Top Chef: Seattle Recap

By David Mumpower

November 12, 2012

Wolfgang Puck looks different in person.

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Last season on Top Chef, Paul Qui dominated the competition like no other contestant in the show’s history. He earned so many wins that he qualified for the Sugar Bowl. And while we do not like Paul’s chances against an entire football team, we must consider that he did upend 28 opponents during Top Chef: Texas. So we will carefully monitor the Sugar Bowl spread before wagering. Plus, a Sugar Bowl seems right in Paul’s wheelhouse.

Top Chef: Texas was like a spectacular one-night stand. No matter how the STD and pregnancy tests turn out, we will always have that magical night with Charlize Theron pimping Snow White and the Huntsman. Unfortunately, we also have that other night when we watched Snow White and the Huntsman. The therapy and the constant self-medicating have done little to aid us in overcoming that particular trauma. Also, did we mention that Paul won that challenge?

The silliness above is mentioned only to remind you that Top Chef: Texas was an oftentimes tedious season. Heather and Sarah would bully Beverly, Ed would say something funny, Lindsay would discover new ways to compliment herself and then Paul would destroy them. There was also the ill-considered Last Chance Kitchen, an idea whose employment unintentionally led to Ed being eliminated. Given that he was the only Top Chef with a legitimate chance at upsetting Paul, the ending became (even more of) a foregone conclusion.

In the end, Top Chef: Texas fell short of expectations due to elements beyond its control. This was the season after Top Chef: All Stars, the pinnacle of the nine competitions thus far. The Texan participants suffered under the weight of undue expectations. The debut of season 10, on the other hand, is met with refreshing optimism. As long as no Top Chef candidate wins over half of the elimination challenges, this season by default will become more exciting than the most recent one.

Welcome to Top Chef: Seattle! We learn within moments of the premiere’s introduction that the tenth season will provide a serendipitous bonus for viewers. Our beloved Wolfgang Puck, who threw a too-hard doughnut during his most recent appearance on the show, is now a permanent judge for the season. With Anthony Bourdain planning his own cooking competition, Bravo needed star power. While we warmed to Hugh Acheson by the end of Top Chef: Texas, we welcome the news that Puck and Emeril Lagasse are also featured. Combined with Tom Colicchio, these season will feature three of the western hemisphere’s best-credentialed chefs. And Hugh Acheson. Welcome back, Unibrow!


The season begins in Los Angeles, California. Colicchio’s popular Craft restaurant is the initial setting and the first contestant immediately introduces himself. John Tesar claims that Anthony Bourdain describes the Top Chef entrant as “the best natural cook he’s ever worked with." Some compliments matter more than others and this one is proof positive. Editing quickly follows with a magazine cover with the headline: “The Most Hated Chef in Dallas." Oh, this is going to be good.

With the mention of the article so bold, I cannot resist the temptation to Google it. The resulting story is predictably heated. Apparently, Tesar embodies the pirate culture that Bourdain lionized in No Reservations. BOP’s favorite chef/author/world traveler goes a step farther in his more recent novel, Medium Raw. He describes Tesar thusly:

“Tesar was probably the single most talented cook I ever worked with - and the most inspiring... His food - even the simplest of things - made me care about cooking again. The ease with which he conjured up recipes, remembered old recipes (his dyslexia prevented him from writing much of value), and threw things together was thrilling to me. And, in a very direct way, he was responsible for any success I had as a chef afterward.”

Knowing absolutely nothing about Tesar before today, I am absolute in my confidence about two statements. The first is that his casting is a masterstroke for the Top Chef production. The second is that I will absolutely despise Tesar. After reading only a handful of articles about the chef, his self-destructive, ego-driven personal failings are readily apparent.

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