Tom Colicchio

Tom Colicchio breaks down the chefs' strengths and weaknesses in the season premiere.

on Dec 1, 20100

Thanks for tuning in for Season 8, our first-ever All-Stars Top Chef! Where better to host this season than NYC, where the best of the best in all fields come to reach for the pinnacle of success. Personally, I was glad to stay put for the month of shooting. A month, after all, is a long time in the life of a baby, and I was glad to be home nights with mine.
 
This season is going to yield some great cooking. Most of our All-Stars made it to the finales of their seasons; those who didn’t still made it pretty far along in theirs. Having all been through this before, the chefs all know what to expect, though I can’t help but think it’s a good thing that the mind forgets the sensation of pain once it’s ceased! By the second or third episode, you’ll see the moment when each of them says to him or herself, “Oh, yeah, that’s right. This is a competition, not just a reunion…and I want to win.”
 
The downside for the judges, of course, is that we know these contestants from the get-go. In a typical season, the producers insist that the judges not interact much with the contestants, precisely so that we do not get to know them on a personal level. It is not until the reunion episode of each season that we are permitted to get to know the chefs a bit. And after the season is over, they become our colleagues. Who knew seven seasons ago that one day down the road we’d be doing an “All-Stars” version? So even though the same rules applied this season (i.e. we were not allowed to interact with the chefs beyond my walks through the kitchen and our judging of their food), I think I speak for Gail, Anthony, and myself when I say that it was harder to be critical of this group than it is when we’re giving constructive criticism to young ones coming up in the field, as the contestants usually are. But we reminded ourselves that this is what these contestants signed on for.
 
I thought that both the Quickfire and Elimination Challenges in this first episode accomplished a lot. Together, they provided a great overview of the prior seven seasons for viewers, bringing return viewers back to salient moments in those seasons while orienting new viewers to the “backstories” of these contestants, their seasons’ highlights, and the program and competition itself. I was glad to see the Quickfire win go to Season 4’s Chicago dish. It shows that we’re not about “highbrow” cooking (whatever you take that to mean!) If the food is good, it’s good. The team put together a really good hot dog with a great topping. If the dish is a great version of what its creator(s) sought to make, a well produced hot dog with good toppings can beat out a poorly-produced blini with caviar.
 
In the Elimination Challenge, the chefs were able to work individually, to recreate –- but improve upon –- the dishes that sent them packing their first times around. Most accomplished the task, to greater or lesser effect. The only one that was actually worse than it was the first time it was attempted was that of Elia. All three of us judges were in complete accord about that. She did not seem to even try to improve its initial flaws (at least the dish we were given did not indicate so to us), and she should have been able to account for slightly thicker tea leaves so as not to serve raw fish. It was an elementary mistake, far beneath a chef with her knowledge and experience. I know that Anthony was very outspoken in his dislike for Fabio’s dish, but he, too, felt that Elia’s dish was by far the poorer one. Anthony tends to get hyperbolic –- it’s part of his charm! –- and it bothered him that Fabio of all people couldn’t come up with a great pasta dish, which is why he was over-the-top about the fact that Fabio should be able to do pasta in his sleep. The dish was a weird regional dish to begin with, it was poorly presented, and it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t the “inside-out animal” Anthony enjoyed calling it, to Fabio’s great chagrin. Stephen’s dish, similarly, was not a good one. It showed a lack of focus, and he needs to take Dumplings 101, but at least he, too, didn’t serve up raw fish by accident. Of all the chefs, Stephen is likely coming into this season’s competition with the least experience cooking. He’s been running the front of the house lately. He has really good food sense, but he’s out of practice.

92 comments
KellyB41
KellyB41

Is Padma not considered a judge? The way Tom wrote it here, it's as if she's not, but I thought her opinions were taken into account for judging just as much as the others.

