The epic New York season of Top Chef is finally upon us. To honor the occasion, New York comedian Max Silvestri will be taking us through the season episode by episode. His take, below:
Finally. Season Five of Top Chef has brought Tom and Padma and 17 people who own knives to the restaurant capital of New York state: the Big Apple.
As usual, the contestants are thrown right into it, charged by a very purple Tom and Padma to peel apples using only their knives. No fancy apple-peeling machines for you! This pretty and slightly global cast is nervous, and rightly so. The loser of the Quick Fire goes home. The Finn Stefan wins the first round of fruit hijinx, and that is not surprising because he kinda looks like he has gutted a person before. Immediate front runner!
Richard, whose inner queen wondered what Padma would be wearing but not whether he should throw out his beer pong T-shirt, cuts off his thumb and bleeds all over his apples.
After two more rounds of heavy-handed Big Apple symbolism and at least one instance of Tom saying "I'll inspect your apples", Lauren and Patrick both stand at the brink of the first elimination. They're friends from the CIA! (The school, not the Company.) But they both can't stay and Lauren especially can't stay. She chokes up. It's so sad. I feel like I'm losing a best friend. I'll miss that time she wore that red top and sunglasses on her head. But she has to go, as there is apparently a ferry waiting for her.
Now the remaining 16 can temporarily relax at their plush condo overlooking McCarren Park. Jamie, Patrick and Richard drink white wine and form Team Rainbow. Stefan and Fabio bond over being European and snooty. Daniel doesn't approve of the snootiness, because he's all about being professional and also being from Long Island. Except someone should have told him it is unprofessional to have facial hair like a crazy person. Here, Daniel, I've made you a simple style guide in case you lose a bet again and have to shave notches into your face.
For the Elimination Challenge, the contestants pick knives and pair off, each team heading to a different New York culinary neighborhood. Pretty Miami surfer Jeff pulls Latin cuisine, and probably knows as much about nighttime moisturizers as he does Latin cooking, meaning he knows a good deal about both. Ariane, who lacks self-confidence but makes up for it by having a family who has faith in her, gets stuck with Middle Eastern cuisine. Despite being from Montclair, Ariane has never taken the PATH and eaten at any one of the eight thousand halal carts littering the sidewalks. HER loss. But 21-year old Patrick seems confident, because he one time took a class on Chinese cuisine.
In the end, Stefan's lamb and beef dish impresses Tom, Padma, Gail and guest judge Jean-Georges, and he wins the Elimination Challenge despite already having immunity. I'm already calling this thing for Stefan. Padma goes all Nate Silver and reveals that only once IN THE ENTIRE STORIED HISTORY OF TOP CHEF has the winner of the first Elimination Challenge not gone on to be Top Chef.
Patrick and Ariane land in the bottom two, and Ariane almost blows it for herself by blurting out that normally she'd be able to look up Middle Eastern cuisine in a book. Tom gives her a look that says "I don't know how to read." Patrick says he wants to share his cooking with the world about ten different ways, but he probably meant to say except China, because that bok choy looked disgusting. In the end, The judges send Patrick to pack his knives, but it's fine because he's got so many years ahead of him to realize that maybe he shouldn't be a cook.
I agree with the judges: this is shaping up to a be a season with a lot of strong cooks. This premiere didn't reveal any really crazy personalities, which is a shame, but we've got lots of time to find our Andrews and our Howies. Though Stefan had a tremendous showing in this premiere episode, I am going to be keeping an eye on Gene, Leah and Hosea, but also Melissa because I love bangs.
· All Top Chef Coverage [~E~]
For more stories from Eater, go to eater.com.