Hey, welcome back to Top Chef! New season, new recapper (who bows at the altar of Keckler and Chuck), new cheftestants, new judges, go!
The new batch of cheftestants arrives on Governor's Island for their first Quickfire Challenge, where the loser will be eliminated before even getting a white coat. The challenge has three rounds. First round is peeling fifteen apples with a knife, and the top nine will be safe. Stefan, from Finland, finishes first and wins immunity. Richard cuts the shit out of his thumb but still manages to make it into the top nine. The remaining eight move on to the second round, where they have to brunoise (finely dice) two cups of their now-peeled apples. The top four are safe, and the bottom four go on to round three, where they have twenty minutes to use their apples to cook something to impress Colicchio. Patrick and Lauren, buddies from cooking school, are the bottom two with their apple salads. Patrick's was a little better, so Lauren goes home immediately. Via ferry! So at least she got some interesting transportation.
The cheftestants are immediately thrown into the Elimination Challenge before they even get to move into their accommodations. They pull knives with the names of various locations in and around New York City, which also puts them in pairs. Their challenge is to cook a dish inspired by the neighborhood they pulled; they'll compete head-to-head against their partner, with the winning partners being considered for the win and the losing partners being considered for elimination.
Before we get to the challenge results, some quick personality observations:
- The gays and lesbians (Patrick, Jamie, and Richard) form Team Rainbow.
- Fabio and Stefan, the Europeans, join forces, although their perceived arrogance rubs people the wrong way.
- Carla is a weirdo who cooks based on the advice of her spirit guides.
- Melissa is a "country mouse" who has never cooked Italian food.
- Richard has a crush on Colicchio.
- Daniel is a goombah with weird facial hair.
- Jeff is crazy vain.
I'll give the details of each dish in the full recap, but here's the shorthand for the competition:
Jamie defeats Richard in Astoria/Greek
Hosea defeats Carla in Brighton Beach/Russian
Stefan defeats Ariane in Long Island City/Middle Eastern
Jeff defeats Fabio in Ozone Park/Latin
Jill defeats Radhika in Jamaica/Caribbean
Leah defeats Melissa in Little Italy/Italian
Daniel defeats Patrick in Chinatown/Chinese
Eugene defeats Alex in Little India/Indian
The guest judge is Jean-Georges Vongerichten, along with regular judges Padma, Tom, and Gail. Overall, there were no disasters in the challenge, and the judges are pleased. They call back Stefan, Eugene, and Leah from the winners' group, and Patrick and Ariane from the losers' group. At Judges' Table, Padma reminds us that in every season but one, the winner of the first Elimination Challenge has won the entire thing, and this week's winner is Stefan. Then attention turns to the losers. The judges are disappointed that Ariane and Patrick were so thrown by having to cook outside of their comfort zones. Ariane's big mistake was undercooked grains, and Patrick's was lack of seasoning and imagination. Patrick's sin is apparently greater, and he is eliminated.
Hi! I'm Kim and I'll be your recapper this season. You may know me from recapping... a whole lot of shows. No, like a lot. I've forgotten shows that I've recapped. Lyon's Den? Freakylinks? So I'm not a professional chef and I wouldn't even call myself a foodie, but I do like to cook, and I love to watch cooking shows and reality shows, and I've watched every season of this show. I may make mistakes when it comes to the names of things, but I'll do my best. Let's start season five!
Padma gives a short intro to the season, announcing stuff most fans of the show already know -- namely that this season takes place in New York City, which is the toughest place to make it as a chef. Some highlights of the season don't mean much yet since we don't know who these people are, but it is amusing to hear the judges say that a dish is inedible or poorly thought out. Not that it's a surprise to know that might happen this season, but now we have something to anticipate. After some product placement about the prizes, it's time to meet this season's cheftestants!
Fabio Viviani, 30, is the Executive Chef and owner of Café Firenze. He's also originally from Florence (the name of his restaurant might have been a giveaway), and has never been to New York before. He has an Italian accent, but it's not that thick. Yet. Next up is Jamie Lauren, 30, a heavily tattooed lady who is the Executive Chef at Absinthe in San Francisco. She's big on seasonal and local food, and she likes being in charge. She looks like a cross between Natalie Maines and Scarlett Johansson, with a dash of Amaya from Real World: Hawaii. Eugene Villiatora, 32, is originally from Hawaii but now works as a personal chef in Las Vegas. He didn't go to culinary school, but has worked his way up the restaurant ladder. He also has a lot of tattoos. And a chip on his shoulder. I'm not saying it's not earned; I'm sure he gets a lot of shit from other chefs about his lack of culinary education. But it's there. Jeff McInnis, 30, is the Chef de Cuisine at the Ritz-Carlton in Miami. He likes to surf, and looks like a surfer with his floppy blond hair. He claims that he cares about his looks, and when called out to the dining room, will always get a server to check his hair. They aren't allowed to have mirrors in the kitchen? I bet the servers LOVE him. He sounds annoying.
Various cheftestants arrive at Grand Central Station, which is weird because any time I've taken a train into New York, I've arrived at Penn Station. I guess I've been taking the wrong trains. And also, Grand Central is way more scenic, so I wouldn't be surprised if they staged the arrivals there. The next introduction is Radhika Desai, 28, the Executive Chef at Between Boutique Café. She explains that her parents grew up in India and she hopes that people don't assume that means that she will only cook spicy curries and rice. Keep that in mind. Lauren Hope, 23, is a chef at Jag's Steak and Seafood (sounds fancy, except I mean the opposite of that!) in Savannah, GA. Her husband is currently in Iraq, and she doesn't want to just sit around and wait for him to come home, so she entered this competition. Between living and working in Savannah (which sounds like it was her first chef job out of culinary school) and the Iraq thing, the cynical side of me wonders if she wasn't just cast for storyline purposes, instead of cooking expertise. On the ferry into the city, she meets up with Alex and Carla, who don't get full introductions yet, which I found kind of weird. The next real introduction is Ariane Duarte, 40, who is the Executive Chef and Owner of Culinariane (wow, terrible name) in Montclair, New Jersey. She's married and a mom, and her family believes in her. So she's toast. Unless she turns into, like, the Laura Bennett of this show and invites Colicchio over to her gigantic loft to meet her crazy husband and try to avoid stepping in turtle poop. Sorry, Project Runway flashback.