why I haven't been blogging about Top Chef. It's still an excellent show (and I'm really happy it finally won the Emmy) but it was getting to be too much of the same. Apparently the producers felt this too because they did exactly the right thing: an All-Star season!
They did a really phenomenal job casting the cheftestants from seasons past who either barely missed out on the title or were cut cruelly early or were just popular personalities. There are a lot of contenders. I'll do a rundown later in the post but let's talk about the first episode challenges first.
I liked the concept of the Quickfire, making a dish that represents the city their season took place in, though I thought it was possibly unfair that some seasons had only 2 people while others had 4. I didn't really form many opinions here, although, it's so strange knowing everyone already. Usually the first few weeks of a season I don't know who anyone is and I'm just kind of waiting for the cream to rise to the top. Here, I want to absorb what every single person is doing!
The Elimination challenge, though, was ridiculously brilliant and also a little evil: the chefs all had to recreate the dishes that sent them home. They all looked pissed when they saw what they had to do. And then there's more: they're split into two groups and each will get to eat the others' dishes. And then there's more: they get to watch the critiques. Oh, and by the way, Anthony Bourdain is a regular judge!
It was so interesting to see how different the challenge was for everyone. A lot of the chefs who were booted earlier in their seasons had truly terrible dishes to salvage: Spike's frozen scallops, Dale T.'s butterscotch scallops, Mike's vegetarian dish, Jamie's salty celery. Since they had a lot to improve on, I actually think they fared better than the chefs that made it to their finale. More often than not, the finalists had great dishes conceptually that they just failed in the execution of so I think the difference was probably less noticeable. The exceptions were Angelo, who went on to win, and Richard Blais, who might have won had he not bizarrely continued to garnish his plates after time was up. I did feel bad for Stephen, who was kicked off during Restaurant Wars for being front of house and had three dishes he didn't even really make the first time around.
And the first one out is Elia. I was surprised that she didn't do more with her dish, but she was definitely being a little too proud, thinking that it shouldn't have eliminated her in the first place. I wasn't a huge fan of hers originally but she's obviously talented and being out first really really sucks.
Here's my breakdown of the rest of the chefs:
Stephen (S1) - I remember hating him during the season but at the reunion and various specials he somehow redeemed himself. I see him as more of a sommelier and plating guy though, so not sure how far that will take him.
Tiffani (S1) - I rooted for Harold to win over her because of her sometimes unpleasant personality but I wouldn't mind seeing her do well. I'm curious to see how she matches up against people from later seasons where the talent was seemingly increased.
Marcel (S2) - Still hate him.
Casey (S3) and Dale L. (S3) - I like them both but don't really have an opinion beyond that.
Tre (S3) - He placed 8th in his season, the lowest of all the All-Stars, so we didn't get to see very much of him at all. Definitely looking forward to him proving himself.
Richard (S4) - My first instinct was that he's going to win this. Hopefully his mistake in the first episode was a fluke. All-Star seasons of reality shows can be strange though with top contenders falling early (see Survivor and The Amazing Race).
Antonia (S4) - Meh. The only chef that I don't really remember anything about...
Spike (S4) - I've been to his burger place in DC and it's pretty damn good. I don't know how exactly that translates to the fine dining type stuff of Top Chef though.
Dale T. (S4) - I was a fan of his for some reason despite his anger issues. Hopefully he can keep it together this time (though I'm sure it'll be entertaining if he doesn't).
Carla (S5) - She was the underdog in her season and she's still that now. I imagine her dessert skills will come in handy again.
Jamie (S5) - Don't make scallops every week again! She definitely went home too early the first time around.
Fabio (S5) - I imagine he's kind of just there for the soundbites.
Mike (S6) - I've been to his former restaurant in DC, Zaytinya, and I loved it. Hopefully he'll keep the misogynistic comments to a minimum.
Jennifer (S6) - There's only been one female Top Chef so far. I think a dream top 3 for me would be Tiffani, Jamie, and Jen.
Angelo (S7) - He grew on me throughout his season and being sick during the finale was really sucky, so I guess I'm glad he's getting another chance. It's too soon for me to really be happy to see him again though.
Tiffany (S7) - I got the impression that her season was relatively weak in general, so another case where I wonder how she stacks up against everyone else.
Oh, and I have to say, the season preview looks pretty awesome. Especially....going head to head with Tom Colicchio! Finally putting where your money mouth is, Tom!