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Top Chef is back, people. We're not in Seattle yet and this season already looks more promising than the last. The premiere was fast and fun - we start out with 21 contestants and instead of dealing with them all at once, judges Tom Colicchio, Emeril Lagasse, Hugh Acheson and new entry Wolfgang Puck get groups of 5-6 in their restaurants to decide who's worthy of a Top Chef coat. They keep it simple. Each judge gives their group the standard test they give every chef in their kitchen and those who pass get to move on.
Tom throws the chefs into service in his kitchen at Craft LA to see who can hack it. He has them shaping tortellini, butchering meat and filleting fish. Tom pulls Jon Tesar - the "Most Hated Chef in Dallas"- out the kitchen almost immediately and gives him a coat. He did a good job with the halibut and it's clear he knows what he's doing. Tom knows Jon as a talented, hotheaded chef from the 80s. He had a drug problem and is back to prove himself at 54. Tom rejects the sweaty/hipster mustachioed Anthony but lets Lizzie who's good at making pasta and Micah Fields from The Standard through.
At Table 10 in Vegas, Emeril gives his group one hour to make a soup. He considers it a true test of a great chef. Two of the girls in his group are best friends. They first bonded over boob sweat as the only women in the kitchen. They live in the same building and have matching spoon tattoos. Half Chinese-half Norwegian German Jeffrey Jew (!) gets pulled through immediately. Emeril doesn't think his watermelon and tomato gazpacho is going to chill in time and when it does, he gives him a coat on the spot. Half of the BFF duo, model Kristen Kish and expecting father Josh Valentine make it through.
At CUT in LA, Wolfgang Puck asks his group to make him an omelet. It's the way he was tested as a young chef. And he's looking for perfect presentation. Carla Pellegrino, ex-chef and wife of Rao's in New York (interesting!) cooked for him once before back in the day. She's loud, she's gonna be fun. Wolfgang is a welcome addition to the show. He's kind of hilarious and keeps yelling clues at them - I want red meat! I like it soft in the middle! Though he's potentially offensive towards women with quotes like, "the stove is like a woman, it never does what it's supposed to do." Yikes. He's an easy judge, though. Five out of his six get through and the one who doesn't make it produced an omelet that was visibly overcooked. Bacon grease, rookie mistake. The DC chef who looks like Buster Bluth is mad.
Hugh Acheson gives his group 45 minutes to make a salad at Empire State South in Atlanta. He lives off salads - "look at me!" Belgian chef Bart has been knighted (twice) but we don't have to call him Sir. Hugh loves Brooke Williamson's kale salad and gives her a jacket right away. Only Gina Keatley doesn't make it through after an awkward fight with Hugh about making her cry. She says it's their loss, "I'm not just a chef and nutritionist, I'm a movement." Girl is crazy, our loss.