Top Chef Recap – Season 13, Episode 1

Stop the Presses
Screened 2 December 2015

Hooray, Top Chef is back and it’s Season 13!  13?   Oh.  My.  Food Gods.  13 seasons and I still have never googled to see why they sampled Tevin Campbell’s Round and Round in the opening credits. It’s so good to have that familiar ah-yeah-yeah-yeah echoing in our living room again.

This season they’ll be bouncing around California but we begin in Los Angeles where the 17(!) chefs herd into the kitchen. At this point it’s useful to do a roll call with some visual aids. I’ve added in my nickname for them where they inspired one immediately.

Top Chef 13 1

Karen Akunowicz, Angelina Bastidas, Carl Dooley, Garret Fleming

Top Chef 13 2

Jeremy Ford, Renee Kelly, Phillip Frankland Lee (Man Bun), Majorie Meek-Bradley (Sister Wife)

Kwame Onwuachi, Amar Santana (Jon Favreau). Grayson Schmitz, Jason Stratton

Jason Stratton, Grayson Schmitz, Kwame Onwuachi, Amar Santana (Jon Favreau).

Isaac Troups, Frances Tariga-Weshnak, Chad White (Hipster Bear), Giselle Wellman (Who? I don’t remember her AT ALL and I watched the episode three times!), Wesley True.

Frances is the first chef to get solo camera time, lamenting that she’s the only sous chef in the competition. I’m not sure but she and rapper Psy may be the same person.

Renee is first to introduce herself to the entire group, describing herself as “the super sassy chef from Kansas City”. For some reason I’m suddenly hearing the Manhattan Transfer. Ooh-wah, ooh-wah, cool, cool Kitty, tell us about the chef from Kansas City.

Big news! Grayson from Season 9 is back. Wait – who? She kinda looks familiar in a Lauren Graham/Casey Wilson way. Season 9, where was that? Texas? Oh, that was the one with those mean girls who were horrible to Beverly! And mean girl Sarah lost to Paul in the finals! Still not remembering Grayson though.

We jump into the first Quickfire, a two-parter. There’s a mise en place race up first – first nine go through to next round.

Man Bun boasts how good he is at food competitions so you know he’ll tank and he does, getting orange juice in his crazy eyes. When it comes to part two of the challenge a team of Renee, Frances and John “Amar” Favreau wins, getting immunity for all of them. It’s a relay effort, chefs having to wear blindfolds until it’s their turn. Frances says the last time she was blindfolded was when she met her wife. That’s a story I want to hear.

Big-on-Himself Wesley is on the losing team, partly because he can’t find the chicken that’s in the oven. He looks all over the place for this chicken, like everywhere, but in an oven. Has he ever been in a kitchen? Even I would think to think in the oven since, you know, it’s the main cooking appliance there! He could find anchovies, however, so many that he tanks his team by drowning their dish in them.

The first Elimination challenge is hosted by Dine LA and the chefs can cook whatever they want for 200 VIP guests. The critics at the event are the one who’ll choose the top and bottom chefs – kind of odd that the show would hand over the judging to outsiders in the very first episode. Padma, Tom and the others will get a bit pissy about this later so one suspects this was a condition of Dine LA’s involvement.

At Whole Foods the camera takes pains to show us Frances’ gold shoes, which look like Crocs, bright gold Crocs. They’re the most lesbian thing I’ve ever seen and those gold shoes make me love her even more.   Yes, I already have favourites – Frances and Hipster Bear (who was immediately favourited because he’s the hottest guy on the show, yes I’m THAT shallow). I also have least favourites – Wesley and Man Bun, the latter who tells us he doesn’t have a dish in his head. His strategy is just to make yummy food. “Yummy food” is not a strategy, Man Bun, it’s just an adjective and a noun.

During the chaos of cooking prep we spend a lot of time seeing how haphazard Wesley is. He slices a tomato with the plastic label still on the skin and his station looks like a supermarket threw up on it. Seriously, he made so much mess that homeless people set up a camp in it. It comes as no surprise to learn his nickname at work is “the Pig”. Tom and guest judge Emeril Lagasse are not impressed with Wesley’s sty. They’ll be even less impressed when they choke on those plastic tomato labels.

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