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Charles Dickens wrote of Washington D.C.: “It is sometimes called the City of Magnificent Distances, but it might with greater propriety be termed the City of Magnificent Intentions.” OK, I know he was thinking lofty – national governance, world affairs – he clearly wasn’t thinking ahead to our new group of cheftestants. But I also know that the quote would resonate with them. This is a determined group of chefs, and they’ve converged on our nation’s capital to win.
I myself was glad to learn that Season 7 would be in D.C. D.C. has given rise to terrific chefs such as my friend Jean-Louis Palladin, who succumbed to lung cancer in 2001, but who was a driving force behind cooking in America. It has also attracted others, such as José Andrés, Jeffrey Buben at Vidalia, and Cathal Armstrong at Restaurant Eve. And, on a more personal note, I was also glad that D.C. is an Acela-ride away from NYC, where my new baby and new restaurant both clamored for my attention on the days we weren’t shooting the show.
The chefs hit the ground running with a high stakes Quickfire Challenge. Coupling the fact that this was their very first challenge under time pressure with the fact that twenty thousand dollars was on the line made for some shaky hands trying to wield those knives. I’m quite sure that folks could have peeled potatoes and diced onions far more quickly and neatly than they did that day were they not under a double-whammy of pressure. In fact, you saw only one of three instances in which chefs cut themselves. (As a side note: I’m constantly amazed at the chefs who show up with dull knives! It’s ridiculous – sharpen the things before you arrive, please.) But this is the type of competition in which one benefits from being thrown right into the deep end of the pool: the sooner the chefs get used to performing under extreme pressure, the sooner they’ll start performing well under extreme pressure, cooking more closely to how they would in their own restaurant kitchens … which the four who made it to the end of the Quickfire Challenge and cooked for us all did very adeptly. When you consider that they were cooking with only basically chicken, potatoes, and onions, under a significant time constraint, on a low burner on a windy rooftop, the food was all surprisingly good. They all thought creatively on their feet and delivered good dishes. I remember thinking, “this bodes well for the season.”
Fantastic to see you back in the blogosphere, Tom, and equally thrilled am I to have the uncrowned Outstanding Reality Program back on my TV, even if it isn't in HD (damn you, Comcast!)
First things, congrats on being named THE Top Chef at the last James Beard awards. That is amazing and deserves to be applauded before we talk about anything else.
Now, with this week's episode we saw some apparent frontrunners and some apparent laggers, but it's just the first episode so it's usually pretty hard to say "this guy's going far" or "she's awesome" or "he can't even cook Lipton soup" after just one hour. However, the fact that 3 out of the 4 Quickfire finalists also were 3 of the top 4 in the Elimination Challenge seems to be a pretty good sign of things of come. We shall see. I'm definitely rooting for Kevin as Hamilton, NJ (where his Rat's restaurant is located) is in my neck of the woods (Camden/Gloucester county NJ near Philadelphia, PA) and I'm thrilled that he had such a great first showing!!
John seemed like the obvious choice. I'm sure he's a nice guy and I'm sure he knows what he's doing, but there just didn't seem to be anything positive about his dish. Plus, something about the guy just weirded me out, and I'm a pretty open-minded individual. The other possible elimination in my eyes was the Kate Hudson look-alike, who looks so much like Kate that I can only call her Kate. It's uncanny.
Looking forward to more!!! Oh, and THANK GOD the show moved to 9PM!!!
Is season seven as skilled or more skilled than season 6? There should be an allstar to chef master where top contestants come back like voltaggio brothers, richard blaia, harold, tiffany, jennifer, kevin, so on
Looking forward to watching what appears to be a competitive, fun interesting cast again this season. Did not agree with the first elimination choice...but that is part of the fun too! Hve not picked my favorite chef yet..but there are a couple in the running for least favorite!!
Welcome back to Season 7 of Top Chef! THRILLED that Chef Ripert is now the other permanent judge - brilliant choice!