DocLMS
DocLMS

Rules..What Rules? I don't get it. The first episode a chef continued working after time was up. He doesn't get disqualified? I don't trust Tom or the other judges ever since the "pea puree incident". Chefs that break the rules are rewarded on Top Chef. We, as the audience, are lulled into thinking that's acceptable. I watch the show kinda like you watch a natural disaster. Sorry it's happening but unable to help.

ColinMac
ColinMac

I couldn't disagree more with this biased and over the top assessment. I was devastated to see Jen go, but I know that kitchens all over the world have far worse than these egos. Jen was passionate about her food and I thought her words might actually have helped her stay rather than chosen her to go.

I have to say I wasn't interested in the dish. I thought she could take it all. Then again, I thought the same of Elia.

patjlu
patjlu

I love Top Chef and Top Chef All stars. I am big fan of Fabio, Jen, Tiffany and Richard. Hoping one of them will be winning.

At first I was quite unhappy why Fabio's dish was being so badly commented by judges so I can feel what he felt and I am totally happy he stood up against the judges. I was happy he was not eliminated which I believe Elia or Stephen will be the one to go.

Now come to 2nd episode, I was shocked how Jen reacted to judges comment. It was not what I would expect her to do. Firstly she must have problems with her taste bud that day that she could not find anything wrong with her dish? Seriously that cannot be true concerning she is such an experienced cook. I am disappointed that she was eliminated rather than Jamie. But again Jamie did not manage to cook and seeing her skills in episode 1 I believe she would not be in bottom 3. So again its not totally judges fault for her elimination, Jen only has herself to blame.

So hopefully coming episodes can test these excellent cooks with tests that can showcase their talent rather than test on something irrelevant. I totally not into the Museum and kids tests. Bravo, please don't do such kiddy test again.

AngelaViewer
AngelaViewer

Not fun. It seemed more integrous to vote off Stephan on the first show and Jamie off the second show. And even more integrous to vote Richard off the first show for not plating on time. Seemed weird. And then after seeing Jen go home, not that I was attached to her, seemed like you were voting people for talking back even if you say that's not why you did it. It appeared that there were clearly others that had more out-able cases for either a)worst food or b)sticky situations (Jaime and Richard). Not enjoyable to watch. Hopefully the season will improve in all manners.

Jeaninemc67
Jeaninemc67

I honestly think Spike should have won the first elimination challenge. He truly had the odds stacked against him, being FORCED this time to use inferior product, and yet VASTLY improved his dish. It doesn't seem to me that Angelo had to do all that much to improve upon his dish. I do agree, however, that Elia made little or no attempt to improve her dish, being convinced that nothing was wrong with it in the first place. RULE #1 in being Top ''anything''..... there's ALWAYS room for improvement. I really think that instead of having Elia represent season 2, should have had Betty back instead. Ok, so Betty is one of my favs... she always made the kitchen a happy place with her bubbly personality.

Carmen Miranda
Carmen Miranda

I must say, Tom and the rest of the judges has made me want to skip watching this season all together. I really think the judges were making an example of Jenn who participated and was passionate over her food. She stood up for her team and even took up the slack for a Jamie. I believe the judges should have voted out Jamie for not participating. This is a contest between all chefs who paritipcated~Jamie did not participate in this show. In fact, in a previous season, a chef (italian chef) had sprained or broken his finger and still participated.

Judges lost their focus.

Witlewabit
Witlewabit

Jen's display was not "strong", it was downright rude and uncalled for. The judges made the right decision.

Vanessa G.
Vanessa G.

I have been a big fan of TC since season 1. I never missed a show. But what is your problem? You didn't get rid of Jennifer strictly because of the food. You got rid of her because she was strong enough to speak out in defense of her culinary perspective. Shame on you judges. It is obvious why you let her go even with the editing. You are obsessed with your power trips and pride that when someone dare QUESTIONS you and speaks back (especially women).... you let them go. After all the stress they go through in the kitchen under difficult conditions, while you just sit there and taste/critique food, you act like they are out of line and disrespectful when they get.... emotional? When they express passion? Wow. Get real. And grow up. It's not about you (judges) and your pride. You're making the show more about you and we don't care. You're forgetting why fans tuned into TC in the first place.

