I Was on the Wrong Season

Top Chef: New York competitor Jamie Lauren is jealous of the Quickfire Challenge, the high stakes challenges, and the Stardust dancers. (OK, maybe not that last part)

The tables have turned, and here I sit, ready to blog a whole season of Top Chef .... It's hard to believe that just a year ago I was still in the middle of filming my season of Top Chef. My, how my life has changed! I am so excited to look at the show with a different set of eyes ... knowing what I know now about how the show works and the in and outs of the challenges, it is going to be interesting to watch the whole thing unfold and not be a part of it. After screening the first episode of Top Chef 6 I was pleasantly surprised at the high level of talent among many of the chefs. That being said, I was also terribly disappointed by a few of the competitors. I think this season is going to prove to be fairly exciting against the back drop of Sin City, but I am also hoping to see a little more personality from the contestants that will hopefully stand up to the excitement of Las Vegas and the world class caliber chefs that have restaurants there.

Let's move on to my initial observations: First: Holy Tattoos!! Jeez, I thought I had a lot of tattoos. Jennifer and Jesse put me to shame. Those are some serious chest pieces going on. These girls don't mess around, and it isn't only the girls; from what I can tell it seems that almost everyone on the cast has got some sort of tattoo happening ... and on my season it was only Eugene and I who were all tatted up. I smell an issue of Tattoo Life: Top Chef on the horizon (there's an idea, Bravo?). Second: the Voltaggio brothers competing! I know both of these guys from the culinary world and I can say they are both extremely talented at what they do. I think it's going to be really interesting watching brothers compete under the pressures of Top Chef. Third: as much as I love the idea of the show being set in Vegas, I also have forgotten how unfortunately cheesy Vegas can be ... Stardust dancers in the kitchen? It makes me want to rent Showgirls with a group of my queerest friends and bark obscenities at the television, all over again. Fourth: Is that guy Mike Isabella really that much of a misogynistic pig? His remarks about women in the first 20 minutes of the show made my stomach turn. He is not going to be liked among the female community if he keeps this up. I wish he and I were on the same season, I would have given him quite the mouthful. Mike, I can't wait until you and I have the chance to meet at a future Top Chef function. Another note to Bravo: please make sure and put us on the same leg of the TC Tour next year, preferably in a city filled with outspoken feminists.

Moving on, the first Quickfire Challenge: I am so jealous they get to do a relay race! My season didn't have one unless you count peeling apples, which is hardly the same thing. I love the idea of picking chips, and lucky for Robin she picked the prized yellow chip. Girlfriend gets to sit out the first challenge; she must have been relieved. This seems like a great first challenge because it is a good way to get to know the speed of your competitors, which is a pretty useful skill in a cooking competition. It doesn't take long for me to sense danger amongst the teams. I see Preeti getting paired up with Michael, Kevin, and Eve, and making a remark about opening clams, and that she has never done it before. It seems odd to me that she is the one who then ends up opening the clams (or failing to for that matter). Why didn't she speak up about her lack of experience in that arena? Why didn't one of her teammates offer to do it instead if they knew how? Didn't they think about the possible repercussions of losing? It's pretty easy to tell just by the relay race who has decent skills and who doesn't. My eyes are already focusing on the quick skills of Jennifer C., Mattin, and Bryan. After the winning team is announced I am shocked at the twist Padma brings up ... $15,000! Damn, I was on the wrong season. Out of the four dishes I agree with Tom and I choose Jen C. as well. I like the simplicity of the clam ceviche and I think the win is deserved. Sometimes on TC, simple really does work best. Lucky girl, too bad she probably wasn't allowed out to go and try some of that luck at the blackjack table.

The Elimination Challenge is rad, cook something inspired by your biggest vice. Hmmm ...what would I have done (down in front with scallop remarks). My biggest vice is probably never being home because I am always out getting into trouble and staying up too late. How would that translate onto a plate? I'm open to suggestions, if you want to leave them in the comments below. As the chefs head off to Whole Foods (in coats?) I notice the onslaught at the fish counter. It seems every season that is where all of the chefs head to first. One of these times I'd love to see someone race to the olive counter or cheese section just to beat out the competition for that prized container of oil cured olives or that hunk of Spanish sheeps' milk cheese. Eli makes a beeline for the scallops (insert joke here) and I chuckle. I do notice that many of the chefs are grabbing halibut. It must be one of the only fishes available in land-locked Vegas? I'm nervous for Jen Z. and her chili relleno, seems an odd choice for the first Elimination Challenge, especially when you are trying to make a solid first impression on the judges, with seitan? Ugh, not super wise. I love that the Voltaggio boys have a circulator out to cook their proteins. It's obvious to me these guys know what they are doing despite the lack of taste on Michael's part with his coconuts and racks. I am also intrigued by Kevin's explanation of procrastination and I love olive oil poached char; it's one of my favorite ways to cook fish.

On the bad side: Why oh why would anyone ever smoke and then deep-fry a rib-eye steak. I am looking at you, Hector ... strange idea. Also teetering towards doom with Hector is Robin because she ran out of time and didn't get her sauce on the plate, which I can tell you really blows (bet she is grateful for the fat yellow chip now) ... and Jesse with her dry-as-cardboard chicken, a fundamentally bad basic cooking technique. First Judges' Table should be interesting ....

Now, this is where I join the rest of you in playing a guessing game. The advanced copy of TC that I watched didn't include an ending (which is standard procedure for us bloggers) so as I write this I have no idea who won or who got the big boot. My thoughts are that Kevin is going to take this one home with his witty take on not getting anything done, and sadly we are going to lose one of the girls, either Eve, Jen Z., Jesse, or Laurine. My theory so far about this season is that there are some very strong competitors with some serious culinary backgrounds, but I am not foreseeing a woman Top Chef to join Stephanie. It just doesn't seems like any of the girls, perhaps with the exception of Jen C. and Ashley, have what it takes to stay in the game for very long, and much to my chagrin, this is exactly what Mike Isabella thinks too ... what are your thoughts?

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