Thank goodness for Bravo. The network has saved us from the abyss of summer TV reruns with a new season of Top Chef, which premiered its sixth installment last night. Tom, Padma, and the new crop of chefs head to Las Vegas this time around, and I’ll be with you for their Sin City journey. For me, Las Vegas calls to mind gambling, showgirls, and those endless $70 buffets since when I went to Vegas (as a minor), all I could do was watch Cirque de Soleil and eat. (Why did my parents even take me with them?) Gargantuan buffets aside, I consider myself a foodie, a restaurant explorer, and a lover of all things sweet. It’s no surprise that I love Top Chef, but watching it on an empty stomach is hazardous, so I recommend accompanying snacks to prevent yourself from licking the TV screen. Now that you’ve met me, let’s meet the contestants!
The Dish: Executive chef, the Woodfire Grill in Atlanta
Strong sauce: With a 2009 James Beard nomination already under his belt, Kevin seems to be as thoughtful about cooking as he is talented. His well-planned arctic char impressed the judges enough to take home the first win.
Weak sauce: He’s got some time-management issues.
The Dish: Executive chef, Latitudes Beach Café in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Strong sauce: His laid back approach (”keep it real, keep it simple and let’s have fun”) could serve him well when the pressure is on.
Weak sauce: He pulled out the sympathy card — that he took a treacherous 27-day boat ride from Haiti to America — too quickly. Save it for when you really need it, not the first episode!
The Dish: Chef/owner, Eve in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Strong sauce: We didn’t sense much that was positive, though her revelation that she’s the only chef from Michigan was cute.
Weak sauce: In a pot full of big city chefs, this small-town girl may not have the chops (or attitude) needed to win.
The Dish: Chef/Owner, Iluna Basque in San Francisco
Strong sauce: The France native opened his restaurant when he was just 23 and has talent and proven success on his side. We also give him brownie points for his adorable Pamplona-inspired getup.
Weak sauce: Mattin makes a fine lobster and a mean buffalo rib eye, but the lack of personality in his cooking could cut his Vegas vacation short.
The Dish: Executive chef, Eno in Atlanta
Strong sauce: The self-proclaimed ”fat kid” has a passion for eating, not just cooking, which could set him apart from the artsy-fartsy chefs.
Weak sauce: But at the same time, he doesn’t edit his dishes. He’ll have to refrain from making his meals a mélange of too many things, as he mistakenly did in the elimination challenge.
NEXT: Jesse’s awesome grits