The first episode of any reality competition is a bear to recap because there are so many new faces to get to know and rag on. The Season 3 opener of this show is no different, and as usual, the lessons are aplenty. This week, Top Chef taught us to always be on time, don’t drink at work, and before you go on TV, make sure you see a shrink first because daddy issues have a way of manifesting themselves at severely inopportune times. Today’s premier opens with a “Get To Know Me” buffet party, which is great because it’s fun as the season goes on to compare what the Chefs want us to think of them up front and what they become once a little sleep deprivation and stress make their way into the newbie’s psyches. Remember how sweet Bada Bing Betty was last year before she turned into a raving lunatic who threatened to murder the monkey? Ah, memories. Well, this year, we have a whole new stable of wobbly personalities to gawk at like penguins at the zoo, so let’s get started!
First up is Sara Mair, a fromaggier (cheese maker) from Jamaica. People tend to come home smelling like their job, so I instantly suspect that Sara M. stinks. She “thinks outside the box” (if you use that cliche, you are automatically not thinking out of the box) and refuses to follow the rules. She says it like she’ll cut you, and I believe her.
Clay Bowen looks like he’s gonna have a panic attack as he comes down the airport’s escalator. He’s a crazy toothed, lazy drawled skinny white boy from Mississippi who is calling himself the Dark Horse before he even arrives on set. He didn’t go to culinary school, and like a true Southerner (TX here) he brags about his uneducatedness like he worked real hard at it. He believes Southern Food’ll really “wow em”, and notes that the South hasn’t been represented well yet on Top Chef. Note taken.
Joey Paulino is the biggest bad ass mothuhfu**in’ bleeeep bleeeeeep bleeeep. Smile. Well, you’re the biggest. Let’s just leave it at that. Joey’s the Executive Chef at Cafe des Artistes in NYC and if he wins, he’s giving his mom the money. How much do you owe her? Loud, proud and loud (seriously LOUD). Why does Joey think he’ll win? Cuz he’s from New York. He’s here to kick (shout) ass (loudly).
Dale’s a Chef and Consultant at Cru Cafe in Chicago. We know Dale has a lemons to lemonade attitude because he’s taken that awkward last tuft of hair men get during the final stages of male pattern baldness and turned it into a mohawk. He’s coming on the show for validation. He wants people to say he’s good. Well, it’s an honest answer, I guess. I don’t know how he cooks yet, but his skin is radiant and his eyebrows are waxed flawlessly. My guess is, he’s got more bite than he’s letting on.
Tre Wilcox is from Dallas and has what looks like a home made (Sharpie) tattoo that says GOTTAHAVEPASSION. It’s coming down his forearm so it’s upside down when he looks at it but right side up for everyone else. It’s not a reminder for him, he’s got plenty of passion. It’s a reminder for us. Tre Deep, Wilcox. I hope you just cook the food and don’t serve it with that arm. No one wants to be lectured at before they eat.
Sara Nguyen doesn’t have much interesting to say, so she spokesmodels for today’s location, Casa Casuarina, which is Gianni Versace’s old mansion. It’s of course fabulous, but knowing it’s where Versace was murdered makes it a little creepy. And cheap enough for location shots! Ah, Top Chef. You know how to work that small budget.
Hung Huynh is a friend of Marcel’s from last season, so he’s already fascinating to me. He’s an Executive Chef and says for about a year now he has had the title of CPA. Certified Professional Asshole. Oh, Hung. Ugh. People who give themselves acronyms are automatic poseurs.
Micah Edelstiein considers herself an artiste, and wears a crazy old lady fishing hat to prove it. No one taught Michelangelo how to paint the Sistine Chapel, it was just in him. Yeah, but could he cook? Micah only spoke twice at last week’s tasting, but she came across as a total biatch. No one taught her how, it was just in her. I can’t wait for her to explode.
Sandee Birdsong is from San Fran, and she just became a Chef three years ago so her career could be her passion. It was either this or the WWF and lucky for us, she chose cooking. Sandee seems like a genuine sweetheart, and that she has the balls to dress like one giant lesbian camping trip in Versace’s house makes me root for her. Besides, how can you not like a girl named Birdsong?
