So in case you missed it last season, the gist is that twenty-two established chefs will be competing with six chefs who competed last season to win prizes and prestige and money for their chosen charity.
This week's contestants are Govind Armstrong, Susan Feniger, Ana Sortun, Jerry Traunfeld, Jimmy Bradley, and Tony Mantuano. If you don't recognize the names, I'll go into detail in the full recap, but rest assured that they are all big names with lots of awards and suchlike.
Quickfire: They are divided into three teams of two and sent to a gas station in Chinatown where they have to create a dish using ingredients bought therein. They're being judged by The Bravery (a rock band for you non-hipsters).
Team Armstrong/Bradley makes Cheetos macaroni with grilled Slim Jims and tomato soup. The band likes the flavor of the mac and cheese but think the soup/salsa is boring. Team Feniger/Mantuano makes maple bread pudding with caramelized bananas, which goes over well, although one dude thinks it's a little too sweet. Team Sortun/Traunfeld makes a crispy rice cake with "clamesco" sauce. The band thinks it's unique and tastes gourmet. The winner of the challenge is Team Feniger/Mantuano, and they win five grand for their charities.
Elimination: They stay in their teams and have to cook a romantic duo dish for thirty couples on their first dates. I am SHOCKED that this isn't a cross-promotion for the Tina Fey/Steve Carell movie coming out this weekend. The promotional monkeys are falling down on the job.
Team Armstrong/Bradley have some drama about the distribution of the workload; Govind thinks he's doing a lot more than his partner, but they're the only team that seems to have any drama. They make a duo of lamb: seared lamb Carpaccio with baby arugula and herb salad, and roast lamb chop with cauliflower couscous and pomegranate reduction. They earn 12.5 stars.
Team Feniger/Mantuano makes black pepper shrimp and scallops, and homemade pasta with cheese, mushrooms, and truffles. They earn a total of 16 stars.
Team Sortun/Traunfeld makes a duck duo: lavender duck breast with red cabbage, pomegranate, and beets, and duck leg in vermicelli with orange blossom smoked cinnamon almonds. They earn a total of 15 stars.
So Susan Feniger and Tony Mantuano move on to the Champions Round, and everyone else goes home.
Watch the full episode.
Welcome back to the show that was supposed to be a holdover between seasons of Top Chef, but has kind of become just as good. It's fun to see people who think they are beyond doing menial cooking tasks and cooking with restrictions try to do so once again. As we learned last season, a lot of these guys haven't had to do prep work in decades, and it shows. The judges are the same: Gael Greene, James Oseland, Gail Simmons, and Jay Rayner. The winner of each challenge earns money for his or her chosen charity, and the overall winner also gets the prestige of being named Top Chef Master, and given the caliber of the competition, that actually means something.
This week, there are six chefs competing for two spots in the finals. The first chef is Govind Armstrong, a veteran of California cuisine despite his young age. He started cooking with Wolfgang Puck when he was thirteen, Plus, he's a hottie.
Next we have Susan Feniger of Border Grill fame, among other restaurants. She cooks global cuisine, especially Latin.
Ana Sortun of Oleana restaurant in Cambridge, MA is next. She explains that she loves deadlines, so she should do well. Her food is modern Mediterranean with farm fresh ingredients.
Jerry Traunfeld owns Poppy in Seattle and is known for his work with herbs, both growing them and cooking with them.
Jimmy Bradley looks like the long-lost brother of ADA Michael Cutter on Law and Order. Seriously. They could be the same guy. Anyway, Bradley owns The Red Cat and other New York restaurants, and his sous chef is Harold Dieterle, the winner of Top Chef season one.
The final contestant is Tony Mantuano, who is the favorite chef of the Obamas, and is a classically trained Italian chef.
Host Kelly Choi welcomes them to the kitchen and explains that they will be bringing back some of the most popular Quickfires from past seasons of Top Chef, and just like that, it's time for the first Quickfire. The cheftestants choose pots and take them back to their stations. Susan and Govind are already bantering; they used to work together. Susan opens hers first and finds a red apron. Each chef follows and finds either a red, blue, or green apron; these colors are used to pair them up in teams of two. The teams are: Susan and Tony, Govind and Jimmy, and Ana and Jerry. Kelly explains that each chef on the winning team will win $5,000 for their chosen charity. So first, they are going to Chinatown for their ingredients. Tony is crestfallen, as he's not exactly a master of Asian cuisine, but they all hop in their cars and take off.