Top Chef season premiere recap: Trimming the Fat

Charismatic cheftestants and a quotable Wolfgang Puck make for a tasty premiere
Ep. 01 | Aired Nov 7, 2012

PUCKISH Austrian culinary superstar Wolfgang Puck doesn't disappoint as judge.

Isabella Vosmikova/Bravo

BATCH FOUR
Location: Atlanta
Judge: Hugh Acheson

Yes, the Hughnibrau still exists, but I'm growing accustomed to its face. As someone who lives on salads ("Look at me!"), Hugh challenges the chefs to impress him with nothing but veggies and leaves. "Not any salad -- a beautiful salad," he demanded.

Who's ever heard of a knight named Bart? We meet the first Top Chef contestant we should bow to. Bart Vandaele was knighted and ennobled by the prince of Belgium for his valiant chefly duties, although he just wants to be known as "Bart the Chef." The whole time, Hugh seemed a little into Bart, somehow, entranced by his knightly stature. "That's a big salad you have" could be interpreted as a pickup line. Bart's spiny lobster salad — that screaming crustacean sound effect disturbed me very, very deeply — was a little bit busy, but Hugh liked what he tasted.

Hawaiian Sheldon Simeon, a chef who came with a lot of credentials, made a Thai-inspired Brussels sprout salad with a blood orange vinaigrette. Hugh could have used more vinaigrette, but he likey.

Brooke Williamson's kale salad with Brussels sprout leaves and fried kale won instant raves and a chef's coat from Hugh -- seems as though fried kale is really in this season. On a side note, these chefs are continuing the tradition of being surprisingly tatted up.

Young chef Danyele McPherson became a chef when she realized a double-major in history and anthropology wasn't as practical as she once thought. She flashed her tomatoes, which competitor Gina Keatley called "ridiculously amateurish." Gina struck me as one of those reality TV types who think being an arrogant a-hole is a prime human virtue, even though she cooks for a good cause, Nourishing USA. Despite Danyele's propane-fueled misstep, Hugh still preferred her watermelon and tomato salad to Gina's warm salad of sauteed and grilled zucchini with carrots, pea sprouts, and balsamic reduction, calling it "a little weighty overall." The elimination didn't lower Gina's conviction in herself, however. "I'm a movement," she said. Good for you, Gina!

What did you think of the first episode of Top Chef: Seattle? Did you agree with Wolfgang's elimination of Daniel O'Brien? How's Wolfgang doing as a judge? Are you excited about the new crop of contestants?

Follow @EWStephanLee on Twitter.

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