Top Chef: New Orleans Recap

By David Mumpower

October 7, 2013

I know you aren't impressed yet but watch me win Last Chance Kitchen! Hey, it could happen...

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Previously on Top Chef, one of the best seasons in the history of the series ended with the three best chefs competing for the title. Sheldon Simeon, a master of Polynesian cuisine, narrowly missed placement in the final as he was surpassed by previously eliminated Kristen Kish. The Boston model turned culinary icon earned a return to the competition via Last Chance Kitchen, and she leapfrogged the most consistent performer last season, Brooke Williamson, to earn the title of Top Chef.

Frankly, season 10 is the pinnacle of Top Chef thus far. Yes, there were better chefs in seasons 4 and 6. There were also annoying personalities such as Robin Leventhal and Mike Isabella. Season 10’s only aggravating participant – you know who I mean – did reach a deeper point in the game than they merited, but there was even a silver lining in that turn of events. Kish utilized Last Chance Kitchen to attain revenge against the opponent whose failures caused Kish’s initial elimination. In the process, the entire premise of Last Chance Kitchen was validated. While I maintain that Brooke was never voted out of the competition so Kristen should have been forced to beat her twice in the interest of fairness, I have made my peace with that quibble.

Any honest evaluation of Top Chef Seattle would lead to the ultimate conclusion that four inordinately likeable people were the last players standing. Any of them would have been a worthy winner not only professionally but also as a role model for younger chefs. While the rest of Bravo TV is comprised of countless deplorable people given semi-celebrity by television, the Top Chef Seattle crew demonstrated that good people locked in tight competition still leads to the best reality programming. Hopefully, the producers of the show appreciate what was integral to the success of the most recent season and continue to cast in a similar manner. The “over the top” personalities like John Tesar only fit within the frame of the show if they can cook enough to justify their presence.


The wonderful news about the new season is that the setting is New Orleans. While Anthony Bourdain, currently the host of a competing cooking program, rightfully questioned the financing involved behind the production, the presence of Top Chef in the Big Easy should bring some joy to a depressed citizenry. Host Padma Lakshmi has been sampling the cuisine during an online competition wherein a pair of local chefs have earned placement in the competition. A better recapper would have taken the time to watch all of those episodes, but I have not had the free time to do so yet. Feel free to hold it against me.

The season begins with the arrival of Sara Johannes on a bus. How would I describe her? I would say that there must have been a time traveling accident that caused her to be transported from the set of her World War II pin-up calendar shoot. Ms. Johannes describes her look as “rockabilly, weirdo, that girl” or at least that is what others have called her. She does not shy away from the fact that she enjoys the attention that her odd ensembles attain.

I instantly decide that her desperate need to be noticed makes my heart sad before I eventually settle upon the opinion that she is fearless free spirit and I kind of love her. I imagine she has to spend almost all of her free time shopping for clothing on the internet to keep up the act, though. It’s either that or she cleaned out a Bettie Page yard sale and then never bought another piece of clothing the rest of her life.

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