Weve just finished a screener of the season premiere of Top Chef: New York (coming to your TV on November 12), and were still tingling from Tom Colicchios icy blue stare and the whiff of an overly contrived cooking challenge. As we noted before, faux-hawks are out and facial hair is in, but were also pleased to report that none of this seasons seventeen cheftestants appear to be aspiring molecular gastronomists. They seem like a pretty amiable set (no Lisa-and-Dale-like enemies yet), but the premiere lays the groundwork for future conflict between Daniel (a hairier version of season threes Joey) and European snob-chef Stefan, as well as the sometimes-subtitled Fabio. On the friendlier end of the things, the groups three gay members (Richard, Patrick, and Jamie) band together to form Team Rainbow.
Padma Lakshmi and Gail Simmons are, of course, back at Judge's Table, but instead of Ted Allen, we get outspoken food critic Toby Young, author of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. Though he doesnt make an appearance in the premiere, he looks to channel Simon Cowell with lines like It tasted a bit like cat food and Did you sweat into it? Why is it so salty?
We dont want to give too much away, but the first episode includes a Quickfire Challenge on Governors Island and an Elimination Challenge dealing with (surprise!) the various cuisines of New Yorks neighborhoods. There are too many lamb chops, some bloody apples, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten! But the important thing is that we sense a renewed emphasis on the cooking, and if the cheftestants continue with the level of cooking on display in the first challenge, as Tom says, Were in for a good ride.