


June 17th, 2010
4:34 pm

gotta say . . . not impressed with Tracy at all . . . she seems so mean-spirited and just a plain negative person. Had much more fun with Richard Blais, Hector, Eli, and Kevin. They wanted to win, but they weren’t a**holes about their competition.


June 17th, 2010
5:37 pm

“I’m guessing there was an unfortunate accident involving a toaster and spilled bong water. ”

Instant classic.

amy halpern

June 17th, 2010
8:18 pm

And Padma Laskhmi. Ahh, Padma. She’s been a very busy omnivore. First, she had a baby. Then, thanks to a new sponsorship deal with Lipton, she joined the Tea Party and was promptly swept into public office as the representative from the 3rd congressional district in West Virginia. Because of her busy legislative schedule, the entire “Top Chef” operation has decamped to Washington, D.C. —- WHERE DID YOU FIND YOUR FACTS ON THIS…SHE IS NOT AN ELECTED OFFICIAL,,IF YOU GOOGLE HER…NOTHING TO THAT EFFECT COMES UP…ID LIKE TO KNOW WHERE YOU GET YOUR FACTS


June 17th, 2010
8:56 pm

Amy – its a joke idiot

Tracy is awful


June 17th, 2010
10:12 pm

@ Amy Halpern, you sounded like a housewife zonked out on diet pills the first time you posted, the second time you just sounded like a stupid bitch…………….. It’s called humor IE: reading moronic comments by you requires a sense of humor.

Regarding Tracy: I have it from an extremely good source that she doesn’t make it too far, nor should she……..When she said “I was disappointed with the lack of Lesbian representation” I was done with her.


June 18th, 2010
5:21 am

Boring. What a lackluster season so far. These chefs all come off as third rate Applebee’s cooks. I’m not even sure I trust the JB nominees.


June 18th, 2010
7:34 am

I can’t believe that someone researched whether Padma was a representative from WV. Thank you Amy for giving me a huge laugh. Dumb people make me laugh. Bet you wish there was a “Delete my comment” button on here.

To ATLien – One episode does not make or break a season. Saying, “what a lackluster season SO FAR” makes it seem like we’re 4 episodes in.


June 18th, 2010
8:28 am

Thought John’s dish was pretty lame compared to the others, but I’d rather see him on the show than some of the others. And I’d rather eat his dish than that awful looking chicken liver mousse. Tracey reminds me of Rosie O’Donnell – on a bad day.

John Kessler

June 18th, 2010
10:03 am

AJ — Give Amy a break. She doesn’t know that I’m a completely unreliable narrator


June 18th, 2010
11:28 am

Why do they insist on putting these poor cooks on hot roofs to perform and sweat in their sauces — gross.

And speaking of gross, did you see Pelosi in the previews. Do you think she really eats? I assumed she was just a blood-sucker.


June 21st, 2010
9:30 am

According to Gail Simmons’ blog, the Quickfire Challenge was on the rooftop of the Newseum.


June 25th, 2010
6:17 pm

Who’s eaten at table 1280? I have and Tracy is an amazing and considerate chef. I have some weird food allergies and when the waiter couldn’t answer all my questions (after 2 trips to the kitchen), she came to our table, found out what I couldn’t eat, and then made me a special, off-menu meal. Plus my 2 friends visiting from Ohio who are Major Foodies, thought theirs (from the regular menu) was an incredible meal. I am a little dismayed by how she is coming off on the show…not the same personality that I saw that night.

Georgia Belle

June 27th, 2010
11:41 am

I missed the original airing of the premiere and didn’t want to believe the comments about Tracey. Today is a repeat on Bravo and I saddened by her attitude and comments. I am a local and embarrassed by her poor sportsmanship. Come on, Tracey! This is the South – we are able to achieve great success with out all that nonsense.

Monica Ricci

July 17th, 2010
3:17 pm

I too, used to LOVE Top Chef. I’m still watching thanks to the miracle of the DVR, but it’s not like it used to be. I’m sick of the over-the-top smiling and head-nodding that goes on when Padma is talking about the next challenge where they’ll have $3.75 and four minutes to make a gourmet meal out of Cap’n Crunch and a hard boiled egg. They’re all so misty-eyed and enthusiastic about it, when you know damn well they want to furrow their brow and go “What the f*** Padma???”

I’ve done reality TV before so I understand the concept of the camera flattening you out so you do have to bump your energy level a bit. And I get that they don’t want the peeps being Debbie Downers on camera, but jeez the contrived “I’m-just-all-a-quiver” excitement over the stupidest stuff is just getting OLD.

Damn I’m cranky today aren’t I?