Cassie2.0
Cassie2.0

I love this show. I love the chefs. (Shout out to: Tiffani F, Dale L, Carla, Antonia, & Tre). I love the judges. And the producers are doing a KICKASS job this season of telling the story with compelling television while remaining true to the competition as a meritocracy and to the craft of cooking.

You'll know where to find me on Wednesday nights. Bravo!

jdl21
jdl21

Why would three women on the panel make anything worse? They were all as professional and objective as Tom. Had the panel consisted of four men I'm sure they would have reached the same conclusion. When have Padma or Gail ever been "catty"? Never. They are always very gracious and mild mannered. Foul mouthed Tony Bourdain? Catty? Definitely.

Desiree Whitman
Desiree Whitman

Seriously. Things happen in a Kitchen and safety always comes first. Jen's dish had no contrast and flavor. She did not cook a dish that was good at all. The Judges can't just send someone home because they cut them seleves and the medical staff on set said she needed stitches. That was a health issue she needed to deral with. she came back and helped with what she could help with, but even Jen herself said that if jamie was there the dish would have come out the same way. Aka with no flavor and no contrast on texture. I think that the judges made the right dessision based on the food!!!

AllNamesAreTaken
AllNamesAreTaken

I have to say that I was very disappointed in tonight's episode (#2). I enjoy your show and your honesty and integrity is one of the main reasons I watch. After tonight I may stop watching. You sent home one of the best cooks there instead of a girl who went to get two stitches and did not even participate in the challenge except as a server. Jennifer was the ONLY person that had to do her own dish and was understandably tired and aggravated after 45 minutes of sleep (according to the show). I didn't think the show was called Top Chef Boot Camp. Having three women on the judges panel only made it worse, because I truly believe their caddiness is what sent Jennifer home. Not to excuse Jennifer's behavior but this is a COOKING show and JAMIE DID NOT COOK ANYTHING! I have watched every season of the show and could understand for the most part why some of my favorite contestants were sent home (except for Tre during his season) but this one takes the cake. I would just like an explanation on why a chef who cooked something edible was sent home before (1) someone who didn't cook, (2) raw eggs and (3) salty, overreduced sauce.

cnic
cnic

I'm not sure if questions get answered, but I've always wondered how things work in the "Stew Room." Do you always call the winners in first and the losers second? From my memory that's how we always see it, and while it seems like the contestants might not know they can usually guess based on who gets called in. But then on tonight's museum episode where it was 2 teams, they seemed to know right off the bat that Brontosaurus was the winning team because they were called first. Maybe a behind the scenes insight??

Also, LOVE to see all of my favorites from past seasons. Richard Blais and Angelo all the way!

Mauicook
Mauicook

Nothing wrong with playing with our food!

clb72
clb72

Great first episode! As a father of a little one, I think you would like my idea for a quick fire challenge: make a one-pot supper for four while holding a child in one arm! That's how a lot of us have to do it! A sack of potatoes could stand in for the kid, so you don't hear from the parent/safety groups.

Illinilady
Illinilady

I'm so glad someone brought that up...Cliff did get kicked off from season 2 for 'touching' another contestant...and now the promo's for this season have been all about food fights (I do understand the reference just think it is in poor taste) and it does show disrespect for the food, for the show and for the chef's.

Paul M
Paul M

After DC, and having watched every season faithfully, you guys nearly lost me. We are back on track. Stay there! So good to have Anthony B. on the judges table, and my darling Casey is back as an added bonus. :) Be still my beating heart!

Alexandra franchina
Alexandra franchina

GO JEN!!!........love top chef i am going for jennifer all the way....she should have won 1st time round!!!! Can't wait to keep watching!!!!!!! Season 6 las vegas should have won quick fire challenge!!!!- mustard ice cream YUK! x

Carla Rocks!!!!!!!!
Carla Rocks!!!!!!!!

