TV in the Kitchen: Top Chef Season 7 – Episode 1

Some people were looking forward to the World Cup, others were excited about the NBA finals. The only competitive sport that was on my mind this week involved knives, fire, and bacon froth. That’s right, Top Chef is back for another season!

This year, they’re in DC, which I never really thought of as a foodie city. I was hoping for maybe a season in Atlanta, but I guess DC is as down-south as Bravo is willing to travel for food. Padma is back from having a baby during the break and some of the male viewers will be happy to see that she still is still in her post-pregnancy…ummm…”glory.” But one change I can embrace is Eric Ripert’s turn as a permanent judge this season. So long and Farewell, Toby Young!!! So long badly scripted “witty” quips! Sayonara to looks of contempt from Tom Collichio as Toby makes another allusion to armpits while describing food. Not only does Eric know his food, but I could listen to him say “chee-cken nuggets” all day in his French accent.

I just wish this season’s chef-testants were as exciting as Ripert’s accent. Compared to last season, with the fighting Voltaggio Brothers and Yukon Cornelius (aka Kevin Gillespie), the contestants this time around are pretty lackluster. There are a few people falling nicely into the typical Top Chef roles:

Resident D-bag: Angelo – with the incredible ability to name-drop Alain Ducasse and Jean-Georges in a single bound! Plus, taking bacon, a wonderful gift from God, and making it into a froth? Sacrilege!!

The Cranky Female Chef (aka “the Lisa from Season 4” award): Tracey – who managed to complain in every single breakaway interview

The cannon fodder: Jacqueline –  who decided that a low-fat chicken liver mousse would be delicious and that not straining it was a smart move.

The first person to state crankily “I’m just here to cook!”: Tiffany, who did win me over by proudly announcing her start as a line cook at a IHOP

Overall, this seemed to be the first cast more concerned about their appearance and status than about how to cook. Between Arnold bragging about getting a wardrobe stylist and Ed’s “I got a kickass resume, who cares?” attitude, these guys seem more excited about the camera than actually preparing an interesting and tasty dish.

Luckily, there does seem to be some genuine talent. Kenny was a beast at the Mise En Place relay, dispatching potatoes, onions, and breaking down entire chickens like it was nothing. His elimination challenge dish of cinnamon-coffee rubbed trout seemed busy, but  shows that he likes to take risks. He’s in the top 3 for sure. Alex, a chef from CA who was born in Russia, also caught my attention with his deconstructed borscht. He’s not flashy like Kevin and Angelo, but I have him pegged as a dark horse.

At least this episode wisely ended with John, a dreadlocked, journaling, sensitive soul who thought that making a dessert, the Achilles’ heel of Top Chef, was a good way to start out. I don’t have an issue with dreadlocks normally, but he couldn’t contain the living jungle of locks he had and all I could picture was one of those locks hanging in my food. Gross.

So, what I have learned from this episode?:

– what do you do when you don’t want to think up a new Quickfire? Do a relay!

-Saying you want to “make a statement with your food” and dropping apples at Whole Foods and not picking them up? That deserves an automatic trip to the bottom 3

-Don’t ever compare yourself to Wolfgang Puck if you don’t know how to season your food.

-If puff pastry is 1/3 of your dish, make it from scratch if you want to impress the judges

~Julia

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