The motto for the seventh season of “Top Chef: DC” is “Hail to the Chefs,” but if the first episode is any indication, they actually mean “Hail to Angelo.”
And Padma’s boobs.
There are a lot of familiar MO’s on the new season that is “furnished by Dial Nutriskin” because chefs should always wash their hands before doing anything in the kitchen. There’s the daddy – Stephen Hopcraft from Ohio who left his wife and 13-month-year-old twins at home and already misses them so much he’s trying to sabotage himself by breading rib-eye steak and treating the stew room like a sand box. There’s the angry/scary one – Tracey Bloom who was named one of the Top 25 chefs in Atlanta because she threatened to eat the judges and then laughed maniacally about it. There’s “Robin” aka John Somerville, a James Beard Award Nominee in 2009, who immediately informs us that he feels like a stranger in a strange land (he’s been living in maple trees in Michigan).
And then there’s Angelo Sosa from New York. The golden boy with a Michelin star under his belt, and this season’s Michael Voltaggio. He’s kind of a big deal. Like huge. He’s been to Monte Carlo and eaten at Louis XV and is going to guillotine everybody’s heads off and leave blood all over the stage. But Timothy Dean from DC isn’t buying it. “Angelo, he’s like I got it going on. And I’m like this is some bull shit.”
After everyone finishes comparing resumes and errr… knife size, Padma and Tom parade in to give the cheftestants their Quickfire Challenge. It’s just like old times – Padma looks like a penguin in a snug-fitting white vest and black pant ensemble, Tom looks like a midget next to her, and the chefs are all like “Wow, it’s Padma and Tom!” For their first challenge, the 17 chefs will compete in a Mise en place tournament where they will need to peel 10 potatoes, brunoise (finely dice) 10 cups of onions, break down 4 chickens, and then use those 3 ingredients to make a dish. The slowest chefs will be eliminated after each leg and only the four fastest will compete in the cook-off for a chance to win $20,000.
Everybody’s nervous – Amanda Baumgarten from Water Grill in Los Angeles slices open her palm while she’s peeling potatoes which kind of creeps me out a little bit because Angelo is now apparently psychic too. Blood on the stage, people. Blood on the stage. Golden Boy keeps his cool and makes it to the final round along with Master Kenny Gilbert who angry Tracey wants to fall off the building. (To create more blood on the stage, perhaps?)
The four remaining chefs, Angelo, Kenny, Kevin Sbraga from Jersey, and Timothy engage in a chicken, potato, onion face-off that is really just a face-off between Golden Boy and Master K. Angelo, who -- in addition to being a psychic -- feels “like an engine,” takes it with his roasted spice chicken served with a chilled onion jam. He wants to be the first contestant to win every single challenge. And we kind of believe he might do it. If Tracey doesn't push him off the building first...
For the elimination challenge the chefs are charged with cooking a dish that represents where they are from for 300 young successful Washingtonians at the kick-off party for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. The chefs are divided into 4 groups and will be competing head to head with the other members of their group – one person will be up for the win and one will be up for elimination. Quickfire finalists Angelo, Kenny, Kevin and Timothy will each get to select the chefs they want to compete against, which means they get to pick the people they think suck the most. Nobody’s surprised when Kenny picks angry Tracey first. Who’s pushing who off the building now, sucka?
The chefs are off to Whole Foods and it’s madness, chaos! Apples are following all over the place, people are freaking out over the ingredients, John is sporting a freakishly long rattail and talking about maple and trees…
Aaah, it’s so good to be rid of all those professional, sane Top Chef Masters.
Angelo, who is making arctic char with bacon froth to represent Connecticut, is really pumped for the challenge. He’s stopped feeling like an engine and is now feeling more like an orchestra. But not to worry, he’s still psychic. He can tell you when a flavor is going to hit your mouth and why it’s going to hit your mouth… Though really, I just want to know why John is using maple syrup to style his hair.
Angry Tracey has temporarily set her wrath upon “hick” Stephen who is making a potato-crusted ribeye which is pretty much the worst idea ever. Or at least it is until Jacqueline the caterer announces to Eric Ripert that she’s made him a lowfat chicken liver mousse that looks like she pureed John’s ponytail with some rubber cement. Eric’s not so pleased. Nor is the “luscious” Gail Simmons who describes it as “coarse.” (She apparently received a particularly meaty bite of John’s not-so-luscious locks.)
It’s not hard to predict who the top four chefs will be for this challenge – Golden Boy, Master K, Alex the Lemer from Russia, and Kevin who is a lot more lovable than Mike Isabella, the last Top Chef Jersey boy. The judges love the lemer’s short rib borscht and love Angelo the orchestra/engine/blood sucking vampire’s arctic char with bacon froth. Angelo ultimately takes the win and proudly announces that he’s now also a marathon runner. “They are going to be chasing me the whole time.”
Timothy, John, Jacqueline, and Stephen are called in as the least successful chefs in their groups. Tom’s being extra mean this season to compensate for the loss of acerbic, Simon Cowell-wannabee judge Toby Young, and asks Stephen with a pointed glare, “Why was the choice to cut a ribeye so thin that you really no choice but to overcook it.” He’s also confounded by Jacqueline’s weak defense that her lowfat chicken liver mousse was a fail because she didn’t have a recipe. Ultimately, however, it’s John’s amateurish attempt at a maple mousse napoleon made with a prepared puff pastry that pisses him off the most. We are not sad to see him go. Nor are the other 16 chefs who give an “aww” about as sincere as Tracey’s maniacal laugh.
All hail the chefs, indeed. This one’s going to be a bumpy (and bloody) ride.