Oh, Top Chef. After the gimmick-ridden mess that was Top Chef Texas, I’m heading into this new season in Seattle feeling like you are the crazy ex-girlfriend that I just can’t seem to stay away from.
After some of the more contrived stunts from last year – remember the whole cross country skiing/shooting challenge or the Alamo bike ride to serve Pee Wee Herman? – I was ready to break up with her for good.
But, here we are, and it is the premier for the 10th season of Top Chef. And here I am, convincing myself that it will be different this time, that she isn’t as crazy as she used to be. But she just looks so good in a chefs coat, know what I mean?
Much like Texas, we start off this season in the last phase of tryouts, with some more fat to trim before we have our final line up. Fortunately, instead of starting with a small army of cheftetants and wasting two episodes on their mass eliminations, we have 21 chefs split into 4 groups, their fate in the hands of one of the four celebrity chef/judges.
Speaking of which, we have a new permanent celbu-chef-judge, Wolfgang Puck. Ole’ Wolfgang has had some stints as a guest judge, but as Chrissy puts it, he now holds some of these chefs “future in his Austrian hands.” I’m still not sure if that was offensive to point out that his hands, like the rest of him, are in fact Austrian, or if it was just very accurate of her.
Each of the four judges brings 5 or 6 of the hopefuls into one of their kitchens to put them through a test of their choosing. Tom Collichio throws his chefs into the kitchen at Craft in L.A. during a live dinner service to see how they move through the kitchen, handle basics like knife skills, butchery, etc. The other judges have the contestants prepare a single dish for them, more like a traditional challenge. Emeril has his chefs make him a bowl of soup, Hugh gives them 45 minutes to make a salad, and Wolfgang asks for an omelet.
There were a few highlights from the group, and there are definitely some crazies and ego-maniacs in the mix that should keep things interesting. And it looks like there are more than a few in this crew that can really cook, which is what this is all supposed to be about, right? Of course, the whole “food” thing isn’t as important as the bickering, back-biting, and drama. Here is to hoping that I’m wrong.
Some of my favorite/notable moments:
-Daniel – As soon as this guy dropped the line “number one on Yelp” about his restaurant, I wanted to see Wolfgang throw his greasy omelet in his face. Too bad, so sad…bacon grease and bad presentation makes him the only one cut from Wolfgang’s group.
-Not one, but two handlebar mustaches. Jorel and Josh, but there can be only one ‘stache in this competition, and Jorel’s salty sauce and poor chicken butchering forces Tom to send him packing. I’m sure that if Jorel needs work, The Lawrence would hire that mustache in a hot second.
-Carla – This real Housewife of Top Chef is my front runner for the “bag of cats crazy” award so far. Train wreck waiting to happen.
-On a sadder note, this season is one of Atlanta’s weaker showings. Our only representation is Anthony Gray from Southern Art, and he doesn’t do much to impress Tom. His butchering of a duck breast was too sloppy for Tom’s taste and, perhaps more importantly, he didn’t have the swagger and presence in the kitchen that Tom was looking for. His timidity likely did him in, and Atlanta won’t be sending anyone to Seattle for the big show.
-The awkward exchange with Hugh and Sir Chef Bart. Perhaps Dutch Bart’s Dutch sense of humor didn’t get the suit of armor joke. Or perhaps it wasn’t funny.
After the cuts, here is who made it through episode 1 and will be headed to Seattle:Bart Vandaele Brooke Williamson Carla Pellegrino Chrissy Camba Danyele McPherson Eliza Gavin Elizabeth Binder Jeffrey Jew John Tesar Josh Valentine Kristen Kish Kuniko Yagi Micah Fields Sheldon Simeon Tyler Wiard
What did you guys think? Are things looking up for Seattle?
P.S. If you want to watch 3 minutes of video so awkward it will make your skin jump up and run out of the room, check out the extended cut of the Top Chef MUSIC VIDEO. There are no words.