(Registered members may comment here)

Welcome back everyone. Let me start out by saying that I am so excited to be back writing for Top Chef. I absolutely love this show and all the previews for it the past couple of weeks have been driving me crazy with excitement. Well, the night is finally here so let’s jump right in. Tie on your apron, warm up the oven and it’s time to get cooking!

Eliminating the Corpse for a Half Awake Cadaver

To kick the show off we get a quick introduction to the judges. Gail Simmons is back with head judge, Chef Tom Colicchio. The producers made a good decision and ditched Katie Joel for a new host, Padma Lakshmi. I am excited about this change because a box of mud would be more exciting then watching another season with Katie Joel.

Each week on Top Chef the chef’s will participate in a series of challenges, a Quickfire and an Elimination Challenge. A chef will be eliminated till there are just 4 chef’s remaining. The final 4 will compete in a culinary competition in Hawaii. The producers have pulled out the big bucks this year…or Kenmore has thrown some extra sponsorship money their way.

Naming Names
It’s time to meet this year’s contestants or find the chef who will take Harold’s place…or not.

Josie, 31 (New York) Sous Chef at Marlow and Sons
Betty, 41 (Los Angeles, CA) Chef/Owner of Grub
She also used to be an actress and then moved into cooking. I think she will provide some drama this season.
Ilan, 24 (New York) Line Cook at Casa Mano
I get a very Stephen vibe from him and he obviously is not afraid to say what he is thinking.
Marcel, 26 (Las Vegas) Master Cook at Joel Robuchon at the Mansion
He is already is proving to be a bit arrogant when he wanted to compare his knives with Ilan.
Elia, 23 (Las Vegas) room Service Chef, Mandalay Bay
From Mexico and I think she will bring some interesting dishes to the show.
Sam, 28 (New York) Executive Consulting Chef
If Sam keeps his hat on he could easily be my new Harold.
Frank, 39 (San Diego, CA) Executive Chef at the Heat Supper Club
Marisa, 29 (San Francisco) Executive Pastry Chef at AME
She tells us that she plans on using her sexuality to her advantage. I guess she is going to be all over Chef Tom in hopes of staying around longer. I am really disappointed that she has said this because I was really looking forward to a pastry chef on the show but now I have no respect for her.
Suyai, 28 (New York) Chef/Owner of New York Fork Catering
Michael, 28 (Lodi, CA) Line Cook for Wine & Roses
Carlos, 36 (Fort Lauderdale, FL) Chef/Owner of Hi-Life Café
I want to like Carlos right away because I went to High School with someone named Carlos Fernandez. He better prove himself worthy to hold that name.
Mia, 32 (Oakdale, CA) Chef/Owner of Feed the People
I like her right away. She has a very cool vibe about her.

At this point they are done introducing all the chefs and moving into the Quickfire Challenge. I do a quick count and only 12 chefs have been introduced and I could swear there were going to be 15 this season. As the Quickfire is getting started they show three other chef’s. I guess these last three mean so little they don’t even get introduction time. To make them feel better I will give them a little introduction space.

Otto, 46 (Las Vegas) Instructor at Las Vegas Culinary Institute
He is a dead ringer for Dudley Moore in the Arthur movies.
Emily, 30 (Las Vegas) Master Cook at Nobhill in the MGM Grand
Cliff, 28 (New York) Executive Chef, Salute!

Harold’s Back, Harold’s Back
All the chefs gather in the brand new Kenmore™ kitchen for the first Quickfire Challenge. Padma introduces Chef Tom and the special guest judge Harold, the winner of season 1. I am not going to lie, I screamed with excitement when I see that Harold is there. Chef Tom wants to take care of a little housecleaning with everyone and makes an announcement that he is not the head chef here or their mentor he is the HEAD judge. Ok, then, I guess that is now clear.

Padma tells the chef’s their first Quickfire challenge will be to create a dish using the flambé technique. They can use any of the alcohol that is laid out and they have 20 minutes to prepare their dish. For those that don’t know, flambé involves alcohol in the dish and then lighting it on fire. I notice the judges all step back and I am sure it’s not to give the chefs room to cook, more like not wanting to lose their eyebrows or part of their hair today.

Everyone gets moving on their dishes and I keep looking around hoping someone is going to make something like cherries Jubilee. I really heart some flambéed cherries. All the chef’s seem to be moving along nicely and fires are burning in everyone’s pans except for Elia, she used a red wine that has such a low alcohol content that it won’t ignite. Time is up and the judges are getting ready to make their rounds.

Harold Likes It. He Really Likes It
The judges move from dish to dish and sample what they have made and make comments to the chef’s. They are really disappointed in Elia for choosing the wine she did knowing that it would be very difficult to ignite. The dishes have all been sampled and it’s time to name the top 3 and bottom 3 dishes. The winner of this Quickfire challenge gets immunity going into the Elimination challenge.

