Top Chef: Boston (Season 12) premiered tonight on Bravo with Richard Blais filling in for Tom Colicchio. I love and adore Richard Blais and am so excited he is on the show as one of the judges this season. He and CJ Jacobson are my two favorite Top Chef contestants of all-time and would love to meet them in person one day. It’s obvious they are good people, you know? But anyway…. here’s the recap of tonight’s episode:
There are 16 contestants to start out. They each give their backgrounds and a number of them work for past Top Chef contestants. Something about the cast this seasons seems very interesting and appealing. I am already intrigued by them.
The first challenge is a sudden death quick fire and has the contestants split into four groups. It is the usual Top Chef first challenge that involves speed and culinary skills / “Mise En Place” tasks. Each team has four stations with local New England ingredients: 3 lobsters, 20 oysters, 8 Boston mackerel, 21 clams to cut, open, or filet depending on the ingredient. The slowest chef on the slowest team will face elimination. It was a neck and neck race with the chefs definitely showing their strengths while others showed their weaknesses. In the end, the red team which consisted of Melissa, Joy, George, and Gregory ended up losing the race. George Pagonis, who is a business partner with former Top Chef contestant Mike Isabella, was ultimately the slowest chef on that team. George was then instructed to pick a chef to go head to head with in a sudden match cook off. If George won, they would both stay, if he lost, he would be eliminated. George felt Gregory didn’t do well on the mackerel and was the reason for the team’s failure, so he chose him as his opponent. The two got 20 minutes to cook a dish using any of those local ingredients. George chose the mackerel, Gregory chose mackerel, lobster, and oyster trio. Pretty impressive to choose three dishes instead of just one. Ultimately, Gregory impressed Richard and Padma the most with his dish and therefore since George packing.
Elimination Challenge: Hosting first ever Top Chef Food Festival and each contestant will have their own booth and serving to 250 locals. The challenge is to cook an updated version of the very first dish the contestants ever remember cooking. Richard, Padma, Gail Simmons, and Tom Colicchio make their rounds throughout the food festival. There are already some clear front runners and some clear losers. The judges are giving their feedback right there on the spot and have some chefs sweating bullets. Some of their comments are downright harsh. Padma even had to spit out Aaron’s pork belly out and told him not only does he need to clean up his act but he also needs to clean up his station. She told Richard as they walked away “It’s a mess mess messy mess.”
The four judges reconvene to discuss the dishes…. the ones they loved and the ones they hated. Padma then tells the chefs that the the judges would like to see…. all of them. Usually it’s either the chefs with the top three or the bottom three dishes. So this is a twist. Doug, Mei, Gregory are asked to stay where they are and everyone else is asked to step to the side. Those three served the favorite dishes of the night. Richard announces the winner as Mei (from Dearborn, MI! Woot woot!) .
Then Padma calls up Katie, Michael, and Katsuji. Katie’s broccoli salad the judges felt wasn’t appropriate for the festival. It was more of a side dish and the bacon powder, they felt, didn’t serve a purpose. Michael’s corn soup had salmon in it and was too fishy. Katsuji’s just had too much going on with about 20 ingredients. Padma then instructs Michael to pack his knives and go.