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Top Chef 3.1 - First Impressions Recap

On last night's season 3 premiere, Top Chef appeared to be back on form - solidifying its place in my cooking reality shows hierarchy. Unlike Hell's Kitchen, which is about Ramsay screaming at folks and The Next Food Network Star, which is about people showing off their personalities, last night's Top Chef was mostly about the food. Sure there was a little contestant squabbling and drama, but overall it was about the food and the cooking. Plus any show that pulls out my favorite food celebrity as guest judge is going to get big props anyway. To get the full recap (with spoilers),

The show starts off with 15 contestants arriving at what appears to be a cocktail party at Casa Casuarina (Versace's former mansion). At this point there are too many people to get to know, in fact we strangely only get introductions from 11 of them.

After the cheftestants have mingled and devoured a lot of food, Padma and Chef Tom surprise them with a quickfire challenge. The folks have 10 minutes to make an amuse-bouche using the leftover food in front of them. The winning dish was Micah's "Tuscan Sushi Revisted" - an italian ham with figs & balsamic dressing - and the losing dish was Clay's apple filled with salsa/gazpacho something. It looked great to me, but it was not an amuse-bouche. Meaning Micah gets immunity and Clay is now the guy who doesn't know what an amuse-bouche is.

Next they're whisked off to their fancy new digs in order to prepare for tomorrow's elimination challenge. When they arrive at the challenge they're faced with a large table of "proteins" and are asked to create a Surf & Turf dish. The catch (there's always a catch) is that these are pretty exotic proteins, such as kangaroo, black chicken, eel, rattlesnake, geoduck, alligator, etc. The ol' knife block is pulled out to determine who gets to choose proteins first and of course the tamer ones are picked first. Once proteins are chosen they're told that today's guest judge is exotic cuisine-loving Anthony Bourdain - leaving the folks with the tame meats second-guessing their selections.

During the cooking I noticed one major thing, not once did Padma say "The Kenmore Pro Kitchen." The sponsors are still there, but they're not in our face, which in my opinion, is a huge relief. I also noticed that food photography looks better this season and that there were more shots of food and fewer shots of chefs scowling. Also, two contestants (Brian and Howie) actually don't finish their dishes in time (anyone know if this is a TC first??). My favorite part of the night happened when Howie was criticized for not having plated his dish in time and quoted Bourdain to Bourdain as retaliation! I knew there was no way he was going home after that.

The two top performers of the evening turned out to be Tre with ostrich and abalone and Hung with geoduck and blackened chicken. They were so serious during Judge's Panel, but when told they could smile, they actually smiled. And when asked if he tried Hung's food, Tre started gushing amazingly nice sentiments. If this was season 2, you would have expected Hung to scowl or roll his eyes in return, but what does Hung do? Why he gives a genuine thanks and smile. How novel! In the end Tre is the victor with seared ostrich fillet with heirloom tomato risotto and abalone reduction. His prize: he gets to hang out for a night with Bourdain in NYC, as well as receive autographed copies of all of his books. I personally thought it was a weird prize, and this is coming from someone who would hang out with Bourdain any night!

With Tre declared winner, it's time to send someone home. During the loser's panel Padma breaks from her robot persona and smiles naturally while stating that they could fry her toe, dipped in batter and it would taste good. However, after deliberation, it isn't the fried food that gets sent home. Bourdain declares Clay's dish to be like the "quality class of air cambodia" and so Clay is told to pack his knives and go.

If the season 3 premiere didn't satiate your Top Chef hunger, it looks like Bravo gave their TC homepage a makeover. There's even a Hung vs. Clay taste test battle video that didn't make it into the premiere, as well as several of last night's recipes.

And if you're wondering where Ted Allen was, rumor has it that he and Gail will be alternating as judges.

