I’ve been biding my time watching shows like “Top Chef Masters” and “Chopped” over the past few months as cheap substitutes for “Top Chef.” But soon those temps can take a backseat, because the real thing returns on June 16 for its seventh season (the sixth season, I would argue, was its finest), set in Washington, DC. And this time, there’s been a new judge added to the mix: Eric Ripert of New York’s Le Bernardin.
Lest you think adding a new judge counts as a shark-jumping, Kara-type moment, please note that Ripert is AWESOME. He’s one of the greatest chefs on Earth, and he’s by far the most pleasant Frenchman I’ve ever encountered, on TV or otherwise. He’s been a guest judge on “Top Chef” before, and his critiques are sharp without being gratuitous. Plus, he’s so handsome! Gail Simmons’ chest just heaved in anticipation.
As for the new cast, Bravo’s website has clickable bios on all the newbies. I’m all for judging people immediately upon seeing them, so I’ve combed these bios to form a completely uneducated opinion on each contestant:
Tracey Bloom: Wears camo pants. Favorite recipe is “English pea salad.” Oh dear. You won’t go far if you’re favorite food is something British people devised. Tracey’s from Atlanta, where pork king Kevin from Season 6 resides, so that’s a good sign.
Timothy Dean: “His favorite dishes are Maine lobster with mac & cheese and shaved black truffles and pan-seared Hudson Valley foie gras with rhubarb and 20-year-old Port wine sauce.” Yes, I do believe I could hang with this man.
Tiffany Derry: “Tiffany, a native Texan, definitely flaunts the ‘Don’t Mess with Texas’ attitude.” That won’t fly with me. I DEMAND HUMILITY!
Stephen Hopcraft: “Over-the-top and without a filter,” is how the site describes Stephen. That’s pretty much code language for “a-hole”. But the guy trained with Thomas Keller. One to keep an eye on.
Lynne Gigliotti: She’s a cooking teacher. Oh, that’s certain death.
Kevin Sbraga: “Kevin is currently the Executive Chef at Rat’s at the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ.” Listen, unless your name is Remy and you’re the main character of an adorable Pixar movie, I don’t want your restaurant to be named Rat’s. Also, his last name sounds awfully close to Sbarro. LOW CLASS!
Kenny Gilbert: Kenny looks like he could beat me to death. “Kenny once split his pants open while cooking a 10-course meal and didn’t even blink an eye.” I think I’d like my chef to know if his pants were split open.
Tamesha Warren: She’s only 24. Oh, I dunno about the young'uns.
Kelly Liken: “A small town girl at heart, she has passed up on offers from heavyweight chefs including Charlie Trotter and Daniel Boulud to stay in Colorado where she feels grounded.” Well, that was dumb. You could have had world-class training. NOW YOU WILL LOSE!
John Somerville: WHITE MAN WITH DREADLOCKS ALERT! “He has received two James Beard Nominations for Best Chef: Great Lakes (2008 and 2009) and is recognized as one of the best chefs in the greater Detroit area.” Yes, but how many people in the greater Detroit area can afford food? Not a big judging pool.
Jacqueline Lombard Hey, her name sounds Frenchish! “Jacqueline is a private chef, sommelier and event producer…” Nope. You’re gone.
Ed Cotton: Says he loves any dish with rabbit. THE MONSTER! Oh, and he’s worked with Daniel Boulud. Very intimidating.
Arnold Myint: I don’t like the bowtie. “Arnold's culinary approach is mirrored by his colorful life.” What does that even mean? Does he juggle mice or something?
Angelo Sosa: He looks like Rob Lowe! Angelo “always has salt, Japanese fish sauce, cinnamon, green cardamom and lily bulbs handy in the kitchen.” WHO DOESN’T?
Andrea Curto-Randazzo: Aw, she’s a mom. Sorry dear. Moms don’t win this thing. TOP CHEFS ARE KILLERS!
Amanda Baumgarten: “Amanda attended Le Cordon Bleu in London and went on to work at four different Michelin-starred restaurants including La Tante Claire and Le Gavroche in London and Melisse and Patina in L.A.” Not bad. And she looks so saucy!
Alex Reznik: He’s bald. Looks like a genie.