In the boys' quarters, a baby-faced Michael -- who is so completely Flounder from Animal House that it's eerie -- pulls something out of his bag, waves it around, and says his wife stuck some panties in there. I just have to say, whatever that was, it didn't look like panties. It looked like a surgical mask. And that scares me. Michael is a line cook at Wine and Roses in Lodi, CA, but his dream is to own a sports bar and grill where people would come for the food. Not the sports? As we see Michael sitting around a table with a few of the other guys, it is so freaking clear by that fat bulge jammed in his lower lip that he dips. I'd think that might fuck up your palate even more than smoking. Given that they're already banging out the tinkle-tink Loser Music for Michael, I don't think he's going to go that far in this game.
All the cheftestants gather in the dining room and introduce themselves to each other. A cheftestant named Carlos tells everyone, while bobbing his head in a sort of snooty way, that he just got his first four-star review. Yeah, but from whom? I mean, there's a difference between getting four stars from Michelin and getting four stars from the Florida Sand Spit*. With his life-partner, Chuck, Carlos owns a restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, FL called the Hi-Life CafÃ©. Carlos tells us he's self-taught, and he thinks people with culinary degrees look down on those who are self-taught. Funny, I always thought people who were self-taught looked down on those with culinary degrees. We also meet Mia, who is the chef-owner of a place called Feed the People in Oakdale, CA. Where's Oakdale? She tells the group that she cooks for cowboys, so if she were to bring them foie gras, they'd flip the plate to the ground. Tough customers. Idiots, too. Mia's married and has three kids. Oh, please don't make her the Lisa of this season. If she wins, she plans to put the money right back into her business. Hmm, we haven't met everyone yet, but we're already going to the Quickfire Challenge. *Not a real paper.
New Top Chef kitchen. Padma welcomes the cheftestants to the kitchen and plugs the Kenmore appliances and Calphalon cookware. Can someone cook up some fashion sense for Padma? Those knee-high white boots over jeans are giving me indigestion. Padma introduces Colicchio -- their "head judge" -- and last season's winner, Harold Dieterle, who is their guest judge tonight and who also looks constipated. Seriously, Harold -- you have that same look in every press shot I've seen. Please bake yourself some Ex-Lax brownies and just get it all out of your system. Better yet, go have dinner at Andrea's house. Before we start, Colicchio wants to go off about something: "I am not the chef here, and I'm not your mentor. I'm the head judge. I will be making trips into the kitchen, asking questions, and observing you. I will take those observations back to the judges' table and share them with the other judges. Good luck." Well, I guess he told us. Not. Pity I didn't hear anything he said because I was so grossed out by his new bead-and-leather-strap necklace.