Hi guys! Welcome back to Top Chef! This is actually the first series I'm doing the second season of: AND it's one of my very favourite shows, so I'm 'CITED! You can find the last series worth of recaps on this site, let's roll into Charleston, SC and get this foodie party started!
We gotta meet 16 new (or new to me) chefs, who's coming up? First is a chubby, tattooed bearded guy (who ALMOST looks as good as he thinks he does), a woman from Charleston who is feeling the hometown pressure (with no accent? Really? Doesn't everyone but HGM sound like Foghorn Leghorn?) and then a bunch of others that want to win Top Chef (like, duh) and represent the new chefs
Then we have a bunch of also-rans (you know, Top Chef also-rans, so AMAZING) who will be looking for redemption, a couple of runner-ups (one very TALL runner-up) and that's why everyone came back: to win Top Chef
The finale will be held in Mexico and I mean this in the best way: if I never went to Mexico again, I would die a happy woman. We get a rundown of the rest of the prizes, including $125,000 huntys. I also want to snap a picture of San Pellegrino water at that point, but I will resist. So many pretty bubbles though!
Time to get there, folks! Padma welcomes everyone
And Tom asks if everyone's nervous
One counts heads and realises they're 8 chefs short, score, right?! But no. The returning chefs are gathering in the Stew Room (they have a Stew Room just for ragouts or is that where everyone fumes about bad feedback?), starting with Shirley Chung
Then Brooke Williamson
And Fancy Katsiju Tanabe (that I think I saw sweating into the food in the promos)
Ignore the name and what it suggests, he's the best Mexican / Kosher chef in the United States and he just wants to know if he's getting subtitles this year? I understood him perfectly, but I love it when shows do my work for me!
Tall runner-up is Sam Talbot
We're go back to the newbs, who are getting ready for their first challenge. Jamie Lynch
Has the unique goal of wanting to beat everybody and a deep gravelly voice that I dig.
John Tesar is a well-known returning chef who has history with Brooke. They're not enemies but not exactly friends either
And then it's a flurry of the next three people
And that's our returning 8!
Challenge time! It's about Charleston, so we getta talk to Jamie with the Voice again. He worked under some big chefs locally, including Charlie Palmer who I remember from Chef Amar last season! Another name he throws out is Michael Mina who does indeed seem like a big deal.
Gerald (who doesn't get a caption) also worked under Chef Mina in Baltimore, he thought it was great. He has five kids at home cheering him on, go Gerald! And get a caption, please
We discuss Jim Smith's resume next, he cooked for the Governor of Alabama and has such a high voice that I wondering about hormones.
He calls himself a nerd and you know: you can't call yourself the good kind of nerd. Star Trek and Buffy aside.
Quickfire Challenge: Tom has set this up for the contestants; it will test their knife skills, their time management and their presentation. They have one hour to create as many dishes as they want using the main ingredient under their cloches: a chicken. A chicken. A whole raw chicken and they have a whole hour to play with it.
The winner gets immunity, the loser gets to do a sudden-death cook-off against whoever loses from the other group, NO PRESSURE. Sorry, I meant ALL THE PRESSURE.
Right off the hop, Tom is impressed with Jamie's knife skills, he doesn't mess around in breaking down the chicken in several efficient knife strokes.
Jim's doing something weird with strawberries and cane sugar and ranch dressing with chicken livers. Strawberries, ranch dressing and chicken livers. Moving on
Padma is impressed with how organized Sylva is, he works methodically with a plan. He's Haitian and speaks French, which comes in handy with a lot of fine cuisine being French. He moves and talks very slowly, so I'm sideeying but he was nominated for a James Beard award, so he can't be discounted.
The chubby, bearded tattooed chef from above STILL doesn't get a caption, but he's BJ and he has a strategy for this challenge. He's only making two dishes, one for the dark meat and one for the white meat; I wonder if he'll smoke anything? All three of his restaurants revolve around smoking meat, so "yeah. Fancy BBQ" makes me like him already.
Woo hoo, Gerald gets a caption!
He's making a smoked chicken with a bourbon sauce and his strategy under stress is to joke around and talk a lot, we'll see how that goes for his time management.
Padma asks Jamie a truly unfortunate question: is he tattooed everywhere? Ba dum tish. ALMOST everywhere, 75%, but there are all kinds of neck tattoos and sleeves going on everywhere. Jamie says corporate restaurants won't touch him, but really it's Jim who stands out with his cleancut boyish looks.
Woot and we have an Italian chef making pasta! Silvia Barban is from Brooklyn via Italy
Local chef at the beginning is Emily Hahn
And she's already been featured in Food & Wine magazine, very cool. She's been fired for having a bad attitude, more than once, and we getta see that when she tells Tom and Padma "enough talking!" I like a strong chef with a strong personality and opinions; poor confidence can really hamstring a person.
Annie Pettry is our apologetic chef, can we have her and Emily next to each other for some balance? They're 30 minutes in and her and BJ haven't cooked any chicken. They gotta leave time for plating!
