Before we begin this season of Top Chef, Padma (HI, PADMA!) talks about all of the successes that former Top Chef winners have had since they appeared on the show. It sounds very impressive! James Beard Award winners, over 1,00000 new restaurants, features in Food & Wine magazine and other food and wine magazines. Of course, if you actually think about it, there isn’t a single Top Chef winner who has the profile of, say, Christian Siriano, much less Richard Hatch. I say that as someone who loves AND appreciates Richard Blais with all of his body and heart and also mind and also soul, but still. And what are these restaurants? Like, I know that Spike has some stupid hamburger restaurant in Washington DC, so that’s a nightmare. What else? Meanwhile, isn’t a profile in Food & Wine magazine part of the prize package for winning? That is like saying “past winners have won the James Beard Award, opened their own restaurant, been featured in magazines, and gone home with a lifetime supply of Glad storage products.” I mean, sure. Look, I’m not trying to downplay how great it must be to win this show, and also how much we all love these shows and cheer on our champions, but at the end of the day it’s also just a garbage reality show. This is not where Eric Ripert and Jean Georges Vongerichten got their starts. Hell, it’s not even where Grant Achatz got his start. And when we are introduced to the newest crop of contestants, you can kind of see why. Some of them have very impressive sounding credentials, at least for reality show contestants, and some of them are 22-year-old personal chef Tyler Stone.
This guy. What a piece of shit. I know that the people who appear on these shows are human beings and that it’s not nice to call human beings pieces of shit, and I also know that these shows are cruelly edited in order to squeak out caricatures that you can love or hate that may or may not be even remotely based on the actual person, but come ON. His audition tape was a James Bond parody, and the first thing out of his mouth is how he might come off as arrogance but that’s actually just confidence. Dude. You’re a nightmare. Luckily, Tom eliminates him within the first five minutes, not a joke, just BOOM GUH-BYE. He ruined a pork tenderloin. He ruined some chops. He has no idea what he’s doing because as he himself pointed out he is half of everyone else’s age. Then he has the gall to pull that old “they’re making a huge mistake” thing. What’s the mistake? It is literally impossible for them to make a mistake. It’s not Tom’s personal money being put up as the prize stake. The fuck does he care? They could pick the worst chef out of the bunch and it would still not really matter. It’s a TV show. Tyler Stone’s parting words are that he’s not too worried because he knows where he’s going and it’s “right to the top.” No, Tyler Stone. You are going home. And then hopefully to culinary school? Make some lists. They say people don’t really change, but you really better hope they’re wrong.
This season opens with 30 contestants. UH, HOLD ON, 30 WHAT?! That is too many contestants. Someone says that it’s because we are in Texas and everything has to be bigger. Gross. Is that really how we’re kicking things off? The first episode is going to whittle down the 30 contestant group into the Regulation Size 16 contestants. Except not it isn’t. We only deal with, like, 10 contestants this week. Are you kidding me? Like, sure, they eliminate a handful of people (see: Tyler Stone) but they also put other people on “the bubble,” which they talk about like it’s a thing. What I’m trying to say is that starting with 30 contestants and then just CRUSHING OUT 14 of them like it’s nothing would be pretty entertaining to watch. But instead they are drawing it all out but then pretending like this is some kind of lightning round. A lightning round that lasts two weeks? Looks like someone needs to go back to Remedial Earth Science 101.
The one thing that I do like is how extra nervous the preliminary elimination round makes everybody. One woman who is a chef on a cruise ship (why does she even need to be on this show? She’s purrfect) says that she doesn’t want to have to cook to make it into the top 16. Hahaha, what? Do you even know what show you are on? Like, if you can’t cook your way into the preliminary 16, I don’t even want to tell you what happens after that, and after that, and after that until the show is over. All you do is cook to remain in the game, but you don’t want to have to cook to remain in the game right at the beginning of the game? Good luck, I’m sure you’re going to do great.
One contestant says that when he sees Padma he realizes that he needs to stay in this competition just to be able to keep seeing her. On the one hand, that is truly the correct mindset to be in to go home with the Golden Ladle, or whatever. On the other hand, I WILL KILL THIS MAN.
This season’s new guest judge is Emeril Lagasse. One of the contestants says that when he walked in and saw Emeril he was like “Bam! It’s Emeril!” I’m sure that is the last time we will hear something like that. We all got it out of our system, right? Oh good. I’m sure we can rest easy. Phew. That definitely won’t keep happening for the next 900 weeks. Emeril introduces one of the two different elimination challenges this week that are staged for two of our three groups. Which means that we won’t even meet a third of the contestants until next week. And even then the ones who end up on “the bubble” (not a thing, Padma, stop saying it like it’s such a thing) will have to compete. Herman Cain will probably be president by the time we even know who is living in the house.
The first challenge features a giant butchered pig. Each contestant will get a different cut to prepare, but some of the cuts aren’t broken down yet. This is how Tyler Stone ruins some shit. Look at this clown:
Cook cook cook. Strangers strangers strangers. Even with the groups broken down by 10s that is still too many people to keep track of. 10 new people?! The fuck outta here. Pauly Walnuts is like “There are too many people on this show.”
But, so, some people get chefs coats and some people get eliminated and some people go on “the bubble.” Tyler Stone is OUT. The dude who OWNS A VEGAN RESTAURANT is OUT. (Guy. Guy! You own a vegan restaurant. What are you even DOING?!) This dude is IN:
Hahaha. That dude. Wait, did you see his friend?
Apparently these dudes went thrift store shopping for outfits one time in 1996 and they haven’t done laundry once. Incidentally, they are BOTH in. They probably have some secret handshake they did when they found out. Or at least a round of wet willies and no take backs.
Other people come and go. The dude with the throat tattoos who looks like he meant to show up for a Sons of Anarchy audition and wound up on Top Chef by accident is OUT. (He cooked ham?)
The second group of contestants (out of 3?!?!) has a different challenge: Gail Simmons introduces them to a table of proteins but they all have to choose one protein and cook the same protein. The group chooses rabbit. Cook cook cook. Who are you? Who are you? Who are you? One dude explains that his style is like Richard Blais and Michael Voltaggio. Gross. Those dudes are the best, but that is like someone walking into the Real World house and explaining that he’s a real Heather B. I’m just saying, if you can choose anyone in the world to compare yourself to, why would you just choose former contestants on the show you’re now on? It’s weird! Although everything about this dude is weird. I think he sunburned his brain? Rub some aloe on your brain, buddy!
Some people are OUT and some people are IN and some people are on this goddamned BUBBLE. Some Asian girl is OUT. The ex-con who seems like a pretty nice guy but also is an ex-con but does seem nice is IN. Asian dude: BUBBLE. Bella Swan’s older sister: IN. Ol’ Sunburn Brain: IN. Etc. Etc. Congratulations to all the new chefs who we still will not even begin to be able to parse out and differentiate and root for or against for another month or so. Good God, this is really happening. WHAT YEAR IS IT?!
Next week: More of this.