top chef

‘Top Chef: New York’ Preview: ‘We’re in for a Good Ride’

We’ve just finished a screener of the season premiere of Top Chef: New York (coming to your TV on November 12), and we’re still tingling from Tom Colicchio’s 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 we’re also pleased to report that none of this season’s 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 three’s Joey) and European snob-chef Stefan, as well as the sometimes-subtitled Fabio. On the friendlier end of the things, the group’s 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 doesn’t 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 don’t 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 York’s 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, “We’re in for a good ride.”


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