Hello, my lovelies! It’s the 10th season of “Top Chef,” and I am hungry, hyper and hoping the show can deliver great food and mad skills this time around. A few of the premiere’s contestants are from the Washington area, or once worked here in the nation’s capital, so let’s see whether they can represent our fair city with the esteem it deserves.
The episode kicks off in the four chef-judges’ restaurants: Craft (Tom Colicchio); Empire State South (Hugh Acheson); Table 10 (Emeril Lagasse); and Cut (Wolfgang Puck). Twenty-one chefs are competing for 15 slots in Seattle, the show’s real locale. Small teams of chefs are grouped with each chef-judge.
Tom puts his team to work in his busy kitchen at Craft in Los Angeles. He wants to see chefs who can not only cook, but also “do what it would take to win these competitions.”
They start with prep. Lizzie Binder forms tortellini. Sweaty Anthony Gray sets to butchering. John Tesar filets and portions salmon. Also-sweaty Micah Fields breaks down a black bass. Jorel Pierce breaks down some chickens. When service begins, the chefs are assigned to various stations to see how they do during the dinner rush. John gets the greenlight and a high five from Tom to join the cast. The rest bust their you-know-whats to earn a spot on the show. Lizzie gets chosen next. Jorel and his crazy mustache get sent home. Anthony joins him in the knife packing. Micah joins the cast, despite his sloppy butchering.
In Las Vegas at Table 10, Emeril puts five cheftestants through the test he gives every prospective chef who wants to work for him: making soup in just one hour. “It’s a true test to see if you’re a great chef.” [I agree, Emeril. I agree.] Here’s what they made:
* Stephanie Cmar: cauliflower soup with corn, pea tendrils, and lobster
* Tina Bourbeau: seafood and chorizo soup with garlic mayo
* Kristen Kish: English pea broth with lemon peel, apple and scallop (WANT)
* Jeffrey Jew: chilled watermelon and tomato gazpacho with chilies and seviche
* Josh Valentine: roasted corn and coconut soup with roasted mussels and lime
Jeffrey is sent to pick up his “Top Chef” chef’s jacket after Emeril tastes just a spoonful of his soup. The other four join Emeril in the dining room where Stephanie and Tina are sent home and Kristen and Josh are chosen for the cast.
Wolfgang greets his cheftestants at Cut in Beverly Hills where he asks them to make him an omelet (keeping its presentation top-of-mind) in 45 minutes. The chefs do their thing, and there are some fuuuuugly omelets being scraped out of pans and blomped onto plates. Here’s what Wolfgang sampled:
* Tyler Wiard: bacon, shallot, asparagus and roasted red pepper omelet, topped with a crispy fingerling-fennel salad
* Kuniko Yagi: chamomile milk, morel mushroom and ham omelet
* Daniel O’Brien: mushroom, shallot, oyster, bacon and pea omelet
* Chrissy Camba: “torta” omelet with lobster, bacon, caramelized onion and fennel (and it’s beautifully presented with nary a scorch or singe to be seen)
* Eliza Gavin: NY strip and morel mushroom omelet with fennel-tomato reduction
* Carla Pellegrino: Mediterranean omelet with arugula-potato salad
Wolfgang tells them that five of them are going on the show, and one is going home. Whose omelet ended up leaving egg on our city’s face? Seasonal Pantry’s Daniel “my restaurant is No. 1 on Yelp” O’Brien. As the five Seattle-bound cheftesants clean their stations, Wolfgang stops them and shows them how he makes omelets, buttering the pan and hitting the handle of it to shimmy the eggs into an omelet (just like I learned from watching “Julia and Jacques” reruns).
Hugh’s cheftestants meet him at his restaurant, Empire State South, in Atlanta. He gives them 45 minutes to create “a beautiful salad.” They all work pretty sloppily, and here’s what Hugh gets to taste:
* Sheldon Simeon: fried Brussels sprout salad with orange Thai vinagrette
* Bart Vandaele: spiny lobster salad with beets, asparagus and potato
* Brooke Williamson: fried kale salad with Brussels sprouts leaves, watercress and lemon vinaigrette
* Gina Keatley: sauteed and grilled zucchini with carrots, pea sprouts and balsamic reduction
* Danyele McPherson: grilled watermelon and tomato salad with charred tomato vinaigrette
Brooke gets sent straight through to Seattle after Hugh chomps down her fried kale salad. The remaining four wait to hear their fate and Hugh tells them that only three of them are joining the show. Whose salad got them tossed? Smell ya later, Gina. She stomps off in a huff.
Coming up this season: butchering, roller skating, smoking, flirting, Bert Macklin , fighting, egos, opinions, bad hair, bears, snow and sled dogs. No ambulances or stitches (yet), but it looks like there’s a whole Space Needle full of testosterone coming our way.
Your “Top Chef Seattle” cast:
Lizzie Binder Bar Bambino, San Francisco, Calif.
Chrissy Camba Bar Pastoral, Chicago, Ill.
Micah Fields The Standard Hotel, Los Angeles
Eliza Gavin 221 South Oak Bistro, Telluride, Colo.
Jeffrey Jew personal chef, St. Petersburg, Fla. (D.C. roots)
Kristen Kish Stir BL Gruppo, Boston, Mass.
Danyele McPherson The Grape Restaurant, Dallas
Carla Pellegrino Bacio (Las Vegas) and Bratalian Neapolitan Cantina (Henderson, Nev.)
Sheldon Simeon Star Noodle, Lahaina, Hawaii
John Tesar Spoon Bar & Kitchen, Dallas
Joshua Valentine FT 33, Dallas
Bart Vandaele Belga Cafe and B Too, District of Columbia
Tyler Wiard Elway’s Restaurant Group, Denver
Brooke Williamson Hudson House (Redondo Beach, Calif.) and The Tripel (Playa del Rey, Calif.)
Kuniko Yagi upcoming David Myers restaurant, Los Angeles
Just for fun, let me predict who will be in the Final Four (this will probably be hilarious to look back on at the end of the season, but here goes): John Tesar, Kristen Kish, Tyler Wiard and Chrissy Camba.
Who are you rooting for this season? Will Washington’s own Bart Vandaele (who I will try very hard not to call Art Vandelay) shine bright and do us proud?
Blymire will recap new “Top Chef” episodes on Thursdays.