Top Chef Season 7 premieres tomorrow. I'm legitimately excited. I hated Top Chef Masters, I found it schizophrenic and kind of boring. I would think I'd like it even more, because I love watching people cook good food. But the "amateur" chefs tend to make better dishes than these "Masters", so I couldn't wait for the new season.
I'm ready for the new season. Not only is it in DC, but my Chef Boyfriend, Eric Ripert, is the new judge. I'm a little worried this will be similar to when Miss Jay became a regular judge on ANTM. A character who was tons o'fun as an occasional character can become damn near unbearable as a constant. But with a voice like his and those beautiful soft lips, I really don't think I will ever grow bored with Mr. Ripert. I would like him to be the official speaker for the entire judges panel.
Ahem. Anyway. Padma finally popped out her puppy, so it's on. And to celebrate, I'm making a list of my top 10 favorite "Cheftestants" from the last six seasons.
I judge the chefs based both on food and personality. For example, Tiffany from Season 1 made the best dishes of the season. However, she was a horrible human being and a real cunt, so she'll never make a favorite list for me of ANYTHING. Except maybe "Top Choices for Death by Cuisinart".
So, without further ado.
10) Dave, Season 1, San Francisco
If Dave had been a better cook, he would be higher on the list. As it was, his talent finally started showing in the last couple of episodes, which broke my heart because he was SO much fun. A lot of my favorite chefs got the best sound bytes of their season ("I'm not your bitch, Bitch!"), and Dave's wee little cry baby self just made me giggle. I would like to hang out and eat Truffle Mac and Cheese with him. Though both of us talking a mile a minute in one place could cause the planet to spin off course.
9) Carla, Season 5, New York City
Oh, Carla. I had such high hopes for you. In the beginning of the season, I thought you were adorable but didn't stand a chance. Then you started getting into your element, and the Super Bowl episode moved you directly onto this list, do not pass Go.
Carla made crawfish and did it well enough to not only win the immediate duel, but the entire challenge. First glimpse of the Saints anywhere near the Superbowl. Then she kept going with the tasty, and she made it to the finale! And she listened to that effing moron Casey, and lost. I was so sad. :-( Everyone give up a parting "Hooty!" for Carla.
8) Fabio, Season 5, New York City
There has only ever been one contestant funnier than my sweet Fabio (see below). I developed a serious crush on him through the season, and really wanted him to win, if only so he could come back repeatedly in future seasons and throw out fabulous bon mots such as, "I am 30 years old and I have to sleep in the bunky bed." And his comment about "Top Scallop" had me nearly peeing on myself laughing because seriously, contestants? LAY OFF THE SCALLOPS. Try something different for a coddamn change.
But yes, Fabio was fantastic. His cooking got panned so much, and while admittedly I can't account for the actual taste*, it all looked absolutely marvelous and the ingredients all sounded like they went well together. I was very very sad when Fabio was sent home.
7) Harold, Season 1, San Francisco
My affection for Harold is based mostly on his attitude throughout the season. He truly didn't give a shit, and he wasn't a dick about it. Yes, we heard him bitch time and time again that "This isn't how I cook", but he rose to every challenge anyway, and didn't whine in the kitchen. He banged out great plate after great plate, and did it with charm. In front of the judges, he looked bored, but appreciative. He was there to cook, and he did it well.
Plus in the Season 1 VS Season 2 smack-down episode, he verbally bitch-slapped Marcel, and it felt soooo good.
6) CJ, Season 3, Miami
CJ was a middle-grounder throughout the season, and he probably never would've made it onto my radar if it weren't for his wonderfully funny personality. He got some amazing one liners, and he made some beautiful looking (if not challenge-winning worthy) food. And did I mention he only has one testicle? Takes a real man to go on national television and say that. Not counting Lance Armstrong in there.
But most of all, CJ was personable. He didn't fight (should I use the term 'beef' here?) with any of the other contestants, and he seemed like a genuinely nice guy. I would've liked to have seen him go farther. But at least it was Bourdain who kicked him off. Point of pride.
