Welcome to the Big Easy! More than Seattle, Texas, or Las Vegas, New Orleans as a locale has added a much-needed dash of spice to Top Chef. Everyone I know who has ever spent time in Nawlins speaks about it with a reverential air, and Gail Simmons told me about a month ago that it was hands-down the judges' favorite filming location to date. They even contemplated buying property there, and I was hoping she meant they'd all buy one house together and live under the same roof and film it. There'd be plenty of drama, I'm sure, because judging from the season preview, the beef that — I'm convinced, or at least, I wish — exists between Gail and Padma has not been sufficiently quashed since Seattle. Hopefully, much more on that as the season continues. #TeamGailObviously
It's going to take a few episodes to commit these new chefs to memory, but a couple stood out as the most notable. First of all, there was Janine Booth, the buxom blond from Australia. So often Top Chef contestants spend their lives hidden in kitchens for a reason, but Janine strutted in rocking Daisy Dukes and heels, proclaiming, "The fact that I'm not so ugly... usually it's something that I have to get people to overcome." Normally that'd be a super-annoying statement, but maybe in her case, it's just true.
Also notable was Shirley, who runs restaurants for Thomas Keller and, under her own admission, can't shut her mouth. Then there was Stephanie Cmar, who I knew looked familiar; she was Kristen's friend from last year who got cut before the competition even got started. She has a hunger for redemption that is equal parts compelling and creepy. I like her. Then there was Travis, the "white guy who makes Asian food." He loves every part of Asian culture, admitting, "I only date Asians." Oh, I know guys like this. Trust me. I'll call him an "RQ" (a hundred comment-"likes" to anyone who can guess what that stands for). In a good way? I bet he, like most card-carrying RQs, makes a yearly month-long pilgrimage to Southeast Asia where he indulges in all the local flavors.
NEXT: Food fit for a swamp...