Top Chef Recap

By Jason Lee

August 24, 2009

We never could figure out what her tattoo said.

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And we're back.

No more Masters, no more going back to high school at the end of August, we are comfortably back at home with the aspiring Top Chef contestants and our beloved judges, Tom, Gail and Padma.

This iteration of TV's finest culinary program will see its chefs compete in the city of sin. Already, Top Chef has quite the tie to Las Vegas - the Season 1 finale took place there (memorably with the Cirque du Soleil challenge, which David completely botched) and many iconic contestants (most notably Season 2 villain, Marcel) continue to work there. We'll have to see how this year's crop handles the blazing heat and high stakes.

Right off the bat, the first thing to notice is the much higher caliber of chefs that we have. I'm not sure if the producers of the show felt that Top Chef: Las Vegas was in danger of falling into the shadow of Top Chef: Masters given their disparate levels of talent, but for whatever reason, in looking out to see multiple James Beard Award nominees (three by my count) and one chef who's been awarded a Michelin star (a HUGE honor), we have every reason to think that this season will rock.

At least, the food should.


We've seen different entrances for the cheftestants over the years - Season 4 brought everyone from the airport to a hotel lobby for an amuse bouche Quickfire. Season 5 brought the cast to Governor's Island, NY for an apple-peeling Quickfire. This season has none of that off-the-boat/off-the-plane throw them to the wolves creativity. Instead, the cheftestants walk into their house, their luggage chugging along behind them, and get a look at their new digs.

First thought: Top Chef has never looked more Real World.

Second thought: Cheftestants usually get situated in a gorgeous penthouse over looking the city. Guess the hotels were too expensive in Las Vegas for that?

We and the cast members get to know each other a little bit before they're shuttled away to the Top Chef kitchen. We have two brothers who haven't seen each other in 12 years (one quiet and thoughtful, the other brash and loud). We have a effeminate chef from France who apparently is straight. We have one of Eric Ripert's sous-chefs. We have a superstitious chef who won't unpack, lest she have to pack her bags after the Elimination Challenge.

We also have one loudmouth who goes around, both with his cheftestants and in his monologues, dissing the competition and arrogantly letting us know that he's the one to beat this year. Oh lord, there's always one of those on Top Chef. This braggart, named Mike, is easily my pick for "person that I will hate this season." He's clearly impressed with his own skill. He's the obnoxious cousin who would hit on your girlfriend when you brought her home to meet the family at Thanksgiving.

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