So last night was the much anticipated premiere of the eighth season of Top Chef. This time around it’s set in the Big Apple, New York City and if you couldnt’ tell by the title of this article, it’s an All Stars version. 18 contestants from previous seasons, each of whom did not win their season, were brought back to compete; fan favorites, those you love to hate and all the culinary goodness in between!
From Season 1 we saw Stephen and Tiffani, Season 2 brought us Elia and one of this author’s favorites, Marcel. From Season 3 there was Dale, Casey and Tre, and from Season 4 Richard, Antonia, Spike and Dale Talde joined the roster. Carla, Jamie and fan favorite Fabio were brought back from Season 5, while Jennifer and Mike came back from Season 6. Tiffany Derry and Angelo were the chefs brought back from Season 7, and Angelo was healthy, lol! This time around the stakes are much higher, there’s a total of half a million dollars in cash and prizes being given out, the winner getting an unprecedented $200,000!!! That’s the highest top prize dollar amount in all the seasons of this Emmy award winning show.
So, the Quickfire Challenge was FUN to watch! Each season was grouped together and asked to cook a dish or dishes to represent the city in which their season was filmed. It was so neat to watch these teams work together (or not, hello New York Season 5, yes we know NYC is the Big Apple….but three completely separate dishes all based on the apple?!?) to try and best the others in this ultimate showdown. So, who was at the top and who faltered? Sadly for me, Marcel and Elia’s Fish Tacos didn’t fly with the judges, nor did the Season 5 trio of apple dishes. Season 1′s San Francisco cioppino gazpacho didn’t leave the judges hearts on the Golden Gate Bridge either. Angelo and Tiffany’s DC crabcake and rockfish dish wasn’t deemed great either. They did like Miami’s pork tostones though, and the Las Vegas lobster carbonara…..but the ultimate winner went to Spike, Dale T., Antonia and Richard’s Chicago avant-garde hot dog. This author is a Midwesterner and could be in Chicago within a few hours…..but a hot dog for Chicago, really? Don’t get me wrong, I love Spike, but there’s so much more Chicago could’ve been represented by. Meh, doesn’t matter, they won the Quickfire and had immunity from elimination.
Onto the Elimination Challenge and I have to say, whoever thought these challenges up hit the jackpot on this one because it epitomizes the word “challenge”. Each chef had to redo the dish that got them sent packing from their season, or if they made it to the end, lost the show for them. That mean poor Spike had to deal with those damn frozen scallops again! And Stephen had to actually cook this time…..remember how he was eliminated during Restaurant Wars for focusing too much on service and not on actual food? Another twist thrown into this was that they were split into two groups due to space constraints, to cook. The first group not cooking got to eat with the judges and comment on the food, while the other group had to sit in the back….but surprise, surprise, they got to see and hear what everyone was saying about them. Elia chose not to watch though. First brought out to judges table were Spike, Jamie, Richard and Angelo. But another shocker (for the chef at least, not this viewer) was in store for Richard who was told he could not win because he went over the allotted two hours. Then he had the gumption to act surprised! Apparently his hearing is so off he couldn’t hear the BLARING alarm sounding off the end of the cooking time, nor the other chefs commenting on it. Too bad too because he very well could have won the challenge and $10,000.
The judges were very pleased this time around with Spike’s ability to turn the frozen scallops into a palatable dish, as well as Jamie’s redo on Eric Ripert’s fish dish (and she didn’t gripe this time around about having to make a dish she didn’t like). But it was Angelo who came out on top with the win, yay! He got a raw deal, in my opinion, last season when he was sick for part of the final challenge so it was nice to see him get to redo it the way he wanted to. The bottom three this first episode was Fabio, Elia and Stephen. A point to make was that during the judging/eating of the dishes, Anthony Bourdain (am I the only one that can’t stand this pretentious goof?) referred to Fabio’s dish as a dead animal turned inside out. Sure, judge the dish, but you don’t have to insult the chef personally either and while Fabio acted like a petulant two year old in his reaction to it, I could see his point too. It was a harsh judgement of the dish. Stephen stood like a rigid wooden statue during the judging of his three dishes, while Elia insisted her dish was good despite never tasting it. I like Elia myself, but she should tasted the dish itself and it seemed like she made no effort to improve on it save for a couple of subtle changes.
Personally, I really thought Stephen would get the boot, and despite her last ditch plea not to be, Elia was sadly the one eliminated. The rest of the season looks interesting, at one point during the last minute montage I saw Fabio leaping over a tennis net at the US Open. They also get to cook at the Museum of Natural History (was I the only to not see Tre in the group shot?). Paula Deen is on and she wants to apparently “whoop someones cute little ass” (hmmmmmmmm, who do you think? My guess is Marcel). Jimmy Fallon stops by too, and Tom Colicchio is apparently cooking against the chefs in one challenge too. But the one thing I saw that made me puke was……..a Jonas brother. Elmo and Cookie Monster didn’t bug me, but seeing that this great show has sunk to the Tweenage Teeny Bop Tiger Beat level just depresses me. What’s next? Cooking for Bieber’s entourage during a Quickfire? The cast of High School Musical asking the chefs to cook for a prom special? No wait, let’s bring back the original cast of 90210 and have the chefs cook at the Peach Pit for a TV reunion special. Sigh.
So, what do you think? Join us in our forums here to tell us about it!