I confess: I actually didn’t realize when I wrote up my first installment of Top Chef Season 13 power rankings that the premiere episode was a two-parter. That’s two hours and 15 minutes of Top Chef premieres! A duo of premiere episodes! Haven’t any Bravo execs watched Top Chef and heeded its rules? You never make a duo! Ugh. Though to be fair, the two-part premiere was more an obstacle for me the writer than me the viewer. Luckily for all of us, I came to terms with wasting my life long ago, so let’s do this.
Premiere week part two guest starred Ludo Lefebvre, zee coolest Fronch chef een all of L.A. I hear even his baguettes wear motorcycle jackets. Sang Yoon was also there for a few seconds. Remember him? It doesn’t matter. This episode’s challenge? Pop-up restaurants! That’s like a regular restaurant that goes away and reappears somewhere else when you hit it with a mallet. To create their pop-ups, the chefs were split into teams of four, driven to ethnic neighborhoods in different parts of L.A., and forced to appropriate the local culture. The results ranged from “so good” to “Mexican Hamburger Helper.”
PADMA LAKSHMI OUTFIT WATCH
A leather motorcycle jacket made out of one of Eddie Van Halen’s old guitars. She pulled it off (she always does), though it did look like she was trying a little too hard to impress Chef Ludo. I like to imagine wardrobe nixed dreamcatcher earrings at the last minute.
THINGS WE LEARNED
If you use food out of a can, lie about it. Because Tom Colicchio will bitch even if everyone thinks the dish is delicious. Frances got dinged for this, even though her curry was the only dish from her team that the judges liked. “You should’ve used fresh produce, like all your teammates’ dishes that we hated! Idiot!”
Winner: Team Persian (Isaac, Angelina, Marjorie, Amar). Marjorie in the top spot.
Loser: Team Vegan (Phillip, Grayson, Renee, Frances)
Middle: Team Koreatown (Karen, Carl, Jason, Giselle)
Middle Bottom: Team Mexican (Chad, Jason, Kwame, Jeremy)
1. Amar (Beard Guy Latin)
In creating these rankings I had to decide whether I’m doing a straight ranking of each particular week (in which case that week’s winner would automatically go number one, because duh) or if I’m handicapping the eventual winner. I decided it’s more interesting to do the latter. And given that, I have to put Amar number one. Sure, Marjorie won this week, but in two episodes, Amar has won immunity in a quickfire, finished in the top three in the first elimination challenge, and ended up on the winning team in the second elimination challenge. It’s early, but I think we have to call him the front runner so far. Not to mention he sort of has a mohawk, and the mohawked have traditionally done well in this show.
Dish: Grilled Carrots with Cauliflower Hummus and Vadouvan. (Will vadouvan become this year’s harissa? Discuss).
Review Soundbites: “Too much cumin.” “The carrots were fantastic.”
Notable Quote: “I treated the carrots just like meat.” (Just like your mom does).
2. Isaac (Cajun Man, Lucifer)
Isaac landed in the top third yet again, even without Gramama Toup’s worl’ famous shraump boo yon po boy recipes to help him. He’s not in the lead, but he’s drafting, saving up his energy for when he needs that boost to push him across the finish line. A boost of CAJUN FLAVUHS. Lay say la bon taun brouleé! (I do not speak French).
Dish: Lamb Kofta, Spicy Beef Kebab on Smoked Eggplant (He calls it a duo! Tempting fate!)
Review Soundbites: “It’s a little spicy.”
Notable Quote: “I know nothing about Persian food.”
3. Marjorie (Mike Ms.abella)
Marjorie won this week by, surprise surprise, knowing how to cook a dessert. Didn’t I tell you that was going to be important? I’d rank her higher but, you know, it was still a dessert, and desserts aren’t real food. They’re just arts and crafts that you can eat.
Dish: Yogurt Mousse with Pistachio Spongecake. (Seriously though, that sounds delicious.)
Review Soundbite(s): “So good.”
Notable Quote: “Looga dis friggin gloryboy. Hey, Tony. Would you ever put your face onna billboard like dis prick ova here?” (I’m paraphrasing)
4. Kwame (Wormser, The Prodigy)
Kwame, who we’re told has won many prestigious awards and shiny baubles for his fine pop-ups, had the experience going in and it showed. Kwame has that Geoffrey Zakarian-esque air of refined competence about him. Or maybe it’s just the glasses. Too early to tell.
