Top Chef Season 6 Begins!


Three Atlanta chefs (one of whom won the first elimination challenge).

Two brothers.

One raging sexist.

Welcome to Top Chef: Las Vegas, y’all. Warning: Nothing but
spoilers ahead.

Well, at last. Here we are in Vegas. The first episode is
always a tad overwhelming—a lot of personalities to absorb. And there are 17
chefs this year! Of course, our ATL boys stood out. Kevin Gillespie of Woodfire
Grill was the first chef on the screen. Eli Kirshtein, wearing a tee-shirt that
says ‘Bacon,’ wants to have “fat kid food.” And Hector Santiago of Pura Vida
looks into the camera during an interview and lets us know that Padma is even
more beautiful in person than she is on TV.

And they’re off! The Quickfire Challenge surprises me: It’s
the mise en place relay race right off the bat. They usually save that one for
later in the season; it makes me think they’ve got some new tricks in the
pipeline this year. The teams of four, one person at a time, must shuck 15
clams, clean spot 30 prawns, then clean lobsters, and then butcher two chops
from a hunk of prime rib. Preeti with the short snappy ’do, poor soul, is not
so good with the clams. She never gets them done. The blue team—with Bryan,
Jennifer C., Mattin, and Jesse—wins.

But wait! Hello, major bonus: On this season, the chefs get
to compete for chips worth major bucks (as in $15K this first round. Dayum!).
So the team cooks against one another with the same ingredients they just
prepped, and Jennifer Carroll wins with her ceviche. Note to future
cheftestants: Always remember that Colicchio loves him some simple.

Elimination Challenge: In the spirit of Vegas, the chefs
name their vices and cook a dish that epitomizes it. As you might imagine with
chefs, alcohol plays a dominant role in many creations. My favorite vice?
Michael goes for plastic surgery, mentioning a “nice rack” [of lamb], and he then
juggles coconuts. Colicchio loves that one during judging.

Wolfgang Puck is the guest judge, and the challenge is held
at his restaurant, Cut. (The original Cut is in Los Angeles, about which
Jonathan Gold wrote one of the best reviews ever.) Wolfy likens vegetable
purees to baby food and lobs a doughnut he finds too, well, puckish. Fun.

Jennifer C. impresses with her poached halibut, but our boy
Kevin WINS with arctic char topped with poached arctic char with a riff on
salsa verde made out of turnips and a celery salad. Yeehaw! That first win is
always good luck for the season …

Eli slide through nicely with his scallops (interesting that
Kevin threw a little shade at Eli for buying the store’s worth of scallops
during the Whole Foods shopping run).

Hector scores low for his deep-fried rib-eye (“In Puerto
Rico, we fry everything!”) but he makes it through. Yay. Jennifer Z. goes home
for seitan, which is so bad vegan cooking in the 90s. I gotta agree with that

Now, I know it’s early in the game for the Bravo editing
manipulation tactics, but this guy Mike? What the hell with his sexist
comments? During the Quickfire, he sees Jennifer C. keeping pace and says, “No
offense, but a girl shouldn’t be at the same level that I am.” Paging Gloria
Steinem, jesus. He calls Robin an “old lady” and can’t get Preeti’s name
right. I hate him already.

Three final asides: First, gotta love Kevin Gillespie going
down a waterslide (as seen during the bonus footage during the midpoint

Second, maybe I’ve missed this before, but what is Colicchio
doing Diet Coke commercials for? (Probably the same thing Padma is doing eating
a strategically drippy burger for Carls, Jr.)

And third: Note that Top Chef moves to its regular time at
10 p.m. next Wednesday.

Let’s discuss! What’d y’all think?