Lia Bardeen is another New Yorker and unlike Joey, this one’s humble and sweet. Actually, I have no way of knowing that, but she’s not LOUD, so she’s ok by me. She works as an Executive Sous Chef at the high fallutin Jean-Georges with the friendliness of a chef at McDonalds. We’ve seen Top Chef turn nice Chefs sour in the blink of an eye (I’m talking to you, Shit Storm), so I hope this girl can keep it together.
CJ Jacobson is a Private Chef from Orange County, and he’s 8 feet tall. He won a Private Chef contest (they seriously have those?) but thinks it’s only because he came down with cancer and people felt bad for him. Came down with cancer? LOL. He says he’s completely in remission, has a great new fake testicle and is ready to go. When Tom and Padma walk in, he says “Sweet little Tiny in a manger, what is happening here?” Please let this guy win.
The contestants are mingling and having brunch on Versace’s patio when they are cut short for their first Quick Fire Challenge. I could explain the reactions, but Birdsong says it best.
The first challenge will be the old standard Amuse Douche Challenge. The Amuse Douche is how you get your palette (privates) ready for a fantastic meal (lay), or as normal American’s call this portion of dinner, appetizers (basic grooming can make or break a night). Casey Thompson, Executive Chef of Shinsei in Dallas, explains the importance of the Amuse with a highly amusing bunny face. That’s how to educate the people, Casey!
Padma instructs them to use anything left on the buffet line and in ten minutes create an Amuse that will express themselves and show us who they really are. I hope Hung makes a shrimp dish and names it the Gigantor.
Some dude named Howie that we haven’t met yet made a poached shrimp with heirloom tomatoes with a champagne basil vinaigrette. The plate looks like roadkill, but it’s the first dish featured, so it will be interesting to see what Tom and Padma think.
Mica has prepared what she calls “Tuscan Sushi Revisited”. That’s a really fancy way of saying ham and figs.
Baldhawk made beef tenderloin with blue cheese, radish and sea salt and then just to show he’s punk, he stabbed it with a branch off a christmas tree.
Clay, our Southern representative, made a fruit gazpacho, which is basically fruit off the buffet line served in what looks like a rotten, horribly gutted apple. Ick. Tom points out that it’s more of a first course, and Bunny Foo Foo snipes from across the room. Clearly this dope doesn’t know what an Amuse is! Didn’t he listen to her long winded explanation ten minutes ago? Some people never learn. Not even when you teach with funny bunny faces.
Sara M. prepared and oyster with pineapple and smoked salmon, and Hung put together hamachi with creamy egg rice, grapes, chili sauce, olives, and pesto vinaigrette. Damn, everything but the shrimp. I lose. He brags that it’s spicy, sour, sweet, and lean, like his little monkey at home.
Tre made a hamachi, avocado and strawberry amuse served in an oyster shell, and he would appreciate if you tasted it with passion. Off in the corner, Clay empties a champagne bottle and looks at it like he can’t believe it’s already empty. Uh-oh, do we have another Frank on our hands?
Tom’s bottom three are Baldhawk’s beef and gorgonzola, Clay’s apple salad bowl, and Tre’s hamachi and champagne. Being in the bottom three has depressed Tre, and he says that no one can be harder on him than himself. Wanna bet? Give Gail a couple weeks to get warmed up.
Micah’s Tuscan Beeker Sushi, Sara M.’s oyster with smoked salmon, and Hung’s hamachi circus of the mouth are the top three. And Micah wins! She says it doesn’t change anything inside of her. She won’t sluff off the next challenge just cuz she has immunity, she’s gotta be great AT ALL TIMES. I am hating this woman.
The contestants are all off to their fancy digs at the Fountainbleau Resort. Wow. The place is stunning. They have a penthouse with hot tubs and huge balcony overlooking the ocean. You know Seasons 1 and 2 are watching this pissed off right now. Suckas!
