Top Chef Seattle Episode 1: The Ultimate Chef Test
We jump into the Seattlecentric season right away with a rousing trip to… uh, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Atlanta.
Each week, Top Chef fanatic K.A. Skahan will chronicle how Seattle represents in the show's tenth season. Here we go.
What do you get when you combine a slew of Healthy Choice meals, the siren call of $125,000, and Tom Colicchio’s piercing blue eyes? A new season of Top Chef, of course. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know this season is happening in Seattle. As such, it’s our civic duty to recap each episode for the citizenry (and cry foul over every gratuitous Starbucks challenge or ferry shot).
We jump into the Seattlecentric season right away with a rousing trip to… uh, Los Angeles. Okay, so there's no Seattle at all this episode. Instead, the 21 contestants are split among the four chef judges’ restaurants, only to endure challenges personally designed by Tom Colicchio, Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, and Hugh Acheson. If a chef deems a contestant worthy, he’ll offer up a Top Chef coat and ship ‘em off to Seattle.
Predictably, each restaurant lands four or five nice ones and one total tool who just cannot stop talking about how awesome he is and what a piece of cake it will be to make a stupid soup or something. You fools! Haven’t you seen this show before?
First stop: Craft in Los Angeles. We meet Lizzie, whose delightful South African accent somehow makes her massive crush on Tom totally acceptable, and Jorel, whose Snidely Whiplash ‘stache makes him a Seattle shoo-in on the style front, and Micah, whose gauged ears are very distracting. There’s also Anthony, who sweats more than anyone else on the planet and tells Tom, “I enjoy using a small knife,” a slogan which will probably not appear on a novelty T-shirt any time soon. Finally, John, who’s older and sort of cocky (“I owned a hot restaurant in the Hamptons in the mid-‘80s”) but has mad knife skills. Tom’s making them all work the line during dinner service.
Next we head to Las Vegas, where Emeril is torturing some contestants with a deceptively simple challenge: making a totally awesome soup. This group seems likeable enough: Joshua’s moustache rivals Jorel’s as far as Seattletude, and Stephanie and Kristen are close friends from home who bonded over matching boob sweat and got matching tattoos to celebrate. Jeffrey’s playing to make his partner proud, and Tina doesn’t want to make a puree. Fair enough. When all is said and done, Jeffrey’s watermelon gazpacho, Kristen’s supermodel-y good looks and English pea broth, and Joshua’s roasted corn soup are good enough to go to Seattle. Chef coats are distributed—our first three official contestants. Joshua, by the way, will miss the birth of his daughter while he’s competing in Seattle. No big deal.
Next stop, Beverly Hills to visit Cut by Wolfgang Puck, the newest judge. Wolfgang remembers when his first boss called his omelets “shit,” a word which sounds totally charming in his Austrian accent. His challenge: make him a damn omelet. The men and women subjected to this egg-driven torture include Carla, who sort of knows Wolfgang from that one time she cooked for him when she was married to the owner of Rao’s (awkward!), Eliza, who does funny voices and takes Wolfgang’s advice to make him a steak, Chrissy, who’s from Chicago, and Tyler, who isn’t half as charming as Wolfgang when he says “shit.” Kuniko was a banker in Hong Kong before she taught herself to cook. Oh, and Daniel, who explains that he gets awesome Yelp reviews, thus locking down the role of “Season 10’s Biggest Tool” in his first 10 seconds of screen time. Burn—Tom hands out chef coats to everyone but Daniel. He presumably heads home to dive into piles of printed Yelp reviews, sort of like Scrooge McDuck and his moneybin.
Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Hugh Acheson challenges his group of contestants to create a salad in the kitchen at Empire State South. His merry band of chefs includes Bart, who’s been knighted in Belgium, Gina, who growls like a tiger, Brooke, who has a tattoo behind her ear, Danyele, whose name is spelled really unusually, and Sheldon, who’s from Hawaii (and was a Food & Wine People's Choice Best New Chef and James Beard Rising Star Semifinalist, so what’s he doing here?). Sir Bart’s spiny lobster salad, Brooke’s fried kale, Danyele’s grilled watermelon, and Sheldon’s fried Brussels sprouts make the cut. Gina’s grilled zucchini is too, well, grilled. She’s dunzo, proclaiming that Top Chef is missing out, since she’s not just a chef and nutritionist—“I’m a movement.” Bye, Gina.
Back at Craft, Tom’s making cuts. Old dude John is totally in, and so are delightfully accented Lizzie, and Micah with the gauged ears and a soul patch to rival Tom’s. Mustachioed Jorel and sweaty Anthony aren’t quite up to par.
We’re left with 15 contestants by the end of the night, all of whom will presumably head to the 206 next week to let the drama begin. And now that we know a little more about this group, seeing previews of their bickering is all the more meaningful. Will Kuniko be totally sick of coffee by the time this season ends? Will Carla and Lizzie continue to make eyes at the judges every week? Will Joshua’s ‘stache win by default? There’s only one way to find out. See you next week.
Line of the night: “A stove is like a woman. It never does what it’s supposed to do.” – Wolfgang Puck
Gratuitous Pike Place Market shots: 2
Gratuitous Space Needle Shots: 3
Most stereotypical Seattle moment: Kuniko says she wants to go to Seattle to drink the coffee. Yawn.
Most legit Seattle moment: Joshua has an awesome ‘stache. You’ll fit right in here, mister.