Top Chef: "I'm Reliving This Nightmare"

Categories: Marx, Top Chef


After far, far too brief a hiatus, Top Chef returned last night, with a merry band of All-Stars in tow. "All-Stars," of course, is very convenient shorthand for "prior contestants suffering from various degrees of bitterness, self-delusion, and a disproportionate need for vengeance." Everyone here bears an uncanny resemblance to a bride left at the altar, albeit one with sleeve tattoos and a God complex.

Our All-Stars, of course, are competing in New York, which Padma's voiceover tells us is the "culinary capital of the United States." Aw, thanks. It is also, as we will find out later in the episode, synonymous with apples, "apples, apples, apples."

To get things rolling, we're re-introduced to the contestants as they arrive in the glittering Brooklyn loft where they'll be incarcerated living for the season. Almost every last contestant reminds us that they're competitive and here to win, a sentiment driven home by Season 3's Tre Wilcox: "I ain't playing around with this motherfucker," he proclaims. "I was kind of seen as a threat," Season 2's Marcel Vigneron gloats, but whether that was because of cooking prowess or the flammability of his hair products is anybody's guess.

Here's Spike Mendelsohn, a former kitchen rat who's "bloomed"; smug Jamie Lauren, "here to kick ass"; gentle, alien-like Carla Hall, whose "challenge is to cook from my heart"; Richard Blaise, who has his eye on Jen Carroll's "massive pedigree"; Mike Isabella, who's put on a few pounds since Season 6; Elia Aboumrad, who warns us that -- spoiler alert! -- "this time, I'll win"; and blustery Fabio Vivani, who, as he rides the elevator to the loft, mutters, "We're going up, but it feels like we're going to hell." So true.

And then it's time for the Quickfire Challenge, presided over by ever-suave Tom and the thoughtfully styled Padma, mercifully sans pirate frills and hooker business-casual attire.

The first order of business, other than plugging the G.E. MONOGRAMMED KITCHEN, is for the chefs to split into teams by season to make a dish that will represent the city where their season took place. The winning team gets immunity, and "bragging rights" that their season was the bestest ever.

Season 1's Stephen and Tiffany make cioppino to represent San Francisco; Season 2's Marcel and Elia make shrimp tacos to represent L.A.; Season 3's Dale L., Casey, and Tre make pork with tostones and mango-habanero salsa; Season 4's Antonia, Richard, Spike, and Dale T. make homemade sausages with mustard gelato to represent Chicago; Season 5's Jamie, Fabio, and Carla make a trio of apple dishes to represent -- heh! -- the Big Apple; Season 6's Jen and Mike make bucatini with bacon carbonara to represent the fact that Las Vegas "doesn't have a lot of culture" but does have a history of Italian mobsters; and Season 7's Angelo and Tiffany make crab cakes to represent D.C.

And Chicago wins, thanks in part to Professor Blaise's use of a liquid nitrogen canister to represent the city's avant-garde. "I'm back, son, this is how we do it!" Dale T. gloats, while Mike I. stares at the camera and says, "Sausage with mustard. Big whoop."

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