Top Chef Denver Recap

By Jason Lee

December 12, 2017

I bet she doesn't smile like that when someone brings up potatoes.

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The Top Chef producers are not messing around this season. Season 15 (I know, I can hardly believe it either) of Top Chef kicks off not with shots of the cheftestants arriving at the Denver International Airport or plunking their luggage down at some cushy group house, but rather, making their way into the Top Chef kitchen for the first time.

The message is clear—this is a business trip, not a leisure trip.

The cast is refreshingly diverse, and not just in terms of race or gender, but also in terms of age. The styles of cooking range from Vietnamese to Mexican to Pakistani to Amish soul food (whatever that is), and the chefs span the gambit in terms of career status—from owning multiple restaurants to up-and-comers. What they all have in common is awesome cooking ability and a burning desire to be named Top Chef.

And the competition for that title starts immediately. Padma strides in to inform the chefs that instead of the usual pleasantries, each chef will introduce himself or herself through the medium they know best—cooking. They’ll be serving up a potluck meal to each other and the four judges (Padma, Gail, Tom, and Graham). The winner gets immunity.


With that, the clock begins counting down from forty-five minutes and mass chaos ensues. The chefs don’t yet know the layout of the kitchen, the location of different ingredients, the types of cookware that’s available, etc. Thus, after an initial flurry of movement, the flurry switches to individual cooking stations. Chris, an Amish/soul food chef with a Philly edge, starts to work on dumplings. Tanya, a non-nonsense African American chef from Oakland, sticks to what she knows with some chicken wings. Joe, a moustached Luigi lookalike, stuns many by attempting to make fresh pasta. And Tu, an effervescent Vietnamese chef, decides to chance the road less taken by making a Vietnamese salad, as every other chef gravitates towards meat.

The difficulty of following the various dishes being assembled is only matched by the challenge of keeping track of the identities of the fifteen new chefs in the kitchen.

Before we know it, and to the amazement of the cheftestants, the forty minutes is up and lunch is served. Each chef introduces himself or herself, as well as his or her dish. The resumes are impressive, with stints by the chefs at French Laundry, Le Bernardin, and other great restaurants. Unsurprisingly, seemingly each dish receives praise from the cheftestants and the judges.

But who will win immunity? In a surprise twist (and Top Chef is always full of surprise twists), the cheftestants will decide. They are each given a ballot and asked to select their favorite and least favorite dishes. The bottom two chefs end up being Melissa (who seems incredibly nervous about being on the show, and who made a seafood stew that featured undercooked potatoes) and Carrie (a talkative chef from Alaska whose summer bruschetta got soggy over the course of the potluck and generally had some muddy flavors).

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