Season Six! Vegas! Lights! Food! The new crop of cheftestants arrives and introduces themselves, and they include a James Beard nominee, a few restaurant owners, and a pair of brothers. The Quickfire Challenge is a mise-en-place relay race done in teams of four. Because they have 21 cheftestants, one person (Robin) draws a gold chip and doesn't have to compete, and she also gets immunity at Elimination. One team lets someone shuck clams who has never shucked clams before, so you can guess how that goes. It ends up coming down to a race between the blue team and black team, and the blue team wins by a hair.
Then the blue team finds out that they don't really win as a team; they now have to cook a dish featuring the ingredient they worked with in their leg. The winner gets a chip worth $15,000. After thirty minutes, Jen from Philly wins with a clam citrus ceviche dish.
Elimination Challenge. The chefs compete against their Quickfire teammates to cook a dish based on a vice. One chef from each of the four teams will be eligible to win and Wolfgang Puck is the guest judge.
First impressions of those that stood out: Mike I. is scared of women and overcompensates, Younger Brother Michael is not as cool or interesting as Older Brother Brian (though he thinks he's WAY cooler), Creole Haitian Ron has a cool accent, and Jen from Philly seems like a kickass take-no-prisoners type. Chubby comical Kevin wins the Elimination Challenge with an arctic char dish that really impresses the judges. Jen (not from Philly) is told to pack her knives and go after serving up an underseasoned chile relleno stuffed with flavorless clumpy seitan.
Overall, the season looks promising with a lot of talented chefs from around the country, and no small amount of drama. I know some people aren't going to like the twists and turns (like the $15K chip in the Quickfire), but I don't mind shaking things up a bit when it doesn't mess with the integrity of the contest and you feel like, in the end, the best chefs make it to the end. Welcome to Season Six!
Welcome to Las Vegas! Where you can smoke everywhere! I haven't been there in probably five years, but I'm assuming that's still true. I especially enjoyed the smokers' cages in the airport. So sad. Anyway, welcome back to the famous original style Top Chef! And it's in Vegas this year! Let's meet our cheftestants.
Kevin Gillespie, 26, is a 2009 James Beard Award nominee and the executive chef and owner of Woodfire Grill in Atlanta. He got accepted to MIT but ditched a full scholarship to go to cooking school. Good for him. MIT is a bunch of weenies anyway. Smart weenies, who will probably make more money in a year than I'll make in a lifetime, but weenies nonetheless. I've been there, people. I know. Anyway, Kevin also looks like Yukon Cornelius from Rudolph or maybe young Kris Kringle in Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town.
Preeti Mistry, 32, is the executive chef at Bon Appetit Mgmt. Co. She is really excited to be there, and thinks that the Vegas setting will mean a lot of twists and turns. She kind of dresses like a dude, but then again, so do I, so I'm not going to judge, especially since that has zero impact on her cooking ability. Right? Kevin and Preeti go into the house, which looks amazing.
Ron Duprat, 40, is the executive chef at Latitudes Beach Café. He's got an accent, and I'm just going to cut to the chase and tell you that he's from Haiti. He explains that his philosophy is "keep it real, keep it simple, let's have fun." I think that was part of my wedding vows, actually. Ron enters the house and meets Kevin and Preeti.
Oh, dear. People are arriving by the carload now. How will I ever keep them all straight? Oh, because Bravo will introduce them one at a time. Eve Aronoff, 40, is the chef/owner of Eve in Ann Arbor, MI. I am predisposed to like her because I lived in Ann Arbor for a few years and I still have friends who live there who know Eve and are rooting for her. But we'll see. She's playing the yokel to the hilt, all impressed by mountains and palm trees.
Mattin Nobila, 29, is the chef/owner of Iluna Basque in San Francisco, but he's originally from France and has the accent to prove it. He's pretty young to own his own restaurant, no? He's wearing a neckerchief. A red one. He looks like the stereotypical French chef, although someone asks if he's from Barcelona.
Eli Kirshtein, 25, is an executive chef at Eno in Atlanta. It's weird that, due to all the experienced chefs this season, suddenly someone who doesn't already own a restaurant seems like a newbie. He jokes in his audition that he's a fat kid and he just loves to make fat kid food. I feel the same way sometimes. I might pretend to make something organic and healthy and filled with vegetables, but when it comes right down to it, give me a homemade mac and cheese any day. With bacon. Eli points out that there are a bunch of cheftestants from Atlanta this season, and it makes him feel a little more at home.
Ash Fulk, 29, is a sous chef at Trestle on Tenth. He's a little befuddled that he's the only chef from New York, which I find a nice change of pace. He jokes around with two of the chefs from Baltimore that he's been to Baltimore, but actually only through Baltimore, and they all laugh. Ash also reveals that he's one of the only cheftestants with a same-sex boyfriend. So there may be some single gays in the mix? I typically don't approve of cheftestant hookups (see: Leah and Hosea, ugh), but I'm willing to reserve judgment.