Skip to main content

Backstabbing and Brunoise: An Advance Review of Top Chef D.C.

Before we can even catch our collective breath after the end of Top Chef Masters, Bravo has brought back the original Top Chef to the lineup, beginning with tonight's season premiere ("What's Your Constituency?").

While I've loved seeing master chefs hone their craft even further on Top Chef Masters, I have to say that I'm really excited by the return of Top Chef itself. There's an even fiercer air of competition from these chefs, many of whom are just beginning their culinary careers... and are therefore less likely to play nice and be as helpful as the masters. Which means more drama, inevitably.

Heading to Washington D.C., this season of Top Chef finds the seventeen new contestants attempting to outdo their competitors in the nation's capital, which means that the setting is only too apt for the backstabbing and manipulation likely to unfold as this season's episodes get underway. In the first installment alone, we're treated to one of the most hyper-ambitious contestants that the entire series has yet produced. (That would be Angelo Sosa, of course.)

Tonight's episode finds the chefs competing in a round robin Quickfire Challenge with an emphasis on prep work and mis-en-place before the four last chefs standing get an opportunity to use the ingredients to dazzle the judges, which this time around includes the silver-haired Frenchman Eric Ripert, thankfully replacing former judge Toby Young. (I'm hungrily anticipating Ripert's criticisms and think he'll be more honest than pithy, whereas Young seemed more determined to drop some bon mots than offer some real culinary critiques.)

The judges on the whole seem more unified this season; there's something intoxicating about seeing Ripert at the judges table alongside such icons as Gail Simmons and Tom Colicchio and knowing that he'll be sticking around all season long. He adds a certain gravitas and knowledge that Young lacked in abundance.

Likewise, the contestants seem eager and hungry, in the best possible sense of the word. Through the opening Quickfire, some rather fierce contenders emerge for the throne, including the aforementioned Angelo and Kenny Gilbert, both of whom manage to turn out incredibly polished dishes in a severe time crunch. Keep your eyes on these two as they are likely to go very far indeed during the competition.

But there are also some duds among the group, which becomes crystal clear during the first Elimination Challenge, in which the chefs are tasked with creating dishes that reflect where they came from, in essence, a symbolic display of their own constituencies, which makes sense with the nation's political leaders gathering in Washington from their own enclaves.

There are quite a few missteps here, including one contestant who opts to make a fat-free rendition of chicken liver terrine... which is traditionally made with fat, as that's what makes it a terrine or mousse in the first place. And then there's John Somerville, with his huge dreadlocks and off-putting manner and a dish called O-High-O that's, well, impossible to describe if you haven't seen it. There's a lot of chaff to be cut from the wheat if these chefs don't step up to the plate.

Which is fine and good, in theory. Last season, it was too obvious that the Voltaggio Brothers were two of the strongest contenders (while this year we might call it for Angelo and Kenny), but I want to be surprised. I'm hoping that nerves played a huge role in some of the missteps witnessed here and that there might still be some dark horse players emerge over the next few weeks.

My only complaint, in fact, is that the so-called "High Stakes" Quickfire is in effect again this season. This gimmick worked during the Las Vegas season but it's more than a little head-scratching here. Just what does the term "high stakes" have to do with Washington, D.C.? I'd at least have hoped that the producers would have found something more apt for the political scene. (Any suggestions?)

All in all, tonight's season premiere is a nice taste of the nation and the perfect beginning for another cutthroat edition of Top Chef. Just make sure you've eaten beforehand.

Top Chef D.C. Preview: Welcome to D.C.

Top Chef D.C. Preview: Trying to Represent

Top Chef D.C. premieres tonight at 9 pm ET/PT on Bravo.


Popular posts from this blog

Katie Lee Packs Her Knives: Breaking News from Bravo's "Top Chef"

The android has left the building. Or the test kitchen, anyway. Top Chef 's robotic host Katie Lee Joel, the veritable "Uptown Girl" herself (pictured at left), will NOT be sticking around for a second course of Bravo's hit culinary competition. According to a well-placed insider, Joel will "not be returning" to the show. No reason for her departure was cited. Unfortunately, the perfect replacement for Joel, Top Chef judge and professional chef Tom Colicchio, will not be taking over as the reality series' host (damn!). Instead, the show's producers are currently scouring to find a replacement for Joel. Top Chef 's second season was announced by Bravo last month, but no return date has been set for the series' ten-episode sophomore season. Stay tuned as this story develops. UPDATE (6/27): Bravo has now confirmed the above story .

BuzzFeed: Meet The TV Successor To "Serial"

HBO's stranger-than-fiction true crime documentary The Jinx   — about real estate heir Robert Durst — brings the chills and thrills missing since Serial   wrapped up its first season. Serial   obsessives: HBO's latest documentary series is exactly what you've been waiting for.   The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst , like Sarah Koenig's beloved podcast, sifts through old documents, finds new leads from fresh interviews, and seeks to determine just what happened on a fateful day in which the most foul murder was committed. And, also like  Serial  before it,  The Jinx may also hold no ultimate answer to innocence or guilt. But that seems almost beside the point; such investigations often remain murky and unclear, and guilt is not so easy a thing to be judged. Instead, this upcoming six-part tantalizing murder mystery, from director Andrew Jarecki ( Capturing the Friedmans ), is a gripping true crime story that unfolds with all of the speed of a page-turner; it

BBC Culture: Matthew Weiner: Mad Men’s creator on its final episodes

The creative force behind the period drama talks about where his characters are as his show begins its final episodes. “We left off with everyone’s material needs being met in an extreme way,” says Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner of where we last saw the characters on his critically acclaimed period drama when the show went on hiatus 10 months ago. “Then the issue is, what else is there?” That is the central question with the return to US TV of the AMC hit, one demanding to be answered by both the show’s characters, and its creator whose success is the envy of the television industry. Mad Men has been a defining part of Weiner’s life for the last 15 years. He wrote the pilot script on spec while he was a staff writer on CBS’ Ted Danson sitcom Becker in 1999, using it to land a writing gig on HBO’s The Sopranos in 2002. It would take another five years, filled with multiple rejections, before the first episode of Mad Men would make it on the air. Someone with less determination or vision