Loved the show (the mise tourney is always one of my favorite QF challenges). Seems like Kenny and Angelo are the front-runners, but I found it interesting you said in your blog "While these hardworking and reliable cooks are not always the most creative, you never know when one will suddenly emerge from the pack and distinguish him- or herself in a season of Top Chef! " Makes one go Hmmmmm...are you giving us a little hint here as to what happens in later episodes, Chef? We shall see. :-)
And like Quincy, thank you, BRAVO, for moving the show to 9pm! The ONE thing I know I'm not going to enjoy is when the political heads come on the show. REALLY? I seriously wish TC had stayed away from that. There are so many other ways to showcase Washington DC other than politics. Don't we viewers get enough of that carp on a daily basis in the news? So Booo! on that, but YAY! that you're back!
I'm sure you did your research in selecting DC as the location, but as I viewed the promos for later in the season, I was disappointed. Having politicians on the show has turned Top Chef from a guilty pleasure into just another show not worth watching anymore. I would think that public "servants" would have more important things to do with their time. Sorry, but I just lost my appetite.
I was sad to see John leave. He obviously has talent from the accolades of which he can boast. I also thought that he seemed like a genuine person who hasn't got a malicious bone in his body. I would have liked to have seen him stay for another week at least. :(
Tom I am a huge fan of the show and it looks like the show is off to a great start already!
I agree with John going home for that pastry. I don't understand why a chef would buy a main component instead of making it from scratch.
Anyway, I do have a suggestion for a future locale. Atlanta! Two of your finalists Richard(TC-Chicago) and Kevin (TC-Las Vegas) are from the ATL so we definately have a lot of talent here!
Anyway, thanks for the recap. I think you were spot on!
I must say I do miss the chef's from last season. I'm with you on this one and crossing my fingers. People really aren't themselves when they are uncomfortable and under pressure. So I can see how mistakes can be made when the first competition is a "represent yourself" dish. You know your going to keep hearing about last seasons chefs throughout this season. They were that amazing! I've never seen your eyes light up the way they did when Micheal cooked that pork belly. Hell my eyes never lit up so much while watching any cooking show like they did last season. Okay enough is enough. To this season** Cheers!
Before I forget, YES!!! Thank you for moving to 9 pm!! I actually woke up on time this morning!
My daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed this first episode and can't wait to see how the season plays out. We actually smiled when you and Padma walked out, it was like seeing old friends after an absence!
Terrific show Bravo! I hope you realize what a gem you have.
Great to see this season opener allowed all contestants to "unpack their knives" and cook unrestricted before being eliminated. I'm hoping you can expand on the use of "acid" in dishes, which is a common reference in every episode regarding whether it's present or missing. I normally think vinegars or citrus juices but are there others? It seems to be a requirement for most seafood or salads, so it's usually a demerit if missing. Is it never permissible to side step this taste dimension?
Agree with Jill S. (and wrote something similar last night, but obviously it was decided not to post it). Disappointed at the choice of bringing politicians into Top Chef. There are so many other ways to showcase Washington, DC other than politicians.
So happy to see you again Tom. I actually miss this show. I get more cooking inspiration here than on any other food show..and you guys book the big shots, so there is an authority and class that the imitators lack. So I'll be here for every episode. Hope the baby is happy amd healthy.
This looks like it's going to be a great season with rivalries already shaping up. D.C. is a good venue in which to stage the show as well.
How in the heck did John even make it as being a qualified contestant?????? He was so out of place. Somebody fell on their sword when he was chosen as a contestant.
Look forward to all the shows. As ususal, Padman looks marvelous.
I hadn't watched the last 2 seasons, burn out or something similar I suppose. But I see you have a new Judge, Eric Ripert (sp)???? I'm Baaaaaaccccckkkkkk!
I love Top Chef!!!! I have watched every show since it started. However if you start showing the likes on Nancy Pelosi and her cohorts on the show I will quit watching. It is quit evident by BRAVO programing that you slant to the left. However you seem to keep that point of view off Top Chef in the past years but if you push it you will lose alot of viewers.
So the elimination challenge was to make a dish that is evocative of your home area of the country. Angelo is from Connecticut, and he wins by making Arctic Char! I will guarantee you there's no arctic char in the rivers of Connecticut.
One of the only chefs who actually made something from his own area was Tim. His rockfish was served with the skin on, because that's how its served in the Chesapeake region! If you're going to ask for authenticity, don't reward someone who makes food that you couldn't distinguish whether its from Tokyo, New York, Paris, or London. Dumb.