Clay says he can’t wait for the sun go down so he can stare at the city lights from the balcony. And get really trashed. He hangs out with a couple of guys and a bottle of wine and admits that his apple salad bowl from the first challenge was wack. He finds this hilarious and gets the other guys laughing at him too. Then he explains:
My dog has the same philosophy, and my advice to Clay is the same as it was to Xena when she brought a chewed up snotty Kleenex to bed. “Check yourself. How can I respect you if you don’t respect you?”
Clay has reason to worry, and he copes by vomiting nervous, insecure laughy energy all over everyone during an evening on the balcony. Way to kill the view, dude. Nervous giggle. “Y’all are gonna miss me if I get kicked off!” Hung gets up and moves away from him and Birdsong pats his shoulder like “I will, hon!” Aw, Birdsong. Clay bumbles on. “Who’s gonna make you laugh if I go?”
Oh, I think we’ll be fine, champ. If he gets kicked off tonight, I’m calling a Suyai curse. She was first out last year, and she had nothing positive to say about herself all day. No one likes a weenie. Buck up. OMG I thought I was done with this paragraph but Clay just keeps on going! He rolls his jaw around (coke jaw. I’m just saying.) and tells the camera that the title of Top Chef would make his daddy real proud. He was a great chef…in the restaurant business. But it got to him. And he killed himself. I AM NOT MAKING THIS SHIT UP. It didn’t work out for his dad. But it will for him.
So cooking drove your father to suicide? First of all, I’m sorry. Second of all, that’s crazy talk. Please keep that stuff to yourself. You’re in public.
Birdie wakes up giggling. LOVE. Time to meet Howie Kleinberg. Howie just opened up his own restaurant in Miami, and he doesn’t crave social interaction. He’s all about maintaining a laser focus throughout every single challenge!! I hope this guy gets into it with Joey. That’ll be a lot of testosterone, thick accents, and largeness.
Hung tells us he’s sick of people going on about where they’re from and who they are. He doesn’t give a shit! Cuz he’s a CPA! He’ll judge you when he sees how you “walk toward the ingredients.” Tell that oregano what it needs to hear.
This show loves nothing more than to make us nauseous before it tries to make us hungry, so it’s fitting that Season 3′s first Elimination Challenge is a gross out one. After long, romantic close ups of the sparkly, new Kenmore Kitchen, the Chefs are brought to a table of exotic meats. Rattlesnake, alligator, seal clappers, fairy wings, baby feet…the list is too long to print here, but it’s nasty.
Lia describes this one as “the black poo-y stuff at the end of the table.”
The best reaction is, of course, Clay’s.
The Challenge is to make a fancy schmancy surf and turf entree with the table of creepy crawlies and not cry. They will have $30 and thirty minutes to shop for ingredients, and then they’ve got two hours to make that slime sing, baby!! And to make the Challenge even more nerve wracking, the House of the Kitchen, Chef Anthony Bourdain, is back to terrorize the contestants. YAAAAAAAYYYYY!!! Next week’s Challenge will be to make chilled second course using the intestines of the contestants left tonight after DisDain’s done with his gutting. Dammit, I love you, Top Chef!
If you don’t know DisDain from his Travel Channel show, his Food Network show, or the New York Times Bestseller’s list, CJ is here to give you a basic overview. “He likes very adventurous cuisine…He’s not afraid to eat a brain out of like, a live monkey.” Go!
Over at the market, Joey’s already hating on Micah. He watches her talk to Clay like he’s a baby and says she better not talk to him like that or he’ll tell her to go fuck herself. Woah, steady big boy. I hope Micah suggests he suck in his gut and talk quieter. POW. Straight to the kissa.
Since there are so many contestants and this isn’t a Team Challenge, they are divided into two groups. Group Two leaves to pray in the hot tub while 1 gets cooking. Howie, Mr. Laser Focus, isn’t used to working under a time constraint, and the editors insert Mikey’s dumb, slow clown music as he putters around the kitchen and scratches his head. Haha, that’s one big talker looking like a douche. Oh, editors. Seriously. Marriage.
