Last season was such a disappointment. I was a staunch Tiffany fan and then she asked to pack her knives and go with like, 6 people left. What? So I kind of tuned out. And then that big guy Kevin won while Angelo rolled around and moaned about having the flu or some kind of illness during the finale and that other dude just cooked food and didn't say anything. Not exactly captivating TV. Padma still had the baby weight (and looked puffy, grumpy, and sleep-deprived), Gail was off hosting 'Just Desserts' (which was Awesome, with a capital A), and the guest judges were boring. Tragic, considering how much I once loved this show.
But then I noticed a few familiar faces on the preview and looked a little closer. Casey? Dale? I know you guys. Carla? Is that really you? Richard? Oh my gosh, it's FABIO!!! Fabio of the fabulous 'bunky bed' comment. (I still can't look at bunk beds without saying in a thick Italian accent, "Buuuunky beds.") Oh joyous happy reunion! The very smart people at Bravo brought back a cast of "All-Stars" - chefs that were great but never won the big prize - for the most competitive season yet. Bravo really knows how to make a gal happy (and essentially reboot a series).
And so tonight, in line with my Top Chef (non-pregnant) tradition, I poured a rather generous glass of a good red and settled in on the couch with excited anticipation. And in the first ten minutes, as each contested updated what they were doing, where they were working, etc, I kind of felt like I was back at a college reunion. Oh, that rascal-y Marcel. Always pissing people off and whipping up some foam. Jamie, your haircut is a little severe, and please promise me you won't cook 1,000 scallops this season. Hey Carla - hooty hoo! Jennifer, seriously, please straighten your hair and don't flame out like you did during your season. Richard, are you finally going to blow up the kitchen this season, since you are really nothing more than mad scientist with very sharp knives?
But best of all, I have to say, I was delighted to see the Judges Panel restored to its original glory. Padma was svelte and glossy as ever. Gail was there, with all of her razor-sharp comments. Tom, of course, looked happy and content, yet serious and fatherly. And this season, it looks like Anthony "Tony" Bordain will be their #4. Fabulous!!
My only problem is that I'm not quite sure who to root for. I really do believe the Las Vegas season was by far the best, but that makes me sound biased. Especially since I consider the Chicago season a very close second. I was sad to see no Voltaggio brothers present (which one won?), but I still secretly believe the single one (Mike?) is the father of Padma's baby. (talk about a Bravo scandal!) I mean, Las Vegas boasts some of the best restaurants per capita. Marcel was a sous chef at Joel Roubouchen. Hung, Season 3 winner, was executive sous chef at Guy Savoy. We actually dined at Hubert Keller's restaurant Fleur di Lis (and is still my favorite French restaurant in Vegas) a week after Hung did, and our server told us all about him. She said he ate very, very quickly. No surprise there.
But besides our favorite places to eat, I really thought the challenges were insanely hard for the Las Vegas crew. Serve a meal to Joel Roubouchen? The Culinary Olympics? Serve a vegetarian dish to Natalie Portman?? Out of this world. And, as I have pointed out early, I, um, just happen to frequent the Whole Foods featured in each episode. I'm practically a regular on the show. (except I'm not, since I was on bed rest when it was taped...and if I had seen these people running through the produce section, I probably would have passed out. And Scotty would have shouted, "Ball!" [he shouts that at all round fruit.] We would have likely ended up on the cutting room floor.)
Okay, where was I? This is the problem with Top Chef. I get so lost in my memories of past seasons that it's hard to focus. So, with my love for the Vegas season evident, let's do something very Vegas-y and take some wagers on who the final chef will be...
Stephan will be the next to go...
and some of the others...
Scallop Girl (aka Jamie): 30-1
Fabio: 25-1 (sorry, Fabio fans)
Casey: 18-1 (sorry, Casey fans)
Tiffany from the DC season: 12-1
Dale from Chicago: 10-1
(if I didn't list a contestant, I've already forgotten about them.)
And Padma's daughter making a surprise appearance as a guest judge? 5,000-1. I'm not sure if she's eating solids yet...
What do you think, Top Chef fans??