Tom, love the show but love you even more. Although I wish you hadn't moved to 10 becauase I have a class I teach at church Wednesdays and don't get home till 9:30. But thank God for DVR right. Missed you!!!!
Thanks Bravo for the change in time. It's great that I don't have to rush around getting ready for work before I can enjoy the show.
John was the obvious choice to go last night - yep, he weirded me out too. I think it was the hair. What a mess. Sorry, but I could not get past that. I'm a stickler about normalcy in the kitchen, including appearance.
So glad to have you back blogging for us Tom. You are the best!
I knew the moment I saw John that he would be eliminated. Seems like the contestants that "weird" viewers out are the ones "weeded" out early.
Congratulations on the birth of your new baby! Enjoyed last night's episode looking forward to the rest of the season.
I've watched the show for all 7 seasons, have loved it. It looks like you have some great talent to work with this season! Oh, if I were to pick a frontrunner it would be Angelo.
Tom's blog remarks surprised me; or maybe it's my perception: a serious number of competitors appeared truly inept- or not functioning well in that environment. (e.g-you've made this dish hundreds of times, and you need a recipe?; how could you do that to a really nice steak? or simply the pastry/disaster by the first to be dismissed- what was he thinking? or was he thinking? )
Seems like the new season is off to a good start. Same sort of demographic on the contestant selections ... some with vast experience, some with self-taught experience, some with little or no experience brought in to be part of the show.
As a long time viewer from season 1, I won't be watching when you have pelosi on for whatever reason the producers chose her except maybe for controversy and ratings.
This is someone who has made sure to disregard everything the majority of the people of this country have spoken up on and who continues to be so far removed from reality, so many people I know that watch TC almost religiously have chosen to find something else to do with themselves for that night especially and some for the whole season.
As the rest of the country finds a way to pinch every penny due to the government spending money we won't even have in 3 generations from now, pelosi finds it necessary to get a new office that costs $18K a month. A MONTH!
Bravo chose to have her on, knew it would spark huge emotion in people and rolled the dice on the loss.
Too bad they seem to enjoy the controversies a little too much for their own good.
Tom, I love you, and YOU are the reason why I tune in weekly. I find it very funny people are complaining about Pelosi. "The majority of this country?" give me a break, (its the hollow pedistral, again). The majority of this country needs to realize/accept their nationality, its certainly not "white".
I love the show, and I am glad to see a group of diverse AMERICANS.
Tom, Glad you're back. Love the show, love the blog.
Seeing as how you're coming to us from DC this season it's really not a stretch to expect some politicos to show up somewhere, sometime. Rather parochial thinking from some. It's about the food...
Looking forward to this season & your insights.
Have never missed a season! You and Padma are the BEST! Really excited that Eric will be judging this season...he is adorable!
All that said.....I agree with many other viewers. I am terribly disappointed that Bravo would dampen the happy atmosphere of this show by having pelosi appear. She is selfish and uncaring...millions are unemployed while she demands a larger jet, new fancy office...she has no conscience.
I watch all of the Bravo shows to get away from the gloomy news of economy, politics, etc. I will definitely change the channel when she appears!
Have a great Season!
Really people, focus on the food and the competitors, not who may or may not be a guest on a later episode. Looks like another great year of Top Chef. I think it may take a few episodes for to find my favorite this year.
Always look forward to the start of each "Top Chef" season...and to your blog. A little bewildered as to why Bravo will start the show with so many contestants and not allot a full two hours to the premiere so viewers can see all of the prepared dishes.
This show is so bogus. I just finished watching Las Vegas Top Chef and Bryan was robbed. You all touted Bryan's dishes and then gave it to Michael. All because Michael had some 'oh poor me' story about all he's ever done is cook and that's all he'll ever do. Get a new host, please.
SO GLAD my favorite show is back. I have watched very episode since year one. Twice. I love watching the triumphs and disasters taking shape on second viewing! Tom and Padma and Gail seem like old friends now. Eric Ripert is a great choice too he always seems fair and that French accent and calm demeaner add a certain gravitas. I love watching you Tom, as you cover your mouth with your hand at Judgement Table, obviously carefully editing your comments which are always not only backed by obvious knowledge and experience, but helpful to the chefs, if they choose to listen. And let's hope we've seen the last of that English guy Toby or whatever with his unhelpful and over-thought and ridiculous analogies.