This should be an interesting and amazing season. I have my top three, but who knows? I do believe that there are a couple of weaker chefs, but all in all, most of them are strong chefs. It really will come down to who is the better chef and who makes the least amount of mistakes, especially towards the end of the competition.

I hope Carla is the winner, if not the top 3. But, as of right now, I believe Marcel, Angelo, and Richard are the chefs to really watch out for. Those 3 have proven over and over to be the stronger chefs in their season. So who knows? I still hope it's Carla though.

I think this season will be fun to watch. The last couple seasons have been kind of boring, especially the last season. But with Carla returning and other bold personalities returning, this should shape up as an interesting season. I can't wait!!!!!! I just wish Fabio has his other half Stefan competing with him again. B/c those two together were hilarious!

Emily D
Emily D

Thank you for a great premiere! It's going to be an awesome season. First of all I want to thank Tom for recognizing Richard kept going after he was supposed to stop. I think Richard knew - it wasn't an honest mistake. He was not too absorbed in what he was doing. Elia should have gone home...I don't think she was really into it this season. I can't even begin to think how this season will turn out. I have so many favorites! All the rest of us can hope for is an exciting variety of quick fires and challenges. Can't wait!

pywacket
pywacket

My bad. I know the difference between Clay and Cliff, but not when I can't stop reading blogs at 3:00 a.m. and I combined Tre and Cliff to get Clay. Ru-roh. There was a Clay (in season 2, maybe?), but he was eliminated first and certainly didn't sit on Marcel. At least not that I know of. Obviously, I meant Cliff, not Clay.

Erin Gaul
Erin Gaul

Actually, we're bot hwrong- it was Cliff. My bad!

JudyChulaVista
JudyChulaVista

Good Bye Elia. Next up (I hope): Dale, Tiffany F and Steven. Didn't like them the first time, still don't. And, Jen, I was so rooting for you to win your season so PLEASE dial back the ego - I would love to see you win this. Judges, I can't taste the food but sausage and peppers??? (Quickfire) That season had 4 (count em - 4) people making sausage and peppers. And you had 2 people making pasta and lobster. Guess which dish I'd want to eat? Here's a hint - it's not sausage and peppers. And Jen/Mike's dish was in the top 3 so it had to be good. Congratulations Angelo on the first elimination win. I think you're weird and quirky but you obviously can cook. I am so excited to be watching this season!

debs20
debs20

Just to clarify, if was Cliff, not Trey, who was kicked off S2 for holding Marcel down, and it was Sam, who was top-p***y, for not stopping the abuse. You are correct that Ilan and Elia were the instigators, and mega immature tattletales.

Carla Rocks!!!!!!!!
Carla Rocks!!!!!!!!

It wasn't Tre that tried to shave Marcel's head. Tre wasn't a contestant in Season 2. He was a contestant in Season 3. Tre went home after restaurant wars, I believe. Or he went home after some type of team challenge b/c he cooked poor food and he didn't do well as a leader either.

The person who got disqualified from Season 2 b/c he physically held Marcel down was Cliff.

irritated
irritated

I love the new season and the comments being posted about it. However, if people decide to comment on the challenges and chestestants, they should actually get their names right. It is irritating to read comments mistaking Tre for Cliff and Kevin for Kenny. Too bar there is no screening process for comments. Hopefully this spurs future commentators to be more vigilant.

Top Comment Judge
Top Comment Judge

Not sayin you are racist or anything - even if your name is Erin Gaul, I can't assume you're necessarily white, though it does sound pretty Celtic - but they are two different people. Tre is the chef from season 3 who surprisingly got eliminated during Restaurant Wars, part 2. He was one of the early favorites, had the most wins up to that point, and is among the all-stars. Cliff is the guy you are talking about from season 2. As for Marcel, he could be a bit of d-bag at times, saying he was hard to work with isn't quite it. I don't think it was just jealousy. If it was, wouldn't they have been jealous of the people that actually won challenges, like Elia and Ilan? Once he became the target, I agree the group seemed to take it too far. But whatever those two (and Sam) should have done during The Incident, they didn't engage Marcel physically, and he didn't get injured, so disqualifying Cliff was the right thing to do.

pywacket
pywacket

To Erin Gaul re: her comment about Season 2 Immaturity and Tre Wilcox:

Tre was not on Season 2 and was not involved in the incident with Marcel. Tre was one of the frontrunners from season 3 who, by all appearances, is a very good chef and a thoughtful, gentle man who was eliminated prematurely.