First blood! Silvia has a dish up for tasting:
It needed a little more salt, but has a nice flavour balance. 15 minutes later and no more dishes are up yet. Wow. Sylva underestimated the clock, I knew he was moving too slowly!
Gerald is basting his chicken in butter as fast as he can. Sheldon from the back is pulling for him! I guess the returning chefs getting to watch their competition is only fair, all of them have already put all their wares out for display.
Jamie burns his vegetables and won't be able to use them. I'm more concerned that he threw the pot lid on top of the lit burner but no fire yet.
Jim literally just used the chicken innards, an entire chicken is going to waste below him. With only two minutes to go, I just hope everyone has SOMETHING to put on a plate. And that they donate all this food.
BJ is up first, his dish is well received, even though there were bones on the plate
Jim's freaky-deaky innards display is next, it's fine, but not much says Tom, looking around for the entire outside of the chicken
Ooooooh I like Emily's chicken and biscuit meal
Her wing is cute too
Gerald combined his two planned dishes into one:
And he sums up everything that is Top Chef
Except I don't think it looks easy AT ALL. All the snaps to these chefs who even attempt it.
Jamie has two dishes to taste:
Sylva has one plate for tasting
Silvia made a salad for her second dish
Annie, god love her, well, maybe if she does well she'll calm down a little
But she can't answer Tom's question about why she thinks her chicken meal is a panzanella. He blinks a LOT after, which must be code for Pack Your Knives. After, the chefs in the Stew Room can tell she's about to vomit / cry: it's like a sense memory.
The top three from the challenge are: Silvia's pasta dish, Emily's chicken wing and Jim's innards display. Huh. And he takes it with his strawberries, ranch dressing and chicken livers. Jim cries and the chefs in the back just want to put him in their pockets!
The bottom three are Annie (course), Gerald (greasy) and Jamie (burned vegetables) and going to sudden-death is: Gerald.
Now let's meet the competition! The new chefs all swear, aww man, we gotta go up against people who already know about the magic clock that runs out of time? No fairsies! But Silvia's flustered for a different reason, she has a crush on Sam, who must be asked about basketball all the time. Seriously, the man is a giant.
We have a new judge! It's Graham Elliot, waitaminute: isn't he on MasterChef?
He'll be testing the returning chefs with Shrimp and Grits, sure. I have never had shrimp, but I did try grits when a pal sent me some and again when I accidentally crossed the US border and was stuck in Michigan. I hope there is a TONNE of flavour in these particular shrimp
Brooke already wants to cry / vomit, why did she do this again?
Casey has done this show THREE times, she can't figure out if she's a competition whore or a TV whore but I don't think she needs to equivocate. Why diversify after the first? Also: you're just so camera-friendly-looking and must be a good chef, so you get out there and do your best, let the trolly trolls online call you names, not you. Game face!
Brooke gives up a lot of personal backstory; that makes me think we've got our first chef eliminated pegged already. She and her husband have an adorable kiddo and are business partners. Shes making a Scotch egg, which she calls a risky move and I have my fingers crossed for you, Brooke!
Shirley is known for her Asian cuisine, so she's combining that with comfort food to make a big hug for the judges.
John is doing something with kim chi, it's already on his menu, so he thinks throwing it on grits will work. We get a little background on John
But he says he's a kinder, gentler John.
I kinda get what Silvia's talking about, Sam's an adorable tall drink of water
Since the ten years he was on the show, he's opened restaurants, wrote a book, and was voted one of People's Sexiest Men Alive so I'm guessing he got all the foodie groupies.
Sheldon is panicking, but not as much as Amanda, who hasn't cooked in two years. And uses the same tasting spoon twice. ;(. I don't understand why you would put your spoon back into it right after you tasted it, did that one and a half seconds make a difference?
Emily thinks the returning chefs look like turkeys running around, but I think she means chickens. You'd think a chef who just cooked a chicken would know that.
The top three are Brooke, Amanda and Shirley, so the ladies take it for the Also-Rans! The winner is: Brooke, good job!
The bottom three are: Casey, John and Katsuji. Sudden-death cooking will be John Tesar, who stands behind his dish.
But that's tomorrow, time for sleep! The Top Chef house is awesome! Oh sorry, they're calling each other Veterans and Rookies, my bad.
John is 58 and he's feeling the pressure of being that age and not reached the level he wants to, but also hasn't burned out, so. Katsuji thinks John should go get in Gerald's head but John thinks it's about the food.
They're going to a cotton plantation for the sudden-death cook-off, eeeh. This is where slaves were kept. Gerald likes how Charleston embraces it's roots, not shying away from it.
The challenge is an oyster roast, Gerald is doing Thai with four thousand ingredients, which he calls simple. John snuck in truffles with him, he's doing a simple oyster dish which doesn't sound like roast...
John seems like he's trying to make the challenge fit his repertoire of dishes, that's worrisome.
Tasting time! John's oysters are raw
And Gerald's look typical, but he defends them by saying that he didn't exactly have truffles in his pocket...
and my recording ends there. What?? Who goes home? Until next time you guys! Cheers
Update: Gerald went home, thank the gods and the wee boarlets for John that he brought truffles!