Top Chef: Seattle Recap

By David Mumpower

November 13, 2012

We hope Wolfgang goes to the Puckmobile!

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Previously on Top Chef, four participants earned their jackets. This quartet will leave Los Angeles and Las Vegas for the friendly confines of Seattle, Washington. Today’s lingering questions are not only which chefs will join them but also how many competitors will be selected. There has been air of mystery regarding the latter number.

History tells us that an average of 17 entrants over the past five seasons have battled for the title of Top Chef. After a third of the season premiere, only ten have been introduced. Less half of them have already qualified to advance to the main competition. At this point, the numbers game is pointing to a smaller batch than usual. Top Chef has included at least 16 participants every competition since season 4 (Miami). If that trend will continue, we will meet a lot of players in a short period of time.

While typing all of the above, I am struck by a notion. John Tesar must have a tremendous amount of culinary star power if he has attained this much of the focus. Some of the people yet to be introduced may garner less than a minute of airtime. This time crunch-caused reduction in personalities is what happened to the already eliminated Tina. She can claim she was on Top Chef but the video barely supports the argument. I notice that even in the show promos where the players wave at the camera, someone else’s hand obscures her face. It simply wasn’t meant to be, Tina.


Rather than introducing new contenders, the show changes back from Las Vegas to Tom Colicchio’s Craft once more. Tom describes the idea behind placing the contestants in a real kitchen this evening. He seeks to research their cooking behavior in a normal setting. Lizzie is the only one who seems comfortable in this cutthroat environment. Anthony, on the other hand, has mopped up the sweat on his brow yet his camera discussion details his continued paranoia. Anthony is as overwhelmed as any Top Chef participant I can ever recall.

Before the Craft outing is complete, the setting changes to a few miles over in Beverly Hills, California. Wolfgang Puck is holding court at Cut, his high profile steakhouse. I gushed over Puck in Part One, but it bears repeating. He is a hilarious, brutally honest culinary idol. His presence captures my attention and not just because he threw a doughnut 30 feet the last time he appeared on Top Chef.

At least one of the contestants is familiar with him. Carla Pellegrino was previously married to Frank Pellegrino Jr., owner of Rao’s of New York. If his name as well as the restaurant sound familiar to Top Chef viewers, they should. He and his father appeared on an episode of Top Chef: All-Stars entitled An Offer They Can’t Refuse. Lorraine Bracco of The Sopranos requested that chefs create an authentic Italian dinner at arguably the most authentic Italian restaurant in the United States. Suffice to say that as a former executive chef and part-owner of Rao’s, Pellegrino is well known in the restaurant industry. In her own way, she is every bit as accredited as Tesar if not more so.

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