Birdsong’s doing a spider crab jambalaya served with fried frog legs. She’s using an injector to fill the legs with extra juice so “it just pours outta there”. Mmmmm. Daddy Tom comes to check on everyone’s progress and immediately points out that Clay looks a little (wasted) under the weather. Clay assures him that he’s (about to pass out in a pool of sweat) fine, and Tom questions whether or not his scorpion fish and wild boar will be out there (not vomited all over) enough to impress DisDain. Clay’s known for his creole (possible jumper) flair, and is sure he’ll do well. His philosophy is “if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t serve it to someone else”, which sounds good on paper, but he’s already told he eats food off the floor, so his limits are pretty boundless.
You know that Tom loves Lia, because he warns her that her boar chops look ugly. She says she doesn’t have enough time and he suggests she rethink that. Smartly, she takes that advice. Howie’s carved out a sea urchin to use as a bowl for his risotto, but he didn’t get his frog legs plated before time was called. Ouch. Looks like he’ll have to be the one to go. Show over. I’m taking a nap.
Hey, did you know that Carlos from Season 2 now has a Bravo webisode where he teaches you how to cook? Wait. Wasn’t this guy, like terrible?
Time for Team 2 to get cookin’, and Hung is flying around the kitchen slicing and dicing like his life depended on it. He’s here to prove his skills! He’s a badass! Watch him eat a raw sliver of geoduck!!!
Tom is impressed with the second team’s confidence, because they had the creepiest, lesser known proteins to work with. Howie will rest a little easier tonight, because Brian didn’t finish plating his dish either. So now either Brian or Howie are outta there. Brian may not have finished, but he came up with slammin’ titles for his dishes. Hair of Medusa and Venom Soup? Damn. It’s hard not to picture Gail Simmons having the runs of her life tonight.
If they’re feeling any pain, the Judges aren’t showing it. Well, not all of them. Padma looks paler and more detached as the second round of dinner is served, and by the time the final dish is announced, she looks pretty over it.
Come on, Padma. You see this guy naked on a regular basis.
Tom calls Tre’s ostrich perfect and Bourdain is impressed with Hung’s black chicken and geoduck. I knew Dale was gonna have a problem when he presented his food with an excuse. “I’m Dale, and I had the pleasure of choosing last.” Sure enough, Gail isn’t having his tough alligator tail. Bourdain says he would like Brian’s rattlesnake and eel dish if her were drunk, so Padma passes him a flask and he gives it a thumbs up.
Time for the first Judge’s Table. Everyone’s pretty impressed overall. Gail says that everything wasn’t what she wanted to eat right at that moment (really? Who doesn’t want monkfish liver whenever it’s offered? Picky, picky) but she was pleasantly surprised by almost everyone. Tom and Bourdain agree that the Chefs have some serious skills this season. Padma was kinda grossed out that Sara M featured a claw on her black chicken dish, but Bourdain calls it a bold statement and tells her she’s lucky she didn’t get a beak. LOL, DisDain. Shut it, Padma.
Favorites? Bourdain liked Hung’s black chicken and raw geoduck, but Gail wishes he had used more color. Bourdain also singles out Tre’s “mature” preparation of his ostrich, but Padma’s had about as much “mature” as she can handle. Who can blame her?
Hung and Tre are brought before the Judges and Tre isn’t surprised. He knew the second he tasted Hung’s food that they would be in the finals together. Tre confident. Padma calls Hung out on his beigeish dish but he stands up for it. You may eat with your eyes first, but it’s your mouth that tasteses it. So he has trouble with English. And humility. That said, apparently the guy can cook. Tre gushes on about how much he liked Hung’s dish, and Hung thanks him and agrees.
Padma points out that in both Seasons 1 and 2, the Chef that won the first Elimination Challenge went on to win the title. The Judges were unanimous this time around, and the winner is Tre! He’s the least a holish of the two, and the more pissed off Hung looks, the bigger my smile gets. This calls for a pizza! To compliment the creepy crawly theme of the night, I’m ordering sun dried tomatoes as a topping. They look like roaches without skin, don’t they? BRB.