You are confusing Tre from season 3 with Clay from season 2. Clay was the perpetrator of the head shaving incident with Marcel (at least the holding Marcel down against his wishes aspect of it) and was immediately sent home, much to his amazement. (I'm sure it seemed less shocking once everyone involved sobered up. No matter how unkindly Marcel was edited, he was obviously really frightened by the incident.

Jem
Jem

FYI, it wasn't Tre in Season 2. It was Cliff who tried to shave Mercel's head.

LauraJ
LauraJ

Just want to clarify, Cliff was the third chef involved in the Marcel head-shaving incident, not Tre. But I agree that Ilan and Elia should have been tossed off as well, and I was happy that Elia was the first to go of the All Stars.

Erin Gaul
Erin Gaul

Glad to see someone else observed that Elia and the others in season two were more immature than Marcel. Granted, I can see ways that Marcel might be hard to work with, but ultimately, he's a good chef. That seems to be why they couldn't stand him- it was rooted in jealousy and intimidation. Like the big kids ganging up on the small, smart guy at recess. Therefore, I agree that season two's win to Ilan angered me. If Ilan had the better meal, so be it. But that is one season (among others) where the winner really bothered me. Elia, Ilan, and Tre all should have gone home. Elia and and Ilan never told Tre to stop, and although that doesn't make it right of Tre to go forward, they were ALL immature and ridiculous. They should have spent the time used shaving their heads to master their food to outcook Marcel.

As for All Stars, woo!! My hubby and I have been excited for it to start, and I enjoyed the opener! One thing I have to say- and will someone please tell me if I'm pulling this out of my you-know-what- Jamie is a GREAT chef, but so incredibly arrogant. She looks for recognition above all else. It's not enough to make great food, she needs someone to praise her and give her "the win" otherwise she whines like a little kid. During her season, I knew as soon as the episode started that she was going to be the one eliminated. Her tone of voice gave it away- the "well, I didn't like that kind of food anyway" kind of whine. Who cares if you "didn't like" the fish?? You're posed with a challenge to cook food that isn't your style. Do it, don't b***h about it when you lose. I was rooting for her originally, but her childish need for the spotlight really rubbed me the wrong way.

Tom, I'm glad my hubby told me about your blog. I will definitely be keeping up with it! That said, I'm not here to intentionally bash these chefs because I have NO CLUE what they go through in the Top Chef Kitchen.

My vote goes to Carla or Tiffani so far. I hope this season goes to DVD quickly!

naynay63
naynay63

Question about decisons....... I recently saw Anthony on his tour and he stated the great thing about the show was that Tom insisted it was about the food, the food in that episode alone - no personalities etc. I was then confused / disappointed when I saw the on screen disclaimer as Elia poacked her knives. Something to the effect of elimination and winner decision are made by judges, producers and sometimes BRAVO. What's the deal?!

sbh1cats
sbh1cats

this will be interesting...you have a house full of super egos and no matter who goes home each week, someone will be disappointed as a watcher...we know these people and have a lot of favs...hopefully this will be fun to watch

Roberta L.
Roberta L.

Tom, Just want to tell you how much I appreciate reading your post-episode blogs.

chakrateeze
chakrateeze

I LOVE Richard Blais! Hope he kicks butt (not Trey, Tiffany D. and Jen Carrol's, of course!) But, if I hear him say one more time that he should've won over my girl Stephanie! Stephanie is innovative but doesn't experiment for experiment's sake, had great timing, an excellent palate and IMO is the BEST top chef EVER, outside of Voltaggio, and more than deserved the WIN!

