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November 8, 2012 at 1:00 AM

What happened on the ‘Top Chef Seattle’ premiere?


Here’s the first spoiler for the premiere episode of ‘Top Chef Seattle‘: It didn’t take place in Seattle.

Instead, celebrity judges Hugh Acheson, Tom Colicchio, Emeril Lagasse, and Wolfgang Puck divvied up the 21 “cheftestants” at their own restaurants around the country, setting them tasks (making a salad, working the line for dinner service, making soup, and cooking an omelet) and deciding which winners would proceed on to the Emerald City. (“I want to drink the coffee in Seattle,” one contestant said wistfully.)

Some highlights and lowlights from the show:

Best line: “I’m an omelet away from Seattle.” That’s what Denver chef Tyler Wiard said after Wolfgang Puck gave his crew that challenge.

Runner up: “I am a ferocious tiger,” said contestant Gina Keatley, founder of the New York based non-profit Nourishing USA.

Hardest job: Making that omelet. Contestant after contestant over-browned, over-greased, or otherwise (and literally) messed up the classic chef’s test. “You make something so easy so complicated,” said Puck. The celebrity chef had said in a recent conference call that the most unexpected part of the show for him was this first episode, where he found “a lot of the chefs who participate, you know, lack a basic foundation.”

Strangest fashion statement: Have curly handlebar mustaches suddenly become hip in the chef world? At least two contestants (hey, with 21 it’s easy to lose track) sported them.

Biggest breakup: Buddies Stephanie Cmar and Kristen Kish bonded while working on the line at the same Boston restaurant (‘Spoon’) years back. They have matching spoon tattoes, live in the same apartment building, and were cheering each other on for the show. (“A lot of lesbian rumors because of this, which we’re not, just to clarify,” Stephanie said.) Stephanie, who made a cauliflower soup for Emeril, was sent home. Kristen, who specifies that she triple-blanched the lemon peels to remove their bitterness in her pea-scallop-lemon peel soup, got to stay.

Biggest upcoming emotional wringer: Dallas chef Josh Valentine explained that he will miss the birth of his daughter if he makes it to Seattle. Natch, he makes it. His wife “supports me” in the decision, he says, acknowledging that these are “tremendous sacrifices” that weigh on him “a little bit.”

Seattle glamour shots: We got a glimpse of the Space Needle at sunset and Pike Place Market’s neon sign.

Biggest missing piece besides Seattle: No Padma this episode!

Most frustrated after being cut from the lineup: A tie between Keatley, who avowed that “Top Chef is missing out. I’m not just a chef and a nutritionist, I’m a movement,” and Dan O’Brien of Washington’s Seasonal Pantry, whose reaction was “It’s like, what the $@#? Now I’m pissed off.”

What’s coming up: Previewing next week’s episode, we see local big guys Tom Douglas and Thierry Rautureau at the judging table, plus a shot of the Rat City Rollergirls rink. From speeches at a premiere party hosted by the Seattle Tourism Improvement Area and Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau, it appears we can expect razor clams, geoducks, and a Canlis episode.

Considering that it took a lot to get the show here, what’s in it for Seattle?

“Obviously, the worldwide media exposure for Seattle as a travel and food destination is phenomenal. The show is seen not only in the U.S., but in 20 countries around the world…” said David Blandford, the visitors bureau’s vice president of communications.

“(It) will be a wonderful showcase of our city as a culinary destination, as a way of graphically showing its culinary sophistication, indigenous ingredients, inspired chefs, restaurants — we’re thrilled to have that wonderful exposure.

“We know it’s a great eating town, but the rest of the world — if they didn’t already know — will know in a very big way by watching the series.”

Did you see the first episode? Tuning in next week? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Photo courtesy of Bravo



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