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Emmys 2017
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Top Chef California premiere recap: Stop the Presses

The cooking competition goes to California.

Posted on

Dale Berman/Bravo

Top Chef

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, Gail Simmons
Reality TV

While we’re waiting for the arrival of Top Chef Junior, which seems like it’ll never actually come to pass, regular old grownup Top Chef has cycled back on itself for season 13 and returned to the entire state of California, where it’s already been twice. The credits flashed cities in California that we’ll be visiting, including Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco. I’m genuinely hoping for at least one Vanderpump Rules crossover in which the chefs take over SUR and deny sleeping with exes of Brandi Glanville.

We’re at the point in the season where there are SEVENTEEN chefs, and we haven’t yet had time to be able to distinguish them by unique tattoos and other identifying body art/rockabilly fashions that are so popular with Top Chef contestants. Padma immediately asks the group who has a James Beard Award — seriously, James Beard Awards must be as plentiful as Seamless Frequent Eater Awards, which my friends and I all have won — and who’s an executive chef. Basically, everyone is a James Beard Award winner and/or nominee and also an executive chef, except Frances, who’s a sous chef at Buddakan. (That’s still pretty fancy — the only time I’ve ever stepped foot in Buddakan was to go to the bathroom and sneak a peek at where they filmed Carrie’s rehearsal dinner in the first SATC movie.) In other news, Grayson Schmitz, from the very dramatic Top Chef: Texas season, is back! I’ve always liked her for her willingness to fire back at Tom, whether or not it’s justified.

Seriously, though, there are too many chefs. In seasons past, I would obsessively try to note something unique about every cheftestant in the crowded premiere episodes, but I’ve learned my lesson. Here are some of the more interesting personalities: Phillip, who’s addicted to competing in cooking shows like some people are addicted to joining support groups; Renee, who talks like a sassy, inspirational refrigerator magnet come to life; Wesley, who’s a self-described “pig” in the kitchen; and Garret, the son of academics and a serial mansplainer who seems to think he’s way smarter than he is.

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The first Quickfire Challenge starts with a mise-en place race, where the chefs have to prep one of five “California” ingredients, such as “eggs.” The top nine finishers in that phase of the challenge will move on to the second.

The chefs who chose to break down chickens have the easiest time, except for Grayson, who nabs the last spot in the second part of the challenge by the skin of her … chicken. Garret — who gave THIS speech at one point in the episode: “Cooking is a continuation of philosophy; it’s a study of aesthetics … gustatory aesthetics, but there’s nothing more connective with human existence than the cultural manifestation of cuisine”; all of which, if you make the mistake of close-reading it, means NOTHING — had a really hard time breaking eggs.

NEXT: A quickfire win before elimination