This season, in order to determine the final group that will move on to compete in Seattle, small groups of chef meet and work with each of the judges in their restaurants doing various challenges. It's an interesting way to start the season; the pacing of the episode is good but I don't feel like I know any of the contestants yet save maybe one or two.
Tom has his group do various tasks in his kitchen. The first guy Tom sends through, John, has been a chef for years but lost some time due to substance abuse issues. And he's also apparently kind of a prick, but he cooks well enough to go to Seattle. Tom ultimately sends home the guy with the waxed moustache and the big, sweaty guy. He sends through the South African lady and a dude named Micah.
Emeril has each chef cook a bowl of soup. One dude makes a chilled gazpacho and actually manages to get it cold in time to serve, so he immediately gets sent to Seattle. Female best friends compete together; only the former model goes through. And the schlubby soon-to-be-dad guy finishes ten minutes early but still makes it.
New judge Wolfgang Puck asks his contestants to make him an omelet. Man, do these people find ways to fuck up an omelet. It seems like everyone screws up something. Wolfgang sends everyone through except the guy who cooked his omelet in bacon grease resulting in poor presentation.
Hugh Acheson asks his group to create a salad. Brooke, a mom, fries up some kale and earns the first chef's coat. The annoying lady with the too-long bangs gets sent packing THANK GOD and the rest of the group goes through.
Look for more details (and actual names of chefs along with what each cooked) in the full recap. The talent level seems high, and there are definitely some memorable characters.
Padma's season introduction informs us that there is a new judge, Wolfgang Puck, joining Tom, presumably Gail (but where is she?), Emeril and Hugh Acheson. Also, as with some previous seasons, they will start with twenty-one cheftestants and use a test to determine which ones will actually get to be on the show this season. This is great, because it whittles out the completely unqualified chefs who somehow managed to charm their way onto the show, as well as the crazies with no talent. I'll take a crazy with talent any day, but crazies with no talent are just annoying.
The first location to test chefs is Tom Colicchio's Craft in LA. A group of chefs walk into the building, and one of them is John Tesar. Now, I had never heard of this guy since I'm not really up on the celebrity chef scene; if they haven't been on Masters or a judge on this show, I don't know them. So I did a little research, since his interview implied that he's a big deal. And he's a well-known name, but his reputation seems to be more based on being drunk and getting fired than cooking actual good food. Although he can cook good food, too. I read the article they flash on the screen about how he's the Most Hated Chef in Dallas and the part that stuck out at me (besides Tesar playing the victim in his life story) was a quote from a fellow chef who said that Tesar is a good cook but not a good chef, meaning he can make good food but he doesn't have the skills or personality to run a kitchen. So it should be interesting to see him during the team challenges.
A woman named Lizzie, who has a strong South African accent, admits that she's nervous about cooking and she's also nervous to meet Tom, because he's gorgeous and has beautiful blue eyes. Tom Colicchio, sex symbol. I don't see it but I've never met him in person. Maybe he twinkles. [Note: He actually kind of does! It's a little disarming. -- Rachel.]
Tom explains to the assembled group of five cheftestants that he's had tons of dishes while judging many challenges, and only the cheftestants that impress him today will be moving on in the competition, with the rest going home.
Next potential cheftestant: Jorel the Moustache Man. He has a hipster waxed moustache that curls up at the ends. Come on, dude. What is that about? Unless you are appearing in the chorus for the community theater production of Hello, Dolly, there is no excuse for that kind of affectation. Do you also wear a bowler hat and walk around with three other dudes singing "Lida Rose" in four-part harmony? I'm all for personal expression, but there's a fine line between that and dipshit territory, and this dude has definitely ventured into dipshit territory.