Wednesday, November 19, 2008

TOP CHEF Season 5 Opener: We Have Our Villain!

After watching the Top Chef Season 5 premiere while half asleep last week, I prematurely deleted it from the DVR before I could revisit it with fresh, awake eyes. Luckily, I stumbled on the episode on Bravo this afternoon which lets me compose my thoughts quickly before a new episode airs tonight.

If any good action movie can be judged on the merits of its villain, the same can often be said of Top Chef. Despite their obvious culinary skills, contestants like Marcel and Hung have certainly made their seasons more fun by giving viewers somebody to root against as they handily won challenges and rubbed fellow chefs the wrong way at each and every turn.

Marcel. Hung. Meet Stefan. With a look that says "Eurotrash villain in a videogame-inspired action movie" the Fin with the shaved head even has a smug way of standing. During the premiere's Judge's Table segment he looked like he was already posing for his Food & Wine feature, and possibly with good reason – the winner of the first Elimination Challenge has gone on to win the competition more often than not.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The premiere episode seemed to have a heavily male vibe to it, with lots of emphasis on Stefan and his Eurotrash lackey, Fabio. (Think the guy with the bowl haircut in QUANTUM OF SOLACE who walks around carrying documents for Greene and getting blowed up real good.) If I was a gambling man I'd put money on Stefan winning the whole thing – and possibly being stabbed by a fellow contestant during the course of the show.

Other contestants that jumped to the top of my "Root Against" list include: Jeff, a blonde surfer type who winks (!) in the intro and looks like the wispy dude from HOUSE; Carla, an annoying, hyper chick with crazy eyes and what can only be described as a catering chip on her shoulder; and, Daniel, whose main offense besides the way he shaves his facial hair, was the declaration that he was going to win Top Chef. But, hey, if you don't think you can win, why try out?

With so much emphasis on the Eurotrash Twins and so much Broadway-bound drama from eventual cast-off Patrick (somebody send that boy a case of that rosacea soap!) it was hard to get a feel for much of the cast. Baltimore chef Jill Snyder got sent back to re-dice some of her apples during the initial skills elimination but she rebounded nicely, won her head-to-head challenge and could still make us Charm City area residents proud.

I liked some of the new twists to the opener, especially the immediate elimination of one contestant (like Patrick a CIA grad – not good pr) before they even made it to Top Chef HQ and the head-to-head cooking challenge that initially separated the wheat from the chaff. I often find that the show relies too much on these group challenges and it seems unfair at times to eliminate Chef C because they got into a bad group.

All in all a strong start to the season with a clearly established villain and one great moment that occurred when Jeff the Winker beat Eurotrash Fabio in the head-to-head challenge. Fabio looked like you could have knocked him over with a feather – here's to more moments like that as the season goes on!

Don't forget to stay up-to-date with all things Top Chef over at Bravo's website including Chef Tom's blog.

Also check out Baltimore Snacker's take on the opener and find out what previous Top Chef trailblazers are up to.



I watched the episode that was on Bravo last night..they were in Tom Bandelero's restaurant, screwing things up....I agree with you about your assessment of all of the villians. I'm not sure I'm too crazy about 'too sweet lemon dessert with 'cherry surprise' at the bottom' gal either. That reminded me of a dessert I'd have made up for one of my handwritten menus at the 'restaurant' up the mountains.

I'm going to try to follow it this season. I always forget about it and then feel bummed that I didn't watch it from the beginning, and inevitably spend a rainy Saturday watching them all when they run a marathon on Bravo.

Gail is snotty. I like Padma, though. This gorgeous foodie who was married to Solomon Rushdie. Just so random to me.

Dan said...

We watched the second episode which you referenced last night. Recap to come, but something tells me I'd rather read *your* recaps! Nice thing I like that they do, though, is they usually show the previous week's episodes before the new episodes on Wednesday night so they do make it easy to catch up.