Top Chef: Something Old, Something New
December 2, 2016 3:50 PM - Season 14, Episode 1 - Subscribe

Eight new chefs and eight returning chefs battle it out in Charleston, SC.
posted by duffell (6 comments total)
Oh my gosh! When i first heard about the "8 returning chefs" thing, I thought we'd end up with 8 turds, but there are some fucking GREAT chefs in the mix (and some chaff). I am SUPER stoked for Shirley, Sheldon, Brooke, Sam, and maybe even Katsuji, even if he can be kind of a shit. I don't expect Amanda, Casey, or John to stick around for too long, but who knows? It's been a few years! (P.S. Sam Talbot is apparently the Paul Rudd of the culinary world with his uncanny ability to stave off the ravages of aging. Still hot, Sam.) (P.P.S. Fun fact: Katsuji was also a contestant on Top Chef Mexico!)

First impressions of the new chefs? Not a whole lot to say, but:
  • I LOVE JIM. Already. I love this charming, soft-spoken nerd and I hope we get the pleasure of Jim's company for several episodes. (Apparently the returning chefs agree and, like me, want to hug him en masse.)
  • Emily: "I have a shitty attitude and attitude is everything." ok
Returning chefs?
  • Brooke, I hate to say it, but I believe "Scotch egg with shrimp instead of sausage" is the most disgusting idea I've heard in more than a decade of Top Chef. I don't care how much the judges liked it.
  • A bowl of hug sounds like a very Shirley dish. I love Shirley so much. I think out of all the cheftestants, I'd like to see her take it all this season.
All in all, a great episode! I actually really enjoyed the interactions between the returning chefs while watching the new chefs compete. Maybe it's just in the editing, but similar to season 13, there was a lot more positivity and less nastiness. I hope that's just the way of Top Chef from this point forward. Also: "tiny crabs in oyster" can be filed under "ways I never imagined food could go wrong."

Predictions for the season:
  • Emily and Katsuji prove adept at pushing one another's buttons, and end up in a HUGE fight before the season is halfway done. (Note: I wrote this BEFORE the "preview of season 14" tag at the end of the episode.)
  • There are PLENTY more awkward Charleston moments a la John's "I kinda know what Gerald's feeling, being the descendent of slaves while on a plantation, I mean, not QUITE the same thing but my mom marched for civil rights."

posted by duffell at 4:43 PM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't know how I feel yet about the format for this season. Part of the reason I like watching Top Chef is to see how different people cook and the interesting things they can do. While I like a lot of the returning Chefs, I also feel like it would have just been better to put them on another season of Top Chef All Stars. I'm scared it's going to be a lot of what we've already seen from them. Just as one example: as much as I like Shirley, as soon as they said "Shrimp and Grits" I said "Shirley is going to make an egg custard." Plus, they have the benefit of knowing what they can pull out of their bag of tricks that the judges reacted positively to last time (ahem, egg custard) which is a bit unfair. At least on Top Chef All Stars they're all on that playing field.
posted by primalux at 8:30 AM on December 3, 2016

The plantation thing was definitely ... awkward.

That said: super excited! I had the same reaction to the returning contestants. I was worried it'd be a bunch of people I hated the first time around, but instead it's almost all people I really liked. I want Shirley to do so well! I want Katsuji to keep being Katsuji! And I loved how positive the returning chefs were while watching the new chefs.

Speaking of new chefs: some really interesting contestants. I was happy that things worked out for Jim, after everyone was apprehensive of his dish -- he seems like a really genuinely nice guy from what we've seen of him so far.

I was a little bummed by the ending. I would have been fine with John going home -- he's the least interesting of the returning chefs to me, and I'd rather a new person get another chance. Them's the breaks, though.
posted by tocts at 5:35 AM on December 6, 2016

This is the first TC episode I have ever watched because cooking/baking competitions are the main way I am staying sane this year. I disliked John right away and his weird remark just iced that cake. The plantation setting sort of reminded me of when they sent a veteran of the Vietnam War to Vietnam on The Amazing Race. It worked out and he was glad to have a more positive memory of the country, but wow, what a gamble that was.
posted by soelo at 12:24 PM on December 8, 2016

I thought it was *totally* unfair that he was allowed to use his personal stash of truffles. And they made it sound like this was something they've always been able to do - is that true? I always remember that people just needed to cook with ingredients that were present. Does everyone get to use whatever they want now, as long as they can bring it in a bag?
posted by jasper411 at 1:18 PM on December 8, 2016

This is the first TC episode I have ever watched because cooking/baking competitions are the main way I am staying sane this year.

You should totally watch the older seasons! The first couple are a little rough, but by season 3 or so they had really honed in on the concept of it being a cooking show that chefs would actually respect (and thus nearly no drama, minus a few notable exceptions, and generally interesting and fair challenges). This is season 14, and of the prior 13 at least 9 or 10 are really great, with the rest being OK. (Spin-offs like TC Masters and such are way more hit-or-miss).

I thought it was *totally* unfair that he was allowed to use his personal stash of truffles. And they made it sound like this was something they've always been able to do - is that true?

While this was 100% for sure the most blatantly it has ever affected a challenge, this has been a mainstay of the show for a long while (though how much they foreground it varies season-to-season). From memory, I think they introduced it in Season 4, and even showed that each chef had a little locker they could put whatever they wanted to bring into (so they were space limited, but not value or otherwise limited). Richard Blais, for example, pulled one of those little hand smoker gadgets (very new at the time, standard on the show now) out during a challenge from his.
posted by tocts at 2:54 PM on December 8, 2016

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