Dish: Chipotle* Raisin Glazed Shrimp with Masa** Porridge*** and Avocado Lime Crema****
*A roasted jalapeño
**The cooked cornmeal stuff they make tortillas out of
***A soupy pureé
****Flavored sour cream
Review Soundbites: “Kwame saved your whole team.”
Notable Quote: “I’ve opened many pop-up restaurants.”
5. Karen (Rosie the Riveter, Chef Hot Topic)
Karen makes food no one complains about and occasionally talks. It’s great!
Dish: Kalbi with Nectarine Kimchi
Review Soundbites: “This has the most flavor.” “It’s also the most Korean.” (Fun fact: Karen was voted “Most Korean” back in high school in Omaha).
Notable Quote: “Hey, guys. I’m Karen.”
6. Jason (Poindexter, Tolerable Alton Brown)
Jason could probably go higher – the judges always seem to like his food, but he never wins. He gets a lot of screen time, but it’s hard to tell if that’s because he’s a front runner or because he gives the bitchiest soundbites.
Dish: Noodles with Iced Broth, Cucumber, Asian Pear and Egg
Review Soundbites: “I liked the texture of the noodles.”
Notable Quote: “Okay, girl, I don’t need to hear about all your anxieties.” (I’m going to use this phrase all the time now)
7. Giselle (Nosering Girl, Ms. No Screen Time)
Giselle got lots of screen time this week on account of annoying the hell out of her team with her stream-of-consciousness inner monologue, then wowed the judges with her Korean chicken wings. That’s ace work, Giselle! Credit for choosing wisely, it’s hard to f*ck up a chicken wing.
Dish: Korean Spicy Wings with Cucumber Slaw
Review Soundbites: “Really moist.” “I don’t know how authentic it is – I mean you could make a case – but it’s really good.” (Tom, of course.)
Notable Quote: “Excuse me, are you Korean?”
8. Carl (Mini Alex Smith)
At this point, Carl is still an enigma roulade, stuffed with mystery, braised in question marks. I think they like his food? They definitely don’t not like it. He seems nice.
Dish: Cuttlefish and Shrimp Salad.
Review Soundbites: (sounding hesitant) “It’s good.” “I wish they did something *to* the cuttlefish.”
Notable Quotes: *Carl smiles and waves*
9. Jeremy (Bald Frat Guy)
Jeremy came out of the gate strong in part one, and sort of flagged in part two. The judges seemed lukewarm on all his team’s dishes, but more because they weren’t Mexican enough than because they screwed up. Tom, who has at least one weird hang-up per episode, was weirdly hung up on them not asking their neighborhood guide enough questions about how to cook Mexican food. Maybe because everyone has eaten Mexican food before? Also, Kwame, who knew the least about Mexican food, cooked the best dish. Settle down, Tom.
Dish: Charred Skirt Steak and Potato Confit Cooked in Lard.
Review Soundbites: “I don’t get ‘Mexico’ from this at all.”
10. Frances (Asian Miley Cyrus, The Charming Foreigner)
Poor Frances made a delicious dish, but didn’t realize how much Tom hates cans. Like, hates cans. Cans used to beat up Tom every day in junior high. I also enjoy that he acts like they were shopping in this amazing cornucopia of endless produce. Bro, chill out, they were in a Whole Foods. Meanwhile, you know her dish was good because Padma liked it, and you know Padma wouldn’t lightly pass up an opportunity to tell us what Indian food should taste like.
Dish: Channa Masala (chickpea curry, using *gasp* canned chickpeas)
Review Soundbites: “Delicious.”
Notable Quote: “It said ‘organic’ in can.”
11. Phillip (Man Bun, Chef Top Knot)
I’m enjoying the ongoing saga of Phillip, where he cooks food everyone mostly enjoys, and they refuse to give him any credit on account of him being Phillip. Which seems entirely fair. Phillip is the kind of guy who will claim a personal connection to whatever assignment they give him. Spanish food? Bro, I spent three months in Spain in college! Barbecue challenge? I love barbecue! I actually own a camping supply store. Dog sled race? No way! My ex girlfriend was a quarter Eskimo! Shut up, Phillip.
