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Deja Vu

Jamie Lauren catches up on the first and second challenges.

By Jamie Lauren

Ahhh, so Top Chef is back, and so I am I ... here to write a whole new season's worth of blogs about our favorite little cooking show on television. First I want to apologize for not making an appearance last week on the blog writing circuit. I was swamped with work and didn't get around to watching the first episode until literally three hours ago, so, I got to watch Episodes 1 and 2 of this new season back to back, and I've already got some strong opinions. But before I get started on all that, please remember people, these are my opinions, and I'm just trying to put my two cents in, so don't give me a hard time until a little later in the season maybe?
Now, I got through about 20 minutes of the first episode and muttered out loud: "I'm bored," and I was, and I think within good reason. Um, did that first challenge not remind you of at least one past challenge? Anyone remember when I had to peel fricking apples in the scorching New York City sun? It was basically just like my season's first Quickfire but reversed. Oh, and that damn added bonus of 20 grand wasn't kicking around when I was on the show. These chefs get much better incentives as the seasons progress along! I felt like I was watching an episode of "Prison Chefs" or something — peel potatoes, check, dice onions, check, break down chickens, check. Then create uninspired dishes with the simplest of ingredients ... and again with the challenge recycling, I could have sworn that there was a chicken and potato challenge in Top Chef Miami, or am I making that up? I have to say, even though I found him a wee bit cocky, that there is a cuteness about Angelo that I never saw in either Voltaggio brother last year, and secretly I'm kind of rooting for him for some reason unaware to me as of yet, and I do think his dish sounded the most delicious. And the dude who put the giant rosemary sprig on his plate I wanted to smack. Forgive me, but I'm having a hard time remembering names as of yet, but the inedible garnish is one of my huge chef pet peeves. Who the hell is going to eat a sprig of fresh rosemary? It's like the Olive Garden is being represented on Top Chef. Oh, and one more thing before I move on: if D.C. is going to be Obama this and Obama that, I may scream. I voted for the dude too, but I have to believe there's more to D.C. than politics, right?
Now one more observation: Amanda is like a Leah clone. It's weird. Every time she comes on screen I keep thinking that it's Leah and she's on Top Chef all over again. Hopefully Amanda won't take a cue from Leah and myself and end up hammered on national TV, even though that was a TON of fun, and I have no regrets. It certainly helped getting through the long hours in the Stew Room. But, in terms of cooking I think there are a few chefs that are already ahead of the pack. Obviously the first being the aforementioned Angelo, Alex, and of course Kenny who right now seems to be Angelo's biggest competition. Then, a few of the girls are standing out for me including Andrea and Kelly. The rest of them I think might be too early to call. Everyone else is just sort of falling into the middle of the pack until chefs start going home and being weeded out. As for last week, is anyone else out there happy dread dude got cut? I think if I had to watch him for another episode I would have cringed. Just looking at that hair and imagining it around food made me want to gag. I'm not sure what he's like in his own kitchen, but I hope he wears a hair net! Being the first to go home must blow, but I think the right choice was definitely made this season, in terms of personality alone.Onto the Quickfire in Episode 2, which was basically a loose interpretation of cooking with your hand behind your back, but I found it very amusing. There were a few times I literally laughed out loud, especially watching Amanda with the food tucked under her chin shuffling like a penguin every time she walked ... funny stuff. I definitely agree with the judges that team Tracy/Angelo and team Kenny/non-descript-guy's-name-I-can't-remember had the best-looking sandwiches, but all in all I was unimpressed with the creativity on the challenge: a couple of chicken sandwiches, and a prosciutto sandwich? I really think they could have done better than that, and then the Elimination Challenge is announced ... school lunch, again? I'm detecting a pattern here Bravo....
The biggest part of the Elimination Challenge was clearly the budget. Even when shopping at Restaurant Depot, which is relatively inexpensive, it must have been hard to create four items on a plate for $130, and with the shopping time constraint thrown in, it really trips them up because they're forced to make hasty decisions that can potentially ruin a dish. I think that's what may have happened to some of the contestants. I already felt that blond girl was in trouble when she decided to add extra sugar to her healthy dessert, but it's too bad her and little Leah couldn't have made a compromise between the chocolate and the booze. And speaking of booze ... sherry? For kids? Hmmm ... maybe we will see Amanda snockered at some point this season, that is, if she makes it to the next episode. I loved Team Taco's ideas and was a fan of the chicken burger team as well. I think those two teams really tapped into what kids would enjoy eating, and they were smart about their choices. And, as readers of my blog know, I have no idea who won or went home so this is all speculation, but I'm thinking blond girl might be making her departure, and it's too bad that I never really got to know her name, but I guess it doesn't matter much unless she lives to see another Top Chef challenge.
Oh, and P.S.: Padma calling Gail luscious? That was an amazing moment on television.

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