As for Mr. Bourdain... I'd LOVE to felch his Mrs. Butterworth

David in VA
David in VA

Best premiere episode ever! This is going to be a great season.

dockish
dockish

NO RESPECT TO FOOD

I am completely put off by the add for TOP CHEF where you have "top chefs" throwing food at each other. Ultimate way to show disrespect to food.

Bill K
Bill K

Boozed up judging might not be the fairest way to treat these cheftestants. Tony says that you and he are drinking more than a little during the judging. How does this reflect on the sponsors when someone challenges your judging?

lanakm
lanakm

Nesto wrote, "I'd love more insight about Blais' recreation of his failed dish."

I totally agree!

As a general comment, I am so happy about the addition of Anthony Bourdain to Judge's Table! If you have Mr. Rippert as a guest judge at any time this season I may never recover from the bliss.

:)

Cindy H.
Cindy H.

What a great cast and great challenges! Welcome back! Just Desserts just didn't measure up. Can't wait to see your challenge against the chefs.

Wilma de Soto
Wilma de Soto

Of course one cannot be certain, but if one reads the credits and disclaimers ALL decisions are made by the judges in concert with the producers.

Cameras are everywhere and it matters not who said something; rather whether the cameras caught it.

Chef Colicchio would certainly review the tapes if there has been a dispute about judging. Chef Blais should have won, but the tapes revealed he violated the rules. Too bad.

Chef Tré does not have to stoop that low to disqualify Chef Blais.

Elia was not the chef she thought she was and deserved to go.

May O.
May O.

How great to have Top Chef with the added bonus of Anthony Bourdain's sharp wit! Is it true that you nurse gin cocktails to help you endure judges' table? And to think it looks so fun on the broadcast... Well, pace yourself...

Nesto
Nesto

I'd love more insight about Blais' recreation of his failed dish. Obviously, it got him to the top (would he have won?) and while he went over limit, he was simply garnishing and foaming I believe. Its fair to make him ineligible but we never got insight in how it tasted and how he had redeemed himself. Please add it to this blog post, Tom !!

Gotta love bravo
Gotta love bravo

Elia is a great chef but pride obviously got in the way. She said she thought the dish was good the first time and she didn't know why she went home for it. Not accepting the judges critic, she put no effort into improving it. Ironic that when they did the episode her season based on the seven sins she got pride. Remember the big prideful chicken that she carved tableside?

lotsahelp
lotsahelp

Thanks for the info Tom. Someone ratted out Richard??? Do tell! I, like others, am curious as to the choices. I am reading that some people were asked and declined. What about Sam? where is he? I like this season. Frankly the last two seasons the personalities of the chefs have been either boring or petty people. The food may have gotten better but not the show. What has made for compelling tv was the combo of delicious food, teamwork, and intense rivalries. The voltagio's might have cooked well but they were boring and snotty. Heck I am surprised Eli has a blog, I found him to be very juvenile during his time on the show. Restaurant wars with this crowd should be very interesting. Hopefully by then Stephen will be gone.

Arlene Vendetti
Arlene Vendetti

Great Show and seeing a great season ahead! It's so nice to actually watch and hear intelligent commentary and fun challenges. Thank you Tom for your thoughts and impressions. Love you and good for you for landing back in NY!!!

SarahS23
SarahS23

I did! We rewound it and watched it a couple times. So funny. Although, we thought it was Bourdain's....

Myrna
Myrna

I agree with the person who pointed out that last season Angelo was not eliminated for making a bad dish; he made it to the finals where every dish was excellent but only one could win; and that turned out to be Kenny. Therefore Angelo's reworking (tweaking) of his final dish from last season was not much of a challenge. Jamie on the other hand was indeed sent home for a bad dish; and her reworking of that dish represented a true chalenge. Same comment is true for Spike. So imo Angelo had a huge head start toward the cash prize of 10K which he won for preparing the best dish of the first elimination challenge.