5) Spike, Season 4, Chicago
I need to emphasize here, during the original run of the show, I was not a Spike fan. Oh, he made some fabulous dishes. Because I'm not a foodie, I judge their dishes on appearance and whether the combination of ingredients makes me get up and start digging through my fridge to cook something. And Spike most certainly did that, several times over. But Spike was also kind of a douchebag to the other competitors. A funny douchebag, but still. As I said up top, this really affects my opinions of the chefs, good cooks or not. Still, I didn't think it was fair that he got sent home. Lisa never should've made it as far as she did, and I think Spike should have gone to Puerto Rico, not her.
But the real reason Spike is on this list is because, three seasons later, I found out Spike is a genuinely nice guy. Not to ruin his reputation, but he's a sweetheart. I follow him on Twitter, and he is extremely personable and kind to his fans. My friend Alley is his biggest supporter (Don't believe me? Ask her how many copies of his new cookbook she bought to give to friends and family), and she'll be furious when she sees that he's not #1 or #2. Plus Andrew loved Spike, and I can't hate anyone that Andrew thinks is solid. With the show set in DC this season, I fully expect a Spike cameo. If only that the contestants visit his awesome restaurant.
4) Michael and Brian Voltaggio, Season 6, Las Vegas
One should never play favorites when it comes to siblings, right? So I won't say which one of the brothers I prefered. This little twist was so much better than Zoi and Jen on Season 4. Unlike them, these two could cook their ASSES off. And they were most definitely the eye candy of the season.
I adored both of the brothers for their completely different cooking styles. Michael was so out there, and Brian was traditional. Both made beautiful dishes, and won time and time again. I was not rooting for them to win the season (see below), but I wanted them to make it at least to the end. I honestly couldn't have picked a favorite of the two of them. The affection and competition between the two of them was a true joy throughout the season. And did I mention they're very pretty?
3) Kevin, Season 6, Las Vegas
From episode 1 I wanted Kevin to win. So funny and just plain NORMAL (so says the Southern girl), when I first saw him, I didn't think he'd make it very far. Then he started cooking, and pretty much knocked me back on my ass. I looked forward to his dishes more than anyone else's (even the brothers, who were much much nicer on the eye), and I think he made me fridge dig more than any other chef in six seasons.
I was really, really sad that he didn't win. I don't deny that Michael kicked ass and took names just as much as Kevin throughout the season, and both men made some really gorgeous dishes. So the only other thing I can go on is personality. And I really wanted Kevin to win. So sad.
2) Andrew, Season 4, Chicago
My man! No one will ever top Andrew as the biggest personality in Top Chef history. Never. He got all the best sound bytes, and he had the greatest energy and personality. Bypassing the classic "I've got a culinary boner right now!", flash to the episode where they had to do improv. Andrew goes to the back to discover all the equipment has disappeared, and he starts bouncing up and down and talking about "you naughty little monkeys". I think he said naughty, I'm not 100% sure and I can't find any quotes or Youtube videos at the moment.
Andrew was the heart of Season 4, and I think he should be brought back EVERY season. He got to come back for the Super Bowl episode, and he competed against Carla on The Saints team. I couldn't have asked for a better chef cooking Louisiana food. He would be my all-time favorite, if not for...
1) Richard, Season 4, Chicago
It is CRIMINAL that Richard did not win Season 4. I was furious, and in fact, still am. In six seasons, there has never been another chef that had the skill level, wit, and creativity that Richard showed us. All of the factors that I've mentioned I look for when choosing competitors to root for? Richard had it all. He was absolutely incredible with the molecular gastronomy, and even when he chose not to use that, his ideas were brilliant. The Pate melt, "Honey I Shrunk the Prime Rib", Banana Scallops with chocolate guacamole. I could go on and on. Some of the stuff he made, I'm thinking, "Dear GOD, that has to taste awful." Eventually I stopped thinking that. I just wanted to see more, more, more.
Stephanie was such a non-entity for me throughout the entire season. Her wins did not feel genuine to me. I did not see his lose coming because he was up against her, and Lisa. No way either one of them could ever beat him. Spike? Maybe. Antonia? Oh, I loved Antonia to bits and pieces. I fought with wanting her on this list, but chose CJ instead. But Stephanie? REALLY?
And that's my list. Can you tell which season over all was my favorite? Looking forward to the fresh meat (pun!) tomorrow night.
And I'll leave you with this video of Andrew from the Season 4 reunion.
* But I would like to. Please pick me for a guest judge, TC. Please. I'll be stoned like Padma or a dick like Colicchio. Whatever you want. ^