Tre’s prize is a stack of signed Bourdain books. Seriously. If Tre’s ever in New York, Bourdain will take him out and get him wasted. Uhhh….thanks?
Howie, Brian, Clay, Dale and Dale are the next poor souls to be called to the table, and Hung takes great pleasure in slowly announcing their names. Shut up, a hole. You lost. Sit your ass down.
Brian is taken to task first. He got excited about the snake and eel and got too complicated. He thought the snake would hold up better than it did when he fried it. Padma, for yet undisclosed reasons, does not like Brian. She kinda yells at him and rolls her head around like a pissed chola. Anything holds up well frying. You could fry her toe and it would taste good. Gross. I’m trying to eat a sun dried tomato here, bitch. Brian gets flustered and before you know it, he’s shouting too. He’s trying to excuse himself, but he’s loud and borderline offensive as he explains what he was gonna do until Tom cuts him off and asks him why he didn’t serve it how he was explaining it now. He didn’t have the time. Bourdain says the only thing worse than making the wrong decision is second guessing yourself. Confidence is the key.
Dale claims ignorance. He’d never tasted alligator meat before and boned it. Bourdain said he got scared and played it safe. Again, confidence. Howie knows he’s in front of the Judge’s because he didn’t finish, but the frog legs weren’t as crisp as he would have liked them and he didn’t want to serve them crap. Well, anything crappier than frog legs. Bourdain stops him and asks “What is your malfunction?”
DisDain rips him a new one. In the restaurant business you get your food out on time. Period. Howie points out that in Bourdain’s book, there’s a section about Ecuadorian cooks that says you can yell at the cooks and they will give you the food wrong, but the Ecuadorians give you the food when it’s right. SNAP, Howie! I didn’t know you had it in you. Bourdain giggles gleefully, says that’s unfair, and calls him a son of a bitch. Well, Howie’s in.
Clay, unfortunately, doesn’t have that kind of wit. He claims to stand behind his dish, but then makes excuses for it. Bourdain says the problem is fundamental. In other words, the kid doesn’t know what he’s doing. Oh man, poor Clay. He’s about to get beat by two guys who didn’t finish and the guy with a baldhawk wearing Tiffani’s pants.
Bourdain wasn’t thrilled that Brian fried his rattlesnake, but the dish tasted fine. Padma loses her shit AGAIN and screeches “yeah, but don’t you think you could fry anything and it would taste like that?” Calm down, Scar. He said he didn’t like the frying either. Wow. Remind me not to invite Padma over. I fry everything. I’d make her take her shoes off before she came in and then I’d fry her fucking toe and eat it just to shut her ass up.
No one was a huge fan of Baldhawk, but Bourdain thought he did ok for not getting alligator at all. In the end, Clay is unstable, overly sweaty, and a terrible cook. He’s out. My DVR cut off, so I had to go to the Bravo site to get his exit interview.
Clay’s shocked that Howie got to stay after not finishing and if he had known he was in trouble, he would have come up with something witty to say to save himself too. He won’t call it unfair, but it’s just unfair. Then he rolls his jaw and does a line off Padma’s ass. His dad influenced his cooking and he wants to open a restaurant in honor of him, because his own never worked out. Wow. There’s a pattern that needs to stop. How bout the computer industry? There’s a lot of money there, kid! I would watch part two of this interview, but it’s only gonna lead to more suicide jokes and my stomach hurts. Damn you, sun dried tomatoes!
Ronnie Karam has been with TVgasm since 2006 , which has given him the opportunity to make fun of hundreds of TV's most loved and hated reality whores. His plan in life was to be Julia Roberts but that plan was stolen by, well, Julia Roberts. He'll get you one day, JULIA ROBERTS!! When not making himself giggle for the gasm, Ronnie performs improv and sketch comedy at IO West in Hollywood a couple of times weekly while using the lovely California days to audition for commercial roles such as "ADORABLE MEXICAN UNCLE". Seriously. He would like to thank Jesus, Buddha and Xenu for the blessings they've bestowed. The writers here are the best around, and he's honored to be associated with them. Find video archives at CankleTV.com, or follow on Twitter @flipit