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Hautie Hautie 10 years
As much as I love this show, I hate it when the main ingredient is something bizarre. I actually like seeing a protein I am not scared of... I have yet to notice any of the cooking challenge's start off with a couple of pounds of ground hamburger meat. haha! I want to see the snotty chefs have to do something cool with a very basic protein that is commonly found in every kitchen.
LadeeVolFan LadeeVolFan 10 years
Now, both of ya'll step off. He's all mine... :rotfl: I finally caught the ep last night and did feel so bad for Clay. You just knew though that he wasn't going to be able to hang with the rest of the crew. I really like Micah and Howie just gets on my nerves. Did anyone else notice that they kept sticking Howie next to the really, REALLY tall guy? Made him look like a teeny guy.
em1282 em1282 10 years
Haha, y'all are hilarious. I have a mild crush on Tom. I don't know why, but it's there. ;)
JessNess JessNess 10 years
girrrllllllllllllll its on!!!! :rotfl: Im pretty sure he would like a girl fight over him too :rotfl:
MotoLinz MotoLinz 10 years
Get away from my man, Jess! Bourdain is mine! MINE! :rotfl:
JessNess JessNess 10 years
Whats with this whole alternating judges thing? Do Ted and Gail hate each other???
stormynite03 stormynite03 10 years
i would feel like shit if i was one of the poor chefs who didn't even get introduced!
JessNess JessNess 10 years
I so want to jump Anthony Bourdain. I thought it was a good first challenge
ccy ccy 10 years
I liked how the episode really focused on the food but it still seemed odd that they only introduced 11 of the contestants. There's no way I would have remembered all their bios but I felt like I might be missing an introduction to the dark horse of the group. Either way I love the show so I can't wait to see the next episode!
stefsprl stefsprl 10 years
I'm so glad Top Chef is back...My heart broke for Clay last night when he was talking about his dad, and I thought it was kind of weird that Howie got to continue even though he didnt finish, but I'm still excited for the rest of the season!
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 10 years
Ya, where was the Ted? all in all i would give this Top Chef a 7 out of 10. The meet and greet turned amuse bouche scramble seemed poorly shot and not everyones was featured, so you obviously knew who was going to be called out for best and worst. Clay with his apple gazpacho made me cringe, pedestrian. Onto the challenge, i had no idea what a geoduck was, i kept saying "wha? gooey duck? that looks like a gigantic phallic toe thing" so I went on Wikipedia and found out it was a clam, they live up to 150 years and sell in the us at 65 bucks a kg (its an 80 million dollar a year industry here in the US!!) its texture is kinda crunchy, like abalone perhaps. Who knew! I am glad that Tre seemed genuine when he complimented Hungs food, classy. I cant wait for the next one.
Daisie Daisie 10 years
Felt kinda bad for Clay. Though I guess I was supposed to after they aired the bit about his father being a chef but it was too much for him and committed suicide. You could tell he didn't have a lot of self confidence though with his interactions with the other chefs. Poor guy.
SU3 SU3 10 years
Oooh! great recap Yum! I thought it was an interesting group of people - looks like it's going to be a fun season! The only thing that bothered me was the elimination - yes, Clay's dish wasn't that great, but atleast he *completed* it. Aren't there rules?? That was a little bit of a let down.
partysugar partysugar 10 years
Is it just me or does Padma seem like a robot? I wasn't into the sob stories-my dad committed suicide & I only have one testicle from having cancer-(save them for episode 6 please) and am glad Tre won the first challenge. I wonder if he will be the winner. Interesting what the judges said about the two previous winners being the winner of the first challenge. Only time will tell...
em1282 em1282 10 years
Hahaha, that was *exactly* what I wanted to know--where was Ted??? :( I was hoping he'd be around every week. Last night's show was decent (nice to see that they're playing nice, but next week's preview shows drama, drama :)), and although I'm totally open-minded about food, the rattlesnake weirded me out big time. Maybe it's because I've had to dissect snakes for class, but man, it grossed me out.
crispet1 crispet1 10 years
Sorry I had to miss it, but Im glad as of yet the contestants are playing nice. Great recap!
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