Top Chef

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It's All-Stars! And I think this is one show where All-Stars is not a cop-out season. I think it will be as competitive as always, if not moreso, and I think it will be interesting to see how cheftestants from different seasons will stack up. And also to kind of catch up with cheftestants we haven't seen cook in a while. So the first former cheftestant to return is Tiffani from Season One. That's Tiffani with an "I," to differentiate her from last season's Tiffany with a Y, who is also on this show. But their names are spelled differently, so just remember that the one that ends in I is the one with red hair. And she's not your bitch, bitch. Or you're not her bitch, bitch. That's probably more accurate. Anyway, she looks fan-freaking-tastic. She looks younger, somehow, and she promises to "cook [her] nuts off," so she hasn't lost that competitive edge. I always thought she got a bum rap because she's kind of got bitchface, and some people are just born with it.

She meets up with Stephen, the wine dude from Season One, who has not aged as well. Like most of us, he has put on a few pounds over the years. He claims that he's never nervous. He's someone that I don't know would have made it on the show in later seasons; the caliber of cheftestant just got higher and higher, and I don't know that he would have made the cut. But maybe he will prove me wrong! Probably not.

Next to arrive is Elia, from Season Two. She has a lot more hair than the last time we saw her, and somehow her English skills got worse. Has she spent a lot of time out of the country? I don't remember her accent being this strong. Anyway, she promises that she will win, and I'm sure she's right. Right on her heels is Marcel. BOOOOOOOOO! I hate Marcel. I don't hate him because he's a pretentious git, although that doesn't help. I hate him because he thinks he's such a great chef, and I really don't think he is. I'm hoping that the presence of others who are as good if not better at the molecular gastronomy thing will take him down a few notches. Here's why I hate Marcel: he claims that, during his season, he was seen as a threat, and that's why no one liked him. No, no one liked him because he's impossible and annoying and has no social skills, and has hair like Wolverine, and thinks he invented foam. Gah! I'm already all worked up.

Moving on to Season Three, we have Tre, who was eliminated earlier than he probably should have been. Marcel refers to him as a "beast," which must be the new chef compliment. Chef-pliment? Compli-chef? Marcel immediately tries to ingratiate himself with Tre, who looks like he's not interested. Here's why Tre is a million times better than Marcel: after he makes the obligatory statement about how awesome he is, he laughs at himself. Marcel has never in the history of ever laughed at himself. Also from Season Three are Dale L. (because his name is spelled the same as the other Dale) and Casey. They're BFFs right? Didn't we find that out on one of the one-off All Star things? Since I watched but didn't recap the earlier seasons, I really mostly remember Casey as being Carla's sous chef who maybe did or did not cause Carla to lose. Anyway, Dale and Casey were two-thirds of the final three in their season. The footage they show looks like someone is making a video of their circa 1973 television screen. Were things really that bad before HD? Anyway, they clearly deserve another shot.

From Season Four, we have Richard Blais (who I'm just going to call Blais, since that's what the others on the show seem to call him), who has somehow become more Jim Breuer/Carrey looking since his season. I think he's lost weight and his face looks more rubbery. Anyway, he probably should have won his season, even though I liked Stephanie at the time, but I think he was probably taking more risks than her and pushing the culinary envelope.

Spike from Season Four is also back. He really thinks he's awesome. But again, unlike Marcel, he has a sense of humor. Joining him is Antonia, who didn't make a huge impression on me at the time, but I like her more in retrospect. She was a solid chef, and probably got overshadowed by some of the alpha males on her season. Ugh, and the awful, awful Lisa. Thank God she didn't come back. But you know who did? Dale T. So they got the top four from that season, minus the winner and horrible Lisa. Interesting.

From Season Five, Jamie has returned, and I am psyched. I always loved her. And she also looks fantastic. Of course, Fabio is back from that season as well. He's changed his hair and gone for more of a shaggy look instead of his short hair; the short hair was better. Fabio reminds us that he got into a tiff with Marcel when Fabio hosted that special and Marcel was an asshole. Fabio, by appearances, seems to be morphing into an LA douchebag. Like, he probably wears Ed Hardy. I wish Stefan were there to take some of the wind out of his sails. I miss Stefan. But you know who is there? CARLA! YAY! I ended up loving Carla after not being convinced that she deserved to be there for a while. I still have the .gif someone sent me of Carla pretending to look over her shoulders and then forging ahead in the competition. It makes me happy. Plus, I feel like the editing didn't do Carla any favors. She seemed like a caterer or a home cook for a while, and then suddenly near the end, we learned that she has classic training and could bust out a French sauce. Go CARLA!

Everyone (except the contestants from other seasons) agrees that Season Six had the most talent, so who is back from that season? Jen and Mike I. Love the former and hate the latter. I love Jen because she held her own in a male-dominated season and didn't bitch about it. She just made it happen. I still hate Mike I. I've softened a little, but so has his neck. By which I mean, he's put on like a whole person since we last saw him.

And from the most recent season, we already know that we're going to see Angelo and Tiffany. I think Angelo has a chance, but I'm not so sure about Tiffany. I love her as a person, but I don't know if she can compete with the best of the best. We'll see.

Everyone dons the black chef coats, and I love the camaraderie already, and that we don't have to spend a ton of time getting to know each person, since we already sort of know them. They all head into the Top Chef kitchen, where Padma and Colicchio await. They all feel sort of sick walking back into the kitchen. Padma reminds them that they were some of the best, but none of them won the top prize. But this season will offer the biggest grand prize ever: $200,000. Plus lots of prizes along the way. Cheftestants from the earlier seasons are like, "Holy crap, we never got shit!" And they really didn't. There were no high stakes Quickfires or cars or anything.

Colicchio says that he always hears from various cheftestants that their own season was the best or the hardest or the most talented. So for this Quickfire, Padma explains, they will have to create a dish with the others from their season, representing the city where their season took place. So is Spike losing his hair? Is that why he always wears a hat? As much as the fedora he wore during his season seemed like an affectation, I think I prefer it to the backwards baseball cap he's sporting now. Anyway, the winning team members get immunity in the first elimination. Padma points out the equipment, which is another thing that cheftestants from earlier seasons didn't get. Remember Marcel and Blais having to rig up equipment because the kitchen didn't have it? That's not true anymore. There's nitrogen and sous vide and everything. Level playing field.

Padma tells them that they have twenty-five minutes and everyone takes off running to grab their proteins, probably. Season Four has the challenge of having the most participants, four, but they seem to work well together and make decisions quickly without arguing. They decide to make a Chicago hot dog and Blais is going to make mustard ice cream. Why would you ruin ice cream like that? I like m

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Top Chef

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