Because The A.V. Club knows that TV shows keep going even if we’re not writing at length about them, we’re experimenting with discussion posts. For certain shows, one of our TV writers will publish some brief thoughts about the latest episode, and open the comments for readers to share theirs.
- Welcome back, foodies! Top Chef classic is back, this time with no veterans, no gimmicks, and, most importantly, no Richard Blais (not yet, at least). We’re in Colorado this round, a state that, despite undergoing a “culinary renaissance,” is perhaps best known in Top Chef lore for giving us the worst winner of all time in Hosea Rosenberg. (I stand with Stefan, even after his lackluster resurgence on Seattle.) That said, Rocky Mountain cuisine should provide a fine counterpoint to the Southern cooking of last year. At least we’re not back in Boston?
- Seriously, though, as much as I enjoyed last season I can’t express enough how happy I am that they’re not doing the rookies/veterans conceit of last year. As I wrote about extensively last season, seeing Shirley, Brooke, John, Katsuji, and the gang was awesome, but they completely and totally crushed the newcomers, not because they were better chefs necessarily but because they were all versed in the format. It didn’t hurt, either, that nearly all of the vets made it to the finals of their respective seasons. The deck was stacked, so, yeah, it’s nice to see all the incoming chefs here on a level playing field. (Yes, there’s a potential ringer on the way, but we’ll get there.)
- The nice thing is that, if Instagram is any indication, it seems like the Charleston cast still hang out, like, all the time. That warms my heart.
- The Quickfire: I loved this. No awkward introductions where the chefs see who can say “James Beard” the most—straightaway, Padma tasked them with cooking a “potluck” dish to be eaten family-style as a group. Standouts included Vietnamese-American chef Tu—that corn salpicon looked heavenly—and the Two Joes, which include Chicago Joe and Joestachio, the latter of whom claims to be “bringing the mustache back.” Um, not with those curls, bro; Seattle’s Josh ruined that trend for everybody. Tu wins, granting him immunity.
- All that said, I would pay money just to smell the pasta that Joestachio put out. His tartare in the elimination looked similarly mouthwatering. Seriously, Top Chef, how ya gonna make me root for a guy who looks like this?
- Elimination Challenge: Another great idea: Make a dish inspired by the basic concept of “meat and potatoes.” Seriously, every Top Chef challenge should be like this—a basic theme with just enough focus and all the room in the world to innovate. The best chefs used that freedom to thread in their culinary POVs. Fatima, for example, not only deviated from the rest by using chicken, but also by incorporating the spices central to her style of Pakistani street food. Chris, on the other hand, took yet another opportunity to showcase what he calls “Amish soul food,” a set of words that a lesser chef would toss around without backing up. Melissa, on the other hand, went home because she made mashed potatoes and dry pork. Lackluster execution plus a lack of personality is the number one way to get sent home.
- Let’s talk about the winner, Tyler, who comes across here as fastidious, driven, and also kinda insecure. He’s weird about the fact that he’s a chef in a small Connecticut town and not a culinary hotspot, and dude wastes no time taking shots at his fellow cheftestants. “It’s Top Chef,” he says to the judges. “I’m not trying to do tartare and crackers.” Damn, son. He also weirdly tries to claim his tattoos are, like, more legit than other chefs’ because he used to be in a punk band? What? Maybe we’ve got a villain on our hands?
- Actually, probably not when you consider the below screenshot.
- “We’re fat boys with sleep apnea machines,” Tyler says about he and Bruce when choosing bedrooms. Okay, I like Tyler.
- Speaking of Bruce: Everyone, including Tom, knows him. I’m getting serious Kenny from D.C. vibes from him. Like, what I love about Top Chef is that the most buzzed-about chefs are rarely the ones who make a huge impact in the competition. Go back to earlier seasons and you’ll see chefs with “Food and Wine” printed on their forehead going home in the third episode. Him recruiting Tu to help him finish his dish was a bad look.
- Speaking of Tu: Stop being so nice. There’s a difference between helping out your fellow chefs and literally making it harder to cook your own dish.
- Also, Graham’s back after doing, like, three episodes last season despite being a “featured judge.” If we get more Blais than Graham this round, I’m’a be like:
- What did everyone think of that commercial with Brooke? I wasn’t her biggest fan last season, but she’ll always have a special place in my heart for telling Andy Cohen that, after winning, she “went back to my room and drank by myself.”
- Last Chance Kitchen: First off, Tom loves saying that Last Chance Kitchen is “going to be a little different this year.” Because it’s always “a little different” every year, and every year Tom loves saying that in his best “Look, I’m a judge, not a host, but I’ll try” voice. Anyways, Last Chance Kitchen is a little different this year because four vets are all competing for a slot to get back into the main competition. Each week, one will be eliminated and they’ll compete alongside the eliminated chefs from the season. Those four vets? Vegas’ Jen Carroll, California’s Kwame Onwuachi, San Francisco’s Lee Anne Wong (season one!), and...
- Yep, Marcel’s back and he’s got hair that looks like a little beret.
- I’ll probably talk about this more in the future, but I have a soft spot for Marcel that mostly stems from my intense dislike for Ilan. Marcel’s just, like, that weird kid in elementary school who collects geodes and has a pet snake. He’s easy to make fun of, but he’s also kind of awesome? Am I wrong?
- Surprisingly, Jen Carroll, sporting a bleached blonde head of hair, goes home first in an episode that aired before the premiere. It’s a bummer, but her upbeat attitude at least helps wash away the last taste we had of her, when she stormed out of All-Stars in a storm of tears and profanity after getting eliminated in episode two.
- In LCK’s second episode, which aired after the premiere and features first castoff Melissa, Marcel broke out the liquid nitrogen and won with a riff on french fries and mayonnaise. Melissa ended up going home, but, hey, at least she cooked her potatoes right.
- In more distressing news, Last Chance Kitchen is doing that thing again where they make the eliminated chefs sit on the side and watch. Poor Jen Carroll’s out here awkwardly yelling over blenders.
- Who stands out? Who do you want to win? Who do you want to go home? Will the specter of Hosea haunt this entire season?