Just when the election is over and you felt a sincere lack of cutthroat competition in your life -- hooray for "Top Chef!" Welcome to Season 10.
Let's get it started in hey-ya: Padma (in a fetching white ensemble) explains that 21 chefs will be competing in each of the judges' restaurants to narrow down the competition. Each of our judges -- Tom Colicchio, Hugh Acheson, Emeril Lagasse, and (new this season) Wolfgang Puck -- will have five or six contestants. Each will decide who moves on to the actual competition.
Up first, in LA, at Tom Colicchio's Craft -- his five chefs will be cooking regular service at Tom's restaurant. Tom wants to see how they move in the kitchen.
John Tesar begins our introductions with a fabulously arrogant start: He declares he's been given a "natural talent" and "Anthony Bourdain says I'm probably the best natural chef he's ever worked with." I think I speak for everyone when I say: BARF. Anthony Bourdain hates name dropping sycophants and I think you're one, John.
Moving on, into the kitchen: Lizzie (from South Africa, and also clearly in love with Tom) is tasked with making tortellinis. Tom quickly surmises she's made tortellini before and is impressed. She blushes. Anthony is tasked with butchering a duck. He uses a paring knife. Tom's over his shoulder, and Anthony's sweating heavily. It doesn't go well. Yeesh.
Micah is from San Fran and explains to Tom that he went from line cook to Executive Chef -- which is either totally impressive or kind of insane.
Next is Jorel Pierce and his amazeballs old timey mustache. It's seriously epic. He claims to be an amazing butcher, and that his restaurant in Denver is "butchery focused." Tom asks him to cut up some chickens. He chokes under the pressure and gets everything wrong.
Shifting focus, Emeril and his five potentials are meeting up at Table 10 in Las Vegas. Emeril announces to his team that they are taking the same test he gives every potential hire in his restaurants. He'd like them to make him some soup. I love that he's given them a clear challenge -- a bit easier and more clear cut than Tom's "cook on my line" assignment.
We first hear from Joshua, who has the same twirly bird epic mustache as Jorel -- what is this, a hipster facial hair conspiracy? Meanwhile, Stephanie and Kristen are friends, coworkers, and they live in the same building. Stephanie clarifies a bit too quickly and adamantly that they are not lesbians. Easy, tiger.
Joshua and his mustache tell Emeril that if they make it to the competition that he will miss the birth of his child as his wife is due in three months. Yikes. Cute Jeffrey Jew (his real name!) is trying to chill his gazpacho with about three minutes left, and Emeril is doubtful.
The chefs present their soups. Jeffrey Jew (still his real name!) gets Emeril's immediate approval with his successfully-chilled gazpacho. He's going to Seattle. Emeril sends Stephanie and Tina home. Kristen (former model) and Joshua (stache) are also moving forward to Seattle.
Cutting back to the line at Tom's place in LA: Service is starting and Tom's contestants are trying to measure up. John is quickly given a ticket to Seattle -- he has seared his halibut with ease. Anthony (who reminds me way too much of Modern Family's Cameron) wonders what John's departure means for the rest of them.
Our newest judge, Wolfgang Puck, asks each of his six chefs to create an omelet. Again, a seemingly simple task (like Emeril's soup). Daniel proclaims that in less than a year his restaurant is No. 1 on Yelp. Yelp? Really? Did you just brag about that? Spoiler alert: You're about to get eliminated.
Kuniko is from Japan and tells us she left a banking job that she hated to pursue a culinary career, which her family does not approve of. She wants to win "Top Chef" "to earn the respect of her parents." I am immediately in love with her and she's adorable and I want her to win.
Meanwhile, Daniel actually refers to her as "Origami" in an offhand comment and I want to kick him in the throat. Time is winding down and it seems everyone's omelets are overcooked -- and every single one of them covers the browned bits with vegetable and garnish. Wolfgang explains, "this looks like a woman with a lot of make-up on." Amen. He decides all but one of his team will be moving on. The loser? Yelp-tastic Daniel. Can't say I didn’t see that coming.
Down in Atlanta, Hugh Acheson give his five potentials their audition order: make a salad. This is the most deceptively simply assignment of the bunch. Bart tells Hugh that he is a twice-knighted chef in his home country of Belgium. He's also making a salad that involves beets, lobster, asparagus, and potatoes. Yikes -- that's kind of a lot of things for a salad.
Bespectacled, redheaded Danyele is adorably nervous around Hugh and once she's done with her salad she needs to "think about cleaning up or throwing up, I'm not sure which one." She seems really green but I am totally crushing on her.
Sheldon hails from Hawaii and started out as a dishwasher 10 years ago, he is now an Executive Chef. He comes off as talented, quiet, and humble -- the kind of chef who can win this thing.
Salads are served. Brooke serves Hugh a simple, clean kale salad and he immediately passes her on to Seattle. Less is more, people! He describes Danyele's grilled salad as having a little "propaneyness" to it. New word!
Hugh can't think of anything to say about Gina's overcooked salad except, "It looked nice." Gina is the only one of this group that gets sent home. She is perturbed: "I'm not just a chef and nutritionist -- I'm a movement." Yes, Gina. You're a movement. Moving back to where you came from.
Technical note: What is with the jarringly annoying switches to digital film during the hero shots of the dishes? It's like we're watching a normal show and then suddenly on the close-ups of the food it gets all shaky home-movie gross. Hey, Bravo: No me gusta.
Finally, Tom Colicchio has seen enough of his team on the line at Craft. He has already passed John on to Seattle. Based on his poor butchering and over-salting, Jorel and his mega-stache are dismissed. Anthony also gets the axe. Zoiks! It's a bloodbath. Thankfully the exits are over. Lizzie and Micah are both in. And there are our contestants.
The coming-up-this-season preview shows us lots of clam digging, cussing, PADMA ON ROLLERSKATES, and a trip to what looks like Alaska. Fun abounds! See you next week!
Who is your early voting pick to win this thing? Let me know via Twitter @operatornumber9.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun