Spoilers for last night’s premiere episode of Top Chef: DC follow:
“I will set the presidents,” misspoke Angelo with perfect appropriateness, as he kicked off Top Chef‘s first series set in the nation’s capital by rolling to a win in both the Quickfire and the Elimination challenges. If the precedent has indeed been set, we could be in for a long season of one-sided competition, but I’m hoping that competitors will emerge in the coming weeks—say somebody like Terry Kenny, who was if not the best last night, at least the fastest, chopping onions like a human food processor and breaking down chickens like a one-man slaughterhouse. I’m concerned that this season won’t have the variety of strong competitors we saw last season—but only mildly worried, since it’s generally impossible to size up the field by one debut episode. The hail of bullets, then:
* Eric Ripert made his debut as a judge last night, and while he didn’t necessarily stand out in any particular way, he also didn’t grandstand to fit in as Toby Young did in his early episodes, and he’s been a solid guest on the show; I’m guessing that this was a good casting move.
* The regional cooking challenge was a great idea in theory, but a little disappointing in practice, as only half the chefs seemed to really come up with dishes that distinctively evoked a sense of place. Granted, some had harder regions to represent than others. (Again my home state of Michigan represented poorly, offering up the first chef to be eliminated. As a Michigander, I’m surprised he chose maple syrup as a representative ingredient in a dessert, rather than cherries, for which the state is better known—at the Cherry Blossom Festival, of all times!)
* On the other hand, I wished I could have stuck a fork into the screen and speared that “jerk chicken sphere.” Although seriously? Just call it a meatball.
* Hyde Park, N.Y. = waffles? Who knew?
* Why in the hell would any sane person encrust a beautiful ribeye in potatoes? That’s not even gilding the lily. It’s taking the lily and shingling potatoes on it.
* Finally, and just as a general rule: I no longer want to see any chef “deconstruct” anything. Anywhere. It’s past cliché at this point. And I submit that there is no such thing as “deconstructed borscht”: that, my friend, is just a freaking beet.
Early favorites? Hopes for the season? Will they try to improve on Senate Bean Soup?