Dish: Cauliflower, Cauliflower, Cauliflower, Cauliflower. (Phillip names his own dishes)
Review Soundbites: “Very fussy. So tweezified.” (From Gail, proving why Gail is the best judge).
Notable Quote: “My girlfriend is a vegan. She’s an actress and a model. You guys probably don’t know her, she goes to a different school.”
12. Chad (Beard Guy Light)
In a Phillip-esque turn, Chad brags about owning a restaurant in Tijuana, then beefs it on a Mexican food challenge. Get it together, Chad. You’re going to have to turn in your forearm tats if you don’t start doing better in this competition.
Dish: Carrot Asado with Banana Yogurt and Carne Seca. (Remember what I said about how we eat with our ears? That sh*t sounds weird).
Review Soundbites: “The flavors are really good, but the carrots are really undercooked.”
13. Wesley (Pig Pen, Southern Chris Farley)
The judges didn’t seem to like Wesley’s food much this episode, but at least he didn’t leave any plastic bags in the stew or spit in the judges’ food this week. Nice going, Wesley. Top stuff.
Dish: Orange and Tomato Stew with Chorizo and Hominy.
Review Soundbites: “It tastes like Mexican Hamburger Helper.”
14. Angelina (The Young One)
Angelina is staying in by not making any huge mistakes, but has yet to cook anything the judges liked. Grayson is doing worse, but if I had to bet, I’d guess Grayson pulls some cagey veteran move next episode and Angelina goes home.
Dish: Fennel-Coriander Crusted Chicken with Lemon Confit.
Review Soundbites: “Needs salt.”
15. Grayson (How YOU Doin’)
In addition to turning me off by constantly mentioning her boyfriend, Grayson complained about having to cook vegan food for basically the entire episode. “I put meat in everything.” “I just think this would taste better with some pork fat.” “You know what would make this better? Meat.” “I always pack a spare ham hock in my purse and line my chef’s hat with pancetta, just in case.”
Then she proceeded to get BRUTALIZED by the judges. It almost seems like a running joke, who can say the meanest thing about Grayson’s food straight to her face. “Nice food, smelly. What’d you do, marinate it in your armpit and then cut it with your big clown shoe? If I had a time machine, I wouldn’t even feed this to Hitler.”
Poor Grayson. I would comfort her. You know, if her dumb boyfriend’s not around. Probably walking around the house sniffing wine or folding handkerchiefs or whatever sommeliers do.
Dish: Charred Bean Salad
Review Soundbites: “A little disjointed.” “Pretty sad.” “It’s like the vegetable version of that meatball.” “I feel as eef your green bean die for nussing.”
Notable Quote: *the sound of Grayson gargling pork fat*
16/ELIMINATED: Renee (The Obnoxious One)
Renee proved that seeming obnoxious in the first episode wasn’t just an editing trick and got kicked off, all in the same episode! For everyone who says the producers decide this whole show based on entertainment value, I give you Renee as counter evidence. Any reality show producer worth his salt would’ve tried to Omarosa this chick for all they were worth. Instead, she was eliminated. Now who’s going to seem incredibly self-satisfied the whole time? Oh right, probably Phillip.
Dish: Stuffed Beet with Tofu and Rasted Cashews.
Review Soundbites: “Dry ond mooshy.” “The beet to me ate a little dry.”
Notable Quote: (laughing way too loudly at something that wasn’t even really a joke)
The Weasel Award: Phillip, for bragging about his vegan cred the entire episode, and then blaming having to cook vegan when his team lost.
Bitchiest Soundbites Award: Jason, for his succinct exasperation with Giselle. Do reality show contestants who give good soundbites get a bonus? They should. Guarantee the editors love this guy.
Judge Power Rankings
6. Sang Yoon
NEXT WEEK: Road trip to Santa Barbara for uni. No one on Earth eats more uni than a judge on Top Chef. Top Chef judges eat more uni than Chopped judges eat bread pudding.
Vince Mancini is a writer and comedian living in San Francisco. A graduate of Columbia’s non-fiction MFA program, his work has appeared on FilmDrunk, the UPROXX network, the Portland Mercury, the East Bay Express, and all over his mom’s refrigerator. Fan FilmDrunk on Facebook, find the latest movie reviews here.