November 12, 2008 09:33 PM by DA Southern
The obligatory, and usually awkward, meeting of the Top Chef contestants made their way to our TV screens as the Bravo perennial favorite, Top Chef’s opening montage screamed its way into our living rooms once again. The perennial favorite for Bravo, Top Chef takes us into the Big Apple this season, which is a fairly logical choice for aspiring chefs, you would think.
As the lovely host, Padma Lakshmi, touted all of the goodies that await the eventual Top Chef, including a $100,000 prize sponsored by Glad and a spread in Food and Wine Magazine, this season’s contestants were seen arriving and meeting each other for what will be the last time they will probably really get along as it is a competition. The Top Chef contestants always seem to be big personalities, and with the introductions of these chefs, this season looks to be no different.
The contestants of Top Chef: New York are; Alex, Ariane, Carla, Danny, Fabio, Gene, Hosea, Jamie, Jeff, Jill, Lauren, Leah, Melissa, Patrick, Radhika, Richard and Stefan. Missing are the several whacky named chefs that we are usually accustomed to, but with this being Top Chef, the personalities will soon reign no matter what their name.
A Grueling First Quickfire
The happiness soon subsided as the chefs lined up for their first Quickfire Challenge and the news they heard from Padma was not what they expected as they found out that one would be eliminated after the Quickfire. Chef Tom Colicchio explained the rules of the Quickfire and the first task seemed simple enough, peeling apples. We could only imagine they were Big Apples. Padma explained that the first nine to finish would be safe and Tom started the chefs peeling. Within minutes, one of the chefs had peeled his thumb in the process and it is already turning out to be a good season. The chef’s quickly buzzed through the apples and the safe nine seemed to claim their spots rather quickly, at least from an editing standpoint. Stefan finished first and had immunity in the elimination challenge.
The next eight chefs had to dice the now-peeled apples and the first four would be safe, sending the final four to a final elimination round. Lauren, Radhika, Patrick and Leah left to fend for the final spots. After Chef Tom and Padma inspected the dishes, Leah and Radhika were safe, leaving Patrick and Lauren to be chosen for the final spot. In a very strange occurrence, the two had actually gone to cooking school together and were friends. Evidently, there will be no alliances early on here at Top Chef. Tom sent the army wife, Lauren, home as quick as she came.
The Elimination Challenge
The first knife pull of the new season started out the Elimination Challenge as each of the chefs pulled a knife with various areas of New York on the knife to pair themselves up into teams creating a dish based on the culinary knife they pulled. Padma explained that they would be cooking against each other and that the losers would face the judges at the elimination table.
The chefs went to unpack and get to know each other as they contemplated the elimination challenge that would take place the next day. The chefs sized each other up and we could see already that the two Europeans seemed to take an elitist attitude towards the other chefs, which already started to rub the Americans the wrong way.
The chefs went into the kitchen for the first time with their team mates and started to prep for the different cuisine they had drawn with their knifes. It was fun to watch many of the chefs try to figure out how to cook the neighborhood dishes they were assigned and what to do with the various ingredients.
After shopping the chefs had two hours until they were to serve their dishes to the judges. The chefs spewed out what they were making quickly with the fancy chef terms that we have come to enjoy on Top Chef and you could see that several of the chefs were definitely out of their league. Poor Patrick was struggling with bad noodles and the pretty boy, Jeff, failed to get food on his plate at the end adn worried about going home.
Guest judge, Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, joined Tom, Padma and Gail Simmons to judge the chefs for the first elimination challenge.
Ariane and Stefan, who had immunity from the Quickfire, were first with a Middle Eastern dish; Stefan came out on top.
Richard and Jamie did a Greek dish, Jamie prevailed.
Jill and Radhika did a Jamaican dish, Jill had a better dish.
Fabio and Jeff did a Latin Cuisine, Jeffrey came out on top.
Hosea and Carla did a Russian dish, Hosea squeaked by.
Leah and Melissa did a Little Italy dish, Leah beat Melissa.
Daniel and Patrick did a Chinese dish, Daniel came out ahead.
Alex and Eugene made Indian Cuisine, Eugene won the head-to-head battle.
The judges were the most disappointed in the China town dishes, and Patrick and not so hot on Ariane, who suffers from a sever lack of confidence. Padma had Patrick and Ariane join the winning group and they went to meet the judges. Leah, Stefan and Eugene were in the winner’s circle and Stefan won the first challenge, which made him the winner of the first two challenges and an early favorite in the competition.
When it came to the losers, the judges savaged the pair of them for their dishes, Patrick for his inexperience and Ariane for her inability to go beyond her comfort zone. In the end, the judges sent the more inexperienced, Patrick home and gave Ariane a chance to redeem herself in the next challenge.
A pretty decent beginning to Season 5 and it looks to be a great competition overall in the weeks ahead.
Photo Credit: Bravo