Well, hello my little beignets! Welcome to Top Chef Season 11 in New Orleans. I'm Monica, Senior Producer at Bravo Digital and your recapper for the season.
I couldn't be happier that Season 11 is in New Orleans. There are very few cities that I truly felt sad leaving, but New Orleans is one of them. It's honestly another world down there and one of the few cities in the United States that has its own distinct cuisine, completely unshared by any other city.
So, after probably the best season of Top Chef Masters yet, I hope you're ready to dive into a new season of Top Chef with 19 -- yes, 19 -- cheftestants. The chefs enter their beautiful home and share a little bit about themselves, and instantly, a reluctant villain emerges -- Jason. Full disclosure: Jason's restaurant ELA is actually the only restaurant I've dined in among all the chefs' restaurants. It was a recommendation for brunch, and the brunch was quite tasty, so I'll be interested to see how Jason does. He already has a bit of a hometown rivalry with Nicholas, who is just adorable. OK, that's enough of that.
Some familiar faces include Stephanie Cmar, Kristen Kish's former roommate, who didn't quite make it to the Season 10 kitchen. Bene Bartolotta, who recently competed in Battle of the Sous Chefs for Top Chef Master Odette Fada. There's also Michael and Justin who both -- surprise! -- won Padma's Picks. If you haven't watch the prequel series yet, watch it HERE.
Shirley worked for Thomas Keller. Carlos has a Michelin star. Aaron works for Top Chef Master and all-around adorable chef Takashi Yagihashi. He was also maybe in a mildly successful punk band? We see a photo of Janine with Season 5's Jeff McInnis. And if you haven't heard, they're opening a restaurant together in NYC! Can't wait to try that one. After some pleasantries and s--t-talking, s--- got real, and then s--- got really really really really real. Thanks, Stephanie!
Padma and Tom walk in and present the chefs with their first challenge, not a Quickfire challenge mind you, but an Elimination Challenge. They're not effing around. The challenge is to create a dish using one of three New Orleans delicacies… in a swamp. The three options are turtle, alligator, and frog. I actually had alligator cheesecake at Jacques Imo's (a must-visit!) and fried alligator on a stick at the Creole Tomato festival in New Orleans, but I somehow drew the line at turtle soup at Brennan's. The only turtle I ate in New Orleans was filled with chocolate and caramel!
And with proteins in hand from local utters, the chefs get to the Top Chef kitchen. The pride the chefs feel putting on their coats for the first time is palpable.