As for the people threatening to quit watching because you are daring to have politicians on a show set in D.C. ....Please, please quit! I'm sure Nancy Pelosi will be talking about food and not the economic crisis so many seem to think she caused single-handedly! Why must EVERY blog turn into a forum for the tea baggers?
Joe 2, why is Top Chef a "guilty" pleasure? It's the most absorbing show on TV since The Sopranos went off the air. And hey, lets have a quickfire challege based on tea bags for balance! Yay! Can't we just have some fun?
I was glad to see a comment on the rockfish. We were watching our favorite show and when we see a chef from Maryland and know he can cook a regional dish of his choice, we all expected to see rockfish since it's not the time of year for good local crabs. To have this wonderful fish that was on the endangered list and unavailable to Marylanders for so many years back in the stores called "just a bass" in a derisive manner was sad. We were shocked at the reaction since he truly produced a regional dish. That aside, it's nice to have the show back on the air and at an earlier time. I'm sure it will be another interesting season.
I caught the video Bonus Clip, following eliminated chef John Somerville into the suite in which he was sequestered. I'd there were more. You could have made an entire web series to tide us over until next week. I'd call it 'Bottom Chef'. After next week's episode, John could welcome the next eliminated chef where they would pair classic cocktails with that weeks winning dishes, or something.
Seriously. What's with the Michigan representation?? There are incredibly talented chefs in Michigan and not just the Metro Detroit area. Must Michigan continue to be picked on? Why do you seem to choose Michigan chefs that are too weak for such an intense, TELEVISED, competition?? You can redeem yourself by a future Top Chef Detroit!
Hello: Early this year I swore I would NOT watch another reality show. While at my daughter's, the TV was turned to TOP CHEF. It took one episode and I was hooked. I even tried not watching and determined to keep the promise to myself. Good luck with that. This show is fast paced, interesting and very unpredictable. Now, I tape each episode and watch when alone and can pay attention. Telephone, text message, knock on the door, all I have to do is pause. Despite living alone I have a very busy life. Thank you so much for the pleasure of watching such a wonderful show. I love the fact that I am not always sure who is staying or having to pack up the tools. I love the Hostess and Host as well as the guest judges.
Glad see a couple of strong NYC area chefs represent. Angelo and Kevin are looking like good bets to go deep this season.
As to political figures that people love to hate, there has to be a DC politician challenge. Not having politician episode in DC would be like not doing a casino challenge in Vegas. Bravo has enough experience I'm sure it won't be overly in your face. I imagine it'll be be like the marriage challenge last season, when the editors stuck in Ashley's comment on the unfairness of prohibiting gay marriage. Don't get upset by it, just remind yourself you are watching Bravo channel, not Fox or CBN.
Thank you, thank you for switching the time to 9:00. Love that!
Thanks for the blog. I was very concerned that this season would be like last season where there were so few chefs consistently in the top. One night my daughter said that she wanted to "fast forward" to the finale (which was still weeks away), because it seemed like we were watching the final four week after week. It felt like we were just spending time eliminating those who were never going to get to the final show anyway. We love the tension of not knowing who is going to cook something beautiful and amazing each week. I worried that we saw the this season's final four again from the start. I am glad to know it's more evenly matched - more fun for me as a viewer.
Also, I've lived near D.C. all my life. I was born in D.C. Political shows are on in my house all the time. I really don't need to see Pelosi. Her favorability numbers are bad, and she needs the air time representing her as someone more likeable. She's using the show. And according to the democratic concept of fairness you need to let a Republican use you like that too. Watch out, you may end up with a panel of pundits over-analyzing why you chose Pelosi, what did you REALLY mean by it, and who's funding what could be deemed commercial time for her. Sorry, you guys bought into the premise and walked into the current American political mire. Lol.
