Top Chef recap: Stale Chefs Reheated

A twist marks the return of season 5 villain Stefan Richter and other returning chefs!
Ep. 02 | Aired Nov 14, 2012

IS THAT THE PHOTOGRAPHER'S THUMB OVER THE LENS Or is that just Stefan?

David Moir/Bravo

Top Chef just pulled a Survivor and brought three returning players to the Emerald City: Josie Smith-Malave from season 2, CJ Jacobsen from season 3, and of course, Scandinavian Bond villain Stefan Richter from season 5. This maneuver struck me mostly as a ploy to give Stefan a chance at redemption after Hosea Zimmerman's travesty of a win in their original season. Chrissy summed Stefan up best: "He has an accent, he looks like a thumb, and he's an evil villain." What are your thoughts on the veteran chefs' return? I think it spices things up nicely, although there are a number of chefs I'd rather have seen return before CJ.

But before we knew the veterans were here to compete, they sneakily posed as guest judges for the first Quickfire Challenge. The newbies filed into the sleek Seattle Top Chef kitchen, and I was shocked by the tastefully small amount of GE product placement porn we were subjected to — Jack Donaghy would be furious. Padma asked everyone to divide into groups of three by picking different colored aprons. John chose a blue apron after seeing Kuniko picking one because "She's Japanese -- maybe she has incredible knife skills." Poor Kuniko. Last week she was labeled "origami" and this week she was assumed to have Hibachi-worthy Ginsu skills. Padma showed a rare sign of life when she raised her voice to say, "Excuse me, I'm not finished," when John was speaking out of turn. Show them who's boss, Padbot.

The chefs only had 20 minutes to dig different types of local shellfish out of tanks of muck and cook up a simple dish. Everyone scrambled for the geoduck, as it's the fasted to cook. Every season of Top Chef, I look forward to the introduction of the geoduck (pronounced "gooey duck"), which is nature's dick joke. I mean, come on. It's the funniest bivalve around. Thank God the Pacific Northwest is geoduck central.

Drama erupted immediately on the orange team because of Carla, who reminds me of an Italian Elaine Stritch, only (slightly) younger. She just talked too much and created a sense of chaos for her teammates, making everyone else glad they didn't have to work with her. I do have to admit that she's entertaining -- she spouted off a bunch of catchphrases that couldn't have been anything other than Real Housewives opening credits voice-overs. "I am a chef but I am also a woman." "When I'm cooking, I like to look good." "I want to be a James Beard and I wanna have a nice ass." Carla, if you want to be a Beard to a guy named James, I have a gay friend whose parents are Mormon and conservative.

NEXT: A great quote from Bart the Knight: "Belgian food is amazing because we've been conquered so many times that we keep all the best ingredients from everybody who conquered us. I mean, that's a lot of them."


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