In the first episode, we are bombarded with a whole bunch of names and personalities, all of whom explain how they completely different from past personalities and why they will win. But guess what? They are not special snowflakes.

The beauty of “American Idol” (Yes, I know we’re recapping “Top Chef.” Just indulge me a second) is that by the time you get to the Top 12, you’re invested. You already have a few favorites. You’ve picked your winner. You know who to hate on. With the other competition reality shows, like “Top Chef,” “Project Runway” or “American’s Next Top Model,” you spend the first episode or two just trying to put faces to names and choosing a villain. That’s where we come in.

One thing about “Top Chef,” they really do step up their game in each season. They take the show and the contestants very seriously, so the challenges are based on the idea the those that compete have watched the show already, learned from past episodes, and need harder challenges in an effort to create new hurdles. This learning curve keeps the show fresh and fab.

Anywho, off to Chicago…

In the first episode, we are bombarded with a whole bunch of names and personalities, all of whom explain how they completely different from past names and personalities. But guess what? They are not special snowflakes.

The breakdown:

Andrew
Reminds us of: Kenneth Lee, obnoxious Irish guy with icky fingers, season 1.
Erin: Gets deep dish pie pan stolen. Is annoying on many, many levels.
Kathy: So many annoying traits, not the least of which is his foul-mouthed Hep Cat act. We both hate him already. And he didn’t know the ingredients of mayonnaise. I knew that when I was 10.

Antonia
Reminds us of: Candice from season 1
Erin: One of the four best. She bests Nimma with non-salty and edible shrimp scampi.
Kathy: She’s hot. So I’m guessing she’ll be the favorite for our fellow recapper, Phil (who returns next week).

Dale
Reminds us of: Hung, winner of season 3
Erin: He thinks he is the big winner of the Elimination round because he can cook steak. Surprise. He’s not.
Kathy: Cocky to an annoying degree.

Erik
Reminds us of: Frank, big burly tough guy with a heart of gold from season 2
Erin: Has scary tattoos and can’t cook a souffle without making it into nachos. This is not really a bad thing in my book. I think all good food can be made even better by turning it into nachos.
Kathy: Personality plus and self-deprecating. I hope he sticks around. But his pizza looked like something you can order at Dominos.

Jennifer
Reminds us of: Sandee from season 3
Erin: I enjoyed that she shamed Richard by showing up with the same haircut. Dates Zoi.
Kathy: I look forward to the challenges where they pick teams and Zoi and Jen don’t pick each other. Sparks could fly.

Lisa
Reminds us of: Becky, from the first season of the “Real World.” What? I never said I had to keep it in the “Top Chef” family.
Erin: Makes a mean eggs Benedict.
Kathy: Likes to “touch people with food.” Not sure how I feel about her.

Manuel
Reminds us of: Carlos from season 2, but not as fabulous
Erin: Um, he drinks beer. Honestly, he got no love from the camera.
Kathy: I thought he was a goner so I paid no attention.

Mark
Reminds us of: Suyai, nice Brit lady that was kicked off in the first episode of season 2
Erin: A Kiwi that uses Marmite molasses in his pizzas. In the bottom four for screwing up Duck L’Orange
Kathy: Closest thing we get to a cute guy this season. The accent helps. But I’m afraid inconsistency will cut short his visit to Chicago.

Nikki
Reminds us of: Marisa, the pastry chef from season 2
Erin: She made lasagna with handmade pasta, which endeared me to her, but her pizza looked like challah.
Kathy: Anyone who can turn out delicious lasagna in 90 minutes AND make her own pasta is a god in my mind. It takes me hours to make lasagna.

Nimma
Reminds us of: Elia from season 2, if she lacked social skills and a sense of humor. So a pathetic version of Elia.
Erin: She uses salt to fill the void in her life. Got kicked off, thus bucking the “Top Chef” trend of filtering out all people with accents in the first episode.
Kathy: As soon as I heard she had no intention of interacting, I knew she’d be the first to go. The producers can’t keep people around who won’t clash with others.

Richard
Reminds us of: A cross between Stephen and Marcel. This is not a good sign, folks.
Erin: He stole a pie pan, uses blowtorches and smokers, makes a dessert pizza of peaches and lands in the top four. Quite a day for Richard.
Kathy: My early front-runner after landing in the top echelon in both challenges. I look forward to more “molecular gastronomy.”

Ryan
Reminds us of: Dale from season 3. But I don’t want to make him my BFF like I did with Dale.
Erin: Has no idea how to made chicken piccata, which seems odd to me. I guess he’s never been of the Olive Garden.
Kathy: Been working in restaurants since age 11. Living proof that working in a restaurant does not make you a chef.

Spike
Reminds us of: Not enough screen time to remind me of anything yet.
Erin: Has a hat. Has a few issues with Zoi and Jennifer being chosen to compete together.
Kathy: That’s a stupid name for an adult human.

Stephanie
Reminds us of: Leia, season 3.
Erin: Lost the Quick Fire with gamey prosciutto, but won the Elimination Round with all sorts of ducky goodness. Has the shakes.
Kathy: If nerves don’t get the better of her, she could be a contender. Her duck dish looked fab.

Valerie
Reminds us of: A meat-and-potatoes version of Casey
Erin: Also doesn’t understand the basics behind chicken piccata.
Kathy: I have no recollection of her at all.

Zoi
Reminds us of: Elizabeth Berkley. She does. Just look at her.
Erin: Dates Jennifer.
Kathy: See Jennifer comments.

Deep dish pizzas I would try
Erin: The peach one looked mighty interesting. I think it would go well with brandy.
Kathy: Richard’s peach with white tea reduction; Ryan’s escarole, ricotta and butternut squash; and Jen’s grapes, bacon, fontina and rosemary. Maybe Mark’s molasses concoction.

Classic dishes that looked appetizing
Erin: I’m a huge fan of crab cakes. I think it was to do with my kosher background. Once I left my mother’s house, I felt the need to make up for lost time and inhale shellfish whenever I see it. Plus, I enjoy a few special effects with my food, so that smoke screen that accompanied the cakes looked awesome.
Kathy: Stephanie’s duck; Richard’s crab cake; Nikki’s lasagna; Lisa’s eggs bene.

Eliminated: Nimma goes home.

Padma, is she real?:Still no.

P.S. Dear producers, Can Anthony Bourdain be on every week? We love Tony and his Ramones-listening, chain-smoking ways.

Top Chef: Chicago - Episode 1

Bravo; Wed. 10 p.m.

Production

Produced by Magical Elves, Inc.

Crew

RUNNING TIME: 60 MINUTES

Cast

Related links: Season Pass

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