Harold tells everyone that he enjoyed all the dishes and really liked the fact that seasonal ingredients were used. His least favorite dishes came from Carlos, Elia, and Suyai. Carlos he did not like the fact that he had a non-functional garnish. Elia he didn’t get her dish at all, he didn’t understand why she would use red wine. Suyai he thought could have executed her dish much better and that she looks 100% ridiculous with the bandana and pigtail braids thing she has going on.

Sam, Emily and Betty prepared his three favorite dishes. Sam’s dish he thought the flavor profile was right on. Emily he felt like he was eating at his home in the early 80’s. He tells Betty that everything was spot on in her dish. She tells Harold that she loves him. She has taken the words right out of my mouth. The winner of the Quickfire challenge goes to Sam. Sam is excited to win the challenge and I am excited that my favorite from Season 1 is passing the torch onto my potential new favorite from Season 2.

Judging Your Peers
After the Quickfire challenge all the chef’s head back to the loft and do what every other person does after a long tiring day, get plastered. The beer starts flowing and everyone takes time to get to know each other. Michael seems to be enjoying his alcohol more than anyone else and takes his shirt off to strut around the house. Not only is shirt off and I am going to be sick but his pants also look to be on the verge of falling down as well. I have my finger hovering over the fast forward button on my remote. In the morning Michael gets a little ribbing from his fellow chef’s until Marcel makes some joke and takes it too far. Marcel tells everyone that he is not there to make friends, he is there to make food. Hmmm, sounds like a similar speech from last year’s number two.

The chef’s arrive at the Kenmore™ kitchen and are greeted by Padma, Gail, and Harold. Padma tells the chef’s they will be divided into two teams. Each team will be presented with a mystery box. They will need to create a dish using all 5 ingredients from the box. Half the group will cook and the other half will judge to determine what chef’s are in the top and bottom 2. The chef’s draw knives from the chopping blocks and are divided into the orange team and the black team.

I Know Someone Who Killed a Snail & Her Babies
Orange team is up first and the team members are Marisa, Suyai, Frank, Michael, Carlos, Elia, and Ilan. The run to grab their boxes and when they open them they are surprised to find escargot, American cheese (Kraft singles), potatoes, artichokes, and bar peanuts. That is a real hodgepodge of items but I am excited about the escargot. I love escargot and any meal with them in it all the better.

The orange team gets to work and everyone is racing around preparing their meals. They have 2 hours till they need to present their plates. Marissa, the pastry chef, is chopping onions and slices her finger open. She band-aids it up and I am a little grossed out to see that she goes back to work on those same onions. Chef Tom comes in for a visit, not to mentor, and finds out that most of the chef’s have never worked with snails before. He finds out that some chefs are coping better than others. The time is winding down and everyone is scrambling to get their plates done.

The time is up and the black team arrives for their tasting and judging time. Carlos presents first an artichoke potato cake and escargot with a coconut sambal peanut sauce. The black team is disappointed in the lack of seasoning in the dish. Frank is up next with an escargot and American cheese ravioli with a potato bell pepper peanut sauce. The dish looks god and everyone seems to enjoy it. Marissa presents a pate brisée tart with snail garnish. It looks pretty but the team questions her use of the snail as a garnish instead of a component in the dish. I am so far disappointed that no one has the snail prepared in the shell, I love to dig those little guys out. For some reason it makes them more enjoyable to eat.

They move to Michael next and he has shoestring potatoes with artichoke cheese sauce and peanut pesto snails. It looks like something that would be whipped up in a dorm room. The tasters don’t really care for the pesto. Elia serves buttery escargot with artichoke and American cheese. Her presentation looks very nice and everyone thinks it has good flavor. Ilan is up and he has baked escargot in the shell. All right, this what I have been looking for. Everyone really enjoys his dish and the addition of peanuts on the top is great. Suyai is last and she has been frazzled the whole time. She presents braised potatoes and artichokes and garlic escargot with cheese sauce. The judges don’t think there was much technique or skill put into her meal.

The orange team is excused from the room and the black team has the duty of determining the top and bottom 2 chefs. Everyone agrees that the bottom two are Carlos and Suyai. Carlos’s dish was lacking flavor and Suyai’s the flavors were not good. The top two is a little more difficult but it comes down to Frank, Elia and Ilan. In the end Ilan had the cleanest meal out of the bunch. Elia is chosen as the second because the presentation and flavors were great. The judging is over and from the looks of the dishes it seems that they made a good decision. I really think if Bravo wants to enhance this show they should send all the viewers a sample of the food being served.

Frog Eyes, When Dried, Do Bounce
Its time for the black team to cook and the members are Marcel, Betty, Sam, Josie, Cliff, Emily, and Otto. They rush to open their boxes and find they will be working with frog legs, chicken livers, eggplant, cornflakes and peanut butter. I definitely think they got the tougher box of the two. I have never had frog legs before so I don’t really know what to expect but I do love eggplant so I have high expectations for these people.

