Watch What We Say: Top Chef

Season 5, Episode 1

By Jason Lee

November 13, 2008

We'll last HOW long this season? Aww, crap.

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Watch What We Say: Top Chef

For what it's worth, I believe that "Top Chef" is simply the best reality show on the air right now, if not one of the very best shows on television, period. For the next four months or so, we'll be bringing you the latest and greatest news from the Top Chef kitchen on a weekly basis. In fact, these recaps will be so witty and funny, you might not even need to watch the show yourself.

But you should anyways because it really is a great show.

This week on Watch What We Say: Exploring NY cuisine, Top Chef style!

Seriously, I've been waiting for this night for months now. Finally. Wednesday night at 10:00 p.m. EST / 9:00 p.m. CST on Bravo. Season 5 of Top Chef. *drool*

As I wrote this article, I wracked my brain trying to find an apt metaphor for how I felt when Top Chef finally returned to the airwaves. A mother welcoming home her college son at the start of summer vacation. A lonely wife awaiting the return of her husband from war. A pimply college dork waiting for World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King to go on sale. Nothing quite worked. Suffice to say that I had to check my TiVo three different times on three different days to make sure that the episode would record.


Why do I love Top Chef? I think there are two primary reasons. First of all, the contestants are actually talented. I feel like I'm actually watching skilled artists do what they love to do and what they do best. Secondly and probably the most important reason, I love the judges. They're smart, they're witty, they're incredibly accomplished and they really do try to make the most fair and objective decision based on the challenge of each episode. I respect them and I would love to take them out for drinks sometime.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Top Chef, the episode is typically broken down into two parts: the quickfire challenge and the elimination challenge. The quickfire challenge is short, typically presenting the chefs with a simple objective and a single complicating factor. They have a limited amount of time and must present a dish to be judged. The winner will typically earn immunity from elimination on that episode, save for the later half of the season in which the winner does not receive immunity but gets a significant advantage in the elimination challenge.

The elimination challenge does exactly what it says it does: it presents the chefs with a significant culinary challenge and the losing chef gets eliminated at the end of the episode.

Yesterday's season premiere opened with a quick and briskly moving montage that briefly introduced us to some of this season's chefs, all done Real World-style. Few chefs are memorable except for a cocky woman named Lauren, a narcissistic pretty boy named Jeff and a self-impressed Italian with a bruising accent named Fabio ("There are two types of Europeans," Fabio says later in the episode, "those that are Italian and those that want to be Italian.")

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