A new season of Top Chef kicked off last night, this time in this year’s hottest hipster fantasy retirement destination, Charleston. Seriously, I feel like I heard dick about Charleston for the first 30-some years of my life and now someone mentions it at every other cocktail party. Beware, Charleston. If all of these awful yuppies actually make good on their Charleston threats it’s going to be dog boutiques and salad restaurants as far as the eye can see out there.
Oh right, the show. After 13 seasons, this show couldn’t go on without a twist, and this season’s twist is newbies vs. veterans. That means eight chefs who’ve been on the show before — all your favorites, from whatserface to that one guy! — competing against eight newbies, fresh from the pages of James Beard’s Food and Wine Michelin Illustrated Thingamawhatever. It’s… just about the right amount of twist, actually. And they brought back Katsuji the Kosher Mexican, so that’s cool.
The eight newbies competed in a quickfire challenge against each other while the veterans watched on a monitor and cracked wise (slash expositarily). Winner got immunity, loser had to go head-to-head with the loser from Veteran quickfire to see who got eliminated. Then, just when you’d processed that twist, the challenge was to take the secret ingredient (a whole chicken) and make AS MANY DISHES AS YOU WANT WITH IT. They got an hour. Again, just enough of a twist to keep things interesting. Well done, producers.
When that was over, the veterans faced off in a quickfire of their own with COMPLETELY DIFFERENT RULES! (Dogs and cats, living together, etc). Their challenge was introduced and judged by “Top Chef Masters alum” Graham Elliot. Hey! You got Masterchef in my Top Chef (ewwwww). Seriously though, I really hate it when someone’s persona is based on conspicuous eyeglass frames but I promise to try to keep an open mind with this guy.
Anyway, the veteran challenge is for the chefs to “put their own spin” on a classic: shrimp and grits! Hoo boy, fusion shrimp and grits? Count me out on that one. The only spin you need on shrimp and grits is “give Vince some.”