This season started off with a bang when Padma announced that the winner would be taking home the biggest prize in Top Chef history - $250,000.
With most seasons of a reality competition show, the first episode is dedicated to introducing the contestants. Not this time. As an All Star season, Top Chef jumped right into the heat of things. Head Judge Tom Colicchio didn’t waste any time when it came to putting a target on the back of the favorites when he asked: “do we have any James Beard nominees?”
This forced a handful of the chefs to start the season with a strong flex - being put in a position to brag about their accolades.
Then, with little introduction, things got going as the show jumped right into the first Quick Fire Challenge and it was a familiar one.
This was the classic mise en place race.
The chefs had to prep three different stations before they could move one. The first five to complete each station would form a team and have a head start on cooking their dish.
Station 1: Clean two artichokes
This one seemed to be the easiest for the group as they had to clean and de-heart the artichokes.
Station 2: Supreme 5 oranges.
To Supreme a fruit means to cut out the individual segments. It’s not overly difficult but it’s very time consuming.
Station 3: Cracking 20 almonds
This seems like something that you wouldn’t think is overly complicated but every single chef seemed dismayed by the challenge.
As each team finished, they made their way to the Top Chef kitchen to build their dishes.
Team 1: Artichoke tempura with citrus aioli; crispy artichokes with mint vinaigrette
This sounds really good, though a fryer mishap caused the tempura batter to turn dense. A mistake that likely cost the team the win.
Team 2: Artichoke crudo with carrot & fennel gremolata; Almond crusted fried artichoke with orange aioli
Unlike Team one, the tempura fried artichokes in this dish were a judge-pleaser. They were complimented with an asian-style aioli that judge Colicchio made a point to single out for how good it was.
Team 3: Char-grilled artichoke with sumac, yogurt & tahini; Tortellono with artichoke barigoule in pancetta brodo
This team got ambitious as Joe decided he wanted to make handmade pasta - something he became known for in his previous season - but he dropped the ball as there wasn’t enough time to property prepare the dough. His pasta ended up well below standards, though the judges loved the team’s other dish.
The Winner: Team 3 won thanks to their char-grilled artichoke dish.
The judges decided to award the win to the team that had their single favorite dish, so the red team was able to make up for the mishap on their pasta.
The chefs were broken into five teams of three teams and tasked with the challenge of making a seafood feast but were give fire as their only source of heat. As well, there would be no electricity to cook with, making the chefs’ knives their only tools.
The Winners: Gregory, Jamie and Stephanie
The winner of the challenge was Gregory who wowed the judges with his charred salmon with grilled peaches & roasted chili dressing - he described it as “really spicy and really sharp”. That sounds absolutely delicious, so with Gregory’s technical prowess, it’s no surprise he was able to turn it into the winning dish. He will now have immunity at the next elimination challenge.
The Losers: Lee Anne, Joe and Brian
For the second straight challenge, Joe’s mustache wasn’t his biggest mistake as he was was the weak link on his team. The poor performance in both of the opening challenges inevitably that caused him to be the first chef eliminated this season. He cooked a grilled clam flat bread that seemed boring and well below the standards of Top Chef. It was described as “chewy” and “just not very good.
Joe will now go to Last Chance Kitchen where he will be given the opportunity to battle his way back into the competition.
This was a fun premier. Nothing mind blowing beyond some incredible chefs doing what they do best. Judging from this episode, this is going to be a season that will come down which of the top contestants can push for greatness with the most consistency. All in all, it’s just really fun to have Top Chef back in our lives.