The chef’s get to work and also have 2 hours to complete their sampling plates. Chef Tom comes in for his visit and once again learns that most of the chef’s have never worked with frog legs. One of the exceptions is Mia, she said the ingredients are like Sunday dinner at grandma’s. I guess Sunday dinner at my grandma’s was a little tamer we always ate spaghetti. Next time I visit my grandma I am going to request she make frog legs, she would probably flip out. Everyone seems to be breading and frying their frog legs. Marcel is very confident that he will be in the top 3. That usually is a kiss of death and that means we can look forward to seeing him in the bottom.

Cooking time is up and the orange team comes in for their chance to taste and judge. Marcel presents first and he has a frog leg lollipop with a chicken liver purée and garlic and parsley sauces. It looks nice but the tasters think the garlic is very overwhelming. Betty is next and she has a frog leg and chicken liver cake with a salad with peanut vinaigrette. Everyone thinks its delicious and the flavors were there. Sam is up and he serves turmeric and cereal crusted frog leg with eggplant and caper sauté and duo of sauces. It looks nice but there are no comments with it. Josie goes and serves a frog leg nugget with chicken liver peanut butter and eggplant jelly. Hers also looks nice but once again no comments are said.

Cliff is up and I really think this is the first we have really seen of Cliff. He is serving braised frog leg, eggplant chip and cornflake chicken liver. They seem to enjoy part of his dish but not the chicken liver. Emily is up and has a cornflake and peanut butter crusted frog leg with grilled eggplant. They like her dish and that is the first and last we see of Emily as well. Otto is up and he has made frog leg and chicken liver with rice, vegetable sauté and peanut sauce. It looks to be a bit of a mess and the judges think it’s under seasoned and the elements of the plate don’t seem to blend well. Mia is up last and she has made a chicken fried frog leg with garlic-mashed eggplant and wilted arugula. I have no idea what makes something chicken fried but her dish looks very good. Everyone chows down and you can seem them cleaning the bones and licking their fingers. The tasting is over and the black team is excused.

The orange team talks and they determine that Betty and Mia prepared their two favorite dishes. Betty’s dish was much different then everyone else’s and Mia’s was juicy and delicious. The bottom two dishes come down to Otto and Marcel with Cliff in the running. Otto’s dish was way under seasoned and Marcel’s was much too garlicky. The judging is over and I am hungry from writing all these notes on this food.

Questioning Losers
After the challenge is over the judges ask that Betty, Mia, Ilan, and Elia join them at the judge’s table. Harold tells them they all did a good job. He announces that Ilan is the winner of the challenge. He made the ingredients better by putting them all together. After Ilan is announced as the winner you can see the look of shock on Mia’s face that she did not win. Chef Tom then points out to Ilan that last year’s winner also won the first Elimination Challenge. Ilan gets very excited and Harold takes his shirt off…maybe not that last part.

As the top 4 are leaving they are asked to call in Carlos, Otto, Suyai, and Marcel. The bottom 4 join the judges and the judges ask them why they are in the bottom. Otto tells them his biggest problem was that the rice in his dish was undercooked and he tried to do what he could. He tells them he should stay because every chef has a bad day even Top Chef’s. I think Otto has been watching too much American Idol. Suyai tells them she panicked, she didn’t think anything through and really should have stepped up. Marcel is confused why he is even in the bottom two. He thinks the other chef’s are trying to eliminate competition and that’s why he’s in the bottom. Carlos is last and he tells them he was a little afraid to sit down and think about his plan. He tells them his dish wasn’t his finest moment but it also wasn’t “crap on a plate.” Now, I would have loved to see the taster’s faces if that is what they were served. Once, the questioning is completed they all leave while the judges deliberate.

Get the Hell Out of the Kitchen

After the bottom four have left the room the judges take a few minutes to trash them and decide who is going home this week. They think Carlos did not think his plate through. He had poor seasoning, no complexity or depth to what he made. Marcel may have had a decent meal but it means something when all his peers voted him into the bottom. Chef Tom also thinks the garlic was way overdone. They think that Suyai’s nerves got the best of her and that she had given up on herself. Otto gave himself up as well and did not stand behind his food like all good chefs should. Marcel I kind of want to like but I also really want to hate so I hope he makes it through. Besides him I don’t really care who goes home at this point.

The bottom 4 are called back in and Chef Tom tells them it was a tough decision to make but Suyai needs to pack her knives. She is not surprised by the decision and takes a few moments to say her goodbyes. Overall leaving on a very non-dramatic way. I enjoyed this first episode but with so many contestants it’s still hard to pick out my favorites.

Next Week
Tune in Wednesday night at 10pm for a new episode with a huge group challenge, some fights, and hopefully the permanent return of Harold…with his shirt off.

Seriously, if your name is Harold and you are the original Top Chef and you never got around to emailing me last season, email me at Yardgnome77@fansofrealitytv.co m.