Finally, after an interminable wait only broken by doses of Top Chef books, cell-phone games, and Sudoku, the series itself is back. This season is set in Chicago, and the cheftestants are a motley lot who nearly all fell on their faces trying to make deep-dish pizza. The elimination challenge was even more devastating, as the formidable Erik just managed to avoid the boot, leaving that dishonor to the young, uncertain Nimma. Naturally, within seconds we were online with Adam Platt, trying to make sense of it all.
Ozersky: Well, here we are again.
Platt: All the old ghouls appeared from the past. Padma with her scar, the baleful Colicchio, Rocco, and Bourdain in their snappy dark jackets, looking freshly risen from the dead. I think I counted 45 product placements.
Platt: I actually think more of these chefs can actually cook than last year. Although that first barrage of leaden deep-dish pizzas were pretty frightful. Wasn't one of them decked with melon balls?
Ozersky: Something like that. Even a good deep-dish pizza is horrific though.
Ozersky: So let's do a little handicapping. Who would you favor, right now, to make the final?
Platt: What am I, clairvoyant?! Right now it's a cattle call. I think Stephanie has a talent for sweetness and wholesome cooking. That guy from Buddakan is clearly being set up as the Hung of '08. That Richard, with the shark face, might be formidable, and that guy Ryan looks the part. Who's that bald giant with the star tattoo on his neck? He's clearly the Howie of '08.
Ozersky: Erik. He almost lost, with his pathetic soufflé.
Platt: It's true. But that soufflé was pretty nasty. Poor Erik is probably doomed ... but the ghost of Howie lives on. They chose plenty of runty, pugnacious types. Pretty soon they'll start yelling at each other and hurling knives.
Ozersky: Let's hope so. I would probably put my money on Ryan ... the guy from 15 East seems to have a Faustian intellect of the kind that usually extinguishes itself two-thirds of the way through the season. Erik might outlast him.
Ozersky: The sweet-faced types like Stephanie usually can't take the gaff. I see her exiting pretty early too. Nor do I think that Nikki will get by for long with mama's lasagne. Complicated restaurant stuff usually wins the day on Top Chef, if they don't screw it up.
Platt: I'll take Sharkface and Dale from Buddakan and Stephanie. Why? I have no damn idea.
Ozersky: It's good to see you this engaged, though. You're not even attempting to feign the mandarin disinterest that was your stock in trade last season.
Platt: I can feign mandarin disinterest with the best of them, Cutty! It's your fault. You're making me watch this formulaic drivel!