So, the first episode, “Everything’s Bigger in Texas,” revealed that Top Chef was starting with 29 chefs this season and they were going to have to compete in heats to make it down to the final 16 to even get to play this in this crazy old competition we know as Top Chef. I’ll admit, I was a latecomer to Top Chef. Much like I didn’t watch the first season of “Project Runway” because I wasn’t “into fashion,” I didn’t watch a few of the first Chefs because I really am not a foodie.
You’d think I’d have learned my lesson from Runway, though, given the fact that I’ve become such a reality TV junkie/slut. I did start watching once they came to Chicago, my home sweet home. And how satisfying was that? The first woman winner? From Chicago, no less? And the biggest, awesomest cherry on top? She was my favorite from the start – Stephanie Izard was just down to earth, completely likable, and totally someone to root for. So, yay and yay.
Well, here we are, some seasons later, and even though we’re in Texas, I feel like it’s Top Chef Chicago again. I even have a minor pseudo-personal connection here. I briefly worked with Chris Jones’ (Moto) wife earlier this year, so I can’t lie – I’m rooting for him. And I haven’t seen her since April, so I have not even a inkling of a clue what happened, although I’m sure there’s some pretty strict lockdown on keeping your mouth shut.* Even if I didn’t have a personal connection, he seems pretty great, regardless.
Onward. Forgive me for skipping the first episode’s recap. I just decided tonight that I was going to give this the real treatment and finally take a show and do what I’ve watched others do for years, saying to myself, “I could do that! I want to do that!” – the reality TV show rundown/recap/repartee. So, let’s see how this goes, shall we?
Brief intro/recap from Episode 1:
(“Everything’s Bigger in Texas”): The chefs are split into three heats. Chicago has a pretty strong representation. Chris Jones (Moto), Richie Farina (Moto), Chuy Valencia (Chilam Bilam), Heather Terhune (Sable), Sarah Grueneberg (Spiaggia), and Beverly Kim (Aria). Go, team!
The first drama starts when we see this young, cocky chef (he’s going to be the one to hate, right?) completely jack up trying to butcher a pork loin, also destroying chances for another chef’s good cut of meat as well. Colicchio sees how clueless he is, and boots him straight out the kitchen. NICE! I loved that. It was completely unexpected. Chefs make their dishes, come to be judged by Tom, Padma, Emeril Lagasse and Hugh Acheson. If two out of three say you’re in, you have a coat. If they want to see you cook again, you’re “on the bubble,” and need to cook again, to compete for a coat. Twists on top of twists, season 9!**
11 chefs have earned their coats at the end of Episode 1, including 4 chefs on the bubble with a second chance. 10 chefs remain in the 3rd heat.
Here. We. Go.
We see the “bubble chefs” chatting in the stew room, assessing their chances, as we all did after the episode last week. I’ve always wondered long they’re really in there. And what have all the other chefs been doing before they get to cook in their heat, waiting their turn?
The third heat looks something like this: the chefs are asked to pick an ingredient from the table, which is also accompanied by something under a cloche (huh?) unknown to them until time starts. They remove the cloche to find out how much time they have to prepare their ingredient. Talk about mind fuck.
We have another “we really didn’t get to know you” moment when Chaz Brown doesn’t even get his risotto into the bowls. Oh well. As expected, they are getting cut-throat in the later round because they don’t have very many more spots left. Speaking of cuts, when Edward Lee cuts his finger, it’s pretty intense. It gets weird, though, when he gets all Black Knight and says they could take his limbless torso and he’d cut with his feet. What?
As they went to get rid of the “bubble people,” I wasn’t sad about the people they cut, save for one. I was really rooting for Jeanine I didn’t like Molly at all. I wasn’t loving Laurent. My guess was that Grayson and Edward got coats. Or Jeanine and Edward. Or Jeanine and Grayson.
Okay, first guess right. Edward gets a coat. Ooh, Andrew leaves. Bye. So, my guesses are still in the running. And, it’s Grayson. Boomshakalaka! First guess is right! Thank you, thank you very much!
Okay. Can’t wait for real competition to start next week.
• Top Chef is going to be in San Antonio/Austin/Dallas … they are starting in San Antonio. I wonder if we’re going to be able to really pick up any of the flavor of each city.
• Why is Padma the one always destined to say “pack your knives and go?” Because everyone’s always crushing on her and won’t yell at her?
• P.S. I’m curious how they get their prize money advertisers … First Glad. Now, Healthy Choice? None of the sponsors they pick ever make me go, “Yeah, I’m running out to get some Glad products. Man, I want some Healthy Choice.” I wonder if it’s subliminal. We’ll see if I’m craving Healthy Choice in 12 weeks.
Because I’m not a foodie, there’s always tons of words during the show I have NO clue what they’re really talking about. Sometimes, I get context clues, but I’m going to do a vocabulary segment just for fun:
Cloche: Name for the steel covers over dinner plates in posh French restaurants or at banquets.
Fregula: (also fregola) is a type of pasta from Sardinia. It is similar to Israeli couscous. Fregula comes in varying sizes, but typically consists of semolina dough that has been rolled into balls 2-3 mm in diameter and toasted in an oven.
Mousseline: A mousseline is a dish based on meat, fish, shellfish or foie gras (usually puréed) to which whipped cream or, less frequently, beaten egg whites are added to lighten the texture by incorporating air bubbles. “Mousseline” is a derivative of “mousse”
*Given where we worked and the way gossip flew around there, I’m curious how’s she’s holding up in keeping quiet.
**So, there’s this *another* twist this season called Last Chance Kitchen that seems a lot like Survivor’s Redemption Island where people who get kicked off still have an opportunity to get back in the game. Not sure how I feel about this, of course, until someone I really like loses, I’m sure. 🙂