Looking forward to the season!
ok, i have to comment here on the quickfire challenge - "brunoise" ten onions? not only was that a bit OTT (10!), but surely an onion is not an item that holds up well to true brunoise, i.e. 1/8th or 1/16th dice. a shallot maybe, but an onion is inherently too thick. while one of the contestants did mention the 1/8th inch size, it seems that NO-ONE was doing true brunoise, rathe macedoine is more like it. the footage had the contestants going way too fast for such a precise cut, i don't care how long they've been doing it ... otherwise, great episode, and looks like there is some good talent in the bunch.
I love watching anything that has Tom Colicchio he looks and acts very professional all the time. You know when you look at him is like damn that man is it and it makes you want 2 slap your momma down. It is too bad he is married, but I wish him and his family the best always...
Love the show...Especially since my cousin is one of the contestants!... Go Ed!... if ya ever watch americas iron chef be sure to watch him when hes cooking with kat cora!
The season's off to an interesting start - it's great to have TC back!
I hope you're not discouraged by the few posters complaining about Nancy Pelosi, as if they can't bear to spend even a few nonpolitical moments in the company of someone they disagree with. (How many of them were the ones telling dems to "respect the office" when GWB was president?) Buzz Aldrin, a prominent Republican, is going to be on as well, so it's not exactly one-sided. Anyway, food's a uniter, not a divider!
Hi Tom -
Super excited for this season! I'll throw in my support for including polititians on the show - from what I can tell, TC has always had guest judges such as musicians, actors, personalities and a large number of average joes that have nothing to do with food. You should include polititians for the same reason I saw the Washington National's in the promos - its a part of Washington! It's the one thing that truly sets Washington apart from any other city. As a Washington DC native, I can't wait to see what you do with our city and I look forward to reading your blog all season!
Great to have you back!! I so love this show; have watched every single episode and some 3 times. Happy to see "After the Knife" and very happy to see the extended judges table.
Can't wait to see more!!!!
i can respect the office, but i don't have to watch nancy pelosi...i don't respect her... i understand with top chef being in washington, there will be some politicizing going on, but please keep it to a minimum...i would hate for you to ruin a good show...
Personally, I'm kind of disgusted that Nancy Pelosi is going to be on the show for a segment - might have to skip that episode. I'm sort of afraid to see what other politicians and pundits might show up. But Eric Ripert as a judge makes up for even that, I believe. I was very excited to see him join the ranks.
Welcome back to you and your show Tom! Looking foward to a great season. I agree with the first elimination, not a lot to offer there,although he seemed like a nice guy. Angelo is definitely worth watching but I agree, the politicians should have better things to do right now. All in all though, it's gonna be fun. And the 9pm slot, what a great idea!
Heck Tom. I'll gladly trade for those dull knives! My are held together with duct tape!!! I can't believe the first chef to be sent packing used store bought dough. Do they not watch past episodes?? Between using canned dough, it's trying to cook pork belly that will usually sink the ship.
I read a newspaper review of the new season's first episode and have to take exception to their less-than-optimistic view of what the newest season has in store for us. They said that Top Chef is basically the same show as before - with different people (Oh, and they added that there weren't as many young chefs). Well, I don't know about you but that is EXACTLY what I want to see in Top Chef. I don't need for the producers to try to overhaul the show. It's a good show. Leave it at that. I don't need to see character development. I don't need to see it try to compete with other (less authentic) cooking competitions. If Bravo wants to really strech things in a good way, try to throw in a couple of different types of challenges, or try limiting the chefs cuisine choice to that of a specific country.
Bottom Line: It's a great show. Let's leave it at that!
Glad to see the quality of most cheftestants this season! And thanks for moving to 9 PM! Now I won't be late for work every Thursday morning!
When is TC coming to the Northwest? With the wonderful cooking scene in both Portland and Seattle, with all of the wonderful local ingredients, and with the popularity of the TC show; the Pacific Northwest is a "natural" for your next season!
I really enjoy watching Top Chef. I haven't missed an episode. I was wondering,,,,,,,Most chefs use a gas range, correct? What if one of the challenges had them cooking on an electric range instead? Those of us who have electric ranges, know that the burner area stays hot after turning it down. I wonder how they would fare especially when what they are cooking cannot be overdone.
I think it would be a hoot to see who wins that challenge. Please give it some thought.
Thank You for letting me give my idea, and I am looking forward to more episodes, even though they come on when I am working.