We just screened the first episode of this season’s Top Chef, and again, we find the show compelling. And just the same as previous ones! Padma speaks slowly, Tom is bald and cocky, and Rocco DiSpirito and Tony Bourdain are back onboard. The location is a nonfactor — the main contribution Chicago makes is a Pizzeria Uno product placement. But the contestants still fit into those archetypes we love to argue about with Adam Platt.
None of the New York contestants really stood out, but we hope that will change. This year’s Hung is obviously Ryan, a San Francisco–based chef of such surpassing smugness that we are already rooting against him. (He’s handsome, too, the pisher.) There’s a nice rivalry brewing between this season’s Marcel, a pointy-haired molecular gastronomist named Richard, and a very angry, more than somewhat spazzy Andrew, a New York cook who won’t reveal where he actually works, if anywhere. We already have a soft spot for Stephanie, a Janeane Garafolo type whose nerves threatened to derail her in a pretty unchallenging deep-dish-pizza challenge. The ending of the first episode was sad, as was last year’s debut dismissal of poor Clay, who packed up his knives on day one. It always makes us misty, and Platt mocks us.